City poets snort at the city council (and Jinnih Beels) when they say goodbye: “How is it possible that they are so afraid of art?” (Antwerp)

Antwerp

In any case, they wanted to perform at the Crossing Border literature and music festival in De Studio, Antwerp’s urban poets. That it would also be their last performance under that title was clear on Saturday morning, when the four remaining urban poets jointly announced their departure. Their farewell at De Studio was accompanied by a critical speech against the city’s current cultural policy, followed by a standing ovation. Ruth Lasters, who put down her urban poet’s pen in September, was also there.

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“Next year, oh irony, we will celebrate twenty years of the Stadsdichterschap”, Marc Verstappen, director of De Studio, introduced the performance of the poets. “A concept that was looked upon with envy throughout the Benelux.”

Today this urban poet seems dead and buried. Yesterday, Lotte Dodion, Yannick Dangre, Lies Van Gasse and the poetry duo Proza-K announced that they no longer wanted to go through life as urban poets. Or to put it in Dodion’s words: “After half a year, I will delete city from my name and resign.”

Colleague Ruth Lasters made that decision in September after her poem Ransom moneywhich condemns the stigmatization in the Flemish education system, was rejected by the city council.

The five poets took turns to stand on stage in De Studio. Again they explained their decision. “A policy to decriminalize social and critical projects is contrary to everything I want to stand for,” Dodion said. “The coldness of this administration is inconsistent with the warmth I feel for this city and that I want to spread.”

Dangre brought the symbolic poem spread position with which he would propagate his love-hate relationship with Antwerp. Van Gasse, in turn, carried the poem The sound called freedom in front of. Prose-K minced even less with the poem Nose part.

The poet collective Prosa-K. © Walter Saenen

“Jinnih Beels has opened the biggest umbrella possible”

But it was Ruth Lasters who finally struck against the current council’s policy. “It hurts me that a sublime city like Antwerp is now without a city poet. But I don’t regret stepping down in September,” Lasters said. Ransom money support and dissemination. To remain an urban poet would have been a betrayal of the people I wanted to represent in the main project of my urban poetry.”

“There have been many comments for weeks about Culture Councilor Nabilla Ait Daoud,” Lasters stated, “but I would like to emphasize once again that in September, Education Councilor Jinnih Beels opened the biggest umbrella that can be found in the entire metropolis to not interfere in Ransom money-discussion. In doing so, the ships have completely denied a large part of their electorate.”

“How in God’s name is it possible that the Antwerp city council is so afraid of art and artists who dare to reflect on social trends and who put critical notes on social situations that have gone awry”, continued Lasters. “If culture is the most brilliant form of communication, how is it possible that the culture department so categorically avoids direct communication with the city’s artists. I hope that the city will quickly find the courage to approach the cultural sector openly and transparently.”

Then the urban poets took the stage one last time to say goodbye to their office with funeral wreaths around their necks to a standing ovation from the audience.

Ruth Lasters. © Walter Saenen

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