Spitzweg’s lonely poet – how many times have you seen it on students walls or as a facebook profile picture? How many have at some point identified with the poor poet? A lonely poet in a roof chamber holding on to nothing but an umbrella and a book. This Saturday the Lettrétage will turn pages upside down and into the internet. 4 acclaimed poets met during one week from 9-to-5 to produce a piece of a long poem which will be presented on 5 November.
What if poetry has left the book and confined measures of 1 language like Elvis has left the building. Long after the limo pulled away, the audience was still in the arena screaming for more, but poetry escaped out the backdoor onto the internet and into a social practice that in the beginning doesn’t look like poetry at all.
On the contrary, the diffuse idea of a poet won’t leave the room. The idea that he/her is being creative when the muse kisses him, and the muse comes to him because he is an extraordinairy being. Stadtsprachen, the organizer of a literary festival that features authors living in Berlin but whose mother tongue is not German, collaborated with Lettrétage who concepualized the “Language Factory”. Fixed working hours, a steady working place, lunch time, coffee, that is the framework and conditions for working.
When I entered the small venue in some backyard in Bergmannkiez it was all silent. I have seen somebody sitting in there, so I knocked and was welcomed by 3 cheerful poets who were sitting at their laptops, working. It was 10 o’clock in the morning. Haukur Már Helgason had given notice that he will be there somewhat later around noon.
Andrej Hočevar, a Slovenian poet and editor, showed me his screen where he was translating Japanese to English with his Japanese co-poet and sound artist Tomomi Adachi. By that time they had 90 pages of text written in Google Doc including weird Google translations from foreign languages like Russian. “Well, our mothertongues differ but we had to meet somewhere”, says Cia Rinne. “That English is the language we are working with since that is the language we communicate in, is no problem. But it is strange to set lunch hours. I usually don’t work this way”, and laughs. The atmosphere in the room is relaxed and funny.
The group worked mainly with wild material found on the internet, spam mails, text fragments, artifacts of language and reworked it, reshaped or remixed it. Looking at the 3 present poets no one could guess what their profession was, they could as well be software engineers, journalists or project manager. The books on the table are there for the poets to remind them of what they are doing, Tomomi notices, placed on the table in stables like a sculpture, I add.
And they worked with “instructions” as Tomomi goes on, “a central point to the Fluxus art movement.” Everyone of the three poets starts to look fervently for examples on their pages-long document. Andrej is the first to find something: “Sit and watch the people around you.”
All 4 poets have different mother tongues and all 4 poets have different approaches. As I asked how they would make the different approaches match into a single product, they said that they don’t know either – not yet. “Right after you leave, we will start to think and excercise and plan”, Cia says. It is still an open process. “And maybe we make this post part of the performance on Saturday”, Tomomi adds when I was already saying good-bye. I will absolutely be therey on Saturday.
“Language Factory” will take place on 5 November, 8 pm. It is an event which is part of Stadtsprachen, a festival running until 6 November in Berlin, Germany. The Lettrétage is one of the collaborator which hosts several events during the festival.