4.02.2007

Finding a writing community

One of the things we worried about a little in leaving Iowa and moving here was that we would really miss being with writers, and that if there even were people writing in English in Holland they would be far-flung and hard to find. (I was all set to start stalking Harry Mulisch, who I had heard frequented a local pub here in Haarlem, but it turns out he moved to Amsterdam long ago.)

Then traca de broon found Words in Here, and I wrote to Robert Glick who met me at a cafe in Amsterdam and started recommending some European writers, such as Michel Houellebecq, whom I had never heard of but whose novel The Possibility of an Island I am now halfway through and really digging. I delivered a standard list of American writers he should be reading, and several of the names were unfamiliar to him. So already a substantial exchange has begun. His group publishes a literary magazine called Versal and runs workshops. T and I went to their monthly get-together at this lovely bookshop last Thursday and then down the street to a cozy bar for more talking and pizza and beer and pool playing.

The participants were poets and fiction writers and a few others simply interested in writing. The ones who showed up that night come from Australia, California, Curacao, Montana, France, South Africa, Holland, and Germany. Some are beginners, some are published -- but the main point is they all live here and have found each other.

P.S. The photo for this post has nothing to do with writing. It's the new statue of the "unknown sex worker" that was unveiled in the red light district during an "open day" this weekend. We were there, but the little square by the Old Church was too crowded to actually get a look -- yes, the statue stands proudly in the courtyard around the church. This photo is the first look I've had of it.

2 comments:

traca de broon said...

My favorite line from the article about open day in the Red Light district:

"It is especially interesting for women. If they learn what we do here they will realize it is not a big deal if their husbands or boyfriends want to come here."

Abby said...

Sometimes the foothills of these mountains feel like a new country. When I moved to Barnesville, I looked for a group of writers, too. I headed over to Martin's Ferry, which is a half an hour away, but it's also the hometown of my beloved James Wright. They have a poetry festival there every spring. But I didn't find anyone. My local library doesn't have a book club, and the other teachers here don't have the interest. It's possible I quit looking way too soon and way too easily, but, in my defense, I did have sixty teenagers to raise. As much as I miss hanging with folks and talking about things, and as much as my own writing has atrophied without anyone to lay eyes on it, I have become a more discerning reader. Without someone else to look at a poem, I must be able to step out of the moment of writing the lines and into a moment of analysis. It's not better than another human, but it teaches me a lot. Still, I'd love to find someone in this part of Ohio, or even West Virginia, who are meeting to talk seriously about craft. I miss that.