International poetry festival in Macedonia

September 2004 -

The 43 rd edition of the Struga International poetry festival was held from 25 -29 August. Thirty-five poets from twenty-seven countries assembled in Macedonia to present their work. Contrary to what the festival name suggests, none of the presentations took place in Struga.

It has been turbulent in Struga for some months. Due to a municipal redistricting, from now on the population will consist primarily of people of Albanian descent, a situation that is violently opposed by some nationalistic Macedonian groups. Because this meant that it was impossible to guarantee a secure, undisrupted festival, at the last moment the organization decided to relocate the festival to Skopje and Ohrid, a city near Struga. Quite unintentionally, this gave the festival an extra political dimension, which was underscored by the demonstration in Skopje during the opening ceremony.

The Struga international poetry festival plays an important role as an expression of Macedonia's cultural importance and identity. During each edition special publications are presented that emphasize the fact that Macedonia is part of the international cultural landscape. During this year's festival the anthology The World is My Home was presented containing works by modern Macedonian poets translated in English and an anthology in Macedonian with work by contemporary Dutch poets.

Two poets were honoured with special awards. The Portuguese poet Vasco Graça Moura received the golden laurel wreath as testimony to the quality and the versatility of his poetry. Previous winners of this award include such important poets as Auden, Neruda, Montale, Brodsky and Tranströmer.

The 19-year old Philippine poet Angelo V. Suarez received the 'Bridges of Struga Award', a prize awarded for the first time at this festival for the best first collection. Unesco was one of the initiators of this new prize.