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Going for gold from 13 - 16 June!

50th Poetry International Festival Rotterdam
16 JANUARY 2019

This year, the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam turns 50! The milestone makes it the oldest festival in the city, and one of the oldest in the country, with a wealth of history and highlights. Nobel Prize-winning poets once stood on Poetry’s stages as bright young talents, and the festival is both a shining example for, and founding parent of, poetry festivals worldwide. Poetry International celebrates its golden anniversary with an extra festive edition at Concertgebouw De Doelen, which also hosted the debut festival back in 1970. Trailblazing poets will deliver transformative work thrumming with the now. Right in the heart of the city, inviting, challenging, unmissable.


Ayat Abou Shmeiss
(Israel, 1984)
By Lisa Katz “I wish I could cry fire/ and every time I cried/ you’d burn” writes Palestinian-Israeli poet Ayat Abou Shmeiss in her second book of poetry in Hebrew, perhaps about love or perhaps about society. In a recent article in the Tel Aviv Review of Books, interviewer Jnan Bsoul notes that Abou Shmeiss, “an observant Muslim from Jaffa, writes in Hebrew without disavowing her Palestinian identity. Gentle and unobtrusive, her writing nonetheless challenges her religious and socially conservative background”.  And the larger community in which she lives. The …

Vaan Nguyen
(Israel, 1982)
By Adriana X. Jacobs Vaan Nguyen was born in 1982 in Ashkelon, Israel and raised in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.  Her debut collection The Truffle Eye received an enthusiastic reception when it appeared as a print and digital chapbook in 2008. Roy Chicky Arad, who published Nguyen’s early poems in the literary journal Ma’ayan, described her work as “eel-like, elusive, shimmering” in Ha’aretz. In a review titled “The Critic in Love” in Ma’ariv, Menachem Ben, a prominent literary and cultural critic, situated Nguyen’s work among the …

Adi Keissar
(Israel, 1980)
By Lisa Katz Poet Adi Keissar is perhaps best known for the politicized literary project of which she is founder and director, Ars Poetica, devoted to writing by Israelis of Mizrahi, that is, “eastern”, background: Jews with roots in Arabic and/or Moslem countries and regions. The name Ars Poetica is Hebrew word play on the Latin phrase meaning the “art of poetry”. In Arabic the word ars means pimp; in Hebrew, an ars is a young, lower class Jewish man of Mizrahi heritage – an insult. So the movement, taking an in-your-face tack, means to celebrate what …

Director Bas Kwakman leaves Poetry International
1 APRIL 2019 After sixteen years, Bas Kwakman is leaving his position as director of the Poetry International Foundation. Kwakman started in this role in 2003, undeniably making the annual Poetry International Festival a leading light in the national and international poetry world. For his contributions to international poetry, he received the prestigious Ioannes Paulus Bressensis award in Mexico City last year.


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