Versepolis was the most amazing of all the amazing events at Ledbury Poetry Festival yesterday on Sunday, 5th with a line-up of fantastic young poets from across Europe, reading both in their own languages and in English. It was a delight to hear the different cadence and sound of each of the languages: Swedish, Lithuanian, Flemish, Slovak, Macedonian and then to hear the translations, sometimes read by themselves and sometimes read by their partner British poet.
The selected poets were described as ’emerging’ but I think they really have emerged…. are all are astute performers and all quite different, but they know how to use pause and breath, pace and volume. They make it seem natural and easy. I know it isn’t.
All the members of the audience were given a pamphlet of each of the Europeans’ work with their native language and the translation on facing pages, a little parcel tied up in ribbon. Oh, and a badge … how I love badges! Thank you, Versopolis: I shall treasure this gift.
In case you don’t know what it is….Versopolis is a collaboration in words of different languages. You can find out more about Versopolis here http://www.versopolis.com/ and this is their FB link https://www.facebook.com/versopolis?fref=ts
At Ledbury, Liz Berry (from the Black Country) started the orchestrated sequence with the mesmerising poem Bird. ‘When I became a bird, Lord, nothing could stop me….’ Her beautiful poems so beautifully read were followed by Swedish Ida Linde with her fantastical The Machine Girl’s Testament: ‘I have told my father/that no one will experience/ as many world cups/as one thinks during ones’ life time.’ (The Swedish itself was spine-tingling).
Welsh Meirion Jordan (who had ably stood in for Don Paterson in the morning session and was, indeed a revelation to me) followed with gorgeous poems from Moonrise and Regeneration and he introduced Lithuanian Aivaras Veiknys whose passionate book is called Stone Age: this is from Smoke: ‘ This poem needs smoke – / not some kind of noun, but /the imperative mood,/ at whose command I begin to act.’ And then came Flemish poet, Maud Vanhaurwaert with her book I am possible: ‘a smile she says is an act in defiance of gravity.’
Eleanor Rees (from Liverpool, I think) read her sensuous, crafted poems from her wonderful book, Eliza and the Bear and she introduced Slovak Marai Ferencuhova with her filmic Streets of Lights and Dogs: ‘lines begin to run out of the frames too often/ allegedly their present demarcation will not do.’
Lastly, came the stunning Adam Horovitz with his very moving poems about his childhood in Gloucestershire and about Ivor Gurney who ahd lived there too andabout WW1 and he introduced the equally stunning Gjoko Zdraveski with poems from his book house for migratory birds. His last words were’ for the body remembers everything /even the fear of your mother/as you were turning in/ her womb.’
What an evening that was! That alone made driving almost 6 hours there and back from Devon in one day worthwhile but all the rest of the Festival that day was amazing. Next time, I am staying though! What a great concept to have the poetry festival hugger-mugger in the middle of a town.