THE Spier ‘dancing in other words’ Poetry Festival, curated by Breyten Breytenbach and Dominique Botha and composer, Neo Muyanga, will be taking place at the Spier Wine Farm, outside Stellenbosch, on Saturday, May 7.
The festival comprises a week-long gathering, in the Western Cape, of internationally acclaimed literary voices, for discussion and debate, reading and writing, translation and travelling.
It brings about a vibrant space of creativity, interaction and celebration for the participant ‘band’ of poets, translators, minstrels and musicians.
Here, poets dance with words, languages, forms of expression, versions of their lives, the history of the land and its peoples, wind and stones.
The event culminates in a festival of public conversations and poetry readings at Spier Wine Farm.
This year’s guiding spirits at the festival are Bessie Head, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Ho Xuan Huong and the Baobab Orchestra.
Bessie Amelia Head was a South African-born novelist, short-story writer and social historian who spent most of her short life of 48 years in Botswana.
Frederico Garcia Lorca was one of the most important Spanish poets and dramatists of the 20th century. Poetess, intellectual and concubine, Hồ Xuân Hương (1772–1822) was also called “the Queen of Nôm Poetry” by the late Xuan Dieu, a prominant modern Vietnamese poet.
A Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Son, Wolof and Pachanga band, the Baobab Orchestra was first organised in 1970 and performs still; with alumni including El Hadji Faye and Youssou N’Dour.
The 2016 line-up features James Matthews (South Africa), Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile (South Africa), Michel Deguy (France), Maram al-Massri (Syria/France), Efe Paul Azino (Nigeria), Yvette Christiansë (South Africa/Australia), Hans ten Berge (Holland) and Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa).
Deguy and Al-Massri’s attendance is supported by Institut Francaise South Africa.
“The festival will once again be a privileged space for the mingling of voices where we will dream as if we were to live forever,” Breytenbach says. “It is with some knowledge and understanding of the layered diversity of people enunciating this part of the world, the clashes and the caresses of these mountains and winds, of the rootedness of our dreams – that we share what we have to offer to our guests from abroad. How else are we to know that we are one in our meeting of the human-old multi-formity of poetry?”
Festival music director Muyanga’s musical themes and leitmotifs are composed and presented during the festival, and complement the readings on the night of the festival.
He says: “In antiphonal response to the calls of our featured poets, we, the chorus, will sing our praises, our sighs, our embrace of solidarity.
“Inspired by the festival’s guiding poem, Po Tsju I’s Madly Singing in the Mountains, we will form ourselves into a chorus of musical voices.”
The festival gets underway at 10 am on May 7. Tickets for the day-time events are free of charge, but there is a R220 entry fee for the poetry reading at 7 pm. The price a three-course meal and glass of wine. – Books Editor
2016 Spier Poetry Festival programme
10 am – Conversation I: Is statue smashing the armed wing of political correctness? Breyten Breytenbach, Michel Deguy, Yvette Christiansë and Keorapetse Kgositsile discuss the question whether the destruction of symbols from the past is binding the wounds of the present or tilting at windmills.
12 noon – Conversation II: Even the angel of history cannot bear to look. Efe Paul Azino, Maram al-Massri, Hans ten Berge and Breyten Breytenbach in a discussion on displacement, refugees, exile and the potential of the writer to communally enlarge the space for humanistic comprehension.
2.30 pm – Conversation III: Taunting that powdered death called Respectability. Neo Muyanga, Keorapetse Kgositsile, James Matthews and Efe Paul Azino explore the history of protest in poetry and song, and in fighting for revolution, against politics.
4.30 pm – Conversation IV: About wine. About time! Spier Wines will present a wine pairing.