Interview in: Chant de La Sirène

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Laura Hinton revisits my multi-media book, Bi-Valve:  Vulvic Space/Vulvic Knowledge after visiting Pierre & me in my Pyrenean stomping grounds. This exchange articulates important  & useful aspects of Bi-Valve.
Here is the link: http://www.chantdelasirene.com/2014/11/thevulvic-in-performance-544×376-normal.html
By the way: Bi-Valve was temporary out of stock at SPD but reprints are en route & will be there on time to stuff stockings!

Thank you Laura & Bernard for your visit!

Summertime/ C’est l’été

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Adishatz, Hello!
Our spring was busy & rich with a great tour of the UK. You can find videos & pix on my facebook page, Pierre Joris’ blog & more links below. We are now almost ready to embark on a long summer transhumance filled with many exciting stages — see short & longer term dates below. Meanwhile, let me fill you in on our publications.Bi-Valve : Vulvic Space I Vulvic Knowledge — which includes a cd, texts &17 colors plates of my paintings & digital photographs — is OUT! The recording features Michael Bisio on bass & we had a jolly good time recording it at FastSpeaking music w/ Ambrose Bye. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result & koudos to Lori Anderson-Moseman (Stockport Flats), who not only made it beautiful but was ever so supportive thru out the process. Get your copy while they last: here.

Also out, Pierre’s Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj —for which I designed the cover— is just out from Chax press, you can get it here, & in case you had missed the announcement: Poem for the Millennium Four: The University of California Book of North African Literature is also out and available here.

 

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
July 19-27 

Poetry Festival in Sète, France
NP: Voix Vives de Méditerranée en Méditerranée
Daily performances throughout the festival.
See detailed program here

July 29-August 5
Gascony

NP & PJ: Artists in Residence in Gascony for the NY’OC Trobadors project.
NY’OC Trobadors, is a collaboration between artists based in France and New York.  Save the date — Saturday November 23rd 2013 — for a full day on/of Occitan culture that will bring the riches of southern France’s troubadour tradition to the American public. This unique gathering of bi-continental poets, musicians, singers & translators will present panels, a fully staged bilingual (Occitan-English) multimedia performance and talks about the bilingual anthology of Occitan poetry we are working on. Texts, poems & song lyrics spanning the 11th century to the present will be presented. This event will be at Poets House co-sponsored by City Lore & d’Artagnan. We still need funds to make this event possible. City Lore is taking donations here)

 

August 5-31
Bourg d’Oueil 
(our Pyrenean base)
NP: Continuing work on a series of paintings & writings specific to the location
PJ: This is the first summer in 10 years he has no deadlines so he will write new work!
& together we will start editing our documentary project on poet Gerrit Lansing.

 

September 1-15
Paris
September 5th:  NP & PJ Feature readers at Paris Lit Up series
more readings TBA

October 10-22
Southern California Tour:
Los Angeles:
October 16th : PJ reading at Otis
October 17th: PJ Round table on Translation at USD
More TBA

November 6-9
Brussels- Belgium
University of Brussels Symposium on Alice Notley & Pierre Joris.
Details TBA – Readings by both PJ & NP

LINKS:
CCA Launch of Diwan Ifrikya – Glasgow Scotland (Photo Monique Lemos)
DOMOETICS – Edinburgh Scotland (Photo Chris Donia)
Nicole at Tibor de Nagy Gallery – NYC
Nicole at The Huntarian Gallery  – Glasgow Scotland
Pierre at Dia Foundation – NYC
Nicole at MoMA – NYC
Pierre at Walt Whitman’s house  – Huntington Station NY
Fortino Samano (the Overflowing of the Poem) review – by Belle Gironda & NP

IN PROGRESS:
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Working on a short documentary on poet Gerrit Lansing .
Here, filming in Gloucester in June 2013 with Miles Joris-Peyrafitte as cinematographer.

 

Infinite Views

This summer has been very wet & overcast in the Pyrenees. I love being here no matter if it rains or shines, but some hikes require clear skies to be able to experience the 360 degree panoramic view of the Pyreneen mountain range. My friends Lori & Tom were visiting from Ithaca for a week, the skies were scheduled to be crystal clear for two days — perfect timing to get out & to the summit!

