In paris with you

Relationship poetry, In Paris With You by James Fenton

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The plot

IPWY is narrated by a man who has just come out of a relationship, and is now in Paris with someone else. This suggests that a long term relationship has just ended and now he's on the rebound. He doesn't want to talk things over, or visit romantic place settings and all he wants to do is focus right on the moment with the girl he is with.

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structure

The poem has four stanzas of five or six lines, with a longer stanza of nine lines in the centre, acting as a chorus in which the mood of the poem changes. The first half of the poem deals with the lead up to the current situation; the second half is concerned with enjoying the present, the repeated "I'm in Paris with you" suggests he is focusing on the present.

The rhyme scheme in these four stanzas can be described as a-b-c-c-b (with the final b in the extra line of the last stanza). The stanza in the centre of the poem makes use of half rhyme.

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language

IPWY opens up on a negative, "Don't talk to me of love" which contrasts with the romantic title.

The poem is written in the first person and addresses a lover. There are lines that hint at a conversation with a lover, but we only hear one person's side of the dialogue: "Yes I'm angry" and "Am I embarrassing you?" The poem seems even more intimate; we are almost made to feel as if we're eavesdropping.

There is a repeated use of colloquial (everyday) language, suggesting this is an informal, honest poem. Phrases such as "had an earful", "downed a drink or two", "say sod off to sodding Notre Dame" and "Doing this and that" make the poem down-to-earth. Such language also contrasts with the falsely poetic tone often found in literature about love, replacing it to comic effect.

The final stanza repeats "I'm in Paris with..." four times, and offers both comical and sensual references to the speaker's enthusiasm for the person he is with. The line "Am I embarrassing you?" adds to the sense of the exuberant, teasing attitude of the speaker.

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Attitudes, themes and ideas

  • The poem is about surfacing from a long-term relationship but not thinking about it in the aftermath. It is about enjoying a time of closeness without having to take responsibility for the past or the future.
  • In Paris with You rejects the traditional concerns of romance. The famous sights of the usually romantic city of Paris are unimportant to the narrator.

  • Instead the speaker concentrates on the "sleazy/Old hotel room" with its "crack across the ceiling" in which the "walls are peeling". These details are unique to the narrator's experience of being in Paris with a lover - "I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do" - which sums up the poem's message: being together is far more important than typical romantic locations and analytical conversations.

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Comparison

Born Yesterday, Hour:

  • The poem compares well to Born Yesterday in that each poem rejects traditional ideas.
  • Hour is also about a relationship blossoming in ordinary settings, focusing on the preciousness of the present time rather than the past and future.
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