February 4, 2013
In the past few weeks I’ve had the huge privilege of going out to Iraq with the excellent people at the Erbil Literature Festival and Reel Festivals. While in Erbil and Shaqlawa in the Kurdish region of Iraq we played and worked with 8 Scottish and Iraqi poets – whose work you’ll see here in the UK in March – but in the meantime here are a few blog posts to whet your appetite and to give you an idea of what Reel Festivals is all about. Click on the headline for the full feature!
In less than a day our troupe of Scottish and Iraqi poets will converge here in Erbil before bussing over to Shaqlawa in the foothills of the Safeen mountains. There, not unlike everywhere in Western Europe, there will be snow.
On the journey here, the snow was our enemy but soon, I hope, it will be our friend. Weather conditions meant Dan Gorman and I were waylaid in Vienna. While kicking around the airport Dan met a couple of stranded Iraqis on their way home to Oslo. When they heard where we were headed one exclaimed, “Shaqlawa makes me insane!” This has become our motto.
I first met Lukman Derky in Damascus in November, 2010. At the time he was running a spoken word event so rare, courageous, and new that it was covered in The New York Times before Syria began meriting headlines for the worst reasons. A cultural cowboy, Derky’s Bayt al-Qasid (House of Poetry) was doing something many of us take for granted – bringing people together to perform and play. In that dimly lit basement bar where secret police likely hid in plain sight – people spoke freely.
A chance encounter of an evening stroll in Shaqlawa, Iraq found the Reel Iraq cohort make a surprisingly fluid transition from poet to sportsmaster.