The Right to Poetry

Imagine, there’s a European constitution that is well-written, funny, human and intelligent. Imagine, there’s no Directive 88/361/EEC, Framework Directive 2005/32/EC and no Council Regulation No 26/62 of 4 April 1962. Here comes the good news: You don’t need to imagine anymore. The Belgian newspaper De Standaard has published several chosen paragraphs from a new Poetic European Constitution, written by 52 renowned poets from all over Europe, amongst them the Lithuanian Eugenius Alisanka, the Slovenian Ales Steger, the German Ulf Stolterfoht, the Irish Seamus Heaney. The long poem was performed during the Passa Porta Festival and it can also be purchased as a book called „De Europese grondwed in verzen“ (14,90 euros).


Window closed to poetry? A picture by Francoise Melzani (flickr).

I don’t really unterstand Flamish, but I can sort of figure out some of the stanzas with a little help of my German. Some extracts:

„No development without chaos“, (Article 5)

„I am a citizen, not a consumer, a name, not a number“, (from the “Right to Citizenship”)

„The good gardener praises the shadow underneath the apple trees.“ (from the “Right to Laziness”)

When I heard about this new piece of literature, I became very excited. There is some literature treating European issues, but not much poetry – I only know the poem by the young German poet Björn Kuhligk („Love in Times of EU“), where he describes the pre-accession border-controls between the old and the new Eastern European member states.

Of course, there is an abundance of great prose treating European ideas and regions, for example the two essays „My Europe“ by the Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk and the Ukrainian Yuri Andrukhovich who draw a geography of Eastern European landscapes; also very dense, moving and sad, an essay by Stasiuk about Europe’s battle-grounds. There is Claudio Magris’ „The Danube“, a biography of a truly European river, and „Europe. A Litany“ by Michael Stavaric, Czech-born Austrian writer, a long ramble through European myths, anecdotes, proverbs and national idiosyncracies: „German men are orderly and well-shaved and like to sit in executive committees and big cars and are often divorced and pay maintenance. And German women talk too much and German cows do not have that much milk and German women rarely sit in executive committees and drive smaller cars.“

So, to keep the poetical spirit up - against all Lisbon Treaty criticism from Vaclav Klaus to Libertas - here is my suggestion for another European poetic paragraph that we might use more often. The „Right to Nice Language“: “Europe sounds better when you listen to it carefully – on the streets, in the woods and in the coffee breaks.” Julien Frisch has just given an example on his blog about again another badly written EU document. So, I’d like to know, what amendments would you like to write? Could there be a th!ink-09-constitution? Me, at least, I’d rather be a constitutional poet than a candidate running for Libertas.

Latest posts by Nikola RICHTER

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5 Responses to “The Right to Poetry”

  1. Well done Nicola - an interesting poetic and literary take on the problem of defining what Europe is all about. Personally I think the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union part of the Lisbon Treaty is well written. The rest of it is mainly for diplomats and lawyers which is why it has been greeted with such antipathy and incomprehension by the public.

  2. Tanja says:

    I like it too :)! Write more about poetry and culture, I am just writing down some names I didn’t know before ;). Thnx!

  3. zzz says:

    me 2

  4. Interesting. However, I am wondering who the readership of such pieces might be… Children? Teenagers? Would it appeal to the regular Joe European citizen?

  5. Nikola RICHTER Nikola says:

    Aren’t teenagers regular citizens? And I think good, well-written texts with a hint of poetry appeal to many more than to Europe-fanatics. It would give some soul to European reflections.