Archives for posts with tag: French

Learning By Heart
by Laura Foley

I was seven, couldn’t sleep,
fearing my French teacher,
afraid I couldn’t learn
a line I had to memorize.

Mom, trilling the night’s
loneliest hour, at the piano,
made up a lilting song,
to help me remember—

I did, and still do,
her voice etched in tenderness,
fingers running over the keys,
somewhere deep inside me.

Published in Why I Never Finished My Dissertation (Headmistress Press).

PAINTING: Woman at the Piano by Henri Matisse (1924).

barbara 1

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I really do still remember the line I had to memorize. It was: “Une etudiante n’est pas attentive, elle est un peu bavarde.” Throughout her life, my mother, Barbara, was a warm, bubbly, inviting presence. I am so happy to conjure her again, and share her, on the page and in the heart.

PHOTO: The author’s mother, Barbara Ball Cosden, on a friend’s yacht in the Caribbean (1968).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley is the author of eight poetry collections. Everything We Need: Poems from El Camino was released, in winter 2022. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review, was among their top poetry books of 2019, and won an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Fernwood Press. Her poems have won numerous awards, and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac and appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. Visit her at

Attached to
By Patrick T. Reardon

A piece of land like a fable in paradise

SOURCE: Isabelle Huppert interview,

IMAGE: Isabelle Huppert at 2009 Venice Film Festival by Nicolas Genin.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love watching Isabelle Huppert, the great French actress. So I grabbed a recent interview of her — only to find it filled with a lot of facts and very little oomph. Nonetheless, there were a few phrases that fell together and gave also gave me a title.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a Chicagoan born and bred, is a former scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library.

In the above photo, authors Joan Jobe Smith (left) and Tamara Madison pose with LADYLAND, a 496-page anthology of writing by American women — issued by French publisher 13e Note Éditions — that features their work.  Congrats to Joan and Tamara, whose writing has appeared in several Silver Birch Press anthologies, including our latest release the Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology. Learn more about LADYLAND at The book is available (in French) at

Très cool! The esteemed 13e Note Éditions in Paris recently released (in French) LADYLAND, a 496-page anthology of writing by American women, including frequent contributors to Silver Birch Press anthologies — Rene Diedrich, Linda KIng, Tamara Madison, and Joan Jobe Smith. Learn more at Find the book at

Congrats to all the women who contributed to the collection: Lisa Carver, Antonia Crane, Rene Diedrich, Gina Frangello, Kat George, Veronica Ghostwriter, Fiona Helmsley, Dana Johnson, Linda King, Chris Kraus, Lydia Lunch, Tamara Madison, Cris Mazza, Hulga McSwine, Reverend Jen Miller, Cookie Mueller, Sigrid Nunez, BC Petrakos, Joan Jobe Smith, Mende Smith, Sin Soracco, Michelle Tea, Nichelle Tramble, Sabine Walser, Ann Wood.


GATSBY LE MAGNIFIQUE (Opening lines, in French)

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Quand étais plus jeune, ce qui veut dire plus vulnérable, mon père me donna un conseil que je ne cesse de retourner dans mon esprit.

–Quand tu auras envie de critique quelqu’un, songe que tout le monde n’a pas joui des mêmes avantages que toi.

En Anglais: 

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” 



I checked out (Amazon’s French site) and found numerous editions of Gatsby Le Magnifique — and many are among the site’s best-selling titles. Say what you like about Baz Luhrmann‘s film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but the movie has  sparked a renewed interest in Fitzgerald’s novel among people around the world — and that is certainly magnifique.


Since I don’t own a TV and haven’t been watching the Olympics, I don’t know if the coverage has included segments about Jim Thorpe, the star of the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden. In a recent poll by ABC sports, Thorpe was voted the greatest athlete of the 20th century (besting Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan).

Of Irish, French, and Native American ancestry, Thorpe was born in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1888 and attended high school at the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Indian Industrial School, where he excelled in baseball, football, lacrosse, track and field, and even ballroom dancing.

At the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathalon — but a year later the Olympics committee stripped him of his records and medals. The committee contended that Thorpe was not qualified to compete as an amateur because he’d earned a few dollars per game when playing baseball during summers as a youth. After many attempts by many individuals, Thorpe’s Olympics records were reinstated in 1982 and his children were awarded commemorative medals (the originals were stolen from museums).

I first learned about Thorpe when viewing Jim Thorpe All American, the 1951 biopic starring Burt Lancaster. It’s a tearjerker, but enjoyable and elevating in its way. Find out more about the movie here.

I have avoided using the “R” word in this article — but you have to wonder if a European American would have been so treated in the wide, wide world of sports, even in 1912.

Note on the above photo: On the day Thorpe competed in the decathalon, someone stole his shoes. At the last minute, he found two worn-out shoes in a trash bin — and won a gold medal wearing the mismatched shoes, one of which was too large and required extra socks.


“J’ai toujours préféré la folie des passions à la sagesse de l’indifférence.”  ANATOLE FRANCE          (I have always preferred the folly of passions to the wisdom of indifference)

Photo by Silver Birch (Chicago, Wicker Park in Winter)


If you need a shot of emotion (and who doesn’t from time to time), sit back, put your feet up, grab a glass or cup of whatever suits you, and listen to one of the greatest performances by one of the greatest performers of all time — the beautiful Belgian, Jacques Brel. See it and hear it here. (Pure poetry — with English subtitles.)

Photo: Zarateman (street art, Zaragoza, Spain)