September 8th – The Festival of Locorhythmic Poetry

There are lines you can take around the Buentoille which mean you never have to leave your train carriage; they just keep going around and around in perpetual locomotion. The trains do stop overnight, but it is entirely possible to spend and entire day swooping around the City, occasionally dipping underground or reaching up above the streets on raised rails. There is a certain rhythm to all of this, to the rattle of the wheels on the tracks, the singing of the rails as the engine pulls to a halt, the voice through the crackling speakers reading out the names of each station as they come and go, the click and slide of the doors, the step of passengers getting on and off.

For some, this experience is meditative, for others is is repetitious and frustrating. There are at least two saints of the Chastise Church who gained their Attunement through meditating on the rhythmic nature of the Buentoilliçan rail. Since 1966 there has been an added noise on a certain carriage on this day, every year: the poetic stylings of the Carriage D Commutarian Rhapsodists (CDCR). Whilst its glory days are over, the group still garners significant interest from their fellow passengers, although some might argue that they have something of a captive audience, and several people actually avoid that particular carriage, or the trains altogether, today.

The CDCR was first formed over a number of meetings on the First Unified Line, the primary cyclical rail line, between the stations of Cantacle Roof and Beltwithy Spa, where several like-minded commuters frequently bumped into each other. After seeing the same person enough times you tend to nod in recognition, and slowly, if you are willing to share your time and personal space, this recognition can lead to communication, and even friendship, if you are lucky. It is not only lovers and enemies who meet on the daily commute, as films and television might have you believe. The CDCR started when Iamolo Dessanteviche was (perhaps somewhat rudely) looking over Bernard Kater’s shoulder at the poetry he was writing, and suggested an edit. It was a small thing, a word better suited to the tone of the piece, and once Kater had gotten over the unintended insult that only he felt, they became fast friends; both of them worked in publishing, after all, but had always wanted to produce their own work.

At its peak there were only five regular members of the Rhapsodists, their numbers swelling as the train progressed onwards, then ebbing again as everyone got off at their stops. New members joined here and there, as folks were drawn in by the small performances they gave once a week. Mostly the time they spent together, a short, liminal time, they spent writing together, editing each other’s work. They made a few performances, but nothing spectacular. A lot of the time they did no work, but just chatted about their days, about art, about their hopes and dreams. Eventually, as Kater and Dessanteviche moved on with their lives (Dessanteviche actually became a full-time writer, mostly of news articles, but she had five books of poetry published too; Kater wrote a few books for his children, but had never been interested in being published) and no longer travelled the same routes, the CDCR began to fracture. Eventually there were no meetings twice daily.

Yet despite their inability to meet up every work day, the Rhapsodists decided after some years that they missed each other, and so they designed the festival. Nowadays when the CDCR meets, none of those original members attend, but instead a new generation of poets visit that carriage, with its telltale marks of the first members; under the table are scratched the first three stanzas of Dessanteviche’s ‘Light and Dark Pass Over the Windows of Life’. A metaphor of life as a train continued to be a strong presence within her work for the poet’s career, and is what most remember Dessanteviche for.

The work of the new poets, who will today spend their time writing, editing and performing their poetry in sporadic bursts, tends to be characterised by long, free-form splurges of rhyming, rhythmic words which do not tell a tale directly, but which invoke certain sensations when taken as a whole. The more skilled poets (and there certainly is quite a range of skill, with some today making their first foray into the genre) manage to intertwine these concatenations of verse with the rhythms of the train itself, modulating their voice and pace so that they almost appear like another everyday element of this space, blending in with its familiar rattles and screeches.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Shiniest Rock
  • The Brakes of Love Stop the Sinful World – a Festival of Deep Prayer
  • The Festival of Hammers