EPF2018 #7: Collaborating with Ausra Kazilunaite

Ausra Kaziliunaite is a really remarkable poet. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year, for the 2017 European Poetry Night, and when we had an unfortunate / understandable last minute collaborative dropout her and we put something together in a day I am proper proud of. Ausra sent me her poem written for the night, a piercing, elusive, allusive poem about England leaving Europe and I responded, literally following her words (which she wrote in English) and making small nudges in tone and order. It really came together in the reading, and it served to remind me despite my forays into performance that a reading, when done well, can keep attention with effect. I hope we get to work again in the future, the work she is doing in Lithuania is really important and she is a perfect example of the kind of person I feel lucky to work with in these collaborative poems

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EPF2018 #6: Lithuanian focus at European Poetry Festival

To have people queueing down the stairs of the poetry café, the poetry society’s home in London, was gratifying, and a packed house was the right vibe within which to celebrate three brilliant Lithuanian poets who had come to London as part of the London Bookfair Baltic celebration. The Lithuanian Cultural Institute were so supportive of the fest in general and this was a really memorable night, pleasing for me to deliver an event that really gave the poets a proper platform to show their works. We had some solo readings from a mix of visiting poets and European poets living in the UK (this blend integral to the festival’s remit) including Muanis Sinanovic from Ljubljana and Theodoros Chiotis from Athens, before new collaborations were presented by poets I had met teaching for the Poetry School on courses, both in person and online, about contemporary European poetry. They did me proud, and produced some remarkable live works. The night was finished with three new collaborations involving the Lithuanian poets and then everyone decamped to a covent garden pub. It was a really atmospheric night, the best I’ve ever put on in that venue.

See videos of every performance on the night and pictures too at www.europeanpoetryfestival.com/lithuania

A note on: Lightwave, performing with Lithuanian poets in London

If you try to please audiences, uncritically accepting their tastes, it can only mean that you have no respect for them.
 -Andrei Tarkovsky

A memorable night at Free Word centre, bathed in a dirty UV light I had associated with searching for bodily fluids in hotel rooms transformed a literary house meeting hall into a space for real performance literature. I was performing alongside Lithuanian poets Zygimantas Kudirka and Gabriele Labanauskaite and thanks to Zygi's suggestion we themed the evening around the Lightwave, all presenting new live works thanks to an invitation by the Lithuanian Cultural Centre tying into the London Book Fair.

I've known Gabriele for years now, she has always been a peer whose work I find motivating, one of dozens of folk beyond the UK doing the work I think we should be doing on the island, blending heavy skill in theatre, poetry and sound. She has an immense presence too, calm, clear thinking, warm. And Zygimantas was a revelation, having never seen him perform before, he was unique, capitivating, authentic, very funny. He made my improvised speaking performance, which involved rope lights nosed around my neck, flames held under my palm and rambling engagements with the theme of light, seem conventional.

The Free Word was kitted out differently too and there was a sensitive, engaged feeling in the audience. It all emerged from the intent, mindful curation of the Lithuanian Cultural Institute, Rūta Nanartavičiūtė and her colleagues were a joy to work with, with an unusual sense of play and a taste for the contemporary and strange. The intense feeling of post performance energy, of soft relief, was permeated this time with a sense of hoping hospitality had been shown to the visiting poets, and it felt as thought they had shared an evening with myself and others that would be long in the memory.

A note on: Lightwave: New Performance in Lithuanian Literature

Wednesday March 15th / 6:30pm doors for 7pm start / Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road. EC1R 3GA : Free Entry but online booking requested here

A unique event celebrating Lithuanian’s new generation of literary artists, featuring brand new readings and performances by Gabrielė Labanauskaitė-Diena, Žygimantas Kudirka and SJ Fowler, a British poet connected to their innovative, collaborative practise.

Both Labanauskaite and Kudirka have carved out reputations across Europe for remarkable writing and live performances to match. This is a rare chance in London to witness poets who are breaking ground in the new European scene.

From Lithuania’s powerful lyrical and formal tradition has grown a culture of experimentation and in this event curated for the London Book Fair, the Lithuanian Culture Institute brings to light the best of Lithuania’s new generation of poets and performers.

Speakers Žygimantas Kudirka is a writer, artist and performer of interactive poetry, artificial languages and electronic music. Kudirka’s first poetry collection, XXI a. Kudirka (The Twenty-first Century Kudirka), is made up of interactive verses, literary remixes, internet poetry, and texts of unusual graphic forms and content. He is also a performer of avant-garde rap and one of the pioneers of poetry slam in Lithuania, representing the country in European slam poetry championships. His works have been translated in different languages and part of them can be found online herehere or here. / Gabrielė Labanauskaitė-Diena is a text producer. She combines poetry, drama, essay and other texts with interdisciplinary arts, enjoying her roles as writer, performer and organizer. Gabrielė also appears in classical forms – as a playwright in theatre, lecturer at Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy, human being in everyday life. Find out more here and here.

A note on: The European Camarade & collaborating with Endre Ruset

All but 2 pairs had never met each other before the night itself. From the 18 poets participating, travelling in from 12 nations across the continent, virtually none had established friendships. Yet, by the end of the night, a night that went on long after I went home, it was clear that a community had been made and relationships which would last years had begun. I can't emphasise enough how the collaborative creative act and the diffusion of energy away from the singular, representative, pre-written poetry, creates closeness and community and energy and openness. Quite amazing to witness on this night, almost the perfect evidence for what I spend quite a lot of my time talking about, theorising behind the Enemies project. The most gratifying thing was the poets themselves feeling they had had a generous and memorable experience, one where they were treated with hospitality and due respect. For me it was a great privilege to see so many friends,  Christodoulos Makris, Gabriele Labanauskaite, Christoph Szalay, Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir, Ville Hytonen and co, whom I had only known before in their countries, or during a festival. And to meet so many new poets. Every collaboration was distinct and dynamic in it's own way and many remarked it was the best Camarade they'd been to. All the videos are here: http://www.theenemiesproject.com/europeancamarade

And working with Endre Ruset, a friend for many years now, was wonderful. We had written a poem with ascending lines corresponding to the Fibonacci sequence, and then planted lines with other poets in the audience, so as our collaboration grew in number, so the number of voices would multiply too, and become intermittently choral. 

It capped a great run for me with events and performances, each one has been a special experience and motivating to keep on, keep curating and creating together. And keep travelling, extending reach and asking poets from all over the world to visit us in London.