Posts tagged Rotterdam

Rotterdam loves The Itinerant Poetry Library

After five days at the festival, The Itinerant Poetry Library (aka Sara Wingate Gray and her suitcase) now has a total of 113 Rotterdam members (aka Valued Patrons), putting Rotterdam in the number 2 TIPL membership spot, ahead of Leipzig (with 99 Valued Patrons). San Francisco is still beating us, but that’s a good reason for TIPL to return to Rotterdam next year. Vive la bibliothèque!

TIPL in the theatre foyer © Sarah Ream

PIW Japan editor Yasuhiro Yotsumoto at TIPL © Sarah Ream

TIPL © Sarah Ream

© Sarah Ream

Interview with The Itinerant Poetry Librarian

TIPL closing for the day in Romania, with a small VPL looking on! July 2010 © TIPL

PIW editor Sarah Ream interviews Sara Wingate Gray, aka The Itinerant Poetry Librarian.

What is The Itinerant Poetry Library?

The Itinerant Poetry Library (TIPL) is a non static, special collections public library of poetry. For free, for everyone, and for everywhere, or at least, everywhere we can get to. From May 2006 until September 2009 the library operated continuously and was, quite literally, carried by myself, The Itinerant Poetry Librarian, which involved hoicking the collection of physical books through 11 countries and 23 towns and cities, providing a free public poetry library service in each spot I got to.

Operating without the confines of a building of its own, but within parameters of typical library systems, including free membership for all, circulation procedures, library regulation and the overseeing of the library’s collection by a librarian in situ, the project fundamentally explores, and encourages users to explore, our perceptions of what a library might be. It’s part public library, part life-experiment and part live art, and by September 2009 The Itinerant Poetry Library had signed up over 1000 members, and collected and acquisitioned new poetry titles in each place the library had operated in, so the collection now has more than 12 languages represented and has been open in more than 200 locations worldwide.

For me, personally, the project is about facilitating people to examine and enrich their lives, their communities, their cultures, in the context of the wider world, by accessing both the library as a live art performance experience, and as a real public library experience – that is, joining the library and sitting down and reading one of the poetry items in the collection. The act of reading, and specifically the act of reading poetry, and even more specifically the act of reading poetry in translation or indeed reading any other of the library’s “lost & forgotten” poetry items facilitates this very process. And it’s this very process which enables us to grow as individuals, and to understand our shared future . . . Because, as the poet Louise Glück has written: “contact, of the most intimate sort, is what poetry can accomplish. Poems do not endure as objects but as presences. When you read anything worth remembering, you liberate a human voice; you release into the world again a companion spirit.”

TIPL lying on top of the grave of e.e. cummings, before opening the library in a Boston cemetery, September 2010 © TIPL

Running The Itinerant Poetry Library was a full-time occupation from 2006 through 2009, and as it provided little or no income (by virtue of the project’s ethos of free open access) this was sustainable only by performing radically new ways of living, such as eating out of the food-bins at the back of supermarkets, sleeping on stranger’s couches, and learning how to heft more than my own body weight in paper-based items (and all my meagre life-belongings) on my back, using public transport along the way to move me from one library location to the next. Since September 2009, the project has continued to operate on a part-time basis, as otherwise I would have wasted away and become too fragile to woman-handle the library around, and this has enabled me to spend more time reflecting on the undercurrents at play in my project, and specifically, to work towards uncovering a philosophy of the public library.

TIPL in her back garden during San Francisco operations, 2008 © TIPL

Fundamentally, my project is here to issue a clarion call, or, indeed, going back to the Doric Greek, a ‘paean’. Or if you’re not so much into that war stuff: a hymn to public libraries, in fact. Its modus operandi has been all about exploring ways of being, sustainable ways. Ways that address some of the core issues of our time: the limits of our world resources, the limits of a capitalist, market-driven, consumer-led philosophy. I think that poetry, and in particular, the public library have a very important part to play in helping us address these issues and that the public library philosophy, if it can be truly uncovered, will shine a light on how we should proceed.

This is an extract from an interview about The Itinerant Poetry Library. Read the full interview with Sara Wingate Gray, The Itinerant Poetry Librarian, on PIW.

Poets’ boat trip

Yesterday, the festival poets and staff of Poetry International eased into the festival with a boat trip along the Maas, followed by a reception with the mayor at the Rotterdam town hall, where Rotterdam translators and festival poets read together. After that we all ate dinner outside in a beautiful garden at the home of former Poetry International board member Jan Hendrik van Dorp. Many thanks for Jan Hendrik and his wife Elisabeth for their wonderful hospitality.

Michelle Tjoe, Eduardo Espina, Robert Hass and Correen Dekker © Sarah Ream

© Sarah Ream

Yan Jun © Sarah Ream

Correen Dekker, Erín Moure, Øyvind Rimbereid © Sarah Ream

Eduardo Espina reading at the town hall © Sarah Ream

 

 

 

© Sarah Ream

Interview with Renske Brandhoff

Could you tell us about your role in the 42nd Poetry International Festival? What are the biggest challenges you will face before or during the festival? What are your favourite tasks, and your least favourite?

