Posts tagged Les Murray

Les Murray: ‘PANIC ATTACK’

Les Murray: ‘PANIC ATTACK’ from Poetry International on Vimeo.

Dutch translation © Maarten Elzinga, 2011

The body of the poet

Les Murray © Michele Hutchison

During the translation symposium on Wednesday, when explaining her kooky notion of “translation as homeopathy”, Erín Moure said that language was in her cells, and poetry was in her body. Naturally, it got me thinking about the poet’s body. After all, what is the festival about if not to reveal to the audience the embodiment of the poetry? On the opening night the footlights came on and the poets came forward in a line from the darkness at the back of the stage. They moved forwards, bowed and climbed down from the stage to take up their places on the first row. It was a lovely moment. Here were the poet’s bodies, revealed.

Maarten Elzinga, Murray's translator © Michele Hutchison

They looked like poets. It was a comforting sight: young, old, tall, short, fat and thin, shabbily dressed, one in a straw hat. Dominant was the imposing bulk of Les Murray. Dressed in baggy black casuals, he moves slowly. I spot him wherever I go here, sidling crab-like down the theatre stairs. He wears a faded cap which he takes off to read and carries his transcripts in a white plastic bag. The embodiment of poetry, just how an elderly statesman of the genre should look. More fitting still is his voice, Australian but deep, dignified, gurgling, slurring, Churchillian. The Les Murray experience.

Les with his plastic bag © Michele Hutchison

Syrian poet Nazih Abou Afach was set to appear in last night’s programme but he’d had to cancel at the last minute. His translator, Asad Jaber, took his place on the stage. There was no photo of Afach in the programme but his translator looked Arabic, looked about the right age, could have been a poet. He was clearly bilingual, he read the originals with flourish and conviction. He was as good as a replica as you might find and since a translator can be considered a poet’s (sinister?) shadow self, perhaps the experience was authentic. But no, a niggling voice inside me wondered if it would have been more authentic if the translator had read his translations instead – his own channelling, his own physical reproduction of the poems.

Interview with Correen Dekker

Correen Dekker © Sarah Ream

Could you tell us about your role in the 42nd Poetry International Festival? What will be different about the festival this year compared to previous festivals?

As one of the two programmers, I am responsible for the content of the festival programme, but my role also involves thinking in broader terms about the form and structure of the festival and the type of events that we organise. Working in this context, it is fascinating to see the impressions of the public regarding the new scheduling of the festival events. This year, the frequency of events increases during the week of the festival, with the highest concentration at the weekend, including a large variety of programmes during the day. I think that we have reflected the festival theme in our events more than during previous festivals. The festival poets too, will be extremely busy this year: they have been actively involved in the planning of the events and be appearing multiple times during the festival.

I first began working at Poetry International as an intern. One of my responsibilities then was to organise a translation workshop for poets: they concentrated on translating the work of one festival poet into their own languages, and interpreted and discussed the meaning, syntax and metaphors, and unravelled a poem in detail. To translate poetry requires such an intense reading, and I definitely find that interesting. That is also the reason why we decided to launch the project ‘Met andere woorden’ (In other words) this year – to give an introduction to translation – and, indirectly, to reading poetry too – to large groups of Dutch people. And, for the first time, we have also organised a translation symposium, at which professional and aspiring translators can meet and exchange ideas.

Tell us a little more about the festival theme, Chaos and Order, and how it relates to your work.

The theme has seemed very relevant in the weeks preceding the festival, which are always chaotic in terms of work, and this year is no exception. I think that we all feel the tension of the unknown aspects of a new schedule; nobody knows exactly what to expect. However, the choice of theme this year stemmed from our interest in various forms of social engagement and our curiosity about how poetry reacts to these. I think it is impossible not to see chaos in newspaper reports and not to recognise various attempts to impose and find order, from events on the world stage to the frustration people feel in cities – places that are constantly ‘event-inducing’, so to speak, and are thus becoming more and more uninhabitable.

Which events, workshops or sessions are you are most looking forward to?

So many, for various reasons: Les Murray being interviewed by none other than Robert Hass is a unique event that I do not want to miss. But I am also looking forward to hearing more about the work of Eugène Savitzkaya, Øyvind Rimbereid and others. Furthermore, I am curious to see how panelists will reflect on the ways in which the Internet affects the development of poetry in the ‘This is me’ event. I personally think that the Internet provides many opportunities for the dissemination of great poetry, but, at the same time, I ask myself whether my impressions are one-sided because of the language barrier and whether there is more I am unintentionally missing. So I am keen to hear what the festival poets think about this.

Correen Dekker is a programmer for the Poetry International Festival.