Halfway through the Parnassus Poetry week seems like a good point to digest some of what I've heard, aka 'highlights'. Working chronologically:
At one of the discussions on Tuesday afternoon as part of The World Poetry Summit, Zeyar Lynn talked of how he used the school he taught in to circumvent the Burmese legal clamp on cultural gatherings of more than three people, by inviting poets to read there to students and other audiences.
In a different panel Taja Kramberger spoke movingly of her experience of elitism; finding her drive and work thwarted in her home country of Slovenia after every seven years, just as she has built a momentum.
Alvin Pang at the launch reading on Tuesday night was ablaze. He read his poems with a lightly-worn passion that communicated his intelligence and warmth.
The PEN talks that filled Wednesday were fascinating in sharing experiences of torture, nationalism and minority languages.
Arjen Duinker reading new work for the lunch poems slot in the Southbank Centre Roof Garden ended in an unexpectedly moving tone after poems that danced like butterflies... At the same reading Pia Tafdrup from Denmark read stark yet loving poems on her father's senility.
Valzhyna Mort from Belarus read poems on watching 70-plus-year-olds play naked badminton which will probably remain lodged in my image bank for weeks, months... And also at the Wolf's Celebration of a decade's worth of publication was Nikola Madzirov from Macedonia who seemd intent on rubbing out lines of distinction from my mind.
Kristiina Ehin's forkloric performance for her lunch poem slot accompanied by Silver Sepp on bicycle wheel and washing up tubs was as magical as her stories. As surreal.
Sam Riviere read some very new work in the New World Order event, 25 lined stanzas of five word sentences he was working on with a composer who liked restirctions. He rose to the challenge. Punchy strange worlds. Same event: Jack Dehnel read a poem, The Big Splash, that looked at the possible astronomical event that split the moon from the earth, just one fascinating, precise poem of many. Also, Kei Miller, always a joy to hear, such lightness of delivery, lyrical poems, a strangely convincing authenticity.
In the first of two events called This is What the World Sounds Like, in which a whole bunch of poets read for five minutes, Immanuel Mifsud from Malta shone out with his descriptions of Auschwitz.
And finally for (part one), Live Essays on Friday. Just the time for a switch in tone. Poets had been asked to write and deliver essays. And while he hadn't been forewarned of the format, the Ethiopian poet Bewketu Seyoum captivated me with poetry: "Even if he spends his life running away, he'll not get far." He was followed by Razmik Davoyan, who gave a fascinating essay on creativity, seeing it as an external storage of energy which brings to light the energy stored in the artist, sets it in its purest form. The better crafted the means, and the stronger the energy, the longer lasting the conveyance.
We're readying ourselves for the Arc Celebration Event - at noon on Saturday in the Clore Ballroom - at which we have signed up ten poets to dazzle: from Slovakia, Slovenia, Iceland, Armenia, Singapore, Armenia, Tuvalu, DCR, Burma, France, Luxembourg... More on that later :)