And it was at that age that poetry arrived in search of me
I am glad that we at least are doing something for World Poetry Day. UNESCO UK does not seem to have done much to promote it, disappointingly.
We do, largely, have a rather anglo-centric view of poetry in this country, one that could perhaps be challenged on such a day. Our minds might be opened to, and by such poets as Pablo Neruda, Czeslaw Milosz, Wisława Szymborska, Mahmoud Darwish, Yehuda Amichai, and so on.
These last are the only two poets in the above list not to have received a Nobel prize. One was Israeli, the other Palestinian, and both had their work appreciated by ‘the other side’ as it were. Here are extracts:
From Leaves of Olives by Mahmoud Darwish
The six stanzas of the poem repeat the cry “Write down: I am an Arab”.
I am an Arab
And I work with comrades in a stone quarry
And my children are eight in number.
For them I hack out
a loaf of bread
a school exercise-book
from the rocks
rather than begging for alms
at your door
rather than making myself small
at your doorsteps.
Does this bother you?
I am an Arab…
This next extract is from Yehuda Amichai’s poem, Wildpeace, which was requested – by both sides - to be read, if memory serves, at the Olso Peace Accord ceremony.
Let it come
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace
This evening, at our Marsden Write Out Loud night, I give a short talk about Neruda, whose line, quoted on our logo and on this heading, so accurately summarises what we are about at Write Out Loud: supporting those for whom poetry has arrived in search of them, to help it stay.
Write Out Loud has always had strong international inclinations. We spent a lot of time crowd-translating poems between French and English on one of our series of five years of Write Out Loud-organised poetry events in Bordeaux, and we worked with refugees and asylum-seekers in Bolton, with the help of Nicky Burrows.