I don't know when David and I first found our way to Frédéric Bouché's Ports of New York winery. It certainly wasn't during a tour of the many wineries around the Finger Lakes wine region. The tiny building where Bouché makes his red and white Meleau Port wine sits on a small lot in the midst of an urban industrial landscape, near an auto-repair shop and a production studio.
Behind the building's welcoming facade, Bouché uses state-of-the-art techniques and equipment to produce his rich and flavorful wines. We left our first visit with two bottles and over the years have returned often, sometimes with friends, to restock. David loves Melon au Porto, a classic preparation that was even found on the menu of the "Champlain", one of the French Line transatlantic ships sailing from Le Havre to NYC in the 1930s. (In fact, we'll be having the pairing tonight, as the nearby Jackman Vineyards has perfected the traditional Charentais melon, prized for its sweetness.)
A few months ago Bouché mentioned in an e-mail that he wanted to "do something with poetry and Port." The timing was serendipitous; David had published several well received translations of French poetry and was working on others.
It all came together last week, when an overflow crowd of poets, poetry lovers, and Port lovers gathered in Bouché's winery to sample his wines and listen to David read his up-to-date translations of prose poems by Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Henri Michaux, which he believes are "among the glories of French culture." David fell in love with French prose poems ("the best prose poems in French, and therefore the best prose poems in the world") while a student in Cambridge, England. Bouché, Elise Finielz, and Niels Drouin read poems in their original French.
Here is a slide-show of pictures from the evening. To read the full captions, watch the show in full-screen mode:
In addition to the poems mentioned in the slide show, David read sections from Apollinaire's "Zone," winner of the Virginia Quarterly Review Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry and Apollinaire's five-line "Hôtel" which took him twenty years to translate to his liking. ("The first and last lines stayed the same. It was the middle three that I couldn't get right.").