In times of pandemic, poetry must find imaginative and creative ways to be heard. Organized by the literary organization Poets’ Circle, the 6th Athens World Poetry Festival (21-24 September), titled Poetry Against All Odds, aims once again to transform the city of Athens into a large poetic canvas with the participation of Greek and foreign poets.
Under the aegis of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and with the institutional support of the Municipality of Athens, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture and the Megaron Athens Concert Hall, the Festival constitutes a major literary event, which aspires to change the country’s image around the world, making Athens a leading international literary hub, as well as a travel destination for poetry lovers.
This year, given that all cultural activities have been cancelled due to the pandemic, the festival will take place exclusively online with poetic analogues and readings on the internet by prominent foreign poets, such as Paul Muldoon (Ireland), Ayo Ayoola-Amale (Nigeria), Dunya Mikhail (Iraq), the legendary Jack Hirschman (USA), the Iowa Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill, Jean Portante (Luxembourg), etc. This year’s festival will pay tribute to Spanish-language poetry – one of the most interesting literary traditions nowadays – with the participation of renowned poets from Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Peru, Honduras and Venezuela, while the ‘Barbara Fields Siotis’ Award will be bestowed to Bei Dao, one of China’s most important contemporary authors.
When the Poets’ Circle was founded in 2012, it set as its primary goal the continuous and public communication of poetry with the wider public. Within this framework, the Athens World Poetry Festival was materialized, featuring, ever since, the ‘dream team’ of world poetry, with internationally renowned poets from around the world.
During the festival, numerous public events – such as readings, workshops, music, visual arts and more – are hosted at several venues around the city so that poetry becomes a vital part of everyday life, emphasizing on the importance of poetry in difficult times, while also contributing to the extroversion of the Greek poetry, to dialogue between different traditions and the promotion of Greek cultural traditions abroad. To use the words of poet Dinos Siotis, “poetry interprets the miracle of life, it is a beacon in the abyss that surrounds us, saves us from personal cul-de-sacs, and takes us into an oasis of self-knowledge".