Paul Greenberg

But by all signs she did a thorough job pounding the palatial pavement, combing through places like Monaco's yacht-crowded harbor. That's where she encountered the captain of a sleek 165-footer who explained that Monaco's rentiers were not likely to occupy their time writing poetry "unless they can hang it on a wall and point to it and say, guess how much I spent on that."

On the trail of Monacan poets -- of any Monacan poet, for that matter -- Ms. Whalen thought she'd hit pay dirt in Old Town, where she was slipped an address. Like someone being given directions to a speakeasy during Prohibition, no doubt. But when she got there, it turned out to be a ceramics studio. The artist, locking up for the day, was puzzled by her interest. "Poetry?" he asked. "No, I do pottery."

Wonder of wonders, the WSJ's intrepid reporter found a living, breathing poet: Paulette Cherici-Porello, who had published a book of Monegasque poems in the 1980s. Naturally, it is out of print and unavailable in shops and libraries. But at 86, the poetess, now living in an old folks' home, doesn't feel up to a trip to London. To quote the general secretary of a society trying to preserve the vanishing Monegasque language, "To go with a plane is very difficult." And not just in Europe, or at 86, as many an American traveler might testify.

But the search for poetry continues. As it should. For all of us.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.