To be able to see the sun rise over the mountain range, wake up call is at 4:30am  so we can leave the house by 5am. We are on schedule, a thermos of hot coffee, goat cheese, bread & a nice croustade from my favorite bakery in Luchon (rue Nérée Boubé) are all in the backpack. Hiking shoes & stick on hand, I slam the door shut, start walking towards the car when a sharp pain enters my foot: a roof nail punctured my sneakers and my foot!

Back to the house to remove shoe, nail, socks and notice that the puncture is not too bad. Once thoroughly disinfected, bandaged and foot secured in the hiking shoes I’ll be fine and can begin the journey. We drive to the port the Balès, park the car and start the hike in the night. The moon is already gone,  the sky still very bright with stars. I am granted 3 beautiful shooting stars that I truly welcome as a healing omen after the nail in the foot!  We will not make it on time on the top to see the sun break over the mountains but still I want to get to the top to get the full view. Lori is more eager to take picture of the rising sun from the Peirahitta (you can listen to the song I wrote about that place here) plus she is concerned about my foot — which is a bit sore, but the overpowering drive to get up there and experience the view that my ancestors have been looking at for thousand of years is irresistible.

 

We are on top of the Mont Né mountain at 2147m or 7049 feet high. The sun is just above the horizon the colors on the peaks are spectacular, the sun diffuses strokes of light slowly revealing the contours of the  mountain range’s layers. A true sense of infinity.

Méchoui or Whole Lamb on a Spit

Cooking on a spit was the theme of Pierre’s 65th birthday. After the cake on the spit (see previous blog here),  voilà the lamb on the spit a.k.a méchoui! According to the Robert historique de la langue Française the origin of the word méchoui is: “Borrowed (1912) from the Arabic maghrebien mešwi “roasted, grilled; lamb roasted on a spit”, past participle of šawa (شوى ), to roast, to grill”.   This dish is very popular in North Africa where  Pierre lived several years.

As we still are in the village of Bourg d’Oueil, in the heart of the French Pyrenees, the lamb will be  provided by no one else than our neighbors & friends, the Jamme family.  The 17 kgs (37,5 lbs) lamb, fetched from the nearby mountains a few days before, is “un broutard” or a “grazer”; that is a lamb that had passed the nursing stage and is already grazing. And now the photo log of an another amazing communal food experience:


The day before our friend André brought very dry wood he had split for the occasion & the spit that Marc had fetched from Yves the butcher. In the late afternoon I went to the Jamme’s house to rub the lamb with a thick marinade of olive oil, garlic, wild thyme, salt & piment d’Espelette (chili pepper from the basque country); then we returned the lamb to rest overnight in the walk-in cooler.

Now we went to the village hall multipurpose room to set up the tables. The meal will be inside, since we knew the weather was not going to be warm enough. As no rain was forecast, so the aperitif will be served outside. With Sylvia Gorelick —who made all the bouquets with wild flowers she had gathered in the fields near by— Marie Jeanne Jamm, — who brought additional sheets to cover the tables— Maïté & Michou — Pierre’s sister — set up a beautiful banquet table for 50 people. The event was becoming more elaborate as I had planned.  As we got closer to the date the eating of the birthday lamb as a casual outdoor buffet turning into an elaborate banquet.

On d-day: I am up at 7:30 am to set up for the méchoui. My neighbors Robi & farmer Roland Jamme (remember him from the cake) arrived shortly thereafter. Together we start the fire, strategize and go get the lamb prepped as best as we can to avoid any complication during cooking.

That’s it! it is 9:45am the beast is on the spit, as we have a manual spit, it is going to be crucial to have someone monitoring, turning & basting —w/the same marinade as above— the lamb & adding coals to the fire. Robi & Roland have set up a second fire next to the méchoui were they burn logs to turn them into charcoal, which they add under our lamb in order to keep an even fire.


