I’ve said this often, and often to consternation, but I believe poetry, & literature in general, lends itself to collaboration as language does conversation, for it is in poetry we are renovating the living space of communication, and this in itself is a collaborative act. I believe the poet comes up against something other than themselves in the writing of every poem, and in the shaping of every fragment of language there is a response taking place. What I’ve tried to do, to inculcate cross-European collaboration, is to bring about and showcase original, dynamic examples of what is produced when the other in question is the equally avid mind of another poet, and not a fleeting experience or emotion. And specifically, in the case of the Enemies project, another poet who happens to be from a place different than our own.
Since our first event in 2010, the Enemies project has curated 100 events, 9 exhibitions, in 16 nations, involving over 400 poets, writers and artists. So far projects like Wrogowie in Poland, Auld Enemies in Scotland, Feinde in Austria, Yes But Are We Enemies? in Ireland and many others have seen new poetic collaborations, tours and readings across Europe. These dynamic and ever shifting engagements have emphasised local writing communities, bringing together core touring poets with locally based poets, all of whom are collaborating and creating brand new work. The Enemies project has thus taken its ideas around the continent, travelled them, in physical space, always emphasising the importance of openness and exchange through collaboration and originality.
The fact is the tradition modes of ‘translated’ poetry are the bedrock of literature exchange across our nations, through festivals, readings and the tirelessness of translators, but this is no longer enough in a new age of easy travel and rapid communication technology. Beyond these rarefied remakings of literature across our continent’s languages, where some countries are open and some, more decidedly closed (I am looking to my own shores here …), there lies collaboration. New works, written over and under languages, in new forms, shapes and styles. Even if one rejected the aesthetic possibilities of collaboration for an artform not often associated with it, what cannot be denied is that collaboration succeeds in building human relationships that last. They create immediate dialogue, they bring communities of writers together and they build friendships. This, more than anything, is the aim of the Enemies project, a name for a project pioneering experimentation, innovation and collaboration, with its tongue firmly in its cheek, for what must we keep closer than our Enemies?
As the next year unfolds, and British poets collaborate with Croats, Austrians, Welsh, Slovaks & more, under the guise of the Enemies project, I hope to write further on this blog about what foundations can be laid between our nations and cultures through our literature made new in collaborative writing.
This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe on 7 May 2015.