Saturday, 16 December 2017 | News today: 0

Mite Stefoski: Struga Poetry Evenings has important role in Macedonian literature and worldwide

It's a tremendous pleasure that the Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood is this year's laureate of the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings. One of the largest and most attractive names in the literary world comes in the region for the first time. From organizational aspect, you can't get more than this, though it was not simple to be successfully realized, says director of the festival Mite Stefoski

This year the poetry festival “Struga Poetry Evenings” marks an important anniversary – 55 years of its existence. As head of the festival, what it means for you to celebrate this anniversary of the world’s largest poetry event?

Stefoski: It is a huge honor to run the world’s oldest poetry festival, especially when it marks its 55. anniversary. Such moments always evoke memories of all those who founded the festival and were part of the organization in the past. Also, anniversaries are some key, turning point, from where one needs to go in a different direction in order to ensure the role that the festival has in regard to the Macedonian literature, as well as worldwide. It’s not simple to make such an event always to be attractive and influential. That’s how we, as current management, regard this anniversary, and that’s why we made some bold changes in the program of this particular edition of the festival. The gradual changes we did before, along with the novelties of this edition, are now giving a different physical appearance to the festival in one of its segments, which I believe will contribute for it to be more attractive.

Over the past years countless poets from all world meridians have paraded in Struga, countless songs in many languages have been read, the poetry, music, culture and tradition of many countries have been presented near the flow of the river Drim…. How many poets are participating at this year’s festival and from which countries?

Stefoski: In accordance with the conception of the program for this year’s edition, 32 poets from 30 countries will be participating, we should also add the Macedonian poets, critics, translators, who in various roles, from poets-participants, to orators, moderators, members of the jury, etc., will also be part of the festival. Of course, here also we have to mention the professional visitors, who are part of an important segment of the festival, but also the strategy to enable promotion of Macedonian poetry in the world, by being translated into other languages and by attending literary events. We believe that by incorporating the festival in international associations, and by bilateral and multilateral cooperation, it will get the place to which it belongs, as part of those few who should be also creators of cultural policies in the field of poetry.

Margaret Atwood is this year’s laureate of Golden Wreath Award of the 55th Struga Poetry Evenings. It seems that this choice of laureate fits the jubilee: honorary professor at 30 universities worldwide, including the most prestigious, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and the Sorbonne, awarded with more than 40 prestigious awards, including the Booker Prize and Governor General’s Award and now with the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings. How did the communication with her go? She was visiting Macedonia for the first time. What did she know about our country?

Stefoski: It’s really a tremendous pleasure that the Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood is this year’s laureate of the Golden Wreath of the Struga Poetry Evenings. One of the largest and most attractive names in the literary world comes in the region for the first time. From organizational aspect, you can’t get more than this, though it was not simple to be successfully realized. And it is notable that her arrival has sparked interest for this year’s festival on a larger scale, so that we will have several professors from prestigious universities who have obtained their doctorate on Atwood’s work and several notable magazines and newspapers from several European countries will follow the festival. We expect that a literary name as Atwood will also be an invitation for the domestic audience as well.

The festival’s program each year is prepared in specific frameworks, according to a traditionally established pattern of events, such as Poetic Portrait of Laureates, Night without Punctuation, Poetry reading … On what locations will the events be held and where will Poetry on the Road take place?

Stefoski: In the past four editions each year we made changes, from program conception, to locations, and cities. Let me remind that introducing the contents like Poetic Circles, Poetic Portrait and redesigning the program content Poetry on the Road contributed to drastically change the physiognomy of the festival. This year we are introducing afternoon debates and presentations within the frames of the Poetic Coffee, as well as new locations for Poetry on the Road such as the House of Urania in Ohrid, where several notable poets. Of course, it remains the cooperation with the Municipality of Resen and with the Cultural Centre in Bitola and together we organize poetry readings under the Poetry on the Road. We hope that the poetic portraits of the participants will attract most interest, especially because they are carefully programed and will allow diverse poetics to be presented in a same program, placing them in a kind of dialogue.

Will there be attractive poetic names in Struga this year?

Stefoski: This year’s festival directly gets a programed direction, taking into account that we tried, apart from the work of Margaret Atwood, to present several other attractive poetesses, whose poetry is provocative from several aspects. Actually, we start this year’s festival with the fact that all three laureates of the most prestigious awards are poetesses: Margaret Atwood – recipient of Golden Wreath Award, Violeta Tanceva-Zlateva – recipient of Miladinov Brothers Award and Runa Svetlikova recipient of Bridges of Struga Award, allocated by UNESCO and Struga Poetry Evenings (SPE). Some poetesses, like Zhou Zan, one of the most famous feminists in China, is also a translator of Margaret Atwood’s poetry. This year we really have many attractive names: Nujoom al-Ghanem from the United Arab Emirates, poetess and one of the most important directors, Haviva Pedaya from Israel, Leanne O’Sullivan from Ireland, Yolanda Castaño from Spain, Maria Ferenčuhová from Slovakia etc.

By: Nevena Popovska
Photo: Dejan Stancevski