I had nothing to worry about as Robi, Roland & now Pierre were fully in charge of the lamb. Accompanied by the same crew as last night we are setting up for cocktail hour & hors d’oeuvres. Joseph Garcès, who was Maitre d’H at the family hôtel for 14 years, came right on time to slice the magnificent bellota ham —acorn fed pig—  shipped to us by my nephew Vincent from a small Spanish farm. I had also prepared salads of heirloom tomatoes and organic haricots-vert that we set up on the table along with the ham. The fragrant cantaloupe from the Gers will be passed around once people are seated.

 It is around 12pm and guests are filling in. They are “appetizing” on cherry tomatoes, patés, salamis, radishes —here my 89 year old father is particularly enjoying them— while sipping the pleasant Marquisette, a cocktail make by Maïté & Robi — wine, vanilla bean, lime & seltzer, served by Marie-Jeanne Peyroulan an old time friend who came from a near valley with her son Teo who played a lot of “Quiller” —an ancient version of bowling— with my adorable niece Lou.


It is now 1 pm and the lamb is cooked! My brother Jean-Louis will assist Roland, Robi & Marc for the carving while my nieces Mag & Isa will pass the cut meat to the guests. To serve with the lamb, my friend Paulette made the most tasty Pistache Luchonnaise ever—a white bean & lamb stew with pork rind — a specialty of the Comminges region— Paulette’s Pistache almost stole the show from the Méchoui and the cóca! Unfortunately no pictures were taken as every body was too busy eating. We had seconds & some had thirds. We took a little break and had a cheese course. Not any kind of cheese, no, a Poubeau cheese if you please! Read about it here. It was a perfectly aged one; Joseph Garcès is on a “cheese plan”; that is that he reserves a full wheel six months in advance and lets it age in the cheese maker’s cave. Joseph offered his reserved wheel to Pierre for his birthday party!


It is now about 4pm and about time to present the birthday boy with his very special cake. After singing Happy Birthday, we serve the cake with crème anglaise, all the details about the incredible ancient cake are here. More singing was done by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Sylvia Gorelick, and a special tribute to Pierre by Joan-Francès Tisner & family who had come all the way from the Béarn. After coffee, Armagnac & Mirabelle —Thank you Michou & Julien for bringing the real stuff from Luxembourg! — it was about 6pm when the last guest left!

All of this could not have happend without the  amazing help of the family & a tight community of friends. Special thanks to the Jamme Family, Joseph Garcès & Paulette, Robi Castebrunet & Maïté, Conso, Michou, Marie-Jeanne, Domenja, Marie-Jo,  my parents Jean & Renée Peyrafitte, the Toucouère family, André, Marc & my brothers: Jean-Louis for his carving assistance and Pierre for the pix, Miles, Sylvia, all the wonderful guests & last but not least to Pierre whose birthday gave me a great opportunity to throw a party. MERCI!

Photo credit: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte & Nicole Peyrafitte

My Montanha & My Soup

I arrived Monday afternoon in Bourg d’Oueil after a long but pleasant trip. My Pyrenean home is closer to Spain than to Paris and I am not kidding: it takes 15 minutes by car to reach the Spanish border and about 8 hours to reach Paris!  My travels began Sunday at 1:30 p.m. from our Brooklyn home and I finally reached Bourg d’Oueil on Monday at 3:30 p.m. local time or 9 a.m. Brooklyn time. After taking two planes, two buses, and two car rides I reached our little house in the village at the far end of the Valley. As my intention was to cook a soup on a live fire, the priority was to light the fire.

I had planned to get some veggies in town before my last climb up to the mountains. I arrived too late to get to the market, so my only option was the local supermarket. The offerings where pretty sad and I couldn’t come to terms with buying any of these mass produced veggies. I placed a call to my good friends Joseph & Paulette asking them if they had anything left in their Bourg d’Oueil garden. They had already winterized the garden but had plenty of veggies in their Luchon garden. Not to worry, said Paulette, Joseph will bring me leeks, celery, potatoes, chards, carrots & onions later on. Great! I can always count on them. I did hit the cheese counter and was pleased to be able to get a couple of local cheeses.


