“Le comptoir des mots” for Europe

One of the poems in this project is “Le comptoir des mots,” which I wrote in Paris in February 2016 and was inspired by an encounter with a great friend, Philippe Parizot-Clerico. The title (literally “The counter of words”) refers to the name of a bookshop just off Place Gambetta. The poem has been translated into English and French by two other great friends, Albert Gatt and Elizabeth Grech.

I was invited to write a poem for this project called “In European Poetry I want to live” by the Rona Mathlener Projects Foundation (RMP) in relation to the Dutch Chairmanship of the European Union during the first half of the year 2016. RMP has invited two poets from all 28 member states of the European Union to write a poem on the following subjects: Europe and the Refugee, Europe and The Peace, Europe and Democracy. Subjects which deeply move the people of Amsterdam as well as every citizen of the European Union.



Poetry from 28 European Member States prominently on display throughout Amsterdam in May

Within the framework of Eu2016 residents of Amsterdam will have the opportunity to take in 56 poems by 28 younger and 28 older poets from 28 European Member States at various locations in the city from 2 – 31 May 2016. The Rona Mathlener Projecten Foundation aims to put these poems on public display with a view to engendering greater awareness among a broad and diverse audience for topics such as refugees, peace and democracy. The project is entitled ‘In European Poetry I want to live’.


Accessible to a broad audience

The driving force behind this project, Rona Mathlener, explains that ‘In European Poetry I want to live’ was initiated in response to the Dutch chairmanship of the European Union. ‘I wanted to set up a project in which all 28 member states could participate. Additionally, I wanted to create a project that would appeal to a broad and diverse audience. I then hit upon the concept of showing poetry, translated into Dutch and English, in the Amsterdam metros, at tourist offices, at the Cineville cinema chain and on the The Wall of Europe by People digital screen. An online and offline project, by New Europeans, a group of young artists, designers and researchers.’ The poems will be on display at each of the locations in the week of 4 and 5 May, which is the week in which the Netherlands commemorates its war victims and the liberation.


Selection of poems

Mathlener decided that the best vehicle to suit her purpose would be poetry, considering that poems have multiple layers and words have a visual capacity to fuel the imagination. ‘I consider poetry the best possible medium for public spaces. It’s easy to present your vision using poetry without being pushy,’ explains Mathlener. This cultural entrepreneur hopes that her project will bring questions to mind such as: What is Europe and what does it mean? Is Europe more than a crisis? Can Europe act as a binding force? And, if so, what is the connecting factor that ties all Europeans together?


Selection of European poetry

Rona Mathlener collaborated closely on ‘I want to live in European poetry’ with various Dutch and international organisations in the field of poetry for the selection of the 56 poems (28 by younger poets and 28 by older poets, representing 28 EU Member States). Each of these poems addresses the topics of Europe and Refugees, Europe and Peace, and Europe and Democracy. One of the poems that wasselected was that by the Czech poet Petr Hruška, with the title A Room for the Night:



the big trucks roared like ravenous

beasts of the night

you called out the price to me

a room for two people

the guy from the gas station

angular with lack of sleep

led us up a steep staircase

Berlin Krakow Trieste all of it

was in the past now

I had never seen

such a narrow room

when we wanted to turn around

we had to embrace


Locations where the poems are on display

The poetry will be on display this month on the digital billboards in the eight biggest metro stations, Amsterdam Central Station and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

On The Wall of Europe by People digital screen

On the digital screens of the VVV Tourist Offices at Amsterdam Central Station and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

At the Kriterion Cinema


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