An international poetry festival is a life changing event for the poets and more than a few of the audience. Let me paint a picture – somewhere between thirty and one hundred and forty writers trickle in from the four corners of the globe. There’s a strange combination of jet lag and inspiration as veterans meet again while newbies try to get a handle on what the hell is happening.
Sometimes, later that same day you give your first performance. There can be up to five thousand people in the audience – there’s popcorn, audio visuals and even autograph hunters. They are there for poetry. Poetry matters.
One of the things that perpetually frustrates me is that Australia is unlikely to host a true international poetry festival anytime soon. There are several reasons – travel is so expensive, the governments here have really cut back on literature support, and while we are quite culturally diverse, poetry is highly marginalised here. But we can and must do it someday.
I want to bring you a taste via Rochford Street Review. Across the globe, there are poets who regularly appear at these incredible forums. I have selected sixteen from the festival circuit. They vary in age, voice and career stage but all bring something unique to the world poetry movement. I specifically chose not to include any from the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand or the United Kingdom as they are disproportionately represented in the meagre list of international writers that have been brought to Australia.
Les Wicks has toured widely and been published in 28 countries and 13 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By Not Fitting In (Island, 2016). His 12th, El Asombrado, is a selection of poems from the previous fifteen years in Spanish and English translated by G. Leogena and published by Rochford Street Press in 2015. He can be found at http://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm