The Elit article series runs very regularly from Literaturhaus Europa's base in Austria and always has some fascinating insights into the wider European literature scene from writers, organisers and journalists. I've written for them a few times before, and they asked me to pen a short piece on the CROWD Literature bus tour which I partially participated in this summer. I wrote about my experience of being at the Krokodil fest in Serbia during Britain's exit from the EU. http://www.literaturhauseuropa.eu/de/observatorium/blog/crowd-literature2019s-omnibus-project
http://www.literaturhauseuropa.eu/?p=4078 "Every nation’s literature contains within it multiplicities. Not only are definitions of these traditions based on approximations, that which has been recorded, assigned, that which has had the fortune of being discovered, but the very concepts around what actually makes a poem or a novel is ever changing. In fact the very intransigence, and ever changing, nature of each language we utilise in Europe makes declarations and definitions fraught. That being said, I have come to realise, reading, writing and programming in many European nations over the last number of years, that certain social and political realities, certain modern histories, have an indelible effect on what kind of poetry a nation produces now, and what kind of literature a nation reads.
Recently I curated a project called Feinde, an Austrian themed Enemies project, which is all about collaboration and exchange between nations. In this case, supported by the immensely open minded and generous Austrian Cultural Forum in London, four contemporary Austrian poets came to London and collaborated, and performed, with British counterparts. In all we put on four major events in a week, heading up to European Literature Night in Edinburgh, via UNESCO City of Literature, to close out the programme.
A first difference, and a vital one. The Austrians poets, Ann Cotten, Jörg Piringer, Max Höfler and Esther Strauss, were all guests of the Austrian Cultural Forum, which isn’t just an organisation in name, but inhabits an incredible space, a building they have run for over fifty years in London. The value of this, in having a home, a locus for the project, in encouraging collaboration, and raising awareness of the iconoclastic post-war Austrian tradition of poetry is incalculable. I intend no vast conclusions here, but I know of few equivalents in London, and I know I have yet to stay in a British house in any other city outside the UK.
More importantly, and forgive my compression here, but the outstanding innovation, elasticity of methodology and range of practise the Austrian poets evidenced, while still being major figures in their nation, suggests a rather different tradition than here in the UK. It exists here, but it is not conducive to repute in the world of poetry. Why is this? Reasons are legion, but it is hard to look past what the two nations needed to face up to after 1945. Where contrarianism and a deep suspicion of language itself seemed necessary to a country who had think through its culpability, so tradition, fixedness and conservative methodology seemed apt to those who saw themselves wholly victorious or proper.
Still, now, 70 years on, my generation of poets, those encouraging consistent dialogue and collaboration across our continent, to build communities of writers and long lasting friendships in the creative act, must be aware and mindful of history, if they are not to repeat it, or be curtailed by it."
Really delighted to be part of this Europe wide enterprise, one whose concerns are so closely aligned to my own "The ELit Literaturehouse Europe establishes an observatory for European contemporary literature focusing chiefly on: research, discussion and publishing results concerning literary trends across Europe, as well as the inter-cultural communication of literature within Europe and the dissemination of literature among the diverse cultural spaces within Europe."
As part of a regularly blog feature, edited by Walter Grond, literary practitioners from across Europe contribute short pieces for the organisation.. This is my first, and there should be a fair few over the next year or two http://www.literaturhauseuropa.eu/?p=3071 Thanks to European Literature Network, & Rosie Goldsmith & Anna Blasiak.
"....The fact is the tradition modes of ‘translated’ poetry are the bedrock of literature exchange across our nations, through festivals, readings and the tirelessness of translators, but this is no longer enough in a new age of easy travel and rapid communication technology. Beyond these rarefied remakings of literature across our continent’s languages, where some countries are open and some, more decidedly closed (I am looking to my own shores here …), there lies collaboration. New works, written over and under languages, in new forms, shapes and styles. Even if one rejected the aesthetic possibilities of collaboration for an artform not often associated with it, what cannot be denied is that collaboration succeeds in building human relationships that last. They create immediate dialogue, they bring communities of writers together and they build friendships. This, more than anything, is the aim of the Enemies project, a name for a project pioneering experimentation, innovation and collaboration, with its tongue firmly in its cheek, for what must we keep closer than our Enemies?...."