Culture: Something that rhymes with Lisbon...
16 June 2009
While Europe’s leaders are having trouble selling an EU constitution to an increasingly wary population, an artists’ collective has decided to rewrite the document in sometimes surreal verse, writes Traian Danciu.
Since Shakespeare can afford to blow his nose in Desdemona's handkerchief, why can't I play toreador with the bull that abducted Europa? l'd like to slay it with my invisible-ink pen thrust right between its horns,[…]
Thus begins Article 44 of the European Constitution in Verse. This multilingual work has already been translated into English, French and Dutch, and was recently presented in Barcelona, Brussels and Prague. Romanian poet Mircea Dinescu penned this part, a humorous, ironic take on free movement within the EU championing the freedom to transcend religious and cultural differences among the citizens of Europe. His Article 44 on the right to “Marriages of Convenience” forms part of the section on the “Fundamental Rights” of European citizens. It continues:
[…] so I can contract with the damsel a marriage of convenience and get without a hitch a French, a Belgian or a German passport, like the tramp I once met, twenty years ago, on the train to Novosibirsk, who cherished the dream of taking a leap from the Wild East to Israël by marrying an old Jewish woman. Rather than luxury, a woman was to him a means of transportation, devoid of Christian complexes, considering the fact that, after all, Jesus Himself is the result of a ménage à trois.
Whilst the ratification of the European Constitution has bogged down in the quicksand of certain Member States’ rejection, these poets have joined ranks to form an avant-garde, spearheading “the solution” to European unification. The European Constitution in Verse project was launched in 2008 by a group of Belgian artists christened the “Brussels Poets Collective, itself within the Passaporta movement. They sent a first draft of this lyric adaptation of the pending charter to authors all over the continent: viz. 50 European poets ranging from Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney to Eva Cox, an Austrian-born author who has settled in Australia.
The upshot is a nearly 100-page text reflecting European thought as well as, in symbolic terms, the problems facing the European Union. Each author wrote their contribution in their native language; then the initiators of the project, coordinated by David Van Reybrouck and Peter Vermeersch, “remixed” the texts.
As to the potential social impact of the European Constitution in Verse, in the context of the ongoing discussions about European “unification” through poetry, Mircea Dinescu is rather sceptical: “I chose this text because it deals with the age-old theme of the Eastern barbarian, Homo esticus. We all live in the Wild East now, and that’s a rude awakening. The poets have long since ceased to be the voice of the people. Before, poetry was a weapon, at least in the Communist realm. The fear of words, of allusions, struck home. Now, under capitalism, the poet is nothing but a buffoon, let’s face it.”
The text is divided up into eight sections, beginning with a “Preamble” followed by 76 “Articles” spread over the seven remaining sections, which are entitled “The Constitution” and “Parts I–VI” with generic headings based on those of the actual Constitution, such as “Principles”, “Fundamental Rights”, and “European Hymn”. The full text of the multilingual original version, as well as the French, English and Dutch translations, are posted on the official website.