Sound travels from vowel to vowel, it jumps from one syllable to the next. A sequence of words enters our ear, touches our retina, then the next one appears, and we follow the voice of the author, we trace the footsteps to the hidden cottage of her thoughts. The page with printed characters is no longer there. We see a rugged landscape, smell the dry seaweed strewn on the sand. A seagull flaps its wings and squeaks. It gazes at you.
It is mid October and travel remains restricted. Language can be a companion to distant lands, languages that become music. The Transpoesie Festival offers a window to the inner worlds of European poets, a place of community between authors and readers.
With the help of EUNIC Brussels, the Hungarian Cultural Institute, and the Instituto Cervantes Brussels, six female poets have answered a question that pertains to all of us in 2020:
How can poetry —literature in general— make us travel, especially these days? What country/location/universe have you recently discovered through poetry and how?
🇮🇸 Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir (Iceland)
Poetry always makes us travel, either to a hidden place in our head or to fantasy worlds or faraway places. It is the magic of reading, the picture is formed inside you, it is a process everyone knows. Technology does similar things for us these days – although it relies of course on information, rather than imagination – it transports us to other people’s houses for zoom-meetings and skype-talks, because of quarantines and boarder restrictions. Literary readings in streaming therefore are the best way to travel these days – they give you unexpected destinations, you can stumble upon authors you’ve never heard of, or languages you never knew how sounded. They can even give you access to unprinted stuff from the other side of the globe!
This is the answer to the latter part of the question – I have discovered the universe of on-line readings lately, having been involved in quite a few myself. And as a reader, one of the new things is the enthusiastic real-time commentary of listeners, that I experienced both in England and in Colombia. Of course you can’t follow it while you are reading out loud, but as you run through the comments afterwards you see the impact, the personal reception, and it is quite a different experience than hearing hands clapping. I also must add that I was really a technology sceptic before, so this process has been more ‘giving’ than I imagined. (Returning to halls with real people will be like going, well, to Mars, I assume.)
Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir (Iceland, 1973) is the author of eight poetry collections, two novels and a few staged plays. Her poetry cycle Blysfarir (Torch Marches) was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2009 and was subsequently released in German and Swedish. Her poetry is widely translated for readings and anthologies in European circles and beyond. Her mini-play Decent People, on Nobel Prize author Halldór Laxness, was staged at King’s Place in London in 2016. Þrastardóttir is the translator of Simon Armitage’s poetry selection Þaðan sem við horfum (From Where We Stand), published by Icelandic editor Dimma in 2019, and currently works on further translations of poetry. She has collaborated with composer Ingibjörg Ýr Skarphéðinsdóttir on Klakabrennur II, a piece for mezzosoprano and string quartet, on climate angst. Þrastardóttir’s latest book is the poetry collection Hryggdýr (Triste Beasts).
🇪🇸 Rosana Acquaroni (Spain)
Poetry is always a journey, a journey into ourselves, a journey to the past, to the unknown and, at the same time, a projection towards imaginary worlds that are constructed through a liberated language that always says more than what it says. I have recently discovered Berta Piñán who paints rural life in Asturias, in the north of Spain. The names and the landscapes that accompany them refer to a rural Asturias with its own history, language and culture. For example, in poems such as “Naranjas”, “Heridas”, “Cuestión de números “.
Degree in Hispanic Philology (1989, UAM) and PhD in Applied Linguistics (2008, UCM). She is currently a teacher of Spanish for foreigners at the Centro Complutense para la Enseñanza del Español (CCEE). As a poet she has published: Del mar bajo los puentes (Rialp, 1988) with which she won a second prize in the Adonais Poetry Award in 1987, El jardín navegable (Torremozas, 1990 and 2017 2nd Ed. ), written under a grant for Literary Creation awarded by the Ministry of Culture, Cartografía sin mundo (1995), which received the Cáceres World Heritage Poetry Award in 1994, Lámparas de arena (2000), Discordia de los dóciles (Olifante, 2011), and La casa grande (Bartleby Editores, 2018), which was awarded the Book of the Year Award 2019 in the category of Poetry by the Madrid Booksellers Guild.
🇸🇮 Katja Gorečan (Slovenia)
I am currently discovering the universe of deaf people. Some time ago I got a diagnose of genetic hearing loss what it means that I am slowly losing my hearing. I still can communicate with people, but because I also have tinnitus (šumenje) I have to sometimes look at peoples lips when they are speaking and in some time I will get a hearing implant. So, some months ago, I started to search for the writers that are deaf or have a problem with hearing, so I found out for one writer from Spain, Teresa de Cartagena. She was a nun and a mystic writer but as the sources say, she is considered as the first feminist tract written by a Spanish woman.
She is writing a lot about solitude and how to cope with the deafness. It is a new universe for me, also with a lot of questions of how to live with all of these
I am more in the process of traveling through maps that I have inside of myself.
But as for poetry, I’ve been reading a lot poetry by my favourite Austrian poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal:
Your present generation comes,/ Seeking strength and wisdom in your memory.The legends tell us,/ When our race dies,/ So too, dies the land./ May your spirits go with us/ From this place./ May the Mother of life,/ Wake from her sleeping,and lead us on to the happy life,/ That once was ours./ Oh mother of life,Oh spirits from the unhappy past,/ Hear the cries of your unhappy people,And let it be so./ Oh spirits- Let it be so. (poem Dreamtime)
Katja Gorečan was born in 1989 in Celje, Slovenia. She received a Bachelor degree in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University in Ljubljana and finished Master studies in Dramaturgy at the Academy for Theatre, Direction, Film and Television, also in Ljubljana. She took part in a creative writing course, specializing in dramatics. This resulted in the realisation of her one-act drama Seven girl’s questions. In 2012 her second poetry collection The Sorrows of Young Hana, which was nominated for Jenko Award, the highest poetry award in Slovenia and was selected into the Biennale of Young Artists from Mediterranean Europe. In 2017, her choreopoem One Night Some Girls Somewhere Are Dying was published by House of Poetry Poetikon. She is not only artisticly, but socially engaged. She worked with demented patients in a nursing home, led creative workshops with female refugees and their children and also worked with mentally handicapped youth.
