From a Poets’ Protest Event to a Book Presentation at the 'Goethe Institut' and around the island with the Sunday Poetry Bus
By Heidi Trautmann
I want to talk about poetry and literature. I want to talk about the signs and signals that go with it and its importance worldwide. Moving in these circles, reading and writing about it, brings the concerns and problems very close to me. What problems, you might ask? Problems of furthering education in literature, in poetry, of meeting other countries’ literature people, discuss not only insiders’ matters with them but also global matters that concern all of us.
Language as a mind opener, as public prosecutor. Authors write about things that touch them, disturb them, and so poets and writers should hold an important role in society and governments are best advised to support them.
For this year’s International Poetry Day which was on March 21, the Turkish Cypriot Artists and Writers Union decided to celebrate this special day in a very unusual way after they had learnt that the funds usually granted to them to invite guest poets from other countries would not be available this year. Nevertheless they invited fictive poets, gave them names, funny names, poets from Japan, a Mr. Bloody Sun, an Allen Smart, Stubborn Hope from Portugal, etc. (literally translated from Turkish to English) and our poets took over the role of the guests and recited poems in the Buffer Zone at Lokmaci Crossing, lately known as the protest area with the sit-in by young people. It must have been a great party, I have been told.
The other literature event a few days later was at the Goethe Institute. The writers unions, from the North as well as from the North have approached Mr. Luley, the director of the institute to reopen again bi-communal poetry events which was the practice in the past. Mr. Luley agreed and invited Mr. Uwe Timm, whose book “In the shadow of my brother” (Am Beispiel meines Bruders) has been successfully published in Germany and was translated among others into Greek and Turkish.
The evening was opened by Mr. Luley and the presidents by the two Writers’ Unions, Mrs Neşe Yaşın and Mr Christos Hadjipapas who have been working together in the past years.
The lecture hall was full to the last seat, when Mr. Uwe Timm read parts of his book which were read in Turkish by Filiz Uzun and in Greek by Mr. Kyriakos Efthimious, professionally recited.
The book is a very personal story about his elder brother who was called to the Waffen-SS in WW II at the age of 18. When he died his belongings were brought to the parents, among them a diary which, as a soldier, was forbidden to keep. On the basis of this diary where he learnt so much about his brother whom he hardly knew, and about the atrocities of war, that it started an avalanche of thoughts regarding the question of obedience; where is the limit for a human being to kill on the demand of others, where does the own judgment, the conscience set in.
The first question to Mr. Timm came from Mr. Christos Hadjipapas: “What can you tell us, recommend, our people of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to do to overcome our problems?”
There was no recommendation but the advice to continue talking.
Another event was meant to celebrate poetry and literature by joining the Sunday Poetry Bus which has become an institution as I understand to travel together around the island with books and poems in mind to read to others. An idea, a wonderful idea, I have learnt about many years before. This Sunday it went to several literal stages of poetry, houses or monuments of poets of the past where a poem or a gift was left, and poems read.
My personal conclusion is that language in general, be it the written or the spoken word, is a very mighty tool, it can turn out to be a poisonous weapon in politics or economy for example, or to be what it is meant to be a tool for communication, understanding and peace.