© Dries Luyten

All Antwerp’s city poets have resigned

In Antwerp the four remaining city poets have all resigned.  They say a decision by the City of Antwerp to axe subsidies to cultural projects was the last straw. The resignation took the city authorities by surprise.

Earlier city poet Ruth Lasters resigned.  She was upset, when on the first day of school, the city authorities refused to accept a poem that was critical of what she saw as the unequal treatment of children and youngsters in vocational schools.

Following Ruth’s resignation the remaining poets started talks with the city authorities with the aim of discovering whether poets still possess sufficient space for criticism.

The goal was a precise agreement with the city authorities on the role of city poets.  Two months on there’s no sign of an accord.  “My patience isn’t without bounds” said poet Lies Van Gasse.  All four remaining poets have now resigned.  The decision to axe subsidies for cultural projects also played a role in their decision.

“These were means to make art more accessible, more contemporary and broader” says poet Lotte Dodion. “This isn’t a quick budget fix.  It’s a death wish.  I believe in poetry as a means of creating warmth in society.  This contrasts with the coldness of the city authorities and the social vision they propagate.  It’s irreconcilable”.

All city poets have now written an individual letter of resignation setting out their grievances.

In response Antwerp alderwoman for culture Nabilla Ait Daoud (nationalist) says the city poets didn’t give the city authorities enough time. She’s surprised by their decision and insists efforts were being made to reach a solution.

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