Hotels and balloons

9 a.m., Thursday, June 16.  It’s raining warmly in Rotterdam.  I’m sitting in tranquil Dudok, the café two blocks from Hotel Atlanta where poets and PIW editors are housed. Some years back, Israeli poet Nurit Zarchi wrote of her desire to remain at the Atlanta, apparently for its tranquility and and in order to experience the eternal promise involved in travel:

Let’s say that I have chosen to live in this hotel,
to be reflected in the mirrors trapped in front of me,
the sun shining on green apples that might be made of wax
and a platoon of coffee mugs
in this quiet-filled space,
chosen to pass door after door with sinking steps
in the hallway of  other people’s sleep on the other side of the wall.
A faucet or a clock speaks its own language,
so I prefer to live in this hotel.
A toothbrush and a water kettle pretend to be family,
letting me read
until the windows whiten behind the screen,
and cars waken earlier than seagulls.
It’s clear that it’s me
who insists taking me home to my room
where the solitary daughters of the deep
sit on suitcases tattooed with all the world’s promises.

A still from the short film Nach grauen Tagen

Speaking of tranquility, I loved the film Nach grauen Tagen by Ralf Schmerberg which played at the festival’s international opening. Based on (translated into film from, it may be said), an Ingeborg Bachmann poem, it is a vision of family life taken to the nth degree of chaos (a theme of the festival). At its center is a harassed mother (in shirt and underpants), who finds respite only when her head is encased in a balloon in which, if I am not mistaken, a few lines of poetry are recited. Outside the balloon is a living room filled with noise, complaints, demands of husband, another mother (in-law?), babies, rabbits, trash, etc.

Perhaps it may be said that attending the PIW poetry festival in Rotterdam is a bit like being inside a balloon.

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