At the end of September 2019, I attended the Tears in the Fence annual poetry festival (Stourpaine, Dorset, 20-22 September 2019) on the theme of “Transitions” as a guest reader / featured poet.
The festival began with an open reading session show casting a great range of poetic voices: Edward Aldous, Rosie Barrett, David Andrew, Veronica Aaronson, Aidan Semmens and Morag Kiziewicz. This was followed by a session of featured poets: Paul Matthews, Simon Collings and myself. I was particularly struck by the beauty of Paul’s poetry; the images, the words and the emotions relayed in his poems seemed to be in perfect harmony with the short poetic form used. Simon’s long poem that I particularly liked for its sustained energy was a reflection on meaning in language. I performed three multilingual poems: “Bilingual, belonging”, “Migrant, multilingual” and “Reveries about language” and was very glad of the very positive reactions I received to my reading. A fellow poet said to me afterwards that my poetry made her feel “spacious”, referring to the “movement felt between the languages”. Most importantly, people in the audience didn’t seem to mind they did not understand all the languages I was reading in (Croatian, English, French), a comment that I heard several times before regarding my previous multilingual performances.
The next day of the festival started with a morning session on the celebration of the poetry by Jay Ramsay who passed away in January this year. I was particularly moved by Sian Thomas‘s poem devoted to the poet (I cannot recall the title of her poem unfortunately). I was also equally enchanted by the featured poet Jessica Mookherjee and her reading from the new collection Tigress (Nine Arches, 2019). The afternoon session was interspersed with more open readings, some excellent music on the guitar and a lively discussion following Andrew Duncan’s talk on ‘Acquiring and losing assets in poetry’. Although I had to depart for London before the end of the festival, I left with strong memories of the multiplicity of voices and poems I had the opportunity to listen to and engage with. I felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to be completely steeped in some of the best UK poetry for two days. Performing at the festival motivated me also to reflect further on my multilingual practice: as a philosophical and aesthetic engagement with multilingualism. It made me ask myself what role can it play in creating poetry for the twenty-first century. It allowed me also to further consider the importance of the interrelationship between (double) exile, identity and language loss, and more broadly to think through the interrelationship between the multilingual sign (or letter), the image and the sound (or spoken word) in the age of the (post-)digital. Finally, it opened up new artistic paths for me in preparation of my next multilingual poetry recital scheduled for 19 March 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia.
A final note: whilst waiting on the Gillingham platform for my late afternoon train to London, I wrote a little multilingual poem inspired by the surrounding landscape, “At the edge of somewhere”.
She steps into the dehors
at the edge of somewhere
the wind rescues an olive tree
branch separated from its racines
cracks, fissures stirring the void
in the distant spaces, vagues on the sea-wall
roaring grass colder than fire
catches a reflection of itself
in the valley of human sound, a conscience:
green is green is green
on the green hill of rural solitude
gdje nešto neometano spava.
(Gillingham, 21 September 2019)