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Plans to designate 'official poet' for Brussels face criticism

14:26 11/08/2023

Brussels plans to inaugurate an official city poet in 2024 as part of greater plans to become named European Capital of Culture in 2030.

“City poetry can help put Brussels on the map as a vibrant city of culture,” said MEP Lotte Stoops (Groen). “Brussels 2030’s mission is in line with how Groen sees city poetry: collective, multilingual, Brussels through and through and bottom up.”

But that decision has sparked criticism from some who question whether it is a smart use of public money.

“An urban poet... does that have to be paid for by the public authorities?” questioned MR president Georges-Louis Bouchez on X (formerly Twitter). “I thought a poet was an artist who lived off public opinion... not a civil servant.”

MP and fellow party member Aurelie Czekalski seconded the sentiment.

“Brussels friends, you may not have known it yet but Brussels has won the Euromillions,” she wrote on the social media platform, citing an announcement of the plan to appoint a poet.

Details are still somewhat scant. The Brussels 2030 organisation will be responsible for choosing the jury and the selection of poets vying for the spot. The winner would be announced at the end of 2023, so that the city's official poetry could start in early 2024.

Such a post already exists in Antwerp and in Ghent and a 2020 poll from Bruzz showed support of the initiative from 70% of respondents.

Brussels minister Sven Gatz (Open VLD), in charge of promoting the image of the city, said a charter is being drawn up that will include general terms and conditions.

“This will obviously be done in consultation with experts,” Gatz said.

To ensure that urban poetry is as Brussels-based as possible, Stoops is advocating a multilingual approach.

“Urban poets offer an excellent opportunity to work on language skills in a fun way and to go on a voyage of discovery with children and people who speak other languages,” Stoops said.

Written by Helen Lyons