Giddy with sleeplessness and surrounded by friends I had specifically inculcated to join me because of their grabbing abilities as well as my fondness for them, I went out onto Jubilee gardens after running the inaugural Maintenant event as part of Poetry Parnassus. That event itself was the end of a long day, and was an intense experience for me personally. The Viking music of Pekko Kappi gets me, and his presence at the Parnassus was really emblematic of my personal satisfaction of what I had been able to introduce to a proceeding that is so large to dwarf all those involved. Also reading the translations of Endre Ruset’s remarkable poem about Utoeya, having lived in Oslo for a year when I was younger, was a private and at times, grueling experience.
I had met some of the Chilean collective Casagrande before the Parnassus, through the avant garde workshop Writers Forum, and I had always tried to follow their activities. Knowing their sense of history, their intelligence, energy and their artistic sense of judgement, I expected the Rain of Poems to be a spectacular, but I knew, on the night, it might be more than that, having really tried to give time to educating myself on the history of the project, it’s tradition as an act of declaration without didactism and a true synthesis of the happening, the political and the poetic.
The experience was moving. Bombardment after bombardment of poems fell over the garden as the crowd swayed between the obtuse and competitive, and the joyous and cohesive. I was one of the voices who thought the character of London would leave people cynical and banal in the face of the profound, but it wasn’t the case, genuinely, friends and families were all turned into something close to children, a stage of emotional brevity, laughter, lightness and engagement. I can only speak for myself, but sharing the experience with those I care about so much, knowing they were there for me, because my poem was part of the bomb, will stay in my memory for a long time. It was a special event for that reason, it brought people into something overwhelming through the act of something simple, and it did on more levels than can be expressed briefly.
I actually asked many of my friends to join me specifically to find my poem in the melee, I really wanted it as a souvenir and because it featured a Spanish translation. Toward the end of the evening, they had become so generous as to approach strangers with offers of money to somehow draw my poem from the pack! The incomparable Tiphaine Mancaux really became the centre of the evening when, after disappearing for half an hour, she returned to pull out nearly 100 poems from her jeanshorts. She must have destroyed swathes of children for the haul. In the end, after pacing the Southbank for a few more hours and scouring it the following day, her and David Kelly had collected 98 different poems, and many duplicates. This essentially means they found one third of the possible poems, and of 100,000 that were dropped, there were only 300 poets involved!
Moreover, as we were leaving the Jubilee gardens and I began the benevolence that will mark the rest of festival by using Tiphaine’s industry to appear generous to other poets, by giving them their poems (which have included Agnes Lehoczky, Chris McCabe, James Wilkes, Sylva Fischerova, Kristiina Ehin and Jo Shapcott so far), Tiphaine, somehow, found my poem, resting on the ground.
I have spent time the following day talking in depth with the amazing poets and activists from Casagrande and have suggested we make plans to create a resource for the artistic responses which are bound to flow from such a once in a lifetime evening. David Kelly, who is producing new work in response to Poetry Parnassus, has already begun, creating the above collage on the very night.
Filed under: Misc | Tagged: poetry parnassus rain of poems | 3 Comments »