LONDON, ENGLAND — The Chilean Casagrande Collective bombed London yesterday with poems from artists of the 204 countries participating in the Olympic games.
A few minutes after Big Ben rang at 9 p.m., poems poured from the sky, falling from a helicopter onto Jubilee Park. As little white pieces of paper flew through the air, people in the park began a spontaneous competition to catch them in mid-flight.
This downpour of poems belonged to an initiative of the Casagrande Collective, as part of Chile’s participation in the numerous cultural activities that precede the Olympics every four years.
The London event was inspired by the first poetry “bombardment” of La Moneda, the Chilean Presidential Palace, in 2001. This was led by local poets Julio Carrasco, Cristóbal Bianchi, and José Joaquín Prieto, founders of the Casagrande Collective.
“It is extremely important to us that, in this moment in history, poetry is launched through the air instead of bombs. This evidences the transformative power of poetry, whether it be through words or through concrete actions, like letting 100,000 poems storm London,” Prieto said.
“We wanted to create an image in the sky of these urban spaces that were once severely bombed, now in a completely different context,” said Bianchi.
The poems fell from the sky during the Parnassus Poetry Festival, reportedly the largest reunion of poets in the history of the world.
Attendees of the Parnassus Festival attempt to catch the poems mid-air. Photo: National Council of Culture and the Arts.
The Casagrande Collective’s first “poetry bombardment” occurred in Santiago in 2001, right after ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest, to celebrate freedom of expression by using a public space for this large demonstration of joy.
The Casagrande Collective counted on the support of the Council of Culture and the Arts to hold this event.
“We have supported the Casagrande Collective since 2010, when they bombarded Berlin with poems,” stated Luciano Cruz-Coke, Minister of Culture.
“They have our continued support because their initiatives contribute to a positive global image of Chile. This poetry downpour is a sort of offering than the Chileans are making to the British, as well as to athletes from all over the world,” he said.
The poems, released by a helicopter, contain the words of contemporary artists of all participating countries, and include the work of 50 Chilean poets and 50 British poets, translated into both English and Spanish.
After a successful literary bombardment of Berlin in 2010, organizers of the Parnassus Festival got in touch with the Casagrande Collective to host a repeat in London.
The Casagrande Collective has bombed Dubrovnik, Croatia and Guernica, Spain with poetry, as well as Warsaw, Poland and Berlin, Germany; once war-battered cities that have survived the onslaught of real bombs.