"Den poezie" - proving that poetry is alive and well in the Czech Republic

Statue of Karel Hynek Macha

If ever you need proof that poetry can be fun and popular, the Czech Republic's annual international poetry festival "Den poezie" - or "day of poetry" offers it in abundance. The festival traditionally takes place around the birthday of the much loved 19th century Czech romantic poet, Karel Hynek Macha who was born in 1810. It offers poetry that caters to all tastes and generations, and not just from the Czech Republic. Poets from countries ranging from Romania to Chile or Israel will be here to read and talk about their poetry. One of the main organizers is our colleague Bernie Higgins. David Vaughan asked her about the festival, which starts this Friday.

"This is the eighth year now, and it has grown from a one-day event to a two-week event, though strangely we still go on calling it the 'poetry day'. It has events in over forty towns and villages in the whole of the Czech Republic. It is not just a festival for very well known poets - although some are participating, such as the very good Czech poets Petr Kral, Petr Hruska and Marie Stastna - but there are also lots of events organized in schools and libraries. We have a lot of events for kids."

And so it is trying to get across the message that poetry is not just something for a rather obscure elite...

"... though there is plenty of obscure poetry too! It really is a very broad festival and we really are very pleased that so many teachers, librarians and others are getting involved in working with young people to make them realize how fantastic and lively poetry is. But we do also have the more traditional readings by poets. Not only is it widespread geographically across the country, but we also have an increasing number of participants from other countries. This year I think we have poets from eleven other countries."

"The general theme of this year's Poetry Day is 'Kde domov muj?' which means 'where is my homeland?' and is the first line of the Czech national anthem. I think it is an interesting question for us all to ask Maybe the grave is our only home really. We're all heading there! So I think it is interesting to ask this question in the Czech Republic, as in all other European countries which are having to think about what home is, what poetry is etc."

The festival, which runs until 23rd November, includes several events for English speakers. You can find out more at www.volny.cz/denpoezie. We shall be returning to the subject in the next edition of Czech Books in ten days' time.