DEN POEZIE – POETRY DAY IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
- Den poezie is an annual international poetry festival held for two weeks every November around the birth anniversary (16.11.1810) of the great Czech Romantic poet, K.H. Mácha. It is the most widespread poetry event in the country with events now taking place in around 60 Czech cities, towns and villages. Almost all the events are free. The general philosophy of the festival is defined by openness, a non-traditional approach and diversity of activity and participation. The festival in 2020 will take place from 9 – 22nd November and the theme is Konec a počátek! (The End and the Beginning, after a poem and poetry collection by the poet WIslawa Szymborska). We chose the title because of the extraordinary circumstances of this year and despite the difficulties and restrictions, decided to carry on with a mainly online programme. Some of our events, such as the ‘Desert Island Poems’ (Básně na pustý ostrov) project, which encourages people to share recordings of them reading their favourite poems online, have been designed specially for our current situation.
- Den poezie first took place on just one day in 1999, and marked the launch of a Poezie pro cestujíci (Poetry for Travellers) project on the Prague metro system initiated by the festival founder, the Literary and Cultural Club 8 (Renata Bulvová and Bernie Higgins). Klub 8 was a club founded in the mid-90s to bring together established and beginning authors in an ‘open’ atmosphere, something quite innovative for the time. It organised a meeting every Sunday in a series of pub/bar venues featuring readings and music, and also events and happenings in non-traditional venues outside of the city. The philosophy of openness and celebration of culture in public places led to the interest in setting up the Poetry for Travellers project, inspired by the first ever such scheme in London, Poems on the Underground. The project wanted to insist that shared spaces were ‘public’ not ‘advertising’.
- The festival tries to maintain the ‘grass roots/underground’ aspect of its origins, whilst operating at a well organised and professional level. The festival is now coordinated by the Poetry Society (Společnost poezie), a small group of people involved in literature/teaching/libraries who work as volunteers to organise events and promote interest in poetry. Year by year, the length of the festival extended, as more and more organisations and towns participated, until it reached its current two-week duration.
Map of participating towns in year 2018:
- As well as readings by well-known Czech poets, such as Kateřina Rudčenková, Sylva Fischerová, Petr Borkovec, Petr Král etc, thanks to the support of various foreign cultural institutes the festival has also featured leading poets from abroad, e.g. from Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Ireland, the UK and many other countries. The festival also celebrates poetry from the Czech Republic in languages other than Czech, e.g. in Lusatian, Romani, Arabic. The festival is committed to diversity in its programme and has partners such as Prague’s Multicultural Centre and HateFree Culture.
- Events are organised by schools, libraries, universities, literary groups, clubs, theatres, museums and individuals as well as by the main coordinators of the festival, Společnost poezie, who organise a central programme and coordinate publicity for all the national events. The regional reach of Den poezie is important and the festival aims to inspire the widest possible involvement, encouraging the celebration of poetry in many forms – not only through readings, but through music, theatre, art, film and ‘happenings’. We consider one of the festival’s strengths to be its range of participation, from well-known, published Czech and foreign poets to schoolchildren learning to enjoy and create poetry for the first time. In 2018 we will be working more closely with schools in the countryside by arranging visits of poets.
- Public poetry: In 2016, the festival saw the launch of a new project, Poezie pro čekajíci (Poetry for People Waiting). It involves providing poetry brochures to places where people wait (hospitals, official offices etc.) and mainly chooses the best of contemporary poetry. Poetry is also displayed on trams during the festival, in Prague and in Liberec, and we hope to extend the scheme. The project has featured short poems that are Czech classics, as well as contemporary poetry, including some poetry in translation (English/Czech, Romany/Slovak and Czech). Poems are also printed on bookmarks, primarily for distribution in libraries, bookshops etc.
- Readings are in Czech or in another language with Czech translation.
- The festival runs on a very small budget for such a large festival. The Poetry Day festival is mainly supported by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Prague Town Hall. Foreign cultural institutes in the Czech Republic give support by sponsoring the participation of poets from their countries. A number of smaller organisations support us mainly through providing publicity. The festival also receives good press coverage, in local and national newspapers, radio and television.
- Our deadline for submitting information about events is September 15th each year.
Organiser website: www.spolecnostpoezie.cz