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By Eileen Myles

I’m doing facebook in my hotel room in Bergen when I suddenly ask myself why am I doing this? I need to be writing about this festival that’s just over. Audiatur is a biennial and a half in Norway which I was invited to. And I have had the enormous pleasure of listening to four days of readings and performances and conversation about poetry for four days in a jet lagged blur that was punctuated by amazingly sweet and smart and compelling people who make up the Nordic (or is it Scandinavian?) poetry world of today with a few French and Anglo guests. There were three Iranian poets who couldn’t make it because of visa issues and something that almost coincides with the EU but is not the EU called “the schangen” or something like that that has to do with trade and ludicrously this thing would not allow these Iranian poets into Norway. But otherwise wow. Poets with few exceptions introduced their work in English and then performed in the language they write in. I had surfacey yet profound impressions of each—and to speed things along I will post this today without appropriate names and fix it tomorrow. Well maybe two days. If you’re interested it’s coming. There was the round faced blonde Swede in dreads, Lars, I think, who sounded like Chaucer on a good day. There was Olga, a Dane —pulsing with intelligence and a radiant physical presence. Danish to me sounded like Southern German with that shh sound quite a lot. There was a pair of Finnish poets, a blond man and dark haired Mio I think who were both sonically astonishing and so intimate and playful tearing up each others texts and reading less and less in a kind of absurdist slapstick way. They’ve been to Providence they told me but New York utterly needs them. Jenny Tundal mournful and spiky. Hugely admired by all who spoke of her. I would say Jenny is the Scandinavian king of poetry, the thinking people’s favorite. Oh and before I forget Norwegian itself sounds Scottish to me. As in “thinking aboot” that kind of ooh sound. I was present for days of Sound Poetry international intentional or not. There was an amazing young poet Alan who seemed very Schwitters-like writing about Bergen in a clacking urban way accompanied by an organ. It was very biting and warm: a savagely elegant performance. Later I heard he referred to my own work as “a little too hippy” which was rough and at first I thought oh too much sex right because sex is not a hallmark of this new avant garde, it’s a more buttoned up embodiment which I do enjoy but really don’t resemble. And then I thought thinking of the Conrad, Reines, Marinovic-Kaufman lineage of American poetry I am celebrating these days and thought well I wouldn’t say hippy but maybe something that does not leave the twat outside the door. TS Eliot’s The Wasteland was the focus of the festival which was unique. To them I mean. Audiatur has not worked with a text before. There were readings of it including one by myself all of which did drag the Anglo-American epic into the light. The festival closed with a electronic video reading/performance of the last shanti piece of the wasteland that kind of diffused the work and returned it to history with a new haircut reminding us that oh yeah he wrote “Cats.” There were some big gender issues around the Eliot lectures in the festival (all men) but the way that fact sat with the rest of the festival wound up being I think in its way as political as the Iranians who couldn’t come. We as a group were awakened and troubled and moved by the absence of women commenting on Eliot so will this never happen again here or anywhere else? Certainly that’s not true but the fact of this critical absence was too troubling to not stand at least as tall as the presentations that did happen. Karl, one of the organizers was struggling at one point with whether to describe The Wasteland as a hole or a monument, but it was both and we dug the hole part with a lot of glee and connectivity to the giant issue of sexual inequality which is the burning issue of our time. Like how can Saudi Arabia be allowed in the Olympics while banning women from competing. It’s a human rights issue. In literature it is too. I did much homophonic translation of so many of the texts which presented though my favorite inexplicably is this: Dog in Furnace. Tomorrow (or the next day) I will burn the afore-mentioned poets’ names in stone.

Posted in Featured Blogger on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 by Eileen Myles.