Struga Poetry Evenings

September 5th, 2016

A major reason I visited southern Macedonia was to attend Struga Poetry Evenings, an international poetry festival held every year in Struga, Macedonia (a short shared taxi ride from Ohrid). There were even fireworks! For poetry! There was also Margaret Atwood!

Never before have I been more simultaneously ecstatic and comfortable in my own body and mind than at this festival.  The experience was that powerful, and the environment that welcoming. What follows are several poems read at the event that I especially loved and a couple of photos.

After Messiaen by Alex Skovron

At the end of time
There will truly be nothing left to say
We will all turn and walk sadly
Into ourselves, words will drift
Useless to the ground, defining for maybe
One last moment the old epochs of thought.

The final note of the last melody
Will coil up into itself, its overtones
Lingering deeply in the new silence
Folding into its edges like a dream.

opening night

Flood by Jalal El Hakmaoui

I walk in the land of the Dead.

My solitary hands smother the whistling of distant trains

Children run toward me
I run toward the poem.

In the chamber of the Dead,
I’m reading “the drunken boat”:
In my body shine a thousand fires the gold of the Hunters in trance.


A Situation over Coffee by Jan Lauwereyns

Sitting outside was always going to be a bad idea.
Sweat started dripping from sideburns.
He, the open-heart surgeon, needed to know
immediately, What’s the deliverable?
Nostalgia? Singapore?
Sipping from his double espresso.

Well, she, the muse, clicked on the arrow,
the introduction algorithm began, We have seen
modernization, and great strides made,
and as we speak, she jammed, someone
somewhere must be harvesting energy from beetle flight.
You know, those big ones.
Children love them,
and they could really be useful,
equipped with nano-recording devices.

Tiny little double-oh-sevens, eh?
Interesting, the audience nodded,
the caffeine kicking in, or the humidity.

The waiter started laughing uncontrollably.
The experiment was finished.

they set off fireworks for POETRY (it was also the most dangerous fireworks I’ve ever witnessed but it’s okay)


I lie next to the sea. It is dead still, except for the invisible rippling soundless undulations the water makes as it breathes. There is no moonlight, but it is not pitch dark.

You kiss me everywhere – everywhere, for hours and hours and hours. My lips are dry, my body salt-encrusted. You have eaten every bit of pleasure, yours and mine. I feel parched, dry, in spite of all the plenitude of water and our body-seat.

The sand too is sweating beneath us. Every grain remembers every wave, every caress, leaving behind just salt, a silver layer of salt as a gift – a talisman of love, of their inconsistent meetings.

I feel parched like the sea-salt gauze. My tongue is parched in spite of your lavender saliva, saliva which has changed from that bouquet to the taste of heather, wild weather-ravaged heather.

I look around for light but I can only see reflection. There is more beauty in second-hand glaze – sky’s dark light radiating off your lashes, water’s blue light hiding in your navel, the beach’s grainy light lying unwiped on your nipples, and the light’s invisible inner light stored in your pupils.

The sea is getting restless. But I am dead still, except for the inaudible swishing that one can hear when you press yourself against my heart.

I need to taste the grainy light that you wrap your skin in, each and every grain that maps the slow deliberate contours of your body.


Ground by Martin Langford

Because there is no ground
but the dancing between us:

Stars flare and fizzle like matches.
The authorized histories step in, step out, do-si-do.

The bedrock waves Bye! as it vanishes.
All the needs hokey and shake, with their best angles in.

No ground at all
but the language-frail rafts of our capering.

Pelvises scissor and coo down the long night of crossroads.
Ova sink into their walls and initiate toes.

Certainties bleed like a newly-flensed romance:
Who am I – now that she’s gone? Who are you?

Good questions circle and slide
off the Opera House jetty.

And there’s no ground but leaning/half-falling
towards-and-away from our recusant others.

No ground but legs and their fancywork, bones and their song.


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