National Po-e-Zë (Poetry) Competition in Kosovo

“If I could stir
I could break a tree–
I could break you.” — The Garden, by H.D.*

Yesterday, six students (three from each of the schools where I teach) went to Pristina to compete in a first annual national poetry recitation competition.

This was an interesting experience for me for a number of reasons, one of them being that I am learning to roll with the punches in Kosovo. Two weeks ago, my counterpart and another teacher went with me to the local municipality to inquire about funding for transportation to the competition. I was gone most of last week for a Peace Corps conference in Pristina, and on Friday, I learned we still hadn’t gotten an answer about the money. With the competition only three days away, my American need for efficiency and organization began to reach panic levels. But my school director went to the municipality, and they agreed to pay for a van to transport me and all six students to the event. Later, my counterpart went back to the municipality with a taxi driver he knows in order to collect the check. I am very lucky to have a director and counterparts who support me.

Monday morning, me, six students, and another teacher who decided to join us at the last minute, all piled into a van and went to Pristina.

The poetry competition (which is based on the U.S. competition for students called “Poetry Out Loud”) was held at the American Corner in Kosovo’s National Library, which continually find its place on “World’s Ugliest Buildings” lists. Having seen it several times in real life, I would be more generous and say it is “unique and interesting-looking.”

Kosovo’s National Library

I am proud of my students. They all did well, though none of them placed in the competition. I am also proud of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers, Val and Zac, for organizing such a huge event.

At the American Corner in Kosovo’s National Library
Inside the National Library. See? It’s not so ugly.
Zac, explaining the competition rules

This day meant a lot to my students. Being able to accompany them to such an important event meant a lot to me, too.

*This is an excerpt from a poem one of my students recited. I enjoyed hearing a young girl say such powerful words.

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