Jules Deelder instilled in me a love of poetry. He was there when I was in need of something other than the big-people poems that weren't about me, as a would-be punk. That was almost forty years ago now. He has just died, and heaven is going to be jazzed up a lot too.
Last night, as the night mayor of Rotterdam presumably breathed his last, I sat in a room full of alto and hipsters in their twenties, all eager for reciting, young poets. Stories with heart, straight from the streets.
How sobering? Rarely experienced a livelier night of poetry than this one, mainly because poets and audience were about as sober at the end as they were at the beginning. That was often not the case in Deelder's years.
Ok, this is Utrecht, a city where the Faculty of Letters has not yet been abolished and where something like the Night of Poetry has been alive for almost forty years. But this programme at poppodium Ekko is different. People Say Things, the poetry/spoken-word/hip-hop/rap programme of co-initiator Teddy Tops, experienced its hundred and fourteenth night there and so it was full again. The Zwolse B-Boys from Ness closed the evening, slightly surprised at such an attentive audience, which didn't natter through anything.
It was therefore too engaging in terms of content to do that which you normally do with performing bands. Now in Ekko, nobody was standing with their back to the stage talking about football. Maybe it was because of the opening with Lev Avitan and Yasin Genç, who brought a surprising combination of ant-sweet guitar sounds and raw street poetry. Who it was also certainly down to was Daniëlle Zawadi, who tied the room to herself with her lyrics and impressive presence. What a rock.
But all that was nothing compared to Nadeche Pyka. Golden-haired, streetwise, straight from the heart and vulnerable where it needed to be vulnerable. This young woman comes from the city of Deelder and makes you feel where that concrete metropolis gets its self-esteem from. She's working on an EP and it's really not going to be the last we'll see of this worthy successor to Deelder.
People Say Things is an unknown festival, but it exemplifies every literary festival our country has. Of course, reciting poets interspersed with a tune and an interview with three talking bodies behind a table are fun too, but they never escape the weightiness that such festivals lose so many young audiences because of. Of course it's not world-class that's here, but the spontaneity and directness of this set in Ekko I missed for years.
The festival, which originated in Nijmegen and also has editions in other cities, and will soon even descend on the Antilles, is a great example of spontaneous talent development. It offers a stage to people who have outgrown the Kunstbende and poetry slams. Anything goes here: even the somewhat hermetic weightiness of Arnoud Rigter or the rather sweet songs of upcoming singersongwriter Vic Willems find an eager audience.
People Say Things celebrates language, and how nice it is to show it every corner of the room. The country may be leavened, but poetry is alive as never before.