Vagabond poet who found his way with words

Poet and translator Ian Monk has become part of an elite literary group in France

In the quartier Bel Air of Paris’ 12th arrondissement, a little girl runs to the gate of the Square Charles Péguy ahead of her mother, who is holding a chocolate birthday cake. Behind them, families of all nationalities go about their Sunday routine, passing the bulging terrasse of the café and the queue in front of the boulangerie on their way to the park in the Bois de Vincennes.

Not far, in a tidy, leafy residential block, a disheveled Ian Monk opens the door to a neat room lined with books, apologising for having just woken up from his nap. He has only recently returned from the Jura, where he was visiting his daughter to celebrate the arrival of his second grandchild. He is confident, calm, alert and without arrogance – if this is him when he’s sleepy, how quick must he be at full capacity.

Almost immediately, with sharp wit and a voice like velvet, Monk is explaining how he came to be in France. “It’s interesting that you want to interview writers who have decided to live in France,” he says with a grin, “because I didn’t.”

As a young Londoner, Monk already knew he wanted to be a writer, and coming to France was his way of gaining life experience to nourish his craft. “I thought it would be a cool idea to live in different countries and learn different languages,” he explains, “so I became a TEFL teacher.”

As his teaching career began, he happened to bump into somebody who lived in Paris, who agreed to circulate his CV. Monk soon got the phone call asking him to come over for a trial period, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now a prolific poet and award-winning translator, Ian ...

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