I believe that the best "House of Poetry" in Europe is the one in the French capital, Paris, followed by the House of Poetry in Nantes, also in France.
Paris's "House of Poetry" is located in the heart of the capital, near Les Halles.
It belongs to the municipality of Paris. That is, it belongs to a local organization. Not the government, or individuals.
And it is run by a well-known French poet.
In spite of all this, the French poets maintain their individual character, negatively or positively, in this house.
In the early 1990s, I used to visit the last of France's great poets:
Eugène Guillevic (1907–1997)
at his home.
One evening there was an event at the House of Poetry.
I asked him if he would attend. "No!" he answered. "I will not go there as long as Jacques Chirac is mayor of Paris!"
The old poet was a leftist young man.
I should mention that Guillevic visited the Democratic Republic of Yemen, and I accompanied him to Hadramout, to its valley and its renowned city Mukalla.
In Aden, an official car rushed through Al-Tawahi district, carrying Eugène, and his wife, Lucy, with a police motorcycle riding ahead of it.
"This is the first time in my life I have been in a cavalcade," said Eugène.
Here is a poem by Eugène Guilvic:
An Acute angle
To be an angle
is better than being a circle.
And if you do not live quietly
to attack your surroundings,
You will then
in a dream that closes
always on the open side
In the Arab world, I can say that the house of poetry, as an institution, has been of no importance, except for the one in Morocco, which has as its foundation the blessings of UNESCO as well as the poets of Morocco and the Arab world.
The “House of Poetry" in Morocco was funded by a local organization.
I think the funding now is from other sources.
In Amman, the late Habib al-Zuwaidi founded a house of poetry. It was originally a royal guesthouse, and it closed shortly after al-Zuwaidi's death.
Iraq has no real "House of Poetry."
Nor in Syria or any other Arab country.
Egypt has a "House of Poetry" in Cairo, and it has a branch in Luxor as well.
When I say that a "House of Poetry" is a national institution, not an apartment for rent, I am hinting at what the Gulf countries are doing, perhaps in good faith, when they open and finance "poetry houses" in several Arab countries, including Morocco and Egypt, and where they strangely insist on emblazing the name of the funding sheikha on the door of the house.
There is no relation between Arabic, modern and classical, and the Nabataean folk poetry favored in the Gulf.
And there is no relationship between an evening of poetry and the embarrassing ruckus called "the poet of the millions."
A house of poetry is not a furnished apartment for rent . . .
Or where the rent is cheap.
London on 09.10.2017