My first event at the festival was the first of two Maintenant celebration readings. The Maintenant series is a regular interview platform for contemporary European poets designed to allow elucidation of their work, theoretically and otherwise, and to present poets who are truly contemporary, and not occluded by the near legendary figures of the near past. It also aims to show a true breadth of what poetry might be in the 21st century, and promote the idea we can leave stylistic and factional dualisms behind by just presenting good work in all its forms.
The event was housed in the Blue room, on the spirit level of Southbank centre, which is a little bit hidden to say the least. I was worried no one would be able to find it but in the end we had near 100 people in attendance and it was standing room only.
The reading were magnificient, a truly varied and fascinating mix of European poetics. Karlis Verdins’ wit, Christodoulos Makris’ energy, Endre Ruset’s gravitas, Damir Sodan’s ebullience, Sylva Fischerova’s power and Pekko Kappi’s brilliance really made an impact on the audience and couldn’t have been more pleased with the event. I had the privilege of reading the translations of Endre’s poem about the tragedy in Utoeya, and having lived in Oslo for a year when I was younger, and having not seen the poem up until the moment I read it, the experience was emotionally intense. And Pekko Kappi, with his pure engagement with the great balladic tradition of Finnish poetry really ended the night perfectly.