Poets emphasise friendship and co-existence despite a mayor's threat to cancel the world-renowned literary festival.
By Miki Trajkovksi for Southeast European Times in Struga -- 05/09/13
Poets gathered at the Struga Poetry Evenings golden wreath award ceremony, which honoured Jose Emilio Pacheco of Mexico (left). [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
The 52nd iteration of the Struga Poetry Evenings, an annual gathering of world poetry literati, promoted the messages of peace, friendship and co-existence, despite warnings by Struga Mayor Zijadin Sela to cancel future events if the readings do not include the Albanian language.
Sela, of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), boycotted the festival because its opening was conducted in English and Macedonian.
"Beginning next year, if we do not find a solution perhaps we will prevent this event from occurring. As long as 60 percent of Struga citizens, which are Albanians, are not respected, I will not come out and give speeches," Sela said.
The festival's organising council and some participating poets expressed disappointment.
"Such unfounded attempts to stain the most-renowned poetry festival, which for 52 years has been a holiday for the world of poetry, do not do favour to the festival's international reputation and Macedonia as a state," the council said in a statement.
"Poets from throughout the globe, especially the ones in the Balkans who are present, prove the politicians are wrong to claim that a language or a people are being negated. Poets are freed from such thoughts and act honestly," the statement concluded.
Festival participants read poetry in most of world's languages and symbolically called the festival a "bridge" for its ability to connect people.
Fifty poets from throughout the Balkans and Israel, Egypt, India, Japan, Russia, Poland, China, Spain, Cuba and other countries attended the gathering this year.
Mexican poet Jose Emilio Pacheco was named the annual Golden Wreath laureate; Albanian, Greek, Bulgarian, BiH and Serbian poets have received the golden wreath in years past.
Mateja Matevski, one of the festival founders and a poet of Albanian ancestry, said the festival has sent strong messages of inclusion in the past five decades.
"Struga [poetry evenings] grew to become a bridge among the nations and civilisations of the Balkans and beyond. That is how it will continue to be in the future. Bridges, by definition, connect two ends, two shores, two worlds. That is exactly what is happening in Struga for five decades," Matevski said.
The Struga festival is unique in that it publishes poetry anthologies of all participating authors in different languages, including in Albanian.
"Only if politicians can look up to poets and hang together the way we do, the world will be different. We create an aim to contribute the betterment of human relations not only in the Balkans but everywhere on Earth," Rajko Lukaca, a poet from Serbia, told SETimes.
The poets say they raise awareness and can create an environment for understanding among people, said Stevan Tontic, a poet from Sarajevo.
"Struga is one of the places in the world that affirms that idea," Tontic told SETimes.
Professor Christina Nikolova of the philology faculty in Skopje said the festival is an excellent opportunity to create an understanding about language, identity and culture.
"We do have interpreters and headsets, but [the point is] we understand one another without them. Struga has shown and continues to show it is a metropolis of co-operation for the region and the world," Nikolova told SETimes.
What do you think about the mayor's criticism? Add your thoughts in the comment section below.