Poetry Parnassus

Two of our MA graduates, Tusiata Avia and Kapka Kassabova, are representing Samoa and Bulgaria at Poetry Parnassus, the Olympics-related poetry festival which is about to take place in London. Tusiata and Kapka have both been interviewed for the Festival by UK poet S J Fowler.  Here are one or two excerpts.

Kapka Kassabova

SJF: In its sheer scope Poetry Parnassus offers a unique opportunity for you to interact with fellow poets from every corner of the globe. How do you think this collective experience will benefit those who attend, to be exposed to so many different traditions of poetry, to hear poetry in so many languages?

KK: The world doesn’t often see an Olympic congregation of poets, so it will either be alarming or exhilarating to the public (and the poets!). And eye and ear-opening, I think, to be reminded that the world only speaks English some of the time. The rest of the time it speaks and writes in hundreds of other languages. Isn’t it mind-boggling?

SJF: The Parnassian ideal that really centres the Poetry Parnassus project reaches back to the Poetry International festival held in London in 1967 which sought to address notions of free speech, community and peace through the art-form of poetry. Do you believe this tradition needs to be maintained in 2012?

KK: Especially in 2012! We desperately need the quickening spark of poetry in our lives. We are surrounded by jaded attitudes and people, and poetry, as Robert Frost said, is that by which we live forever and ever unjaded.

Tusiata Avia

SJF: In its sheer scope Poetry Parnassus offers a unique opportunity for you to interact with fellow poets from every corner of the globe. How do you think this collective experience will benefit those who attend, to be exposed to so many different traditions of poetry, to hear poetry in so many languages?

TA: I have always loved international festivals for this reason – the coming together of poets from different places. Many of us tend to operate in a fairly solo way, so the opportunity to be part of this community of poets is something very special. Poetry Parnassus takes this to a different level, to have so many poets from so many countries will be very exciting indeed. Connections are made, friendships are forged and one would have to be made of stone not to be inspired.

SJF: Could you describe your poetry, though I know this is difficult if not terribly reductive, in reference to what you think poetry should, and can, achieve as an artistic medium?

TA: I’m known as a Pacific Island poet, because I write in [and] about the Pacific and of course because I am a Pacific Islander. I also often write poems set in other ‘exotic’ places in the world. But that is really only a vehicle for much more universal themes that I think many artists explore. I write about the human condition, about the place of the child, the place of the immigrant, the place of the outsider. I write about love and violence, justice and injustice. All those things that human beings struggle with. Most of my work tends to be shot through with a dark humour.

One aspect of my poetry that I’ve always be passionate about is it’s ability to reach people. While I write for the page, a certain amount of my work suits the stage very well. I am known (in New Zealand particularly) for my performance poetry – I have a one woman show called ‘ Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’ which fuses poetry and theatre. In this way poetry reaches a wider audience – and often an audience that would not normally open a book of poetry – than it does on the page.

Poetry can be life changing, it can reach into the soul, past the protective barriers we all erect, and touch something in us. It can move one to tears, it can trigger a spark of recognition – a feeling of being seen and understood, it can light a fire of inspiration, it can stir one to action. The moments my poetry has done any of these things and I have been there to witness it have been some of the most precious of my life.

There’s more of Kapka Kassabova’s interview here.

and more from Tusiata Avia here and there are many more interviews with the Parnassus poets here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s