Madame Martin will throw back her shutters at eight…’ With these words Beverley Bie Brahic opens The Hotel Eden, a book about seeing the world. She moves through – Paris, the French provinces, the American west coast – in the spirit of a flâneur, going about her daily life alert to the variety and mystery of human experience: the soup kitchens, the Luxembourg Gardens and the Latin Quarter, the refugees, works of art and areas of damage. The title poem pays a debt to Joseph Cornell, the master of the assemblage, whose ‘The Hotel Eden’ discloses a stuffed parrot and other objects under glass. The eye – the poem – assembles them but cannot tell their intended story. It tells a story all the same. ‘On the tip of God’s tongue, the bird waits to be named.’ This is a book of revelatory indirections, of unexpected moons, creatures, passions, rituals and histories, of days rich in disclosures and in hints of revelation. One of the presiding spirits of her book is the Latin poet Horace, whose prayer she renders as her own:
Grant me, Apollo, calm and contentment,
A healthy body, a mind clear,
And let my old age be spent
Without dishonour nor the sound of my lyre.