Thursday, 21 January 2010

A Speech

In 2008 Susanne Jorn gave the following speech in English at the Tokyo Poetry Festival:
IF I WERE TO MAKE STATUS of the poets in the world, I believe that all poets one way or another write poems to live and to survive.

IF I WERE TO MAKE STATUS of World Poetry, I must say that it will always survive, no matter what happens in the world. A few years ago I went to Istanbul and saw a tiny clay table from Sumerian times behind glass at a museum. It had cuneiform characters on it, that I did not understand. On a little sign it said that this was the world’s oldest love poem. As no translation was attached, it was then up to the spectators to guess what the love poem was about. I take it that since love between people is eternal, a love poem way back then and today would have the same essence of human daily life.

I also believe that World Poetry has the power to make people survive. One example of this is the famous story of a Chilean woman who survived the most painful moments of torture in a basement during the Pinochet regime by reciting love poems by Pablo Neruda.

Last year I participated in the 46th Sarajevo Poetry Days and met Goran Simic. Following Sarajevo Poetry Days, I wrote Goran Simic and asked him how Sarajevo Poetry Days happened during the civil war in the 90’s, he answered ... ”I was the main organizer of Sarajevo Poetry Days in 1992 and also in 1993, when we actually read poems in a basment. For each other mostly, because there had been severe bombings all day long. It was a protest, but essential to keep poetry alive”

IF I WERE TO MAKE STATUS of the World Poetry scene in Denmark today, less Danish poetry collections get published every year, compared to the 90’s. This is the case of foreign poetry collections as well. The problem in Denmark is that there is not enough focus on World Poetry translated from non-Western languages.

However not so long ago there was a World Poetry Series which included poetry collections from the 20th century. The series started in 1999 and of the twelve poetry collections that did get published, in fact Shuntaro Tanikawa was the only non-Western poet included. When the series stopped in 2004, an unusual selection of 10 New Chinese Poets came out, including both Chinese poets living in China and Chinese poets in exile.

Nonetheless I have translated poems from Chinese and Japanese for decades and the economy of words in my poems in fact stem from the influence of Chinese and Japanese poetry.

IF I WERE TO MAKE STATUS of my own poetry, all my poems have epigrammatic qualities. I boil the Danish language down to short poems, consisting of a few words. This minimalist approach allows me a space to express myself. At the same time, it opens up for a spontaneous, abstract visuality.

My poems start with one picture followed by another picture in succession like in a film. This flow is dominated by painterly qualities like colors, lines and figures. Every single poem of mine is luminescent.

The visual element is intrinsic to my poetry and most of my poetry collections are illustrated by visual artist as well. Yasse Tabuchi and Pierre Alechinsky are some of them. There was also a time in my life, when I wrote poems to visual art. In Tracks in Sand, I was asked to write poems for the Icelandic artist Sigurjón Ólafsson’s sculptures. These sculpture poems were written in English and translated by Kazuko Shiraishi into Japanese.

For me all poetry is music one way or another. Therefore I naturally focus on sound in my poems. Every single one of my poems has its own melody then. A song for to live - and to survive.

Susanne Jorn

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