We’ve spent the last two nights with our friends Petr and Lenka in their flat in Ostrava. Petr teaches at Ostrava University. Yesterday we met with a class to talk about the writing from British Columbia and then in the evening there was a poetry festival to celebrate the literary journal Protimluv. The next issue of the journal will feature some of John’s poems in both English and in Czech (translated by Jiri Mesic — and I apologize, Jiri, if you’re reading this because I can’t figure out how to do the diacritics in this program…). John was invited to participate in the festival, reading five poems in English with projected bilingual texts behind him and Jiri at hand to translate his comments on the poems. After he read, there was an interview with Jiri and Petr. The gallery was full with people standing behind the seats and a guy from Czech television filming the event. People asked John to sign copies of the festival programme, small postcards with his photograph on them, and even just blank pieces of papers. Who said poetry was dead? It was a wonderful event. Ten other poets read briefly and although they read only in Czech, I could sense which ones were influenced by the Beats, which ones were lyrical, musical, and of course which ones were funny. The organizer Jiri Machacek played a violin to accompany Yvetta Ellerova as she sang (a voice from heaven, truly) poems by her husband Petr Hruska and she played a silvery xylophone as she sang. One of the pieces was in English, a poem about the Beskydy Mountains which we can see from Petr and Lenka’s kitchen and where we will go tomorrow for two nights. They have promised to take us to my grandmother’s village in the mountains where the house where she was born still stands. I’ll post some photographs (I’m not using my own computer right now).
After the poetry reading we went to the Moravian National Theatre bar for a drink and how lovely it was, the high ceilings and old leaded windows, the long wooden tables against the soft yellow walls.