This was a massive event in Austria with nearly 40 poets performing new collaborations as part of the European Poetry Festival touring about Europe this year. It relied entirely on the hospitality of the Viennese poetry scene, which was energised, enthusiastic and generous to me, as an outsider, a non German speaker, coming into their town and putting something together like this. They seemed to really feel it too, the ideas behind the Camarade, after the event.
I stayed for three days in Vienna, a place where I have many friends and this undoubtedly affected my decision to try to do this kind of work beyond London, because of the people I’ve met and worked with over recent years, and in Austria, with Max Hofler, Esther Strauss, Robert Prosser, Jorg Piringer, Thomas Havlik, Jorg Zemmler & co, that’s a legion of brilliant people. It was Robert who hooked me up with the venue, Einbaumobel, and Jopa Jotakin, who has run it for 12 years. He puts drinks on the bar for free, all night, for everyone, and more than a host of people said the event was made by the venue. In the arches of a railway line, a punk club, instead of a literary ballroom.
If you just have a quick glance here www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/vienna you can see the immense variation and energy of the works for the night. I discovered a lot of really interesting work but also was surrounded by friends who had travelled into Vienna from all over Europe. Something about this event really drew people in.
My own delicate collaboration (pictured) with Iris Colomb & Max Hofler was an experiment, had its moments, overall, for me, maybe a faulty piece. But not because the slight negative aesthetics, which did seem to wound the souls of a few in the audience, was combative. But because performance is, and should be, a risk. And when you do that, sometimes, the rhythm isn’t there. But both Max and Iris are amazing people, and we put it together a few hours before, as all of our partners had dropped out.
I spent my free days in Vienna sat in cafes, wandering, getting lost on a run and nearly dying of frostbite. I went to no museums, no literary places. I just spent time with some great people and talked about things other than poetry, as so much of that was crammed into this one night working.