The most delightful part of the trip is the 17 kms climb from Luchon to Bourg d’Oueil. Despite the weather forecast there was neither rain nor snow but a slightly overcast sky that let me have a partial view of my mountains. Driving through the villages triggers images: In Benqué Dessus et Benqué Dessous,  it is Jules’ face, the Fournier’s house, and the cromlecs above them. Before Saint Paul d’Oueil,  the sign for Saccourvielle brings up my friend Emingo, who makes the best goat cheese I ever had, and Mme Labry, a writer who was my French teacher in high school. In Mayrègne,  I look at the old “kiosque” where I use to go eat crêpes in the summer as a child; I also think of the recently deceased mayor who was key on having me perform the Bi-Contimental Chowder/ La Garbure Continentale in the Valley.  Then comes Caubous, Cirès, and at this point I can’t think of anything else than trying to get a glimpse of the Peirahitta (my totem!)  that sits at the pass of Pierefite. And finally I reach Bourg d’Oueil the very last village at the end of the valley. I park the car and start schlepping my stuff to the house. It is almost impossible to reach the house by car, the street is so narrow,  evidence if need be that this place was not build for car traffic!



After a quick tour of the house, I lit the fire — we are at 1400m or 4600 feet  here, so the air is nippy on this November afternoon. Once the fire was going strong I started opening my stuff, got my art supplies out, opened a bottle of wine, got the cheese out and waited for Joseph et Paulette who brought the veggies at around 5:30 p.m. — they had added a jar of duck fat and one of honey, all home produced. While the soup was cooking I worked at a drawing that includes some attempts at writing in Gascon.
And then, accompanied by the sound of the stream running under the house, the crackle of the fire and the occasional ringing of the church bell, I savored my soup. The flavors are indescribable. They call on all my senses and the experience is totally gastoorgasmic!

So here is my soup:
2 generous spoons of duck fat
1 onion
2 small leeks
3 carrots
1 branch of celery
3 leafs of chard
Salt & fresh ground pepper
Grated brebis cheese

Sauté all the vegetables in order in the duck fat then add water and let cook until done. The soup is even better the next day, and of course feel free to add other veggies like beans, turnips, cabbage….

Now can you smell? Just try:

Duck Hearts, Trouts, Kanoon & More

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A few years back Pierre and I bought a kanoon — from the arabic:  قانون, kanoûnqanoûn or kanun— at a Luchon street fair. It is a North African clay brasero for cooking with charcoal. It makes great tagines and it is very convenient when we have no time to make a big fire in the fire place or when the weather is really hot.  Monday I used it to cook our entire meal that consisted of local offerings from the Luchon market:
Hors d’Oeuvres:
Hure de porc or pig’s head paté (Martial Vargas)
Paté de truite with chives (Pisciculture d’ Oô)
First Course:
Hearts of duck salad (Lazorthes, a.k.a. “Caniche”)
Purchasing duck hearts at Mr. Lazorthes standduck hearts
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Main Course:
Mountain trout from the pisciculture de Oô (see last year’s post for another recipe made with these excellent trout)
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Potatoes, beets & broad beans  (Madame Fondeville)
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Cheese & Dessert:
Goat cheese (Alain Garcia a.k.a  Emingo)
Mara des bois strawberries in red wine & honey
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Pierre fired the kanoon with lots of charcoal to have enough to cook the whole meal in it.
First I cooked the veggies in a cast iron pot. Instead of using oil I used the incredibly tasty salted fatback the Jammes gave
me as a present when I went to get the lamb (see previous post).
Fat back from bourg d'oueil
I rendered half a cup of fat and added potatoes, beets, salt & lots of black pepper and set it on the kanoon for about ½ hour. I added the beans later, as they take less time. When cooked, I reserved the veggies and set them aside.
Meanwhile I had cut the duck hearts in half. These hearts where beautiful. They were bright red & so fresh. I placed my special open fire frying pan on the kanoon and again melted some fatback. Once the fat had rendered and the pan was very hot I added the hearts and fried them until cooked but still pinkish. Be careful: overcooked hearts get unpleasantly rubbery. At the end I added a generous persillade and served them warm on top of a very lightly dressed salad.
While we ate the salad I tightly fit five trouts in the tagine dish. I coated the trouts with olive oil in which I had soaked garlic cloves and added the cloves too. I topped the whole thing with “new” onions, one quartered lemon, salt and & piment d’Espelette —that is, a very popular chili that grows in the the Basque country and is fragrant and not too spicy. The trout cooked while we ate the  delicious hearts of duck salad. We waited for them a little, but who cares when the Tariquet Rosé & the conversation are flowing!
I very much like the combination of the hearty veggies and the delicate trouts, thought the trouts could have been a little spicier.
We opened the red Saint Mont wine to accompany my favorite local goat cheese made by my good friend Alain Garcia (see picture above). The dessert was a nice conclusion to our meal — sorry I didn’t take any pictures but I was too involved with the company!
Voilà! for now as I am off to visit my dad (87!) at the local physical rehab center where he just arrived after  successful complex back surgery that
will hopefully  allow him to walk better… I teased him today that if he keeps progressing as fast as he does, he might even be ready for soccer season! (before being an hotelier & a politician — mayor & senator — he was the regional star soccer player)!
More soon and thanks for following our summer adventures!

