And then there were nine. Venezuela, Tunisia, Trinidad & Tobago, Singapore, Scotland, Pakistan and (after an exceptionally close match yesterday) India are all through to the quarter-finals of the Poetry World Cup. Today’s match between Laos and Iran will decide which poem takes the last available place in the quarters. In his blog, Laotian representative Bryan Thao Worra has described the Iranian poem as having ‘a wonderful backstory and depth’, and there’ll be a lot of mutual respect between the two poets here. Let the game begin!
MEET THE POETS
Iranian poet Payam Feili ‘has a dozen collections of poetry that haven’t yet seen the light of day.’ As an openly gay writer, he has suffered from having his work blacklisted by the censors at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Nogaam, an independent publisher based in London, are helping to translate Payam’s poems into English as part of a campaign to fight censorship. Our World Cup poem, ‘Eleven’, has been translated anonymously and is part of ‘White Field’, a collection of Payam’s love poetry in English translation.
Laotian poet Bryan Thao Worra has previously represented Laos as a Cultural Olympian during the 2012 Poetry Parnassus, and was involved in the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, promoting the work of Laotian and Hmong writers and artists. In addition to his poetry, he writes experimental fiction drawing on a variety of influences, including sci-fi and horror.
Malaysia’s Sharanya Manivannan was one of the few poets magnanimous enough to urge readers to vote for her opponent in the last round, and Iran duly won their game against Malaysia by 17 votes. Laos’ 37-vote victory over Lebanon was one of the most decisive of the competition so far, and they’ll be favourites to win today’s match if they can maintain that level of support.
I blossom, and I grow tall
O! Boy, tender is my torso
This dark Yalda night, upon a high wall
I delve into your solitude, I delve into you
Beneath the moonlight
Through that distant forest
Deep in that listless lake
I catch a glimpse of you in the stars…
~ Payam Feili
Given a thousand nights,
Can you master even a single word?
Or a dream, a tool, a brain?
Open roads, discover ways,
Flow down a stream, slash at ignorance
With ink and a scrap of paper from a poet’s bag.
Do you ever recall that demons are easy…
~ Bryan Thao Worra
RESULT: Laos won by 56 votes