RONDA Leiria Poetry Festival: 200 guests and 65 hours of programming

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The RONDA Leiria Poetry Festival bets on an international edition, which involves more than 40 countries. The event, which will take place between March 12 and 21, has more than 200 guests and 65 hours of programming. Totally “centred in the beauty and power of the poetic language”, the festival organized by the City Hall of Leiria, Leiria Creative City of Music UNESCO and the Arquivo Bookshop, marks presence in the online platforms and opens doors to the world.

The challenge launched to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, in partnership with some festivals and international institutions, as the example of the Medellin Poetry Festival, was promptly accepted. Celeste Afonso, curator and coordinator of the RONDA Poetry Festival, told JPN that she never thought that the event “would gain this dimension” and what is happening now “has far exceeded what could be expected”.

Born in 2015 and now reinvented, the former Poetic Round presents interviews, conferences, debates, workshops, video-poems, musical shows and poetic performances. This is the invitation for ten days of poetry, in its first international edition, which is hand in hand with music.

Making the festival a reference in Portugal is one of the ambitions. At a time when the world is confined and at different paces, the online version “made many people want to participate and had not had the opportunity, because they had no way to join the poets and thinkers,” said the coordinator. The mixture between the pandemic and the online brought “something that is unprecedented in this festival”, as the partners present themselves from their city, there was a “concern to bring the world to Leiria and to return the world from Leiria”, she added.

In the ten days of programming, the Leiria festival will pass through 40 countries of Europe, America, Africa and Asia, in a real poetic babel. Among the Portuguese-speaking guests will be Cláudia Almeida, journalist from RTP, as interviewer, and authors such as Ana Luísa Amaral, Luís Tinoco and José Luís Peixoto. Rita Redshoes will give musicality to the poems of Francisco Rodrigues Lobo, a poet from Leiria, who died 400 years ago (1574-1621).

Among the international participants are the American Jack Hirschman, the French Gilles Lipovetsky and the Brazilian Marilia Garcia. Tyehimba Jess (USA), Pulitzer Prize winner, is also one of the guests. Poets from countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Serbia, Romania, Philippines, Turkey, Tunisia or Kenya, who are rarely present at Portuguese literary events, will also make their poetry known.

The festival will have simultaneous translation into Portuguese of the tables and interviews. However, for Celeste Afonso, there is a statement of the festival, “we wanted to assume the original language of the poets and the poetry in its original language”, and there will be poetic performances or video-poems, in which “we will assume its original language”. The coordinator also added that they are “taking on this idea of a poetic babel, not where we stop understanding each other”. but where there is a “common understanding that comes from rhythm and the ability to perceive feelings regardless of whether or not we understand the language behind it”.

The intention of the festival is to maintain its internationalisation and move from biennial to annual. The virtual will be a present brand, something that came to stay with the pandemic, but in 2022 the big bet is on the presence of most of the guests. The festival’s coordination also said to JPN that competitions aimed at schools and education with prizes are hypotheses on the table.

With the world going through a pandemic that affects everyone’s life, poetry is more than an escape, it is “food for the soul”. For the curator it is urgent to feed ourselves with music and poetry, because “it is a form of liberation” and when we put the two together it becomes “a reflection, a way of placing ourselves in the world”, she concluded.

The full program can be found on the festival’s official website.

Article edited by João Malheiro
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