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This report is taken from PN Review 118, Volume 24 Number 2, November - December 1997.

Jerusalem Poetry Festival 1997 Janet Montefiore

On the roof of Notre Dame, the fortresslike Vatican headquarters which marks the line between Jewish West Jerusalem and the mainly Arab east of the city, an international assembly of poets met in April to read public poems. This occasion marked the end of the Jerusalem International Poetry Festival, held between Saturday 29 March and Friday 4 April and attended by, among others, Vikram Seth, Carolyn Forché, Joy Harjo, the Native American poet, Hans Magnus Enzensburger, Fleur Adcock, Rita Ann Higgins and Benjamin Zephaniah (yes, it was a strongly left-wing and liberal contingent). They should have been buttressed by Ted Hughes and Breyten Breytenbach who didn't turn up; still, there was no shortage of stars. Poems came in many languages, and the organizers had produced a pleasing scarlet-bound 'festival anthology' of the poems read by the various visitors and residents, with Hebrew translations where necessary. Israeli poets were of course much in evidence - not Yehuda Amichai, though he was on the organizing committee, but the festival included a special celebration of the work of the major Yiddish poet and Holocaust survivor Avraham Sutzkever (b. 1913), author of twenty volumes of poetry and best known in English for his translated poems Burnt Pearls, especially those elegising his mother and sisters, murdered by Nazi invaders in Estonia. Sutzkever was too ill to come in person, so a videotaped sequence of him reading poems at his home was shown instead, preceded by a short paper on his work by Professor Dan ...

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