Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – Oct 2012

Karl Schembri had the best line, ‘Writers are the only people who can be someone else without needing a psychiatrist’.

It was another great festival and I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering again.

Here are snippets from some of the 135 writers /poets who attended the festival this year.

A Russian poet called Oleg Borushko (one of his works is a Russian translation of Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese philosopher), explained about the difficulties of language when he talked about a style of poetry called Erotic Tanka.  He said that in Russian the word Tanka means tanks… you know, armoured personnel carriers!  They just don’t go with the concept of erotic poems do they!

He also spoke about using a pen name for a book he published in Japan, his chosen name ended with the letters ‘ko’.  What he didn’t know was that these letters represent female names – but he didn’t intend to write as a woman!

He said that ultimately poets want to show off, but this view was argued against by other panel members…

Vivienne Glance said that when she does performance poetry then yes, but otherwise her poems are just a form of expression.  Lemn Sissay also disagreed and said that the poets would have chosen the wrong medium to be show offs, as poetry is at the bottom of the writers chain.

Lemn also said, ‘Anger is an expression in the search for love’.

I think it was Vivienne who suggested, ‘Learn the rules before you can break them’

Other words of wisdom I overheard…

Poems cannot emerge from an empty culture, we need to know what is going on around us.

There is not much inspiration for poetry in the corporate world.

Few people dream of becoming a poet.

Cheat publishers by sending poems directly to influential people.

Seek out the unfamiliar.

With travel writing – your reward is often 2 nights stay, very nice but doesn’t pay the bills.

Keep knocking on doors.

Don’t be judgemental – keep open, remove ego.

Leave perceptions at home.

Cultivate the art of vulnerability.  Ask ‘can you help me please’.

Take risks.

Fame is in everyone else’s eyes – it’s got nothing to do with you.

The author of Jungle School, Butet Manurung, taught the Orang Rimba (the nomadic people in Sumatra).  As she taught them they would hang upside down from trees or lay on the ground.  Also they associated a pen with evil.  How difficult it must be to teach in such circumstances.

Someone asked the question, ‘if a poem was a book, what would it look like?’

Don George, Lonely Planet Guide suggested questioning, ‘What did I learn and how did I learn it’.  He said,  ‘Get the essence of the place’,  ‘War turns life into scrap’ and ‘Can’t look for a story, let it come’.

Well that is my round up of sound bites from the 2012 Festival.  Roll on next year! – Meanwhile you could always read ‘Life’s Journeys’ a new book which features my poetry along with short stories from other members of the Ubud Writers’ Group.

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