Dear Jean-Pierre Siméon, Artistic Director of the Printemps des Poètes, Dear Robin Renucci (Godfather), Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Who rides so late in the night in the wind?
It’s the father with his child.
(…)
My yarn, why are you hiding your dreadful face?
Father, don’t you see the King of the Alders?
The King of the Alders with crown and drag?
My son, it’s a fog trail.”

This poem by Goethe, «The King of the Aulnes», has marked generations of German children. It points to this land made of both innocence and anxiety, a land whose stars must be brought back, as Mahmoud Darwich wrote, and which the Spring of Poets proposes to explore this year, for fifteen days devoted to childhood.

Beautiful theme for a season of poetry, where show wonder and great fears. Childhoods of freedom, childhoods of nightmares, childhood of which we always and still try to compensate, to fill the tear. Childhood toys, puppets and dolls, but also rats in cages as in Baudelaire’s «Le joujou du pauvre», or the darkest designs in Hugo’s «L'Enfant» des Orientales:

In Chio, a martyr island of Greek independence,
A blue-eyed child, a Greek child, sitting,
Bent her humiliated head;
He had for asylum, he had for support
A white hawthorn, a flower, like him
In the great forgotten ravage.
(…)
Will you, to smile at me, a beautiful bird of the woods,
Who sings with a song softer than the oboe,
Brighter than the cymbals?
What do you want? Flower, beautiful fruit, or the wonderful bird?
Friend, said the Greek child, said the blue-eyed child,
I want powder and bullets.”

For 15 days, in metropolitan France and overseas, in Berlin, at the Lycée Français in Hong Kong, at the Maison Internationale de la Poésie in Brussels, Morocco, Poland, Romania, at the Institut Français in Dakar, in Byblos, Luxembourg, the public will be invited to revisit this time from which «memories observe me», to take up the beautiful title of Tomas Transtromer, which will be honoured by the Swedish Cultural Institute. This land, which encourages us, as François Cheng does in a poem composed especially for the Spring of Poets, to rediscover “a second childhood”, to rediscover a free relationship with language. As Nazım Hikmet did, “through Boulevard Saint-Michel and in pursuit of Istanbul”:
Let us open our eyes very wide full of sun and wind on the world
And that Colin and Maillard, the cursed ones, cannot catch us.”
[from “It snows at night”]

The Spring of the Poets, in fourteen editions, was a highly anticipated event, a festival of language and letters. My department, through the National Book Centre, is proud to support it.

Many remember the success of the launch of its previous edition at the Auber metro last year, with great actors as main accomplices. After Juliette Binoche, this year Robin Renucci is sponsoring the Spring of Poets. Dear Robin, I know the concern you have to convey, and you know how happy I am to have entrusted you with the direction of the Trestles of France.

Poetry on childhood, to which you dedicate an anthology to Bruno Doucey editions, but also poetry for childhood: indeed, it is the occasion this year, for the Spring of Poets, to highlight the remarkable work of publishers specializing in children’s literature, who work to sensitize young people to poetic art, drawing it from school codes and constraints. Dear Jean-Pierre Siméon, you have been anxious to shed light on the profound renewal of the poetry repertoire for youth, thanks in particular to the publishers involved.

The Spring of the Poets 2012 is also the fourth Andrée Chedid contest - to which will be dedicated an evening homage to the Oratory of the Louvre - of the sung poem, whose jury this year will be presided by Christian Olivier, of the Raided Heads, with a concert at the Alhambra; it is also the first Ciné Poème festival, with the city of Bezons, where poetry and short films will cross paths. These are the «Cities» and «Villages en poésie», a name that honours the municipalities that have inscribed poetry in their cultural action, such as Saint-Brice-en-Coglès en Ille-et-Vilaine and Montpellier; the Pierre-Jean Jouve competition for musical composition, with the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon; poetic paths, poetic cafés, poetry nights, all over France.

The Printemps des poètes is also a wonderful expression of the vitality of the French language. It is therefore only natural that he will pass the baton next month at the Semaine de la langue française, organized for my ministry by the General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France, and which will be sponsored this year by the Comédie-French: this transfer will take place at the Musée du Quai Branly, with the poetic concert entitled «À l'impossible on est tenue». The Printemps des Poètes and the Semaine de la langue française are also the “Ten Words” poetry contest, with the partnership of TV5 Monde, whose remarkable work in promoting the French language around the world I once again commend.

I would also like to thank all the partners who took the opportunity to take part in this outstanding event to which my ministry is very attached, as it is generally to support literary creation. As such, I am particularly pleased to announce the re-creation of the National Poetry Grand Prize. It had not been issued since 1998. It will be presented in March before the Book Fair, by a jury chaired by Silvia Baron Supervielle, which includes Aline Bergé, Christian Bobin, Muriel Bonicel, Florent Georgesco, Hélène Henry, Michel Lafon, Gérard Macé, Daniel Mesguich, Bruno Racine and Salah Stétié.

Thank you.