A Brief History of The Maastricht International Poetry Nights
In this year the 53rd World Congress of PEN International was held in Maastricht. During the congress two Poetry Nights were organised which drew large audiences. This gave rise to the idea of organising a regular international poetry festival in Maastricht which would host local and national poets as well as writers from surrounding countries and selected countries in other parts of the world. At the same time Poetry International in Rotterdam suggested including Maastricht in a tour of Poetry on the Road.
In June of this year Poetry on the Road finally came to the new Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht with a small group of poets from various countries. There was a huge public interest in the readings, which included a poetry afternoon for children.
After a careful evaluation of the event it was decided that Maastricht would henceforth steer its own course and organise a bi-annual poetry festival.
The first edition of The Maastricht International Poetry Nights were held on 13, 14 and 15 June in the circular auditorium of the Bonnefantenmuseum, where the river Maas formed the romantic backdrop to the event. The newly designed programme featured two guests of honour, Les Murray (Australia) and Cees Nooteboom (Netherlands), who were interviewed before giving a special poetry reading. Brief intervals preceded further readings by the other guests. During the mornings there was a special programme for children. Foreign guests and local writers met on Sunday afternoon at a festive performance 'Maastricht and the rest of the world'.
The second Maastricht International Poetry Nights were extended to four days; the children's programme was extended, as was the number of guests of honour: Seamus Heaney (Ireland), Wilma Stockenstrφm (South Africa) and Gerrit Kouwenaar (Netherlands). On the opening night poet and critic Wiel Kusters (Netherlands) read the first of a series of essays with the general title 'About Poetry / Over Poëzie'. Once more the Maastricht festival cooperated with the Kulturbüro of the town of Aachen and the Antwerp festival Dichters in Elzenveld, enabling the poets to read their work further afield. In 2000 this led to a small initial conference of European little poetry festivals in Maastricht, with a follow up in 2001 in (waar ook al weer?). The Sunday afternoon was once more reserved for a meeting between local and international writers under the title 'Maastricht on the sea', remembering that the town's international contacts were once maintained through its position as an inland port.
For the third time The Maastricht International Poetry Nights were held at the Bonnefantenmuseum. As in the second edition the festival was opened with the reading of an essay 'About Poetry / Over Poëzie' by poet and critic Maarten Doorman (Netherlands). Guests of honour were Jan Owen (Australia), Gennadij Ajgi (Russia) and Rutger Kopland (Netherlands). This year saw the first presentation of the 'Hans Berghuisstok voor Poëzie', the literary award of the Maastricht town council. The bi-annual prize consisting of a walking stick which has belonged to the poet Hans Berghuis and a sum of money was awarded to the Chinese poet Duo-duo. The programmes for the children were entrusted to the members of 'Het Griezelgenootschap' (The Ogre Company) whose show proved the most popular event of the year. The final session on Sunday afternoon was for a selection of young Dutch poets.