🇭🇺 Noémi László (Hungary)
Literature is one of the most obvious vehicles for transcending space and time, while poetry is also a means of traveling between various layers of meaning and of revealing different faces of the same reality through the finds of metaphor. All this, of course is done using one’s imagination, and this is why the written word, the hidden image can take us so much further than any pattern fixed in the visible realm.
Even though I am expected to mention poetry now, I prefer to tell you that my latest great travels have been assisted by Bill Bryson, and they have both been terrific, exhausting, overpowering, even, to a certain extent, depressing. I have recently read A Short History of Nearly Everything and then At Home, by the same author. Both books gave me a sense of how huge and microscopic, triumphant and pointless, ingenuous and silly man on Earth and in this universe has been. Beside what I learnt from these works, the current pandemic is a piece of cake. Also, I read Pride and Prejudice twice while I managed to finish the Brysons. Because it was a piece of cake, too.
Noémi László is a poet, laureate of the József Attila prize. She was born in 1973, in Cluj, Transylvania, Romania. She has published ten volumes of poetry for children and adults. She works as an editor for the Cluj-based children’s literature magazines Rainbow and Sunshine. Her latest volume: Aerobatics, 2000, Gutenberg Publishing, Miercurea-Ciuc, illustrated by Andrea Kürti. She is a member of the Hungarian Writers’ Union and of the Society of Hungarian Authors.
🇷🇴 Marlena Braester (Romania – Israel) 🇮🇱
Our imagination never stops travelling regardless of our physical mobility or immobility. We think and create limitless. But something heavy and distressing around us, these days, invades our mood (sub)consciously and builds a background of anxiety somewhere in there. Is it possible to turn it into something positive?
These days I’ve been travelling a lot within books, music is here around, too, and writing goes deeper and deeper. Some silences open wide, even wider now than before.
It is true that a lot of meetings and festivals have been cancelled, but virtual events like Transpoésie replace them. At least partially. Let’s admit it: “virtual” is not so strange to us! So, images, words, faces, poems travel virtually through tiny “windows” to meet other faces, images, poems. And to the unknown, too. Meeting on-line other poets is a kind of preparation for future meetings : it gives us the wish to know them better one day, to know the places they live in, their countries. A poet from Iceland or from Lithuania should be seen and heard there, in his environment where he/she creates, so all this gives hope.
French-speaking poet, linguist, translator, teacher, Marlèna Braester is born in Jassy, Romania. She lives in Israel since 1980. A Doctor in linguistics (1991) at University of Paris VIII, she is the President of the Association of Francophone Israeli Writers and Editor-in-chief of Continuum – Magazine for Francophone Israeli Writers. She is the translator of Benjamin Fondane (Romanian into French) and of Amos Oz (Hebrew into Romanian). She got the”Ilarie Voronca” Price in 2001 for her book “Forgetting What Will Be” and the “Hélène Jacques-Lerta” Price in 2006 for her book “Lights and Shadows”. She has been distinguished Knight of the Order of Academic Palms, 2003, for her services rendered to the French culture.
🇪🇸 Miren Agur Meabe (Spain)
Poetry always takes us on internal journeys, more specifically on internal journeys through the worlds artists themselves create, which can be infinitely varied and surprising. Reading poetry feeds us and brings us consolation throughout the metaphorical journey of life. During these days of confinement that Covid has forced us into, reading poetry helps me breathe better and be in a more upbeat frame of mind. Poetry travels along with us in our journey of creative and existential growth.
The last universes I’ve discovered are the poetic universes of my colleagues who took part in Transpoesie. Their thought-reflections on the subject of poetry and how these contextualized their work have encouraged me to get better in my poetic endeavors.
Born in Lequeitio in 1962, Miren Agur Meabe writes prose as much as poetry addressed equally to adults, young people and children. She won the Critics’ Prize in 2001 and 2011 for her poetic collections The code of the skin and The foam in the hands; as well as the Euskadi Prize for Literature three times, for the children’s novels The hous on the cliff (2002), A year at the lighthouse (2006) and The road (2001). Her album Thousend Magnolia Flowers was on the IBBY list in 2012. Her novel A crystal eye (2013) won the Beterri book prize, as well as the Seven streets award in 2014. This work has been translated into Spanish, Catalan, English and Italian. Her latest collection of short stories The Burning of Bones (2019) received a warm welcome from critics and readers. At the moment she is working on two books of poetry: Eyes on the Horizon for Young People and How to Keep the Dust Within.
Next Transpoesie Event
Wednesday October 14th at 20:00
This reading event will regroup with six poets – performers, singers, share their melodies and rhythms, musing in descriptive dark red tunes. Each poet shares their work in their consecutive languages, with translations available.
Celebrate poetry from around Europe – and hear from their songs:
- Cornelia Hülmbauer (Austria)
- Marina Kazakova (Belgium)
- Nyk de Vries (Friesland / The Netherlands)
- Kamila Janiak (Poland)
- Iona Lee (Scotland)
- Maxime Garcia Diaz (The Netherlands)
Moderated by: Sofie Verraest, Belgian writer, the driving force behind Snug Harbor.