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This report is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

Rotterdam Poetry International 1982 Theo Hermans

Poetry rarely hits the headlines in the Netherlands. But for one week in June each year, things are different. The annual Poetry International festival in Rotterdam manages to lift quite a number of poets from Holland and abroad out of the cultural supplements of the daily and weekly papers and into the news pages proper.

This year's festival, held mostly in the Rotterdam Theatre from 13 to 19 June, was the thirteenth. Cursed with an unlucky number, it began by putting chief organiser Martin Mooij up against formidable financial odds. The modest fees paid to visiting foreign poets (650 Dutch guilders plus travel expenses) could not be increased; the honorary award given to a poet in difficulties remained in doubt until the last moment; the planned videorecording of the week's main events had to be abandoned. Some of the invited guests failed to appear. Adrienne Rich was prevented by ill health, W. S. Merwin and Alain Bosquet both cancelled at short notice, while the Turkish authorities refused the singer and pianist Timur Selçuk permission to travel abroad.

But Poetry International went ahead with enthusiasm and good humour. Thirty-seven poets read from their work. Twenty-three of them came from outside the Netherlands. Twenty-one translators had been called upon to render their verse into Dutch. As a rule, Dutch translations of all the poems read on stage during the Festival are available in cheap stencilled and stapled booklets throughout the week. The Dutch-speaking participants have their work ...


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