A few days after arriving in Sweden, I started my investigation into what my new city of Borås has to offer in terms of culture and literary events. After a quick Google search, I found my good mood rapidly being devoured by doom and gloom, for it appeared nothing much had happened in the city for a few years. All the Facebook poetry events that I could find were dated 2014 or earlier.
In a rather frantic state of mind, I emailed the tourist information board and had a kind and extremely useful reply within a matter of hours. (This kind of swift response rarely, if ever, happens in the UK. I love the Swedes and their efficiency.) The tourist board directed me towards Brygghuset, a cultural for young people aged 16-29 (it was electrifying to still be considered a ‘young person’ at the age of 29) and as luck would have it, they were hosting a poetry event, and I was free to go along and perform.
I decided to read new material, along with some older pieces, to give the (impressively sized) audience some nightmarish imagery to take home with them to bed.
As this was my first poetry event in Sweden, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was, however, happy to discover that, despite the fact I couldn’t understand much of what was being said, the atmosphere was familiar, welcoming and warm. The chilled out vibe was similar to other poetry event I’d attended elsewhere in England, Norway and Canada. Though, the poetry events I’m used to attending aren’t usually held in beautifully decorated, clean cafes which serve up delicious tea and exquisite vegan treats.
I immediately felt at home and totally at ease. It made me smile to see poets of all ages take to the stage. There was one girl who can’t have been older than thirteen, and her delivery was stunning and, though I could only understand a little of what she was saying, her work was full of feeling. The delighted yet shy look on her face when the applause rang out of the end was unforgettable.
The smile of each poet, in that brief moment after they’ve finished their poem, and before they made their way off the stage, went straight to my heart. I’m infatuated with the Swedish language, and to hear it within poetic forms makes for a really special, really beautiful experience.
My feelings of ease continued as I made my way up onto the stage and settled myself behind the mic. My reading went without any hitches (despite not having performed for many months) and I was elated with the politeness of the audience. Sometimes, at poetry events, there can be people talking among themselves in the background, and this can be really off putting. The audience in this instance was absolutely silent. They showed the utmost respect, and for that I’m so grateful.
This time next year I’ll perform a poem on stage in Sweden. I promise. I’ll even make a video so you can have the proof.