Word of welcome by Thomas Wohlfahrt, director of the poesiefestival berlin
The poesiefestival berlin provides the art of poetry in our country and from all over the world with a platform that is highly regarded on the international stage not least because of the new ways that it explores for presenting poetry in a way that it relevant for today. It is not least for this reason that the German UNESCO Commission has given the festival its patronage and that it is receiving this year's 'Landmark in the Land of Ideas' prize. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the 170 poets, artists, scholars and organisers who have travelled to us from 37 countries and I am very grateful for this opportunity afforded us to spend nine days immersing ourselves in their art, with word, language, rhythm and sound.
For the 11th time now, the poesiefestival berlin is presenting the best of poetry from all over the world, in the form of poems in the classical sense and in conjunction and collaboration with other art-forms and media.
For the first time, the poetic landscapes around the Mediterranean Sea are having the opportunity to present themselves in Germany. Since time immemorial, the Mediterranean region has been a cradle of creativity, exchanges of ideas, meetings and encounters and mutual influence, and its very diversities have contributed to the wealth of human experience. But the Mediterranean has been and is at the same time the site of bloody conflicts and divisiveness. From time immemorial right up to the present day displaced people have been part of its tapestry, whether as refugees, migrants or guest workers. At the very beginning of the festival we will be investigating the poetic and literary histories of the region through the prism of the figure of the refugee, placing it in relation to contemporary politics and practice in dealing with refugees, and to European values. We will experience other histories of literature; as though in a sea passage, we will be visiting the poetries of the Maghreb, the Near East, the islands, Israel, Hellas, Andalusia, Istanbul and Marseilles. This year's VERSschmuggel (reVERSible) will be negotiated between Italian and German poets. Six Culture Institutes and Embassies of countries around the Mediterranean – and this is a new feature – have curated exhibitions of their own on topics such as Sea, Language, Poetry to be shown in their own spaces or in the Akademie der Künste and made them available to the poesiefestival berlin.
Poetry is now a self-confident art form in its own right. From this position it is able to enter into alliances with other art forms and media and extend its effective range, needing, using and seeking out new and different formats for itself as an art form. An entire colloquium will be asking poets, philosophers, media scholars and other multipliers for their view of this and looking at ways in which poetry changes in the process.
Naturally there will be a taster for the coming ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, which will be taking place in October, but is of course part of the poesiefestival berlin. For the third time we can experience the conjoining of the sounds of poetry, music and video art, of "sound and language", in e.poesie. This big concert full of premières is being put on jointly with the Berlin Artists Programme of the DAAD. Ohrenstrand, the network for new music, is also giving its support. The same is true of two more of our own productions that are being given premières – the performance of Inger Christensen's famous Alphabet in the multi-media staging by Christiane Hommelsheim; and Schumann lieben. A Cycle of Poets and Songs, for which, to mark the 200th anniversary of Schumann's birth, Sabine Scho and Ulf Stolterfoht have written new versions of the original Chamisso text A Woman's Life and Love on which the cycle is based and will be premièring it with the new musical setting by Jan Müller-Wieland in a co-production with the Düsseldorf Schumann Festival.
This year's long poem stage production will be Dunckler Enthusiasmo, featuring the excellent German translations by Christian Filips of poems by none less than Pier Paolo Pasolini. Leopold von Verschuer is to be thanked for undertaking the direction of the production and the Singakademie zu Berlin will be performing, as will Eva Brunner, Linda Olansky, Bo Wiget and others.
The programmes for children and for teachers have never been as extensive as this year's, and never before has so much of Berlin's colour and diversity been involved in Poets' Corner in the city districts and in the European Schools.
The daily poetry discussions will be giving us quite personal insights into the workplaces of poets around the Mediterranean and beyond. Who would not like to know how and why for instance Michael Ondaatje, Cole Swensen or Titos Patrikios began writing poetry?
A feature of the festival that has now gained a reputation throughout the world is Weltklang – Nacht der Poesie, the evening of poetry readings and performances that is the opening event of the poesiefestival berlin, for which all the poets read exclusively in their native languages. Translations into German, frequently the first, even for well-known poets, are published in an anthology for following the reading or reading later, which can be bought only on this one evening and is also included in the ticket price for the event.
lyrikline.org, the website for poetry, will be hosting a feature on the focus theme to coincide with the festival.
Poetry is powerful and exciting and lives in the most diverse forms and formats and in every language in the world. Let us experience this powerful pulse of the art of poetry.
I wish us all an exciting poesiefestival berlin 2010, experienced with all our senses and full of new insights.
At this point I wish to thank all those through whose support this, our eleventh Festival is able to take place: I wish to say thank you to the Hauptstadtkulturfonds and all our supporters, donors and sponsors.
Very special thanks should also go to the Akademie der Künste and all its staff, who have again provided the poesiefestival berlin with these excellent premises and this wonderful location.
Dr. Thomas Wohlfahrt
Director of the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin
and Director of the poesiefestival berlin