Poetry and Wine

August, 2019: PTUJ in Slovenia is the rural space for a festival of poetry and wine orgnized by the Slovenian publishing house Beletrina under the artistic direction of publisher and writer Ales Steger and MuziKafe. Ilija Trojanow (BUL) wrote a letter to Europe as a set off of the festival (published in Information) , where he states that Europe has been acting like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, doing both the good and the bad in the same institution.

In the Dominican Monastery in Ptuj Ervin Hladnik Milharcic (left) interviewed Ilija Tjojanow on his open letter to Europe. Is the European still alive and what is the greater goal that Europe actually wants to achieve? Eastern countries often understand themselves as suppliers of cheap workers to the west.

“We have to avoid the abstract, it is easy to be ethical when we are abstract. We have to look on the techniques and on the deed, the concrete and the specifics when we are talking about Europe”, Trojanow claims. He mentions the trade deal with South American countries on one hand and the burning of the Amazonas on the other. Thats Jekyll and Hyde. He also mentions, the brutality of EU border control FRONTEX on one side and as responisble for a lot of drowned refugees and the local Greek communities on the other and their compassion for the drowned refugees giving them a decent burrial according to islamic tradition.

The poets on the main square of Ptuj

Neoliberalistic capitalism leads only to death and the graveyard. According to polticians and the majority of economics there are no alternatives but in life there is always plenty of alternatives.

Ilija Trojanow

Later on one of the poems that really struck me was by Croatian poet Goran Colakhodzic (*1990) “From a Balcony in the Forrest”. I could not help seeing it as a commentary to Trojanows ideas about Europe. Shiny, metalisch France and forestic Balkan…Versailles, almost destroyed by mass tourism, and this great, young Croatian poet close to real nature and authentic dreams staring into the West from his balcony in the forest.

In Versailles the shiny metal
of contemporary Europe
clangs and sings to honour peace:
shrunken to a shadow, The Great War
evokes spring, poppies, mass.

Goran Colakhodzic “From a Balcony in the Forest”
Georg Büchner Preis winner Jan Wagner red a selection of his poems in Ptuj Castle in the room with paintings of Turkish nobles people from the 17th century painted by painters who have never acutally seen a Turk. An ideal setting for readings of Poetry.

The festival presents plenty of readings with European writers and with a majority of Balcan writers but always in a European perspective and welcoming writers from other European countries as well. This year with a weight on German poetry with support for The Goethe Institut in Ljubljana.

Saturday was dedicated to a morning parade where most of the poets read from a wagon. Local cultural groups participated and during the two hours ride through mainstreet a huge local audience joined the poets.

Guest of honour Chinese poet Bei Dao

Before my visit, in the last weekend of the festival, a lot of workshops had taken place in other communities in Slovenia. Poetry seems to be a national project. Also, confirmed by the evening readings from the main stage where a huge local audience gather to take part in the readings.

Reading and interview and wine tasting with Macedonian writer Katica Kulavkova. Her father died on a train ride “Not the worst way to die” according to the writer herself.
Poets leaving Ptuj

While writing this I was sitting in the airport in Graz waiting for my plane, looking out on the yellow-green pastures between the runways, seeing a falcon standing completely still basking its wings in free air chasing some small animal. Seems like an appropriate ending of a wine-poetry festival.

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