We would like to raise your awareness to current happenings and a heated debate in Prague where the social and cultural centre Klinika is threatened with closure. Authorities refused to extend their lease of an old building that once was a sanatorium for consumptives. Over the last year the Klinika activist group breathed new life into the old premises by organising cultural events and providing aid for homeless people, migrants and refugees, supported by many volunteers. In the last days and weeks hundreds and thousands of Prague’s citizens spoke out against the closure in demonstrations and events organised to support the centre.
More than 30 Czech writers wrote an open letter to support Klinika, among them many poets, e.g. Jáchym Topol and Jonáš Hájek. They organised readings to support the centre. We think that support and solidarity for Klinika is important also beyond Prague and the Czech Republic so we hope this reaches out to many people and places. We are happy that the poets Jáchym Topol and Adam Borzič wrote us some lines about their thoughts and the situation which we can post here in English thanks to @olga_pek.
The poets’ statements:
The Klinika Autonomous Social Centre in Prague is a centre of volunteer help on many levels – from regular shipments of clothes and necessities to refugees and the Zdrojovna (“Sourcing Room”) freeshop, to a homeless kitchen, pre-school kids centre, foreign language school (including Czech as a foreign language) as well as a cultural hub (hosting readings and lectures). It came into being about a year ago, in an outstanding feat of public involvement across the Czech society. Klinika is run exclusively on the basis to civic cooperation and volunteering, with no financial donations or grants either from the state or private companies. While in state ownership, the premises of the former clinic have been dilapidating for many years before the Klinika collective managed to breath a new life into it. Since then it has become the symbolic lungs and heart of the Czech civic society.
Now, after a year of exemplary functioning, during which Klinika successfully won the support of the majority of publicly involved citizens, the state authorities have refused to extend Klinika’s lease contract, citing several bureaucratic obstacles. This comes only a few weeks after an attack by right-wing extremists on Klinika, which took place on the same day that saw demonstrations in Prague both for and against migration. It is precisely as a symbol of the civic society extending help to refugees that Klinika became a target of the ultra-right-wing hooligans.
Many NGO’s and individuals, including those coming from the progressive part of the political representation, have pledged their support to Klinika. Over 30 Czech writers have expressed their support for Klinika in an open letter, many of them well-known poets and authors of fiction. Despite that, the Autonomous centre has been called upon to evacuate the premises. The collective decided to occupy the space and is now trying to negotiate with the authorities.
It seems obvious that the attack on Klinika, launched by the state authorities, is politically motivated and serves especially those who peddle xenophobic and fascist inclinations and populism. Clearly, Klinika seems bothersome because it stands for a non-market, humanistic and communitarian approach to life. This is one of the reasons why many of us, Czech poets, support the Autonomous centre.
Having worked for a year in order to foster conditions where local culture and refugee help would blossom, the volunteers from Klinika centre were attacked by a fascist commando.
The public officers who now refuse to arrange the legal adjustments necessary for Klinika to keep working not only harm a good cause, but also in fact assist in moving the Czech Republic further to the East, somewhere into the “Putinzone” and in close proximity of attempts at a total control of the society.
This video was shot by Ondřej Mazura at a Klinika event last weekend and shows a reading of poet Adam Borzič in the occupied building.
We at lyrikline and Literaturwerkstatt Berlin (Haus für Poesie) support Klinika and hope they will be able to continue their humanitarian and cultural work for a tolerant society. We wish all the protesters who stand united perseverance and, finally, success!
We ask for your solidarity, for example by spreading the news or signing the petiton (see below).
We are happy to end our summer slump on this blog with the presentation of a very unique project which was published on lyrikline.org today. From January to April 2012, poets from all 27 countries of the European Union and the accession country Croatia wrote a chain poem or, as we call it, Renshi to Europe, for the Berlin Poetry Festival.
The picture above shows all poets who took part: l.t.r. Martin Solotruk (Slovakia), Gabrielė Labanauskaitė (Lithuania), Olga Ravn (Denmark), Claudia Gauci (Malta), Jen Hadfield (United Kingdom), Zoltán Tolvaj (Hungary), Filipa Leal (Portugal), Luigi Nacci (Italy), Tom Reisen (Luxembourg), Gwenaëlle Stubbe (Belgium), Ester Naomi Perquin (Netherlands), Jonáš Hájek (Czech Republic), Sotos Stavrakis (Cyprus), Yannis Stiggas (Greece), Edward O’Dwyer (Ireland), Marko Pogačar (Croatia), Maarja Kangro (Estonia), Gregor Podlogar (Slovenia), Christoph Szalay (Austria), Jean-Baptiste Cabaud (France), Jenny Tunedal (Sweden), Harry Salmenniemi (Finland), Arvis Viguls (Latvia), Josep Pedrals (Spain), Svetlana Cârstean (Romania), Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria), Agnieszka Wolny-Hamkało (Poland). Katharina Schultens (Germany) is not on the picture.
In renshi.eu, the last line of each poem became the first of the next, thus connecting each poet to his/her predecessor. There were five groups with six to seven poets in each, creating five side-by-side chain poems by authors with 23 different native languages. Find all texts and translations as well as the audio recording on lyrikline.org
Greece, as both the focus of the economic crisis and the birthplace of European culture and democracy, was the jumping off point for this Renshi. The Greek poet Yannis Stiggas’s poem was used as the starting point and basis for all five groups. At the end, he also wrote a final verse that reflected on the extant traces of his own lines in the writing of the other authors.
lyrikline.org was a cooperation partner of renshi.eu. Many thanks to the partners of the lyrikline.org network who helped to organise this project: Absoluteville / Absolute Poetry, Ars Poetica-International Poetry Festival, Casa Fernando Pessoa, Croatian P.E.N. Centre, Estonian Literature Centre, Institute ramon llull, Koperator – The International Cultural Programme Centre, Latvian Literature Centre, Literature Across Frontiers, Literaturwerkstatt Berlin, Nederlands Letterenfonds / Dutch Foundation for Literature, Nuoren Voiman Liitto / Runokuu Festival, Petöfi Irodalmi Múzeum, Rámus förlag, Romanian Culture Institute Berlin.