Bourg d’Oueil 2009

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Bourg d’Oueil is a very small village in the central Pyrenees where I escape to every time I can. It is located in the secluded valley of Oueil, 10 miles from Luchon —where I was born and raised— at 4600 feet high. Today the village counts about 10 full time residents. There is one good old fashioned hotel-restaurant “Le Sapin Fleuri” and only one family that still breeds sheep (about 2000 at a time) and a few cows. The rest of the population either works in the town of Luchon or are people like us coming for vacation.
Going to the farm to get lamb is one of the great pleasures and that is what we do as soon as we get there. The first call I make is to Henri Jammes to order 1/2 lamb for our stay (see photo below). Their name is
probably of Basque origin, we tease them a lot and pronounce their name the English way, especially Henri! Henri, Roland, Jeremy (Henri’s son) & Marie Jeanne run the family farm. I used to take Gascon lessons with the father, François Jammes, sadly he passed away this winter at the very honorable age of 89. I really  miss hanging out with him this year.
My connection to the village goes way back. The chef and co-owner of the “Sapin Fleuri”, Jean Toucouère, apprenticed cooking under my grand father. Joseph Garces, Maitre d’H for 15 years at the family hotel, whom I consider family, is also from Bourg. In 2002 he lend me his barn for 2 weeks and it is at that time that we decided to try get a place there. An other event of significant importance for me is that it was in Bourg d’Oueil in 1971 that I earned my first and only victory in a ski race!

In the summer the sheep are in the mountains above the village. While Roland Jammes cuts the hay with Jeremy, Henri is the shepherd. They used to hire a summer shepherd but in the past few years they do it all by themselves. I feel like they are working way before I wake up and way after sundown. So we are here for a few weeks and to sum up how I feel I will say: this place makes sense to me!


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Bourg d’Oueil & Show

Time flies in the Pyrenees. I have been here for a week and quite busy getting ready for our Sunday performance (see poster below). Still, I took the time to hike to my favorite spot: my name sake “la peira hitta” or the raised stone and by extension Peyrafitte!

We also had a excellent family lunch. We had great fun “collecting” our food. Pierre and I got up early to be at the market place before the rush. I wanted to make a kind of trout ceviche, from the best trout farm I know of. The farm is owned by long time friends, but the truck wasn’t at the market, so I convinced Pierre that we should take the trip to the fish farm. The shop was closed until later but the dad was there; he calls himself the trout keeper and doesn’t handle any financial matter but that didn’t prevent him to quickly knock out a 2 pound trout and send us home with it. I still haven’t paid my trout! But I will see his son on the market on Saturday. The recipe was simple. I fileted the trout, sliced it really thin, marinated it in lemon, olive oil, salt, piment d’espelette, chives, dill, a little lovage, a few borage flowers and a gorgeous edible iris.

Then we went to get some lamb at the neighbor and grilled it in the fire place. Pierre made a delicious ratatouille. We had some ewe cheese from the Village of Poubeau and a Croustade aux pommes from Luchon. Voilà for now, I must run to rehearsal but I wanted to share the joy! A léu