Friday, June 29, 2012

Poetry Parnassus

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It's hard to describe excitement - even so, the Chilean arts collective Casagrande heralded the opening of Poetry Parnassus, a week long event mirroring London's hosting of the Olympic games with 100,000 poems by poets from 204 countries jettisoned from a helicopter above the Thames.

In Jubilee Gardens people jumped, almost fought, for the poems, printed on bookmark-like cards. They fluttered down like golden tickets, illuminated by searchlights operated from ground-level. People were genuinely excited, and the choice of poems couldn't be faulted. Take your prospective partner to a funfair, runs the saying, and they'll transfer their feelings of excitement from the rollercoaster to you. How fantastic that people were reading poems with heightened senses in the open air!

The New World Order reading on Thursday evening was first rate. Three hours of UK-based poets reading with international poets, often with translations projected onto the wall behind them: Sam Riviere read for Serhij Zhadan, Jacek Dehnel read with Kei Miller, Nikola Madzirov read with David Tait, Christian Campbell read with Valzhyna Mort, Doina Ioanid read with Clare Pollard, Ana Ristovic read with Chris McCabe, Ilya Kaminsky read with Kate Kilalea, and then Kristiina Ehin and Tishani Doshi read separately.

I've picked up a lot of great poetry this week, not least in The World Record which contains a poem from every olympic country.Most of all, the week brought a sense of perspective and background. So that's what everyone's doing.

On Saturday evening Susan Wicks translated Valerie Rouseau alongside Christopher Reid, Jan Wagner and Bill Manhire at the Poetry London launch.   

Christopher Reid's introduction to the Celebration of Ted Hughes was a little academic, but Simon Armitage's readings of 'Crow's Account of the Battle,' 'That Day,' 'Wodwo,' 'The Thought Fox' and 'Full Moon and Little Frieda' following their translations in Turkish, were excellent. David Constantine talked interestingly of Hughes's instinct for a poem's correct translation, and his love of 'literals'.  

To close the festival, Simon Armitage launched Walking Home, his account of walking the Pennine Way backwards, singing for his supper.

(If nothing else, he has got my dog into The Guardian.)  

On the Monday, to keep up the momentum, I went to a reading by Karen McCarthy-Woolf, Malika Booker and Raymond Antrobus celebrating one hundred years of the Saison Poetry Library.I was struck how these poets lived and defined themselves 'as poets.' Malika said that seeing the rain of poems was one of the best moments of her life, since people were publicly excited by something she loves and is usually having to defend - 'What else do you do?' Raymond was brave, confronting some private demons in public, and Karen - kept from reading her poem about The Thames by time constraints - once again made me promise to seek out Neruda's Book of Birds (out on loan the last time I looked).  

Podcasts of the Poetry Parnassus Readings and Videos 

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