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Podcast: This year, Poetry International explores the role of nationalism in poetry.

Jan Baeke has been associated with Poetry International as a programmer for many years. In this podcast, I talk to him about the programme and the theme of this 49th edition: The Nation of Poetry. It's about nationalism, of course, but also about identity. And about what role poetry plays in that. And then, of course, it's not primarily about folk songs.

We talk about Baeke's own fondness for French, English and American poetry. We talk about the shifting boundaries in what is and is not allowed. After he discusses the poets invited to this edition, we talk about engagement. The question arises, whether there is also room for apolitical poetry.

Baeke himself will address that question in his talk show on Friday evening, 1 June. Then he will talk to Patricia Lockwood, among others, but especially to Russian poet Maria Stepanova, who herself runs an independent news site in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Spoken word

We also talk briefly about why not all performing poetry is also necessarily good poetry. Baeke notes, for example, that much of the poetry in the spoken word tradition is strongly autobiographical, and sometimes has little relation to the world outside that of the performer himself.

8 chapters

For your reading but more importantly listening convenience, the podcast is divided into eight chapters, between which you can switch via the control buttons.

1: Jan Baeke talks about why he appreciates poetry from France, America and England more than Dutch poetry.

'In France, the tradition in poetry goes back much further. The language there has also changed much less. We read with difficulty Vondel, or Cats, while the French still read their poets from the sixteenth or seventeenth century.'

2: On the festival theme: The Nation of poetry/Poetry of nation: how does poetry relate to nationalism?

'You have countries where the poet's origin, the country or region he comes from, matters enormously to the poetry he writes.'

3: Which poets do you look for on such a theme?

'Patricia Lockwood is someone who is very much against what the world of Trump wants with her country.' 'The Burmese poet Zeyar Lynn is someone who may not very much criticise the Burmese pursuit of their own national identity, but he does his best to make a different noise.'

4: On engagement in poetry, and why Poetry need not be a political festival.

'Unlike the poetry of the 1960s and 1970s, you won't find unambiguous pamphleteering among the current generation of committed poets. It's there, but the work exposes rather than reacts to the mechanisms behind certain developments.'

5: On the difference between literary and stage poetry, and why spoken word will not soon be a full part of a festival like Poetry.

'A lot of Spoken Word' lyrics are very autobiographical. It only gets really interesting for me when the text becomes so intense and compelling that it rises above the purely autobiographical. Then it also becomes relevant to the listener, and ultimately reader.'

6: On the Friday night talk show.

'I actually want to use some questions to see if people still see room for nationalism or the idea of 'the nation' in their poetry. Is it something you should embrace or criticise in every possible way? Or should poetry manifest itself as a sanctuary in which national origin plays no role whatsoever?'

7: Does right-wing poetry exist?

'I don't come across it, but it could be that I don't look for it properly. On the other hand, I think if you want to preach right-wing revolution, you won't choose poetry so quickly. Because you don't reach that many people with that.'

8: Are there any developments you missed?

'I feel that looking well at things that took place off the beaten path of literature. At the beginning of this century, we included slam poetry in the festival several times. We only let that go again because not a lot of new things ended up happening in that.'

Happy listening!

Good to know Good to know
The 49th Poetry International Festival Rotterdam will take place from 27 May to 3 June 2018 in Rotterdam. More information and ticket sales.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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