Why is Urdu such a poetic language
"Poetry is one of the oldest cultural techniques known to man"
Since 2000, UNESCO has celebrated March 21 as World Poetry Day. The central event in Germany is organized by the House for Poetry in Berlin - we have with its directorThomas Wohlfahrt spoken.
Deutsche Welle: Why was the house for poetry founded?
Thomas Wohlfahrt: The House of Poetry is the only state-funded institution in Germany that is exclusively dedicated to poetry, lyric poetry and poetry - in all media formats. It was about finally giving this art a place. (The Lyrik-Kabinett in Munich is another - albeit privately financed - facility for poetry.) We, who work in the House for Poetry, love poetry. Because the poem is an art in its own right, poetry is also an interdisciplinary art: Artists of all other arts like to work with poems and poetic structures - let's think of music, dance, the visual arts through to film or digital Poetry.
Why has poetry seen some kind of rebirth in recent years?
Poetry has been alive and well since its birth over 5000 years ago. It is one of the oldest cultural techniques known to man. The question for me is rather: Why has the poetry gotten so out of sight in recent years? Poetry is an art in its own right. The poem comes from an oral tradition - it comes from the marketplace, if you will. It is the lines of sound and rhythm that make a poem appear as a "bound language". In addition, there are memory techniques such as rhyme, internal rhyme, assonance and others. And of course poems also want to mean something and communicate something.
"Poetry is an art in its own right," says Thomas Wohlfahrt.
But they often express things differently than usual in everyday language. These are no enigmatic strategies, but rather they show the exactness of poetic work and poetic thinking, to penetrate complex relationships in condensed language and to grasp them musically - "to tape the planet". Today, the poem needs a dual media appearance: as something to be read and something to be heard. The human voice is the instrument of the poem. The poem appears pleasant - linguistically pleasant - even when it has the most terrible things to say.
"The human voice is the instrument of the poem"
For many decades, poetry was not viewed as an art in its own right, but subsumed under literature and rather not valued as a marginal phenomenon. The poetry boom we are talking about today has to do with the fact that poetry is increasingly viewed as independent in the ensemble of the arts.
How did the internet and social media contribute?
Much! Places for poetry and its dissemination have emerged on the Internet, while the analogue world has increasingly refused poetry for decades. Let's think of the time of the nineties and noughties, when poetry production in many publishing houses was reduced to nothing. (Suhrkamp and Hanser were always notable exceptions here.) As a result, around the year 2000, small publishers were founded that were exclusively devoted to poetry: publishers such as kookbooks, poetenladen, Edition Azur.
Due to the technical possibilities of the internet, the poem can appear as text, via the voice and also as graphics. In 1999 we started the "Lyrikline" in-house. Today institutions from over 50 countries work on this site. Over 1400 poets can currently be read there and heard in the original. And thanks to over 20,000 translations from over 80 languages, the works can also be experienced and understood in almost 90 languages worldwide. The communication in the social media to and about it has long been beyond my control.
Did you notice increasing attendance at your events until the pandemic started?
When we organized the first "Berlin Summer Night of Poetry" in 1992, the bird was shown to us and the sponsor was treated with malice: "Poetry? Who does that?" The poesiefestival berlin, which emerged from the "summer night", is the largest of its kind in Europe with around 13,000 visitors in one week. The world's largest takes place annually in Medellin, Colombia. In about the same time you have an audience of 120,000 people and more.
"Poetry has a completely different status in other regions of the world than it does here"
Poetry has a very different status in Latin America and other regions of the world than in our latitudes. The interest in poetry is also growing steadily with us: the teacher workshops that we offer are booked out very quickly, as are the "Make a Poem" courses for children, adolescents and adults.
"World Poetry Day" events were canceled last year due to the pandemic. How did you survive all year?
Well, we broadcast purely online and learned a lot. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace a live event online. But we didn't say crutch about the crutch - digitally and online - we thought the events from the other medium. We have always developed and implemented them better by With have worked with the medium.
There will be no readings during the pandemic
From now on, poets no longer had any income. Because we immediately produced for online, some things could be intercepted. And: We have tried to get as much out of the federal program "Neustart Kultur" for poets as possible. 70 films are currently being made on "Reading poems with ...", in which poets recite important poems, tell stories about them and thus promote poetry by conveying them. The films can be connected to schools, universities, and ultimately everywhere.
Have the changes brought about by the pandemic even done something positive for the Poetry House?
Is there any collateral damage in the positive? We reach significantly more people online than analog, and the ranges are completely different - namely worldwide. In addition, the volatility of poetry events has been abolished: Archiving has made them reusable or reusable. Here, in turn, there are completely different problems - including in the legal field or to the extent that poets supposedly no longer perform live and have to travel around. But that's nonsense because - as I said - nothing can replace a live performance.
What do you expect from your World Poetry Day event on March 21st? Why was the program put together this way?
The house for poetry offers workshops for young and old
We expect a much larger audience than the 150 to 180 people who would have come to the analog event - entirely in line with the wider spread of online events. The program from the five poetic "positions" arose as in all previous years, with residence houses for scholarship holders in Germany sending a poet each to the "central" event, so to speak. It is a joint event of the House for Poetry and the Brandenburg Gate Foundation with the German Commission for UNESCO, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, the Berlin artist program of the DAAD, the international artist house Villa Concordia Bamberg and the Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf.
You can experience: the Iraqi poet Omar al-Jaffal (born 1988), in whose texts pain and anger are found and mixed in the face of the crises of our time; Volker Braun (born 1939) reads from his new long poem "Große Fuge"; Nancy Campbell (born 1978) from Great Britain explores glaciers, arctic floes, frost and snow in her poems; Angélica Freitas (born 1973 in Brazil) places the female body critically and powerfully at the center of her poetry; and Suvi Valli (born 1977 in Finland) has a close relationship with German literature, especially the Romantic era. We can all be excited.
How do you see poetry developing in the future?
I care a lot about the art of poetry. But I'm not afraid that one day there will be no more poetry, as swan singers never tire of complaining. The pulse and the power that lyric poetry has becomes more perceptible to the extent that it appears as an art in its own right. We demand that they be viewed from the point of view of their nature and their regularity. With the Netzwerk Lyrik e.V., a nationwide acting association has been set up that has developed proposals on how the production, presentation and distribution of poetry can be strengthened for society as a whole.
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The interview was conducted by Louisa Schaefer.
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