How does it feel to arrive in a country without understanding anything? And what can poetry convey even when the listener does not speak the language? These were some of the thoughts that lead the organizers of the annual poetry festival in Erlangen to bring poetry in five different languages together – without any translation.
The event “Lyrical Bridge-Building” was organized by the culture department and wants to set an example for peaceful coexistence through understanding, openness and charity, independently of culture, religion and nationality. The main goal was to attract refugees to cultural events like the poetry festival and to sensitize the receiving society.
Four refugees, living in Erlangen, recited poems in their mother tongue: Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and Ukrainian. Moreover, a poem by the German poet and orientalist Friedrich Rückert was presented. The event was accompanied with Kanun music performed by the musician Gilbert Yammine. With poems of the authors Tamim Al Barghothi, Abdullah Pashew, Dergham Al Saffan, Saadi Shirazi and Lesya Ukrainka the reading took the audience on a trip through Eastern Europe and the Arab world. The audience of around 100 people listened carefully to the sound of the languages and the music. The target groups were primarily refugees living in Erlangen, and the organizers were glad to see that the audience was a mix of people with different nationalities. This event showed that even without understanding the words, people are able to communicate somehow. In this case, lyrical performance translated the feelings of the authors and the readers.
According to Katja Rausch, the organizer of the Lyrical Bridge Building, the event was successful and reached its goal of bringing people from different cultures together, encouraging the team to keep on offering these kinds of cultural activities. The city of Erlangen is on its way to be an even more inclusive and intercultural city, appreciating our differences and celebrating the things we have in common. The cultural and linguistic exchange between receiving society and refugees is one of many stones that need to be piled up to build a bridge between the cultures.