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Poetry International review on 2016



Poetry International opened 2017 with the exciting work of Belgian writer and translator Tom Van der Voorde. And we have more stimulating features planned for the coming months, in particular in anticipation of the 48th Poetry International Festival, which is to open at the end of May. A new year is also always an excellent moment to review the year that has passed.

2016 was rich and exciting for Poetry International: a multitude of poets and writers saw their work published on our web site in addition to audio and video presentations for you to enjoy. Since it is impossible to review all the contributions, we will highlight here just some of the poets featured in 2016, both new contributors and authors whose work we published in the past, and those whose pages were viewed with great frequency last year, to illustrate that the interest in poetry is not limited only to new authors and their recently published work, but also stretches to include poets and authors of the past.

Most frequently viewed poets
Intense and sensuous poems by Warsan Shire, a poet of Somalian origin who lives in London, were first posted on Poetry International in 2013. Shire exhibits a raw style in which she combines elements from her traditional culture, together with typical British irony. Shire's choice of words give a sense of abandonment and intimacy at the same time. See, for example, UGLY.

The South African poet Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali resided in the United States in the pursuit of several university degrees, and he returned to South Africa in 2007. Like Warsan Shire, his work is influenced both by his homeland and the country where he received his higher education. But is his work predominantly influenced by his South African roots, or by his stay in the US? From this perspective his work is raising some interesting questions. Is Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali an African poet because he is black? Is he an English poet because he writes in English? You have to undergo Mtshali to find out.

History is an intriguing theme for many poets and other artists. Important, painful, or even shameful events that marked the history of a country are embraced by so many. Pablo Neruda for instance, mastered the art of including the immense scope of Chile's national history in his literary output. Neruda reading his canto, Machu Picchu, was recorded  during his appearance at Poetry International in 1971.

Recent additions:
During the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, which highlighted work from Flanders and the Netherlands, the Dutch poets Rozalie Hirs and Rodaan Al Galidi, along with Tsjead Bruinja and Anneke Brassinga,  saw their debut publication in German. In this article, a short overview on the celebrated German book fair and the Dutch role in it.

Nicolette Stasko  is a poet, essayist and critic from Australia. She is a confident writer, presenting the audience with powerful and engaged work.  Wild grapes, published in November, is a perfect example. Also engaged but in a complete different way was the Israeli poet Hadas Gilad. In her work, which appeared on our online stage in November, Gilad examines the relationship between body and mind. Experience it in Sights.

Jack Underwood (UK) contributed to Poetry International early December. His elusive work is intense, intimate and utterly alienating at the same time. It is as if you are looking at a piece of art in a museum or watching a movie and do not comprehend the message immediately. But the sentences are not ambiguous at all:

'Life is a frozen lamb: I'm waiting/I have turned off the lights and been dramatic, opening doors/Take any form you like'

Musicality and unexpected combinations of images and phrases from daily life: Adrian Matejka (USA) combines all those elements resulting in witty, prosaic poems. Map To The Stars is a perfect example of Matejka's skill at observation.

In July the Chinese poet Song Lin contributed some interesting pieces to our archive. Song Lin's work is influenced by his nomadic way of life. However, not all of it is an explicit expression of his love for wandering around the globe. The 1986 poem,  A cat at the end of the experimental world is more of a sneak peek into a cat's behaviour. Lin manages to present us with a poem both vivid and humorous:

'At the end of the experimental world/It cuddles up wearily, like a postman stranded/in magnificent snow'

Valeria Tentoni is one of the youngest poets to make a contribution to Poetry International. She established her name in the young writer's anthology  Leer es futuro from the Cultural Ministry of Argentina, a short story collection. The poem I take out what I bring has the unequivocal feel of anger and frustration (at an unrequited love) to recognizable for her peers.

So far Poetry International's review on a vibrant and exciting poetic 2016. Let's see what 2017 has to offer us!

© Ramona Maramis