World’s Words – Civilisations Festival

It was a privilege for me to be asked by the Library to organise an event during this week-long, nation-wide celebration of human creativity in all its forms. Thanks to the generous suggestions by my now extensive network of poets and authors, and the even more generous participation of eight supremely talented poets, I and the large audience enjoyed a terrific and moving evening. Although the event was all about ‘words’, it is hard to convey in words the emotions elicited by the music, rhythms and meanings of the many poems read in Arabic, Bangla, Greek and English. There may be a recording of it and shall post it if I’m able to… The theme of ‘words’ stretched to migration, war, asylum, identity. But it is words that people take with them as they move from place to place, and their translation allow us entry into their lives and experiences. As someone said, translation is the essence of hospitality. And as we all know, hospitality is the essence of civilisation.

Adnan Al-Sayegh reading with (l-r) Milton, Stephen, Farah and Mick


Me getting the session started, with (l-r) Fiona, Kostya, Mick and Lorraine


Mick Delap reading, with Milton, Stephen, Adnan and Farah

Stephen reading. As well as a fantastic poet in his own right, Stephen performed his translations of Adnan’s poems. He also compiled, and read from, a bilingual anthology of Bangladeshi poetry.
Milton


Left to right: Lorraine Mariner, Kostya Tsolakis, Milton Rahman, Stephen Watts, Adnan Al-Sayegh, Farah Naz, Fiona Moore and Mick Delap

And, as part of the same project, on Wednesday March 7, storytellers Farah Naz and Rich Sylvester http://richstories.mayfirst.org/ ran three sessions with year 4 pupils of James Wolfe Primary School in Royal Hill. I sat in on one of the sessions and learnt all about the origin of sunlight, the first sandals ever made and how to make a lazy young man into one with a decent work ethic… Here are a couple of images from the session. Thank you Rich and Farah, and the Head and Deputy head of the school (Steve Harris and Taniya Ahmed) for being so enthusiastic about this project.

Events

‘Proper’ summer is finally here and, while I’m reluctant to start thinking about autumn, I am inevitably and joyfully beginning to plan the first event of the ‘new term’. The first thing I did was to look back at all the in-words events from the very first one in January 2017, and I realised that over five years I hosted 49 readings, including a number of lectures by Graham Fawcett. 49! What shall I do for the 50th? I’m thinking that, although it would limit the numbers in the audience, I would really love to have an in-person event at the West Greenwich Library, like ‘in the old days’. And you never know, I may even be able to get to grips with ‘hybrid’…. Of course, it will depend of many factors, and as soon as I can, I shall post a date if not a full programme.

I love the new animation at the top of my homepage. Thanks to Paul Kley for creating it. The words on the flying page are not a quotation but a whole poem, a favourite of mine, by the Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. It is impossible to translate, though countless attempts have been made. I am sure you can guess its meaning and I leave you to create your own ‘translation’ of it. Ungaretti fought in the trenches and those two lines represent a moment one morning – pared down to a sense of the absolute, maybe also of possibilities?

As we emerge from a not-yet-over pandemic and wake up every morning feeling the dread of conflict but also aware of the beauty of spring and the blessing of nature and community, Ungaretti’s words are more than ever appropriate.

I am taking a break from organising things over the summer. Whether I will be as dynamic as the train above, or I’ll take time on a siding, I’m not yet sure.

Either way, I am always happy to hear from you with thoughts and ideas, and wish to thank you for your support so far.

Be well!