To mark the XII UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) Meeting in Krakow and Katowice, 51 poets from 28 UNESCO Cities of Literature were invited to contribute work to an anthology, Poetic Encounters, in their native language. Two Icelandic poets, Soffía Bjarnadóttir and Bragi Ólafsson, contributed poems to the collection.

The project was initiated by Heidelberg UNESCO City of Literature and Fabriano UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art, who worked jointly to produce a handbound and printed anthology in celebration of linguistic diversity through the practice of poetry. The book was gifted to the mayors of Krakow and Katowice by the mayors of Heidelberg and Fabriano at the annual meeting of the UCCN.

The project brought together poets from across the globe to celebrate UNESCO’s collaborative spirit of creativity and the pivotal position of literature in world culture. The texts were handwritten on handmade folio-sized paper made by the Museum of Paper and Filigree in Fabriano. They were then decorated and bound by Italian sculptor and calligrapher Malleus (Enrico Ragni).

In undertaking the project, folio-sized paper was sent from Fabriano via Heidelberg to all UNESCO Cities of Literature worldwide. The poets scrawled their poems in their native language on the papers, which were then returned to Fabriano, along with printed English-language translations, for binding . 

A film about the production process edited by Tel Aviv UNESCO City of Media Arts with music provided by Mannheim UNESCO City of Music was shown during the UCCN event. The soundtrack of the film is drawn from the joint music project ‘Mix the City – Mannheim’.

Reykjavík City of Literature also produced a short film of the Icelandic poets writing their poems in the book at Gröndalshús, which is named after its former owner, the writer, artist, and scholar Benedikt Gröndal, who lived in the house from 1888 until his death in 1907. The house is run as a literary meeting place and writer’s residency by the UNESCO.

Reykjavík City of Literature emphasized their delight at the Icelandic poets’ participation and the “beautiful project that highlights our belief that poetry and art builds bridges between cultures and people, both within our communities and worldwide.

Reykjavík has produced a bilingual web edition of the book, which will be available on their website this summer in the original languages and in English translation. Ólafsson’s poem, “Twenty lines about the city”, was translated into English by Lytton Smith and Bjarnadóttir’s, “I am here”, by Meg Matich.