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Unesco cities of literature chainpoem

dit zijn wachtende dagen ik heb een weckpot laten vallen wat een klap

schel rode granaatappelpitjes azuur geruis bastonen en dissonanten braken uit

en uit het glas rolden over de koude tegels onder keukenkastjes tafels stoelen

 

thir are taigelt days am alwiss greenin fur the sweetie-bottle archive

pleepsit cubes o cramassie an blaw the streaks o seelent humbugs haudit

thair ahint the coontertap unbrakkin safe frae sakeless haunds

 

창문 커튼 사이로, 깃발을 흔들며 들어오는 아침 햇살

푸른 빛이 떠난 지 오랜 식탁에 기대앉아

내 눈빛에 달아오르는 빵을 바라보다,

차가웠던 지난밤 꿈을 떠올린다

 

Morning wakes between days, stuttered reminders shaking dust from this stale time.

Either the window or the sky is cracked, birdsong leaking the glass. Outside the city is

shedding night from the bark. I am tired of my throat, of signs, of sleep.

 

мы все время чего-то ждем  встреч или расставаний  тепла или прохлады  путешествий или возвращения

мой рыжий кот ловит пылинки танцующие в лучах солнца  на моей ладони капля крови  зерном граната

утро раскалывается пополам до боли знакомой мелодией телефона

 

die roten samen haben längst schon ihre spuren hinterlassen in meinem zimmer,

auf meiner haut. wenn ich jetzt abhebe, teilt sich das leben in zwei ungleiche hälften,

davor, danach. wenn ich jetzt abhebe, teilt sich mein körper, zwischen dir und mir

 

Between our fingertips, our complex sea. Of the coffee we were, to who we are.
On a ledge like always; staring. Into a city, where the lights keep changing.

And you ask, what the hell is happening? I respond with stones, salt and cocktails

of my childhood.

 

악몽 뒤, 어머니가 토닥여주던 창 밑에 다시 씨앗을 뿌렸지.

양철 지붕 위 볕이 사라지기 전 떠났던 모든 이들을 불러 모아

당신과 나의 식탁에 앉히고 이제 축배의 노래를 부를 시간이네.

these are waiting days I dropped a weck jar what a bang

shrill red pomegranate seeds azure rustle bass tones and dissonants broke out

and out of the glass rolled over the cold tiles under kitchen cabinets tables chairs

 

these are muddled days I’m always longing for the sweetie-jar archive

screeching cubes of crimson and blue the stripes of silent humbugs held

there behind the countertop unbreaking safe from careless hands

 

between the curtained windows the morning sun flags its way in

leaning against a table its blue shade long gone

I stare at the bread heating up from my gaze

reminded of last night’s cold dream

 

Morning wakes between days, stuttered reminders shaking dust from this stale time.

Either the window or the sky is cracked, birdsong leaking the glass. Outside the city is

shedding night from the bark. I am tired of my throat, of signs, of sleep.

 

we are always waiting for something either for an encounter or parting for warmth or chill for voyages or arrivals

my red cat is hunting the specks of dust dancing in the sun there is a pomegranate seed of blood on my palm

the painfully familiar phone tune is splitting the morning

 

the red seeds have long since left their traces in my room,

on my skin. if I take off now, life will split into two uneven halves,

before, after. if I take off now, my body splits, between you and me.

 

Between our fingertips, our complex sea. Of the coffee we were, to who we are.
On a ledge like always; staring. Into a city, where the lights keep changing.

And you ask, what the hell is happening? I respond with stones, salt and cocktails

of my childhood.

 

After a nightmare, I sowed seeds again under the window where my mom used to pat me.
Before the sunlight on the tin roof disappears, let’s call people who had left
altogether and invite them to our table; now, it’s time for a toast.

1. Utrecht

6. Heidelberg

7. Manchester

8. Bucheon

To celebrate World Poetry Day Utrecht UNESCO City of Literature started an international chain poem on 21 March 2021. Local poet Yentl van Stokkum wrote the first three lines of verse, that were translated into English by Mia You. On the 21st day of each subsequent month a poet from one of the 39 UNESCO Cities of Literature will add three new lines of their own. 

The theme of the globetrotting poem is ‘polyphony’. It will return to Utrecht for a visit every month, when we will unveil the latest verses and introduce the poet and their city. Poets from the following cities will be contributing to the poem: Wonju, South Korea; Durban, South Africa; Odessa, Ukraine; Heidelberg, Germany; Edinburgh, Scotland; Dunedin, New Zealand; Ulyanovsk, Belarus; Melbourne, Australia; Manchester, England; Bucheon, South Korea, and Nottingham, England. At the end of the year, Yentl van Stokkum will take up her pen once more to give the work a title, and we will bring the participants together to reflect on their poetic collaboration.

Part of the process will include translating the three lines into English every month, so that the poets and readers can find one another in a common language. Audio recordings of the poets reciting their own lines will connect sounds to the words and characters.

The residents of the 39 Cities of Literature speak hundreds of languages, so the chain poem will also serve as a poetic study of multilingualism and polyphony. What happens when poets from different cultures react to each other? What gets ‘lost in translation’? But above all: what happens when we listen carefully to one another?

Utrecht has been an UNESCO City of Literature since 2017, making it part of the global network of UNESCO Creative Cities. UNESCO created World Poetry Day in 1999 to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression, and to give more people an opportunity to hear languages threatened with extinction. Utrecht’s contribution is just one of a vast number of activities shared with and through the UNESCO network worldwide.

Listen to the poets reading their lines of poetry here.