UNITED NATIONS SOCIETY OF WRITERS SPONSORS A POETRY READING ON THE LAKE
On Saturday 10 March beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing until well past noon, the United Nations Society of Writers/Société des Ecrivains des Nations Unies and its literary journal Ex Tempore co-sponsored a “happening” at the Bains de Paquis, including the reading of lake poetry by Alphonse de Lamartine, Rainer Maria Rilke and Hermann Hesse, with translations into English and Russian.
Under a pristine blue sky, balmy winds, and facing the glory of the jet d’eau rising majestically over the rade, we listened mesmerized as Antony Hequet declaimed his poem “Je parle le langage du feu… j’écoute les voix de l’eau”. Antony , a Geneva poet and artist, old friend of UNSW and member of “Earth Focus”, an ngo that promotes sustainable development and a respectful relationship with our environment, including all fauna and flora, animated the group of young and old enthusiasts of Lac Leman and of the River Rhone. Already two years ago Antony, who frequently writes for Ex Tempore (vol. 22, “A quoi servent les contes, les legends, les myths et la poésie”), launched a poetic ritual called “flux”, aimed at re-establishing a relationship with fundamentals, with the sources of life, with the elements such as fire and water. Antony has performed this poetic ritual at Ex Tempore salons, and several times on the Rhone River and at various sites on the shores of Lake Geneva.
It is magic, as anyone who has participated will tell you. Once again, it gave us all more than just one frisson, a pleasurable shiver, a tingle in the spine reminiscent of so many early experiences. “Flux” is intended to lift us out of routines, habits, numbed feelings and misanthropy. The world is so immensely rich and the spiritual riches are there for the taking – the joy of just listening to the surf, the rustling of the trees, the transcendental light of glaciers. There is so much to be thankful for, and if we truly believe in human dignity, we must first have a positive attitude about our environment, about human nature, about the great potential in all of us, just waiting to be released. Only if we believe in humanity can we promote human rights. Far from a Manichean splitting of the world into “good guys” and “bad guys” and seeking to condemn and punish, human rights means tolerance, patience, perseverance, faith. Human rights also means being reconciled with the world, being happy with ourselves and with our neighbours, seeing ourselves as part of nature, part of the universe, and not as “owners” of this or of that. Nature is inexhaustibly inspiring, and we should rejoice, not only belly-ache about real or imagined problems. Gaudeamus igitur.
We can take pleasure in just breathing fresh air from the lake, in watching the seagulls fly over our heads, the ducks gliding on the gentle waves, the swans alighting noisily on the water. The lake is a symbol of continuity, admired by human eyes for thousands of years — Helvetians, Romans, reformers, refugees, statesmen. Julius Caesar, Jean Calvin, Vladimir Lenin were all here, and they all experienced the lake – in different ways — and the fast waters of the Rhone. Heraclitus knew that everything changes and evolves — "No man ever steps in the same river twice" – and yet, there is this undeniable continuity. If you pick up a pebble from the lake, just think that a young boy may have had it in his hand on a summer day fifty years ago, a hundred years ago. As you climb down the rocks into the water, to immerse yourself in the waves, imagine how many have done it before you – and how many will do it after you. If you are into numismatics and hold a coin from Roman times in your hands, or a coin from the time of Calvinus, just think that someone once bought himself a glass of wine with it, just as we would do today. There is a true universality of spirit that joins all men and women in all regions of the world. We have so much more in common than differences that set us apart.
Water has inspired countless poets, including Lamartine, who wrote his wonderful Ode to Lac Le Bourget:
“Ainsi, toujours poussés vers de nouveaux rivages,
Dans la nuit éternelle emportés sans retour.
Ne pourrons-nous jamais sur l’océan des âges
Jeter l’ancre un seul jour? »
It is necessary to pause for a moment, open our eyes and enjoy a stroll on the Quai Wilson, relate to the alleys of plane trees, the firs and the lime trees, enjoy discovering a thousand different flowers at the Botanical garden, marvel at the miracle of a butterfly in spring, focus on the horizon, on the splendour of the Mont Blanc and the Aravis, on the sheer beauty of a sunset over the lake.
UN Special readers are invited to write about these and other topics and to forward your essays, short stories and poems to David Winch, President UNSW, firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Carla Edelenbos, Vice-President email@example.com. We need many new UNOG authors, from ILO, WHO, WIPO, ITU, WTO, etc. There is so much talent in the house that should not be exclusively devoted to drafting reports and resolutions.
By the way, Antony intends to repeat these happenings regularly and the UNSW will inform its members of the dates. Otherwise it is suggested that interested persons contact Antony directly at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alfred de Zayas