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Young Russian Writers Try out Slam Poetry in Washington DC

Russian BTL participants pose for a group photo in front of the White House.
Russian BTL participants pose for a group photo in front of the White House.
After touring the Poetry Foundation in Chicago en route to Iowa at the beginning of the Between the Lines (BTL) Russia creative writing and cultural exchange program, and two weeks of intensive workshops, seminars, and literary events in Iowa City, the ten young aspiring Russian authors selected to participate in BTL 2013 bid farewell to their American peers and headed east to Washington D.C., the last stop on their U.S. trip.

With the statue of the great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), on the GWU campus.
With the statue of the great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), on the GWU campus.
In DC, they visited Kramer Books, toured the Newseum, and got an introduction to and a lesson in slam poetry from Split This Rock/DC Youth Slam, and later attended a performance by the DC Youth Slam at the Kennedy Center.

“The decision to focus on slam culture while in D.C. reflects the fact that spoken word poetry resonates with literary traditions around the world,” says IWP associate director Hugh Ferrer.

They also took advantage of the trip to learn more about American culture, visiting the National Museum of the American Indian, taking an evening stroll along the National Mall, visiting the White House, and even paying homage to the statue of the great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), located on the campus of The George Washington University.

Meeting with members of the Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Programs, US Dept of State
Meeting with members of the Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Programs, US Dept of State
In the spirit of experiencing new things, their last night in the United States students also tried out Ethiopian cuisine, sharing platters of stews and vegetable dishes scooped up with injera, a traditional spongy yeast-risen bread made from teff flour, their last collective meal before heading home to Russia.

Inna Dmitrieva of Petrozavodsk summed up the BTL experience this way: “America'13: 3 states; 6 flights; 29 people that changed my attitude to culture, literature and life.”

BTL Russia participants writing “BTL” on the floor of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
BTL Russia participants writing “BTL” on the floor of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Between the Lines Program Coordinator Kelly Morse couldn’t agree more. “Nothing sparks the mind quite like travel and cultural exchange. These talented young students now have experience with vibrant cities and small-town life in the USA. We’re excited to see how this experience shapes their writing.”

The International Writing Program will begin accepting applications for BTL 2014 next spring.

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