INTERNATIONAL POETRY — INTERNAZIONAL NAIA POEZIA
Printemps des poetes, where I performed this year, was an international poetry and performance festival in Algeria. The country was celebrating its 50th anniversary of liberation. In my mind, I was prepared to see the post-colonial reality of poverty and multiple conflicts after 130 years of French rule and 20–plus years of Soviet influence. Memories from my Soviet past and recollections from French New Wave films about the Algerian war informed my performance. I’ve never had, and probably will never have again, such a huge audience—200–to–300 students, most of them female.
I thought about my own experience as a Russian-Jewish-American immigrant and about recent and ongoing Arab Spring events while answering their questions. I read poetry and made a performance that consisted of Russian words, which cognate with English, French, Italian, Spanish and other languages. I made the performance site-specific, writing a new list of words when I performed. I have a collection of about 2,000 Russian words that I use. The performance of words was written on a scroll-like paper about two yards long with torn edges. I felt that the audience was incredibly perceptive, tense and sensitive. One unexpected response I got was from a faculty member who said, “You are right, madam, we need to change the world.”
Here is a short excerpt:
bank tank flag polizia soldat general armia prezident soup coffee banan limonad gitara muzykant industrial’naia revoluzia ekologicheskaia katastrofa franzuzskoe shampanskoe pol’skoe kabare atomnaya bomba gynecologicheskaya klinika…