A concentrated poetry tour down the West coast of Norway with over a dozen poets from across Europe and local to the towns being toured. A beautiful, generous, spirited few days, with readings in Alesund and Bergen, with a boat ride between. A creation of the Nordic Poetry Festival almost entirely through the hard work and hospitality of Jon Stale Ritland, Bjorn Vatne, Erlend Nodtvedt and many others. Thanks to them
September 16th 2019 Flying in late the night before the day, Harry Man and I get to stay with Jon Stale Ritland, our friends, a wonderful poet and a man of golden bones. Ask anyone who has met him ever. A doctor, a tennis player, an embodiment of Norwegian humility, decency and talent. We chat late into the night with him and his lovely family.
September 17th 2019 Harry and I spend the day awaiting the arrival of the other poets in this miniature festival by fighting and exploding. And table tennis. No one wins. We go then to the venue and meet people who are happy to see us. What more can be asked for. Maja Jantar, Christodoulos Makris, David Spittle, Maria Malinovskaya come by from all over, and Hilde Myklebust, Eli Fossdal Waage, Kaisa Aglen too.
An extraordinary evening. It is not possible to discern the strange transitory factors which make an event feel remarkable, nor is it possible to control them. A space can be made for them to happen, and we must’ve done that, for nearly 100 exceptionally attentive people came to Mottaket, the artist led commune gallery in the heart of Alesund, to watch 12 of us read our work. The audience led the poets into really singular readings / performances. Everyone was on. Our host Bjorn Vatne, was so hospitable and charming, he helped shape the aesthetic too, with the space, and the feeling that this was a project which was welcome, in its eccentricity and range.
We are told it’s a grand success immediately, we believe this too. Everyone decamps for a follow up event, a launch of Jon Stale Ritland’s new book. It is packed in a restaurant called Bro. Packed and rewarding and a great launch. We then all eat together, quite high class food and this is all strange and ethereal and dark autumn colours and rain storm outside but talking so easy and serious too.
We don’t go to bed after though. No, we get cabs into a thunderstorm to a big boat. The Hurtigruten. We board and have cabins and snuggle up in the belly of an ocean swell and that’s unusual and really special.
September 18th 2019 The next day the group is like a little family or team if you want me to pull back a bit. We just spend the day together, in the lounges, in the buffets, on deck. We arrive in Bergen, have one hour alone, I go for a jog around Bergen and feel the city is a little more trendy and miss Alesund a bit but its Bergen, so pretty and nice. We are reading collaborations this night, a camarade. And we are in the huge shiny library, thanks to poet and librarian Erlend Nodtvedt. The room is the main café of the library so there is some contextual distraction but that’s a good thing to work with. The audience is a little reticent but a good crowd and I get to work with Dan Aleksander, basically bringing the lord back into these good peoples hearts and I get a chance to eat a croissant which is always nice. Maja Jantar finishes with a choral piece we all noise into and it’s probably freaked the audience out but in a powerfully poetic way.
We finish the diamond duo days in an Ethiopian restaurant and a skybar with injera and hot chocos and every person is genuine and generous and mindful of how lucky we are to do things like this and when they go so well it’s a fulfilling and meaningful nutcase around the scribbling we do. To our Norwegian friends, forever thanks and a glass of water raised up in the air.