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35th Poetry International Festival

Press release - Rotterdam, 13 May 2004

From June 12th to June 18th the Rotterdam City Theatre serves as venue for the 35th Poetry International Festival. This year’s central theme is The Holy Book, celebrating the publication of a new Dutch Bible translation next October. Holy books provide the leitmotiv for most events during the seven-day festival: poets were selected for their involvement with the theme, and special presentations feature texts from holy books. This year’s Defense of Poetry Address will be given by South African poetess Antjie Krog, and there will be a tribute to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

The Holy Book
The Poetry International Festival opens on Saturday, 12th June, with a parade of poems about origins and beginnings: the Big Bang, the Creation, Birth, and more prosaic kinds of beginnings. On the Sunday of the festival there will be a special presentation about the Psalms.

Just before and during the intervals of the evening events, actors from the Arnhem School of Drama under their director Peter Sonneveld will recite poetry inspired by the Bible and other holy books. The last night of the festival, June 18th, will highlight personal holy books. Participating poets will read poems about a book or a poem that they personally hold dear or sacred.

Pablo Neruda
In 1971, the year in which he received the Nobel Literature Prize, Pablo Neruda read his poems at the Poetry International Festival. To mark his 100th birthday this year, Poetry International pays tribute to Chile’s greatest poet in a presentation highlighting Neruda’s themes and style, as well as his influence on poets today. Centre-piece of the evening will be the world premiere of an American documentary on Neruda’s life and work. There will be music by the Dutch singer Winanda del Sur and a group led by composer Patricio Wang.

Poetry Slam
For the first time Poetry International Festival will present a world championship for slam poets. At this Poetry International World Slampionship, national slam poets will battle it out for the title. Leading poetry slam organisations from Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States, Switzerland and Sweden are each fielding their candidate for the international contest. The slam poets will be judged by the audience, and in the final round by the audience and a jury consisting of slam poet Bart FM Droog (of Epibreren/Rottend Staal fame), slam organiser Rayl Patzak from Germany, and Frank Tazelaar (director of Wintertuin) and organiser of the Dutch Poetry Slam Championships).

Poetry and Art
As from this year, Poetry International Festival also provides a meeting place for visual artists from all countries whose work is closely associated with poetry. They are showing their work at the Rotterdam City Theatre and at several other places and art venues in the city. Boxes are placed at several locations in the city, where video impressions from the festival are shown to the public. The Belgian artist Franck Bragigand will make a ribbon from hundreds of pieces of furniture flowing down the stairs of the Rotterdam City Theatre.

There will be a special focus on poets from Asia. Six poets from China, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea will read at the festival, and work of the South Korean poetess Yi Won will be the subject of a translation project. A remarkable film, Visions of Asia will be shown: a sequence of short movies shot by Western visitors to Asia around the year 1910. The French composer Henri Tournier wrote music for the film and will perform this live during the show.

Furthermore ...
News and info about Poetry International Web, the presentation of the C Buddingh’ Prize for poetry debuts, discussions on the translation of holy books, on the role of politics in poetry, the game of Chinese Whispers, the Dead Poets Almanac with VPRO TV, interviews with poets about the hidden poetry in holy books, and music from composer and percussionist Michael de Miranda and the Dutch band De Kift. And, of course, Poetry International’s annual array of poets from near and far: Ramsey Nasr, Hagar Peeters and Rutger Kopland from the Netherlands, Julius Chingono from Zimbabwe, Ahmed al Shahawi from Egypt, Ella Bat-Tsion from Israel, and many others.

LitNet: 14 May 2004

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