There is always a certain amount of constructive uncertainty when you move away from the known. This was very much the driving force behind Poetree, Göttingen’s first ever outdoors poetry festival, which I co-founded. We wanted to create a space for the enjoyment of poetry outwith existing institutions and structures. We wanted to offer poetry that would surprise people. Poetry for people to stumble across unexpectedly. Poetry which opened a space between page poetry and spoken word. Göttingen hardly suffers from a dearth of literary events, but before last year the potential of events which move away from both the popular slam format and the more conventional, chaired reading had barely been tapped.
And so it was that on 30 May 2015, we welcomed 8 poets, 1 graphic artist and over 350 curious souls to Göttingen’s Cheltenham Park to enjoy, over the course of six events, the remarkable variety that poetry has to offer. Students, families and puzzled passers by ducked in and out of our marquee as it alternated between sunlit stage and refuge from the day’s frequent showers. The day started with Dominique Macri’s and Dalibor Marković’s creatively collaborative ‘team slam’, and we signed off with song poetry from Rike Scheffler. My favourite event remains the poetry speed-dating, when the audience split up into small groups to enjoy short bursts of poetry and performance from each of the poets. And of course, Anne Lehmann’s glorious capturing of the day in pictures remains a cause for joy.
I moved away from Göttingen in December 2015, and so have not been involved in the planning of the subsequent festival. It is wonderful to know that it continues, however – and I am particularly excited to have been invited back as a performer in 2016.