Writings and Witterings

Smoking Bastille


14th July is Bastille Day. This poem reaches you a little too early to celebrate this year, but I have an exercise to do for a writing group, and this poem almost fits!

Smoking Bastille

The enlightened Voltaire
would have feasted, during
the storming of the Bastille,
he said, ‘Let us read…let us dance…’
Imprisoned twice,
he’d delight,
eyes bright,
in the fall
of the smoking Bastille.
‘Storm the Bastille. Revolt!’

Fast forward to…
Gauloises Disque Bleu,
show-off smoking.
Gauloises Disque Bleu.
Prisoners of nicotine
storm their way through…

Echo Voltaire
in the Bastille,
Bruce Willis
in Die Hard.
Alain Bashung* so hooked
he enjoyed chemo
smoking Gauloises Disque Bleu.
Smoking Bastille.
Candid clouds of change.

Polly Stretton © 2016

The video is *Alain Bashung with the Pogues. Bashung is a famous French singer who was such a fan of Gauloises Disque Bleu, it’s said he refused to quit even during his chemotherapy.


18 thoughts on “Smoking Bastille

  1. Going tonight (if it stays dry) to see the fireworks at Voltaire’s chateau overlooking Geneva and with a view of Mont Blanc. I’ll be thinking of you!


  2. Ah, what a day. Wish you were here Polly! 😉 The festivities in my village will run until about five tomorrow morning!


  3. Today is, La fête nationale! Bon fête!


  4. With all that smoking, perhaps this poem should come with an oxygen mask? 😉


  5. You see! My encyclopaedia! What an unusual poem, so clever too! I have never heard of Alain Bashung but he sounds like an ancient Japanese poet rather than a singer 😊. I love the fast forward and the connection, great! I did A Tale of Two Cities for O level English Lit, so was introduced to the storming of the Bastille at a young age! It was the only subject at school I liked and probably all I remember! 😄


    • Apols for delay in reply, Christine, I’m just back from an Arvon course at The Hurst in Shropshire – it was excellent.
      Pleased to see you enjoyed ‘Smoking Bastille’ – it’s been worked on and will continue to be for next year 🙂


  6. You mean you will keep changing it? X


    • More than likely 🙂

      Like I say on my welcome page, my blog is a mix of first and subsequent drafts of my work – and there are a few that get repeated for special occasions. I read and re-read my poems and can’t resist tinkering when I think they can be improved – it’s not often that I’d call a poem ‘finished’ – though you’ll recognise that lots of them are finished as they form on the page and I ‘know’ when that’s the case…

      What are your thoughts on using a blog as a draft / first edition, receiving comments, Christine?


  7. I think its a good idea for someone like you as you are someone I would call a real poet. So maybe comments are more structured if you have a following of good poets (although not sure what a good poet is really). Im still learning the craft and everyone knows that so people are kind and say only nice things!! 😊. I get good honest feedback from James Nash at the writing group though and I trust what he suggests. I only started by writing down my feelings to help with my diagnosis and that’s where the poems began. X


    • I think we’re all still learning – always say that the day I don’t learn something I’ll know my box awaits! Soz, a bit glib, perhaps, but you’ll know what I mean, I hope. Writing groups or circles are good places for getting meaningful feedback. It’s easy to say ‘I like that’ or even ‘I don’t like that’ but without a reason they’re not useful comments even if the first is ‘nice’ to have – I, like most poets and writers, prefer constructive comments, something that I can accept or decline, work with or forget – comments that enrich rather than change, comments that don’t rewrite my poetry for me 🙂
      I’ve been on four Arvon courses over the years – two in the 80’s, one in 2012 and now this one. Each one has introduced me to other writers and poets and excellent tutors who give meaningful feedback. You’re very lucky to have access to James Nash, whom, I believe, is in the same league as the Arvon tutors.


  8. Yes I agree with all you say here. I feel extremely blessed to be in a group with James as tutor. It was totally by chance; I decided after Chrismas I needed/wanted to expand a little and dare to put myself in contact wirh other like minded people so decided to join the nearest writing group to me which is only three miles down the road and James happened to be the tutor. I didnt realise when I started how well known he is. And he is such a lovely man to know.


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