A note on : Reverse - poetry festival in Copenhagen

My second time reading in Copenhagen, a visit to the Reverse poetry festival in Copenhagen. It’s a festival that exists because of a small group of dedicated people and it invites genuinely contemporary poets, clearly invitations that are the result some serious knowledge and research into the wider world of poetry. These festival days then were a concentration of much effort and attention and the Literatur Haus in the city was always busy. The highlight for me was meeting some really talented and good natured poets - Pierre Alferi, Derek Beaulieu, Ida Borjel, Jorg Piringer, to name but a few, and sharing a couple of what might be deemed anti-performances. Again I got visit the brilliant Ark books too, who are another volunteer led enterprise.

The night of my performance, the street of the Literatur Haus was closed and a small stage set up for Jorg, myself and a few others to read. It felt as though no many were there to see the poetry, which I can relate to, but as they milled in their black gowns and drank, which again, is fine, a DJ played us in. They DJ’d into my reading and before my performance I walked around introducing myself to strangers and handing them pieces of paper. They were genuinely contemptuous of me talking to them, perhaps this is why I have this lingering feeling now, writing this. Jorg did a wonderful set, technically brilliant, funny, captivating. Perhaps 30 to 50 people from the 200 or so on the street circled him, distantly, to listen. The rest continued to chat and drink, which again, is fine. I wasn’t really introduced, just took the mic when Jorg finished. I told the audience how about strange the experience is going to festivals like this – that you pass through so invisibly, its ghostly, often, and the travelling, the infrastructure of the amazing invitation, its often for a ten minute reading in a language foreign to the audience. So I wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t pretend they were going to listen. Instead I asked them to write down on those pieces of paper the name of someone they knew who had passed away. Then I said I’d sit in Ark bookshop talk to anyone who wanted to speak to me about that person, and write a poem about them, in memorial, if they wanted to.

So followed an hour I’ll not forget, a deeply sad and authentic series of conversations with very kind people who followed me into the shop, away from the crowd and its disinterest, and in the stories of dead lovers, parents, children, brothers, sisters, cats and poets, I made a corner of the world for myself.

The following day I had the grand pleasure to having lunch with many of the poets, thanks to the hospitality of my old friend Martin Glaz Serup. He is a wonderfully ebullient, funny and sweet hearted man, and this was another lovely hour. My final performance, which was supposed to be a talk, was perhaps even more memorable.


Sat on stage with Ida Borjel and Henny Hagerup, my chair was placed for me. The stage was in three parts, and the flanking pieces were an inch lower than the central piece. So when I shifted my chair just a few centremetres from the middle of the stage, to better see the moderator, it fell out beneath me. This in front of a full audience and with a series of glasses on that stage. I wasn’t embarrassed at first, nor overly shocked, but it was quite spectacular. I stood up and said ‘my arse is wet’, then someone pointed out to me my leg had been cut and blood streaked across my trousers. Indeed the glass had cut into my knee joint somewhat, though I was lucky to not have been really hurt. We finished the event, a fine chat about collaboration, and then I spent some time trying to wack plasters over the wound, in my pants, in the literature haus’ office. It was clear I had to go the hospital and luckily the festival folk and my dear friend Harry Man were on hand to help me there where I was sewn up brilliantly. So ended my time at Reverse, hobbling through the Copenhagen night, eating cinnamon buns with Harry on a man made mound next to a man made lake, my leg full of synthetic stitches.