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First in a series asking poets to write about their local scene.  Contributions to this series are welcomed.
Strange place Amsterdam

by Barry Fitton

Strange place Amsterdam, this guy from Rochdale came over and after a few hours in the coffee shops & bars in the red light district needed a piss… up the alley he went ,no one except a couple shagging against the wall and a junkie cooking up a fix to be seen…O yes  I forgot the two guys playing with each other on the other side….anyway there they all were letting it all hang out so to speak when along comes a cop on his bike, torch in hand and arrests him for “wild pissing’….        .”wait a bloody minute” he says “what about those people” …….the cop looks around smiles and says “they are not doing anything wrong, you are”

    That little story explains the paradox that is Amsterdam (I think).    It’s a city where anything goes, poets jump from balcony’s shouting their poetry across the ceiling or they emerge from box’s followed by cello’s  and violins, A place where you enter a church and see punks and Rasta’s beating drums and holding fire rituals, a place where to be a poet is to be alive. No censorship, no bulllshit. 

    Ideas like what is & is not PC.( In the UK I could never keep up with what I thought was just a load of crap, every time you looked around the words had changed, they had become like Yuppie artefacts used for a while and then changed to whatever was ‘in’) here a ‘Les’ is a Les, A Queer a Queer, and a black is a black……and poets are.. ….poets…..and every one works with each other…the only PC thing is  “we are people”  let’s have a look at some of them starting with the Beats & the provos and what they are doing at this time ,sadly one or two of them are not with us anymore…….but the ones that are keep it together in many different ways, there is the squatted village at Ruigoord just outside Amsterdam, Hans Plomp lives there amid a motley crew of Artists,scuptors and clowns called the ‘Balloon Company. A bus and a boatload of artistic activists. That move around the globe as though frontiers did not exist. and it is here that once a year they have an International poetry festival around April. This is held in the church and the bars and the fields on board boats in tents and Yurts, and even in the streets, houses become giant posters filled with poems, children & poets spill out of them at all hours of the day and night, you walk in the streets to the smell of roast potatoes & weed, veggie burgers and chillums,  fires flicker in the nearby fields and the sound of didgaree doo’s haunt the lamp lit streets.

    As you walk on the path around the dyke, you pass towering sculptors  of metal and wood, plastic and words….creations of Aja Waalrijk, who strolls among them, tall and gaunt not unlike a latter day Burroughs, by his side are musicians from Mongolia already they are composing the music for the next poem. by his side his lady seeks herbs for her medicine bag, a priestess , a healer, his love.

    On the stage in the circus tent….Lennie ST Luce from Birmingham is doing her ‘Garlic’ poem, people are falling  from their chairs laughing, she finishes, and like a boxer she delivers the next punch, a poem/song about women in Africa, the audience reels in shock and before they can recover another blow is delevered,and another and another until both she and the audience are exhausted by the range of emotions that she as created and shared with them.

    In the church its party time and poet spotting is the name of the game,    in one corner discussing lost friends are Hakim Bey and Ira Cohen, by their side sits one of Holland’s most exciting young poets, Sven Ariaans , seven hours of poetry living in his head, when he performs the air around him becomes alive with the  sound of his voice his arms gesture wildly as he tells tale after tale. at the Bar as usual stands Grijs Ter Haar, tall, bald and covered with jailhouse tattoos, lurking like Lurch giant unnameable breed of dog by his side, composing as always those delicate poems that he is known for, with him are Jan Dominique of “it’s a moie Dag” fame, strange and dark in all his gothic splendour tattooed face sending sparks into the strobe lights, and, also with them from Bosnia is ‘Vesna’ like a midget by their side, sweet tiny Vesna who travels Europe with her poems and message of peace.