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This report is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

Letter from Holland Johanna H. Prins

On a smoky stage furnished with geometric props in metallic grey, illuminated by a white revolving search-light, Holland's annual One World Poetry Festival got under way for the sixth time: a week of poetry in mid-October with 'The Eve of '84' as its somewhat predictable theme. If Big Brother was watching, he would have disapproved of the nocturnal chaos at Amsterdam's rock palace 'The Milky Way', but for the performers it was a congenial occasion, almost like stepping back into the 1960s, though everyone was a little older.

The readings were limited to twenty minutes each-trying for those who had travelled a long way. Some responded to this dilemma better than others: the French poet Eric Sarner clocked his performance by reading 'Minutes/Montagnes' (twelve minutes of symbolic mountain-climbing, with one minute each for St Vittoire, Ararat, Kilimanjaro, etc.), while Richard Brautigan vanished into a disgruntled audience after three minutes. Imported from the States as Holland's favourite 1960s cult hero, Brautigan proved rather an anti-climax. When he had finished reading 'Night Flowing River', an elegy for a Japanese friend, he refused to read more. 'When you're dead you're dead,' he concluded.

William S. Burroughs was on form, however. He was introduced as the Festival's godfather. He barked into the microphone, 'Can everyone hear me?' and proceeded to read full force from a book in progress, an anti-nuclear narrative which could serve as 'the all-purpose bed-time story': the 'once upon a time' turned out to be in ...


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