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Macedonia: Decades-Old International Poetry Festival in Focus

Portuguese filmmaker André Soares published a short video documentary about the Struga Poetry Evenings, an international poetry festival that has been held annually for half a century, since 1962, in the town of Struga, Macedonia (the official site).

The film features statements by poets Vladimir Martinovski from Macedonia, a Chinese exile Bei Ling, Rati Saxena from India, Corey Marks from the United States, Siim Kera from Estonia, Mimoza Sali from Albania…who also talked about the global situation with poetry and read their works in various languages.

While explaining the circumstances of being forced to choose between jail and exile due to disagreement with the regime, Bei Ling says that his homeland is no longer China, but the Chinese language. Curiously enough, one of the most famous quotes by the renowned Macedonian poet and linguist Blaže Koneski (1921-1993), inscribed on his recently erected monument [mk], is “our language is our homeland.”

The festival is one of the crucial elements of the official, state-supported culture, and its opening is usually attended by top political personages, like the Minister of Culture, Prime Minister and/or the President. As such, it has not proven conducive to promotion of domestic dissent, as attested by the critical post [mk] on the 2009 edition by activist blogger and poet Vnukot. In 2011, he specifically returned [mk] to publicly read his poem about the murder of Martin Neshkovski, the event that incited the grassroots protests against police brutality a year ago.

Over the years, Macedonian bloggers have been mentioning the festival by quoting Wikipedia data and starting discussions about domestic poets such as Koneski, Mateja Matevski or Jovan Koteski (1932-2001), who attended in 1964 and 1981, or publishing Macedonian translations of works by foreign participants, such as the Japanese Shuntaro Tanikawa, the French Pierre Béarn, and Russian Vadim Fedorovič Terehin (Ru.wikipedia).

Journalist Vasko Markovski used his blog to publish a reportage [mk] on the park of poetry in Struga, where the trees planted by many world renowned poets grow side by side.

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