This past Saturday evening, we helped celebrate the 20th anniversary of a fellowship program between the VCCA in Amherst, VA, and the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, located in the Bavarian village of Schwandorf. During the past 20 years, one hundred artists have traveled back and forth between the two colonies, inspiring exhibitions, translations, concerts, events and other creative collaborations.*
On Oct. 17, 2009, the VCCA marked the occasion with art and music created by the exchange artists. The event included a retrospective art exhibition and a concert of music for piano by Bavarian composer Jens Barnieck
The VCCA's international exchange program with seven artists' communities abroad is the oldest and largest of its kind in the country.
This event helped to emphasize not just the value of international collaboration, but also the expansive creative value of a community made up not solely of writers, composers, or visual artists, but of artists from all of these disciplines. I can personally attest, for instance, that Mr. Barnieck is not only an impressive musician; he is also a formidable player of ex libris (a card game)
, and fooled almost all of us on the last line of a Daphne du Maurier novel. The director of the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Heiner Reipl,
a painter, spent part of an evening discussing Petrarch's sonnets with a few of us fiction writers. For my part, I was able to add value to the cultural exchange by introducing our German guests to American Twizzlers. I'm afraid they were not particularly impressed.
I've included the Petrarch sonnet we were discussing, which Mr. Reipl interpreted as an order to writers to write of their experiences, and to do so out of love of writing. I'm just about the worst at interpreting poetry, and I can't remember the last time I read Petrarch, but if the translation is true (and I'm no judge of that, either) the speaker in the poem also appears to be urging the reader/writer to write specifically about his experiences with love. The question is, does one interpret the order to write, as supplied by "love" in the first line of the sonnet, as a love of writing, or as love, in general, saying "write about what you've seen of me." I'd be curious to hear from someone who knows the answer! (My apologies for the lack of accents in the first line, which I've included in Italian.)
Petrarch's Sonnet XCIII
Piu volte Amor m'avea gia detto:--Scrivi
Love had already often told me: --Write,
Write what you saw in clear letters of gold,
How my disciples' color I make white
And in one moment warm with life and cold.
There was a time when in yourself you felt
My strength, and were a sample of my choirs;
Then you were flattered by other desires,
But I overtook you when you rebelled.
And if the eyes where I showed you my spell
And where I used to settle and to fly
When I shattered the hardness of your soul,
Return to me the bow that conquers all,
Perhaps your face will not always be dry;
for I feed on your tears, you know it well.--
translated by Anna Maria Armi
[*Note: Part of the description of this event was reprinted from the VCCA blog