Literature and writing is a great way to learn your way around a city: its real and metaphorical limits, its identity and sense of self. These stories, both factual and imagined, give you a sense of the emotional and intellectual norms that you will encounter and feel while in that space.
But more than that, meeting writers is also a fine way to make sense of your surroundings. Since I have been in Amsterdam one of my objectives has been to get out and meet some fellow poets, writers and musicians. I hope to find my range, where I stand, what is possible, what are people thinking?
I have been here one month or so, so perhaps not as much progress has been made as I would like. But Facebook is a wonderful thing and now I have discovered meet-ups too. What I can tell you immediately is that Amsterdam has an alive and kicking writing ‘scene’ if the term applies. There are a huge number of informal groups on social media, regular meet ups, literary journals with physical spaces, events, readings, slams and discussions.
I have already connected with a group of younger writers, The Amsterdam Writers Guild, and the wealth of information about up and coming events that they have brought to my attention is astounding. I have MISSED more events in 4 weeks than I knew might take place in Johannesburg in 4 months.
So far I have attended a workshop on short story writing and this week I will be part of a Poem-O-Matic put together by the AWG. The idea is that two poets are stationed in a thoroughfare with two type writers. Passers-by request a poem on a given topic and you oblige: Nothing fancy or long winded. Just a quick, personalised verse or rhyme that speaks to the subject requested. I can’t wait!
There are readings and discussions coming up, as well as performances, book launches and more workshops. Actually I have to choose my events carefully lest I have no time left for anything else.
It would seem that, when it comes to events, Amsterdam writers and publishers understand that, to make themselves heard above the clamour of e-books, social media, modern life and busy lives, they need to be out there, doing things, sparking interest… not lurking in the shadows waiting for their books to sell. It is extremely refreshing to witness. It also means that I can get to know what is going on fairly fast.
I am sure I will be writing more about this as I go, but for now I am very pleased to find so much happening, so readily available. It really does make Amsterdam a thoroughly Literate City.