During my internship at Poetry International, I have helped organise educational projects, of which the biggest is a translation project called ‘Met andere woorden’ (In other words). For this project, people were able to sign up to translate poems by the festival poets at home or in school. During the festival, they will be able to meet the poet whose poems they translated. Since so many poets are coming to Rotterdam, this is quite a challenge to coordinate. Furthermore, I will be coordinating the different festival programmes that will take place in the foyer and in the garden of Café Floor, making sure there everyone turns up at the right place at the right time and that there are enough chairs to sit on and so on. It is definitely going to be a busy week, with so many different programmes in the foyer. It’s my very first festival, so I’m not quite sure yet how it will all work out but I’m really looking forward to it!

© Renske Brandhoff

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

The influence of the internet on our daily lives is still growing, and that is both making our world smaller and bigger at the same time. I’m looking forward to the ‘This is me’ event about how the digital world influences poets and their work and how they work with the internet themselves. That’s definitely going to be interesting. Also, many events are related to the city of Rotterdam, which I think is wonderful, and I would like to see some of those events as well.

What does this year’s theme Chaos and Order mean to you in terms of poetry, the festival and your work?

That’s a hard question. I grew up in a small place, so for me, working in Rotterdam automatically implies some sort of chaos, especially at the Poetry International office . . . The different festival events have made me realise that poetry embodies and examines many kinds of chaos or order. I really appreciate the fact that poetry can make you aware of these kinds of things and perhaps make you look at the world in a slightly different way.

Which poet or poets are you most looking forward to see at the festival?

Truong Tran, Øyvind Rimbereid, Daljit Nagra and Robert Hass.

Renske Brandhoff is a production intern at Poetry International.

Interview with Doina Ioanid

© Doina Ioanid

Your PIW biographer, Jan H. Mysjkin, writes that in your poems “autobiographical data are interspersed with surreal images”. How do you see the role of memory in your poems? Are there distinctions for you, poetically and personally, between imagined or embellished memories and ‘true’ memories?

Memory plays a major part in my poetry, but then again it plays a major part in all literature. Even ‘pure’ fiction draws on memory in order to structure an imaginary world. Memory stores data which the writer retrieves unawares whenever he/she needs to create a character or to describe a situation or to provide a background for them. In my case, memory feeds my poems, but in a way that transcends personal experience. In my poetry, memory data are processed and integrated into a poetic order that aims at understanding the particular from a wider perspective. Moreover, these data are passed through the filter of words and images, thus being reshaped into a concrete sensitive material that hopefully becomes relevant for the others as they read my poems.

Personally, I don’t believe in ‘true’ memories. All memories are emotionally or affectively marked, which doesn’t make them necessarily untrue. But what we remember is an emotional association of facts and images that sometimes distorts what is commonly called ‘objective reality’. There is no such thing. Reality is a matter of subjective perception, and as such it cannot be objectively defined. Paradoxically, poetic subjectivity reshuffles memorized experience, imbuing it with a sense of higher objectivity, the objectivity of poetic order. Surreal images are a natural product of poetic order, seizing points of convergence between random occurrences and interpreting them transcendentally.

Has your knowledge of French language and literature (and of other languages) influenced your own writing? If so, are you able to say in what ways?

Each language one learns opens a wider field of knowledge, not only to literature, but to the whole culture of the linguistic space in question. Consequently, influences are unavoidable, even though they sometimes go undetected. These influences, however, should be assimilated well enough not to transpire in one’s writing. I know I’ve been influenced by my knowledge of French and English, but I can’t put my finger on it and that is a good thing. The influences should stay subtle.  Let me give you an example: I was utterly unimpressed by Baudelaire in the Romanian translation, but when I read him in the original, something clicked. I started writing somehow differently.

How do you combine your life as a poet with your work as editor at The Cultural Observer? Are they distinct or intertwined?

My writing and my work as an editor are worlds apart. The only way they are related is that they both compete for my time.

Have you attended other poetry festivals as a guest reader? What have you most and least enjoyed about these experiences? Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to about the Rotterdam festival?

Over the years, I’ve attended several poetry festivals, both in Romania and abroad. What I enjoy most about the ones in Romania, apart from interacting with new readerships, is getting together with fellow poets I appreciate and don’t see very often. Reading abroad is a totally different experience of course, since my poems have to be transmuted into another language. It’s like putting on a new dress. At the Istanbul Poetry Festival, for instance, I liked the occasional unconventional setting – at one point, I read on a boat sailing the Bosporus. But most of all, I like the reactions of a responsive audience. And that’s what I’m looking forward to in Rotterdam.

Read more about Doina Ioanid on PIW.

Read some of the poems from Doina Ioanid’s latest collection translated into English and published by Singapore literary magazine Asymptote.