Sainte Patronne de Rien Pantoute
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


The following is a guestpost written by my friend Julia Caron, one of Said the Gramophone's longest readers, whom I finally met in Québec City last year. All of us at StG would like to send our love to Geneviève Elverum, whose work we have revered for more than a decade.

Ô Paon - "Sainte Patronne de Rien Pantoute".

On Tuesday night, I stayed up late re-reading Geneviève Elverum's Maman Sauvage. I had first read it this winter, after discovering I was unexpectedly pregnant. I was desperately thirsting for words and experiences I could relate to. Where could I find stories of a woman like myself: an adult who often feels ill-equipped to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood, let alone pregnancy. Were there other women out there, pregnant and overwhelmed by the strange and surreal process of carrying a baby in one's body? I had read one patronizing pregnancy "how-to" book too many, and I finally found solace in these poems by Geneviève. I shouldn't have been shocked to find that her poems resonated with me just as deeply as her music had, but I was.

Page after page, I found slivers of myself in her words, in her stories, just as I had in her songs, years prior. Her musical projects, Woelv and Ô Paon, came into my life via a tweet from her partner Phil Elverum in 2014. How has no one told me about her sooner? I thought to myself. I listened slack-jawed, overwhelmed by these songs. Who was this bilingual Québécois woman with droning sounds and unnerving lyrics about the city I live in, and even its south shore which I know so well? Who was this woman who sings of these places in a language that feels like my second skin, avec des notes qui faussent in the most wonderful dissonant way.

It happens, that strange intimacy. The desire to call a stranger by her first name because you have heard her songs, read her books, admired her art. The distorted impression that you might even know this stranger better than you know certain friends - because the stranger has laid their heart bare and shared it with you. Hearing songs that tell you no, you're not the only one who feels that way.

The next morning, I learned of Geneviève's illness. It is heartbreaking to hear of anyone diagnosed with inoperable, stage 4 cancer, let alone if they are a new parent. A new parent who happens to make gorgeous art, but art that doesn't pay the bills in the same way other work can. And it feels yet more visceral, violent, tragic to discover this diagnosis about someone who has sung songs that got you through the shittiest winter days, someone who writes words you feel you could have written yourself.

I read Geneviève's news on a tiny screen in a public place. Tears welled up as I continued past the first few words, absorbing the facts. Geneviève Elverum. 34. New mother. Inoperable. Written by her partner Phil, their plea for financial help alludes to the way they have long kept their private life private, and how "the difficult times ... challenge that bubble." Perhaps these donations from strangers will help protect the beautiful bubble they've chosen to create for themselves and for their family, and will help them continue their dispatches toward our eyes and ears.

I've been thinking about Geneviève and her family as I wander through Québec City, a place she once called home. On her spectacular album Fleuve, she sings about this city caked in ice and dirt and melancholy. These days, it is anything but: it is green and warm and the lilacs are blossoming yet my heart feels heavy with her words and songs in my head. I find myself walking past those lilac bushes, praying to the Sainte Patronne de Rien Pantoute, the Patron Saint of Nothing at All, wishing for the best for this stranger who somehow doesn't seem a stranger.

Love to Geneviève, Phil, Agathe and their cat Manon.


> Donate to help Geneviève Elverum and her family.
> Learn more about Geneviève's work.
> Buy Courses, from which this song is taken.

Julia Caron is a bilingual bundle of contradictions, endlessly enamoured by self-portraits, dip-and-dunk photobooths and confrontational contemporary art. She has called Quebec City home since 2008; it is only appropriate she ended up in one of the oldest cities in North America, given her affection for all things old.

Posted by Sean at June 4, 2016 11:42 AM
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about said the gramophone
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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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