Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poetry and Multiculturalism

Yesterday I learned about an interesting poetry related event happening in Bologna, Italy earlier this month. Let me explain the event as I understand it, with cycling and recitation becoming a traveling presentation of poetry to the unwary as part of a multicultural festival. This is known as the “poeciclettata,” or “poetandem” as the English language media expresses it.

A number of poets are recruited to recite from memory a poem in a language foreign to Italy, not the poet, a language native to a segment of the population of the region. These dozen or so gather in a suburban square and recite their poems at different locations in the square to passersby and anyone who cares to gather. Poets are usually accompanied by hand drummers (acting first as a call to attention and then as a background rhythm.) After the performances are done, the poets and drummers (in tandem?) take off on their bicycles for the next stop, ready to invade another public square and repeat their performances. It takes place in late afternoon and early evening, ending with a public party after the final performance.

I love the idea! I can see it now: the drumming gathers a few people, the poet begins to recite. The words mean nothing to some or most of the audience, but one or two are excited – hey, that’s my native language! Maybe they pull out a cell phone, spread the news. Others recognize their own language from other poets who are performing nearby. The poets repeat at intervals; it’s not a personal reading. After a set time all of them, poets, drummers, and possibly some of the audience, take off for the next public space to repeat. As they move on, the cyclist audience travels with them and the whole thing just grows!

Bringing poetry back to the people, not just to native speakers but to migrants who have settled or are passing through. In a way it’s like Canada’s “Random Acts of Poetry” but with an ecology minded emphasis (bicycles) and a lot of street theatre thrown in.

And then I imagine it happening here. Poetry for the people entering or leaving the mall. In Korean, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish. Moving on by bicycle to the bus station, the train station. Stopping by the city’s ethnic neighborhoods. Ending with music and food in a downtown park.

Yes! Poetry as an expression of culture. Poetry as fun and pleasure. Poetry as a reason to party. Bring it on!


annaken said...

Hi Jefferson,

That sounds like a real novel idea. Canada has been blessed with so many people from other cultures and it is nice for them to hear a poem in their own language. Asma, my pal, could read her poem in Urdu about the Golden Years. I am sure that there are many other people who can read their work in their own language.

I like the idea very much. I remember when my friend Evelyne came to visit me from Toronto several years ago, we were stopped on the street by a strolling poet and she was so delighted!

Randy said...

This is such a fantastic idea - we MUST do it! Give me a call if you want my help!

Virginia Simpson Geffros said...

it is a cool idea...can we make it happen? I'll help.