Sunday, October 15, 2006

lit fest!

the vienna lit festival is almost over - and i am SO glad that i went to some of the events, it's been great fun, i've met lovely people, and heard some terrific wordswordswords.

on thursday evening, i hurried from teaching tongue twisters to my english class in vienna's 21st district to replugged in the 8th district where the presentation of the vienna views anthology took place.

the call for contributions earlier this year had been "how do you write vienna?" (in prose and poetry) - and i'm one of the people who answered the call, with a few poems about the city i live in. i was thrilled when i heard that how to survive in vienna had made it into the anthology.

if you are interested in seeing vienna through the eyes of people who live here (having grown up here, or moved here from places around the globe), do buy the anthology. it is available from the german amazon website, and from luftschacht publishing house, or you can get in touch with me and i can get you one and send it.

harriet anderson and bond benton read their texts from the anthology, very enjoyable.

after that event, i met bond benton (my first new contact through the festival apart from the team) and we chatted a while before labyrinth, a writer's group based in vienna, performed, but i left halfway through it, because it was getting late and i still had stuff to do before bedtime.

on friday i was getting more and more nervous all the time, because i had promised to read at the open mic that evening - a first for me. i am shy when it comes to that. i am not too crazy about my voice either, although everybody keeps telling me there is nothing wrong with it. and then microphones. ugh. so far, they are not my friends.

i am forever grateful to nathan who "kept me company" in a chat session before i went to the reading, and to stevie ronnie, an english poet i met about 15 minutes before stepping on stage. he must have realised i was nervous, and started talking to me, which meant i had no time to work myself into a state of utter stage fright. of course he was right, i survived, notwithstanding my sweaty palms and weak knees. i told the audience it was my first time, and that i was very nervous, so if i fainted, it was not part of my routine - they even had the decency to laugh. *phew*

i read the poem from the anthology, how to survive in vienna, and one from my chapbook, eva to adam. i tripped up once halfway through the first poem, but so what. what i found most irritating in that setting was the spotlights, and not being able to see the audience directly in front of me. it was like they had been sucked into a big black hole. scary. *G*

a few people told me that i'd done well, and there had been no need to apologise at all.

i had not intended to stay too long, because i'd had an upset stomach all day, and i was tired, but i ended up leaving around midnight. first i was talking to stevie, who bought me a drink in return for my chapbook, and then i met peter waugh, co-founder of labyrinth. he invited me to the next labyrinth reading / open mic, and told me about a writer's group meeting once every two or three weeks. he did look through my chapbook and say something nice about my "control of the language". *S*

on saturday, another first for me - a poetry workshop, with john siddique from the uk. i'd talked briefly to john on thursday evening and was impressed that he remembered my name from a comment i had left on his blog. he is a lovely person. i came to the workshop after another pretty sleepless night, and he managed to wake me up alright. what i like about him is that he seems very down-to-earth, and he can laugh at himself. there simply was not enough time, only 2 hours, but we managed to do a few exercises (tapping the vein of creativity) - certainly food for thought. in the beginning, i worked together with a very sweet lady, victoria oscarsson, (who, it turned out, also has a text in the anthology). i came away with a fragment of a poem, and a few vague ideas, which is not bad for a two-hour session.

one thing that will stay with me, is john's answer when asked what influenced him most, as a writer: "love." he said. paused. added "and death." what else is there really?

i think most of the participants realised that there are others out there who, just like them, regret there is not more happening in vienna, as far as poetry / writing in english is concerned. this festival has been a great for networking, because to be networking, you need events where you can actually do it. there might be a few beginnings in this. we'd love to bring john to austria for a longer workshop - and since he found that vienna is not the worst place in the world and has the advantage of displaying schiele and klimt paintings in several galleries, i am quite sure he'd come back.

i had considered another workshop that afternoon, but i was just too tired. my brain basically shut down. and i did want to be fit for john's and jay's reading that evening.

erm. me.

john siddique read (mostly) from his book the prize - some wonderful poems. his poem yes, which he claims was written in 30 seconds, and just begs to be read aloud, made me want to cry, but in a good way, in a YES! kind of way. i told him so, too. john has a blog and a website - do read his poems. (he also has a really nice english accent, i am such a sucker for that. *G*)

next was the amazing jay bernard - 18 years old and wow, that girl's hugely talented. she certainly has something to say and does so quite successfully in slams. if you are in england, you should keep your eyes open and go see her if you can.

john siddique and jay bernard

it was actually really nice to go there yesterday evening - the first day, i did not know anybody, and that evening i kept bumping into people i'd met at the lit fest - stevie, peter, victoria and a few others from the workshop, ...

stevie told me he'd read half of my chapbook and had some very nice feedback for me - doesn't that go down like honey? *G* and eric, part of the vienna lit team, basically made my day by saying this: "you read yesterday, didn't you? i just wanted to let you know that you didn't come across half as nervous as you said you were!" aaahhh. i might just do it again some day ... *G*

the next event was a school slam - inspired by john siddique's poem yes, there had been a comeptition for high school students, to write a poem called no, and the top 18 performed their poems. some of them were quite good - and i totally agree with the decision of the jury. the winning poem was different from most of the others in that it was not just a list, and it was also performed in a lovely way. good fun, the slam.

we even stayed for the final peformance, the fugitives, a canadian group combining story-telling and poetry with music and song, quite cool.

the fugitives

i had the chance to chat with john some more, also with jay, and peter, and victoria, and stevie ("for some reason i don't think i will be able to forget you ..." - after a quite possibly particularly insane remark of mine) ... and a few others. a very good evening.

late that night: me & stevie

and i'll shut up now. it's not like i am still high on adrenalin or anything. ;)

music of the day: butterscotch by cocorosie.


Liz said...

Michi, what a fantastic rundown of the litfest. I felt as if I were a fly on the wall there :) Really enjoyed reading this. It sounds so interesting. Nothing like this happens here in Las Palmas :(

Hope to get time to look at John Siddique's website later on.

Love the look very happy :)


michi said...

liz, nothing like this normally happens in vienna either. esp not in english.

i am glad you enjoyed reading this loooong entry. i thought nobody would. *L*

re john's poetry - i just added a link to an audio file of him reading the "under-18" version of YES.

m x

John said...

Hi Michi

have just added my photos from Vienna to Flickr for all to see,

all the best John

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Enjoyed the info here. Thanks for the post.

Collin said...

The festival sounds fab! Now I want to come read in Vienna. I am hoping to be in Berlin late next year, so maybe I'll hop the train down there. :)

michi said...

thanks guys!