Versopolis poet Adam Horovitz reports back from Croatia where he appeared in the poetry festival Goranovo Prolje?e (Goran’s Spring):
Imagine On the Road repurposed as a brief European bus tour, peopled with a global selection of poets let loose near wine, publishers, translators, new languages and one another, and you’ll begin to get the idea of the heady, intoxicating atmosphere of 2016 Goran’s Spring festival in Croatia.
Happily, this trip was a great deal more heterogeneous than the On the Road analogy might suggest. My experience of it was led from the off by a rush of differences. At the airport I was met at the same time as Indian poet Sudeep Sen and Flemish Versopolis poet Els Moors, whose good-natured, combative spirit. After several beers with her, Sudeep Sen and New Zealander David Howard as we waited to check in at the hotel in Zagreb, Els and I managed to get slightly lost in the more utilitarian part of town (we had been aiming for the centre) and only just made it back to the hotel in time to be taken to the first reading.
That first night of readings was an overwhelming blast of languages; each poet read one piece each and it is hard to recall much of what was read through the fog of getting-to-know-you. One performance stands out from that night; Laura Accerboni, the Italian Versopolis poet, still and intent as a Little Owl, delivering a 30 second poem so potently, musically Italian that it silenced the entire room.
The overwhelming blast of languages never really let up after that, as we travelled to and from Split, an exquisite palimpsest city on the Adriatic coast, giving readings every night, all 23 or so of us. Out of it, fragments keep coming back to me: Greek poet Pavlina Marvin’s ritualistic approach to the stage on the last night, calling to the sky before delivering an intense reading; Croatian poet Dorta Jagi? dancing and laughing her way up a cliff face to pose in shallow indents in the rock as several of us walked to a hermit’s cave outside Split; the look on a young prize-winner’s face as she approached Alen Brlek after the presentation at Lukovdol to tell him that he had inspired her work; the propulsive rhythms of Vladimir ?uriši?’s poem Zizek Sex; Swedish Versopolis poet Athena Farrokhzad’s potent reading, in English and Swedish, from White Blight; the extraordinary, twilit sounds of Orbita, presenting poetry in Russian over a constantly adjusted soundscape of radio static and subtly jazzy piano.
I may have the advantage of being born into an imperialistic language, as Els Moors, teasingly, kept telling me throughout the festival, but this adventure through the mountains and seascapes of Croatia in the company of poets, subsumed in other languages, musics, ideas and ideals, proved to me conclusively how vital it is to be borderless of thought and open to the freedom of the new. I can’t wait to hear the European poets coming to Ledbury this July.
Huge thanks, then, to Marko Pogacar and his team from Goran’s Spring, to the Versopolis project and to Ledbury Poetry Festival for inviting me to be a part of it.