“Poetry in the Metro”: insights into the power of words

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Does poetry stand a chance in a buzzing beehive like the metro? Yes, indeed, having in mind that for a third year running the Polish Cultural Institute in Sofia jointly with Literaturen Vestnik (The Literature Newspaper) has urged citizens to stop for a while and turn to the finest genre of literature.

The likeliest winner of an award for a foreigner promoting poetry in this country is the Director of the Polish Cultural Institute Jaroslav Godun. He has not only organized his compatriots-diplomats to recite on festive occasions the best Bulgarian poems in excellent Bulgarian but has for a third year running invited the passengers in the Sofia Metro to enjoy a few rhymes.

This time the campaign “Poetry in the Metro” honors European poets and 13 of their works can already be seen at NDK (the National Palace of Culture) metro station.

It might appear unusual to reconcile such a busy place with a very private genre of literature but we have proved for the third time that it is possible to read poetry in the metro”, Jaroslav Godun says. “To me it is extraordinary, because people can see poetry in a place cluttered with advertising and this is in a way advertising too, but promoting reading and thinking. And can a poem transform someone’s day? I guess that even a smile is enough to sense a few positive things and think of oneself and the world – and why not think of the people who wrote these poems?”

Works by outstanding poets of the 20th and 21st centuries have been submitted by the cultural institutes of thirteen European states including Bulgaria.

Jaroslav Godun, Amelia Licheva and Luigina Peddi

People stop by, because it is rather unusual to come across poetry in the metro”, says Amelia Licheva, editor of The Literature Newspaper. “Besides, poems can attract the attention of passengers on the trains too, because they are short and can be read quickly. At the same time, many of them talk about man, of how he copes with solitude, of love and of life in general. So, there are meaningful things that people can read and think for a while, all the more so that recently there has been a trend of revived interest in reading poetry and this campaign will contribute to the trend.”

Poet Vladimir Popov has joined this year’s edition of “Poetry in the Metro” to represent Bulgaria. “He is a bit quieter standing away from the mainstream but he is still among the living classics in poetry”, Amelia Licheva says. She explains that his poem recreates an intriguing dialogue with the great poet Peyo Yavorov thus making a reference to the very best of Bulgarian poetry. Poland, in turn, features Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska, and Italy – Eugenio Montale.

Eugenio Montalewas an eyewitness of the hard transition at the beginning of the 20th century which brought major changes in the way of life; when the tools preparing the ground for the new technological society emerged”, says Luigina Peddi, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Sofia. “The poet sensed this transformation and succeeded in conveying it in a synthesized form in his poems. Therefore we chose one of his works focused on words. Today we are all in a hurry and this prevents us from getting into deeper meaning. In contrast, Eugenio Montalewas rather thrifty using words, but the ones he picked up reach remarkable depths. His poetry urges us to concentrate on their meaning because they reveal human feelings – so, let us look for the deeper meanings of words.”

We can do this until 6 May by communicating with great poets from Portugal, Germany, Spain, Austria, Finland, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Bulgaria.

English Daniela Konstantinova

Photos: Diana Tsankova
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