Poetry Day

Every year on November 16th culturally minded Czechs mark the birthday of the celebrated Czech Romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha, who was born in 1810. Macha's poem "May" is considered the greatest piece of verse written during the Romantic period in Bohemia. And November 16th also marked National Poetry Day in the CzechRepublic. By Alena Skodova.

A scheme called "Poetry for Passengers" was first launched in 1999. Poems now grace trains and station in the Prague metro, and the project has proved to be very popular with the general public. This year, a number of events took place both in and outside Prague to celebrate today's Poetry Day - there were readings in various places such as the Czech PEN Club, Prague metro stations and the Bohemia Bagel restaurants and music clubs.

The aim of the Poetry Day is to celebrate poetry in all its forms and varieties and to widen the public audience for poetry. Events included traditional poetry readings, poetry and theatre workshops for young people, poetry expressed through music and the visual arts, including graffiti, floating poetry on the Vltava river and an open mic session at Namesti Republiky metro station where the general public could read their own poetry.

Poetry Days are celebrated on various dates in a number of countries throughout the world and have proved popular in liberating poetry from its traditional context and encouraging celebrations anywhere people might gather to enjoy the language and energy of poetry.

One of the participants this year was Levi Tafari from Liverpool, England, who describes himself as an 'urban griot' and whom I first asked to explain what it meant:

Well, Christmas is still quite far away but St. Joseph's church in Loucna in the Jizerske mountains in Northern Bohemia will soon display a unique nativity scene. It consists of nine life-size figures made by a carver from the nearby Harrachov mountain resort, Ivan Smid. Mr. Smid says nine figures is something rare, and that he intends to add more figures to this nativity scene every year. Mr. Smid's figures are carved from the trunks of pine and spruce trees. The current nativity scene comprises of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the baby Jesus, Three Wise Men, a kneeling woman and shepherds with sheep. The carver first works with an electric saw, and only then with a sander. After renovation works St. Joseph's church has not been reconsecrated yet, and it serves as a place where numerous cultural events are organized. It was built by Robert Hemmrich, who also built three watch-towers nearby.