Inside Velter's world

Updated: 2014-05-28 09:37

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

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Inside Velter's world

French poet Andre Velter celebrates the rebuilding of Saint-John Perse Pavilion in suburban Beijing. Velter wrote a poem to echo and pay tribute to Saint-John Perse's best-known work Anabase. [Photo by Mei Jia / China Daily]

Inside Velter's world

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A French poet draws inspiration from Chinese wisdom as he tries to shun material success. Mei Jia interviews him.

You don't need to be born into royalty to live a charmed life as French poet Andre Velter shows.

The winner of France's top literary Goncourt Prize says he was poor until the age of 45, leading a life that only consisted of writing, traveling and being happy.

He first visited China in the '80s, and has since counted the country among his favorite destinations. He returned earlier this month to attend a Sino-French poets' festival, where he and other French poets, such as Jacques Darras and Zeno Bianu, spent time with Chinese poets including Xi Chuan and Chen Shu.

Velter is an avid reader of Chinese poetry, he says. His life's philosophy is to shun materialism because it leads to anxiety. He draws inspiration from ancient Chinese poems, especially when dealing with aspirations.

"I get energy from old Chinese wisdom. I learned to set the ego free from my subjective conjecture and never take myself as the center of everything in writing," Velter says. "But I feel deep down I'm a rich prince."

Velter, now 58, devoted years to writing poems, rather than teaching poetry or taking up better paying jobs at universities-quite a fad for poets in France, he says. He has a doctoral degree in philosophy and modern history from Sorbonne University in Paris.

But cash isn't always easy to come by when you are just a poet.

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