Andre prosjekter
Companions: Tel Aviv og Ramallah
Poeter i Palestina

The companions of Henrik Wergeland - the bridge-building possibility of poetry. An evaluation of the journey to Israel and Palestine May 2009. By Helle Bjerkan

Through the idea of The companions of Henrik Wergeland the enthusiastic truth- and freedom-work of Wergeland has the possibility to live and work further on.

The old – and dead! – poet Henrik Wergeland was a poet with a great spirit – he lived all his life with this burning spirit, burning for freedom, truth and love, relating to the whole of cosmos, both to the small things in life, as a bird and a tree, but also to friendship between nations and to the joy of life. Because of this great spirit, he is still alive. And he inspires people to go all the way for instance to the Middle East, to meet other people, all in the name of poetry, peace and understanding! I were myself one of these lucky ones, who had the marvellous opportunity to make this adventurous journey to countries so far away from mine and Wergelands cold country up in the north. Together with the Wergeland-expert, translator and poet Geir Uthaug and professor in human rights, Tore Lindholm, we visited Tel Aviv and Ramallah, with lectures, conversations and poetry readings.

Taking into account Norway’s profile as a peace-working nation, the humanistic values that Europe have won, and the connection between poetry and the struggle of the individual for inner freedom and truth – one can imagine meetings between people with great differences according human rights, material comfort and personal possibilities – all in the sign of neutrality. One can imagine meetings which involves people who initially belong to cultures in conflict, but who can achieve a common meeting point through poetry, this non-violent activity. Poetry is an activity which broadly wishes to explore and to express the personal experience of the individual relating to its existential conditions, and it is a common human language; the relation of the individual to its inner and outer world is expressed, according to culture, but also according to common human conditions. The meeting point is: what it means to be a human being, the struggle for life, for joy, freedom, personal identity, human rights and dignity.

Tel Aviv and Ramallah
With this as a background we met with a lot of wonderful poets and other cultural connected people in Israel and Palestine. We had meetings and readings in Tel Aviv and in Ramallah, unfortunately without the opportunity for the poets of the two different countries to meet. We experienced of course great differences between the two countries. In Tel Aviv we experienced a modern, western like big city. The arrangement at the Diaspora-museum was sophisticated, with a sensible audience where many of them already seemed to know – and love – Henrik Wergeland.

In Ramallah we met both established and very young poets, and we were warmed by heart by the intensity, energy and joy by these people. Here we could really sense the existential conditions poetry rises from.

We also experienced the differences regarding the reception of our little Norwegian group: Tel Aviv is a big cultural centre, with a lot of activities always ongoing, and the interest regarding Wergeland and Norwegian poetry were maybe not at its peak. In Ramallah we were received with a lot of enthusiasm and our visit were highly appreciated.

We will of course still express our deepest gratitude towards Naomi and Yisrael Daliot in Israel, these bridge-building soldiers in the name of Norwegian culture, who guided us through the event in Tel Aviv, and also before and after!

Poetry and human rights
We, the Norwegian troika, have without doubt heightened our knowledge and insights into the cultural conflict between the actual countries, and we have receiveda lot of knowledge about the two cultures. Besides, we have made valuable and fine connections to the individuals we met. The meeting between individuals and the personal relationships that occurs are probably the most valuable gain received through journeys like this. Personal meetings can bring new and surprising ideas, and create possibilities for further cooperation. Least, but not last: The combination of poetry and human rights seemed like a natural one, not surprisingly, but sometimes forgotten in the sophisticated western culture.

I would like to thank the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for making this new and original bridge-building activity possible: poetry in the name of truth and freedom, compassion and tolerance. The small words of poetry, this army of truth, are not a very visible activity in our beautiful, but chaotic world; still these small words are an essential part of civilisations, and needs continually to be connected both with our clear minds and our warm hearts.