Middle East Focus of Poetry Festival


On the belief that poets, not politicians, can help bring about tangible political change, London’s Southbank Center will again host its biennial Poetry International festival, nine days’ worth of readings, music, translations and new poetry commissions.

The festival, which runs from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 in various venues within Southbank, has political roots. Ted Hughes, Charles Osborne and Patrick Garland created the first Poetry International as a space for artistic dialogue in 1967, a time of “radical political change and transcultural revolutions,” said Rachel Holmes, Southbank’s head of literature and spoken word.

The full blog post, on London’s Poetry International Festival, is at the NEW YORK TIMES. The post also continues here, after the jump.

The 2010 version will continue in that political tradition, by focusing heavily on poets and poetry from the Middle East, including Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Syria, as well as work by Iraq war veterans.

This year’s festival will also, according to Ms. Holmes, feature more women poets, and place a greater emphasis on a range of styles in aesthetics in poetry, drawing from ancient tradition to multimedia innovations in both print poetry and spoken word.

On Nov. 5, the Brooklyn-based performance poet Suheir Hammad, who mixes narratives of Palestinian displacement with hip-hop, will collaborate with Tashweesh, an audio-visual artist’s collective. On Nov. 6, the composer Michael Nyman will perform a suite of songs based on Paul Celan’s post-World War II poetry, set to backdrops of extracts of Mr. Nyman’s films about Auschwitz, as writers and actors read Mr. Celan’s work.

“As I witnessed recently at the Palestine Festival of Literature (Palfest), poets are at the forefront of shaping the future,” Ms. Holmes said. “Saying the unspeakable, envisioning the unimaginable, and in the great tradition of poetry actively confronting illegitimate authority

“While politicians re-engage in fractious talks toward political settlement in the Middle East, Poetry International 2010 holds out not only the hope of imagining peace beyond the apparently intractable present, it is a creative and defiant congregation to build the future.”

Photo: Vietnamese poet Da Thao Phuong performing at the Poetry International festival in 2008. Courtesy of Southbank Centre

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