The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Advice to a Rhinestone Cowgirl; How Not to Write a Poem

August 27, 2010 | by

I'm young, poor, and unemployed in New York. I have no family connections, and my friends are all similarly destitute. I want an inspirational text; are there any novels about sympathetic social-striver types who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps without losing their friends and their souls in the process? —Camilla D.

Funny you should ask. All day I've been walking around with the Glen Campbell song "Rhinestone Cowboy" stuck in my head:

I've been walking these streets so long
Singing the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway,
Where hustle's the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain ...

One identifies. As Glen says, there'll be a load of compromisin' on the road to his horizon: I worry that this tends to be the case. And even though I know you don't want me to tell you to read Lost Illusions, you must read Lost Illusions, if you haven't. It is spooky how often some detail of Balzac's Paris will remind you exactly of New York—like seeing your own face in a daguerrotype. A very louche daguerrotype. The hero does lose his friends and his soul. Plus his illusions. But you can handle it. I believe in you!

(Plan B: Breakfast at Tiffany's?)

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Cité Soleil

June 15, 2010 | by

Jeff Antebi’s photography appears in the summer issue of The Paris Review. Below, he describes his time in Cité Soleil, Haiti.

I went to Haiti for the elections in April, 2009. When I got back home and started showing my work, people were most gripped by the photographs from Cité Soleil. People kept asking me what they could do to help improve the lives of people there. I think it was a profound awakening for Americans to know that only an hour and a half from Miami, people were existing in deplorable conditions. It was the proximity that drew people in. It’s one thing to say “the largest slum in the Western hemisphere.” It’s quite another to show people what it’s like to live on top of eight feet of garbage, where during the day, toxic fumes burn off the plastic bottles and waste. That was really the first time I had ever experienced that kind of reaction from one of my essays—people specifically asking what they could do. I immediately started making plans to go back and focus exclusively on Cité Soleil. I returned three months later.

I had put a lot of my photos from my April trip on to my phone. Once I was back in Cité Soleil, I was able to track down a lot of the kids and show them the portraits I’d taken of them. The kids went nuts. I mean, these are kids who are so funny to begin with—animated, humorous, curious, engaging kids. They had a lot of fun scrolling through photos and recognizing their friends.

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