Festival Review

Poetry Festival, Metulla, June 6-9

It is not an uncommon phenomenon for people to occasionally wish they could be around to hear and/or see an artist perform his or her own work, rather than getting the material second hand. Every year, the Poetry Festival in Metulla offers a golden opportunity to hear poets read some of the fruits of their labors and even discuss where they got their ideas, and where they come from personally and creatively.
Last week’s festival boasted a heavyweight lineup of local literary giants, and some lesser known and younger poets. For starters, the official opening ceremony last Tuesday evening featured the award of prizes, sponsored by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, for the best debut published male and female poets in the country – 27-year-old Jerusalemite Nadav Liniel and 41-year-old single mother-of-two Sigal Ben Yair from Nesher respectively. The session was ably MCed by the festival’s artistic director poet-lecturer Rafi Weichert, who provided an ubiquitous steady guiding hand for many of the festival’s events.
In a curious artistic marriage, the award ceremony, which included some brief poetry readings, was followed by a concert featuring veteran rockers guitarist-singer Corinne Alal and bassist-singer Eran Tzur. While, mainly, the younger members of the audience demonstrated their appreciation of the on stage action with great enthusiasm, others elected to leave the musical proceedings in the middle.
The same happened on the morrow, when talented young singer Yasmin Even regaled a steadily dwindling audience following an enlightening session in which some of our top poets – including the likes of Erez Biton, Agi Mishol, Asher Reich, Mordehai Goldman and Maya Bazarano – doffed a hat in the direction of some of the genre’s post-Bialik generation greats. That was a shame because Even, and her trio, mostly did a very good job with the poetic material she addressed.
Over the four days of the festival there were highly enjoyable sessions with the likes of Rivka Miriam, who read some of her works, including from her newest tome Lifnei Hanessia (Before the Journey) which includes drawings by fellow Jerusalemite, painter Meir Appelfeld. The same session, which was chaired by Liniel, also featured veteran vision impaired poet Erez Biton, who caught the packed audience’s attention with a stirring reading of half a dozen of his poems.
One of the mainstays of the festival since its inception in 1996, Prof. Nissim Calderon moderated the closing session at midday on Thursday, with his trademark high energy approach. The meet included works by Gilit Homsky, Khen Yisrael Klinman and award recipient Ben Yair, who read some poems from her suitably entitled down-to-earth first book Loh Me’udan (Unrefined).
But the lasting impression of the Poetry Festival, came not from the stages but from the fact that there appears to be a devoted, although not massive, following of homegrown poetry in this country.