Opening ceremony speech
Esteemed Minister of Culture of the Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Asaf Ademi, esteemed mayors, esteemed excellencies, esteemed guests, esteemed people here present, esteemed friends of the festival,
Poetry is everywhere and has been since forever. From a child’s cooing, all the way to the epitaph, of both man and mankind. The world cannot exist without poetry. There is no individual life where somewhere and somehow poetry was not important. All the moments of joy and sorrow, all the turning points in people’s lives are permeating with poetry or are accompanied by poetry. Poetry is the essence in the humanization of humanity, together with all other arts. Every person’s first experience with art is the poem. It is the first communication with the new man. So, it is not bold to say that people look at the world through the poems, and the world is mirrored/reflected in the poems.
We decided to dedicate a part of this festival to writing in exile, and the exile in writing, to an omnipresent and undying theme, just because the history of humanity is marked by pogroms and suffering, exiles and migrations, moving and persecutions, but in the way those things are reflected in poetry and in the lives of the poets. The poetic art since Ovid, and all the way to several of our “Golden Wreath” laureates, knows poets who have written their works in exile, and to whom the exile in various aspects is a thematic and poetic preoccupation. It is present in the poems of multitude of participants in this Festival, in poems by the laureate, all the way to the youngest participant. The poetic mastery in turning those reflections of reality into highest art, that is our interest and we aim to show that. Exile, moving, persecution, …the words to describe the conditions of leaving one’s home are abundant. Almost 50 million children are “uprooted” worldwide, out of which 28 million have been driven from their homes due to conflicts, and millions of others migrate with the hope of finding a better and safer life, says the UNICEF report published two months ago.
Trying to visually embody this thematic focus and to discover at a symbolical level something which will present a concept showing how the ethical and the esthetical are inseparable, the image of the barbed wire arises naturally. Never before has the barbed wire been used more in order to create borders. Meridians made real by barbed wire which divide the poetic space. The barbed wire is a symbol of division, the highest metaphor of fear, of alienation, the paranoia about others, about the threatening chaos lurking on the other side and terrifying us. It is a symbol of our inability to communicate, to accept and understand others. It is a symbol of our defeat as a humanity.
This year again at the start of the Festival we will ask the same question: What could poetry do? What could and what should the poets do when faced with such reality. Poetry does not know or accept any borders. Therefore, it does not serve anybody or anything, except humanity. In this context, another reminiscence on the history of SPE.
The SPE were created during the greatest world division in the sixties, when due to circumstance and the vision of a group of poets and critics, a Festival was founded which immediately and, in every aspect, played and still plays a major role, a role which remains actual even to this day, which is to be a bridge between cultures, people, languages, civilizations. That role reflected and is still reflecting in every aspect of its work, so visible and emblematically shown with the Golden Wreath hugging the world globe.
We are here now, in this space from where poetry like little paper boats will travel across the world, traversing all boundaries, overcoming prohibitions and borders, testifying to the cosmopolitan spirit ingrained in the very essence of this Festival.
And to end, please allow us for the opening of this Festival to right a wrong. Something which was not honored, something which the laureate of 1986 asked for, and now faithfully appears to us like a longstanding debt that binds us. Finally, the boat on which the manifest poem “Cosmopolitan greetings” was written, intended to open the Festival, but not succeeding then, has arrived in its final harbour, to the place it was intended to go on that June 25th 1986. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons this poem was not read at the Festival, nor published in the publication. All this comes now as a manifesto from the Golden Wreath laureate Allen Ginsberg, thirty-two years later, to open this edition of the Struga Poetry Evenings.