News from Paris

March 14, 2002


"River Metro" Project (3/1)

Duplicitous Ticket Booths at the Eiffel Tower (2/28)

The Slang of the Suburbs (2/25)

"France Is Not Anti-Semitic" (2/24)

What Is Your Favorite Meal? (2/23)

Diana's Fans Are Deprived of Their Flame (2/21)

American Squabbles (2/19)

The Champs-Elysées Are No Longer A Paradise For Cinemas (2/18)

How Do You Celebrate Valentine's Day? (2/14)

The First Banker of France Loves Rich Rhymes

When he receives the greats of the world, Jean-Claude Trichet, the 60-year old governor of the Bank of France since 1993, never loses sight of the two little glass bookcases on either side of the door to his vast office. They protect his collection of the complete set of the Pléiade. Literature has always been his companion, and poetry, a window to his passion. This year the governor is a member of the Committee of Honor of the fourth Spring of Poets, which lasts until Sunday.

Where does this taste for poetry come from?
Jean-Claude Trichet:
I have the impression that it was revealed in childhood, in adolescence, as must be the case for a majority of the French. I love poetry. I need it. I am fascinated by the verses that want to last forever, that aspire for eternity.

Do you yourself write poetry?
I wrote a long, long time ago. Not now.

And you have been published?
Some verses were printed in private reviews, when I was 19-20 years old.

You continue to read poetry?
Yes, and I recite it. I think that one must not forget that poetry was born before writing. It must be recited. The recitals of poetry in class are very important. Learning poems by heart permits the language to penetrate to the heart.

Which poets move you?
Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Valéry and among the more recent, Saint-John Perse or Leopold Sedar Senghor, who just died. But it is maybe the poems of Baudelaire that I memorize the best and that therefore mean the most to me, because I make a very strong link between memory and poetic intensity.

How can there be a link between your universe and poetry? These two worlds seem to be opposites...
There is maybe a little more that one might think. I was very struck to see to what degree rhetoric plays a fundamental role in our society: understanding clearly the new challenges we face, explaining patiently, having the capacity to change opinions. From my point of view, the source of our communication is poetry; the powerful ability to drink from this source is something important. Also, a poem is a text that does not change. The verses must stand as they are, they must keep their value, that is their emotional capacity. In a certain manner, in the particular profession of working at the central Bank, we must also ensure in regulating the money that it stays unchanged and keep its value, its credibility.

Yet poetry is closer to liberty, revolt, and disorder. Your world is more a world of order...
Poetry is everything at once! It is order and disorder. It is the discipline of verses and their rhythym, and the abounding spontenaiety of the sentiments that they create. Poetry proves to us that the ordering of words can, maybe paradoxically, reinforce the expression of the most vibrant and heartfelt emotions.

At heart, this is what fascinates you about poetry, its timelessness?
Yes, it is its immemorial character. Realize that Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Villon are still here, and that they tell us magnificent things now, with verse that lasts, that no power in the world can change. For me, a poem is an entity that has the ability to travel through time. And I find it magnificent to feel this entity so alive, unaltered by the passage of centuries.

Answers gathered by Pierre Vavasseur

Translated by David Sadegh