There is very wide agreement that to possess a language is a treasure and a nation’s capital. Poetry, as the art form of language, is to a high degree the capital of the whole person, as our societies with their ever-increasing need for poetry and high respect for poets are constantly making apparent. The ways in which poetry is presented are always changing. Capital, in Latin capitalis, means not only money but also, primarily, ‘head’ and ‘to do with life’. The 16th poesiefestival berlin offers the opportunity to experience in more than 50 events the diverse forms of poetry from all over the world from the perspective of wealth as it exists in and can be used and raised from language – poetry as human capital, drawn on, shaped and presented by writers from all over the world.
From ‘Weltklang’, the great overview of the world in poetry, to the Poetry Market at the end of festival, 142 artists from 32 countries will be allowing us to share in their worlds of language and speech.
‘“Looking into the mouth” – into the world of words with Luther’ is the title of the festival’s central exhibition. On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it allows us to experience the language our mouths and minds carry with them, and what origins in time and space, shifts of meaning and radical changes we carry with us when we deal with language. Martin Luther was the great reformer of the German language as well! Three poets will also be giving some very personal insights into how they relate the language of Luther to the language of poetry. Each day a communal meal as performance provides an excellent preparation for the exhibition. The history of language is the history of humanity and as exciting as a detective story. What a chapter! What capital!
The aesthetic dimensions of the holy writings of Jews, Christians and Muslims, all praising the same god, will be juxtaposed in all their poetic glory in a theatrical presentation featuring a Jewish cantor, a Syrian Orthodox deacon and a reciter of the Qur’an, known as a Qari – such a poetic treasure of humanity. A sound installation around the summons common to all religions and languages to their communities to ‘Come!’ to joyfulness completes this consideration.
This year’s colloquium is devoted to the futures of poetry. The entire festival is permeated by new and different formats and media for the presentation of poetry, including alliances of poetry with other art forms, from digital forms to electronic music and t-shirt poetry to the poetry film. The ‘Poetry goes public’ event is not the only one presenting a few of these.
“Spoken Word” artists from African countries have written an express letter to Europe which they will be presenting and discussing with us. In this event and others such topics as war and terror and our solidarity with the people who are forced to flee from them will be covered.
Contemporary poetry from China finds its expression and message between the signs and lines. Never has a poetic landscape that enters into a productive friction with traditions going back 3,000 years and confronts political and philosophical implications been looked at in such complexity.
We are being introduced to poetic voices and landscapes of Poland. This year’s ‘VERSschmuggel’ (reVERSible) translation workshops are letting the best poetry from the Netherlands and Flanders flow via translation by German poets just as in the other direction poems from here change to the other language. Special positions of the poetic are dedicated to comedy and the event format ‘3durch3 spezial’ (3by3 special). The ‘poets’ evening’ is given over this year to terra-poetics in the Anthropocene. Positions in e.poetry will be brought together in a concert with an international line-up.
Poetry talks will be providing personal insights into several poets’ workshops. Some very special poetological reports can be anticipated.
Programmes for children have been prepared too with active participation by children and teachers generally in investigating language and poetry.
On ‘Poets’ Corner’ the whole city is once again involved in the poesiefestival berlin. Organisers of poetry festivals from many countries will be meeting in Berlin to swap their experiences, and the lyrikline partners from all over the world will be using the festival for their annual meeting.
Most of the publishers publishing poetry in German will be taking part in the Poetry Market at which, if you will, all the meanings of capital come together again – poetic capital, that is, of course.
I wish all participants and visitors a wonderful festival and give heartfelt thanks to all partners and sponsors, especially the Capital City Cultural Fund (Hauptstadtkulturfonds), to the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Culture and Media, and to the Academy of Arts.
Dr. Thomas Wohlfahrt
Director of the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin and Director of the poesiefestival berlin