Ponton – a stepping stone for young

A lot of young people are engaged in cultural activities. They compose music, create computer games and websites, they immerse themselves in role-playing games and theatrical activities, design jewellery and clothes. And these are only some of the areas in which young people communicate their creative talents. As for literature they express themselves in lyrics, fanzines, poems, novels, short stories and will on occasion perform in poetry slam competitions, monologues and other kinds of performances.

Since the early 1990s Stockholm Public Library has arranged creative writing courses under the tutelage of an author for people in the age category 11-15. Those teaching feel that a week of intensive creative writing improves everyone’s level of standard, regardless of previous linguistic or literary ability. But then what? Young people want their efforts to be read, yet are seldom considered good enough to be published. There are several websites where young people (and adults) can place their texts, but a text on the web has yet to reach the same status as seeing one’s own text in print. A printed text has been read and edited and considered to be of sufficient value for it to be printed. Occasionally young people will have poetry published in the local press or certain periodicals, and then there are the publishing houses who with even less regularity might release an anthology of debutants. But such possibilities are few and far between and require young people to stay well informed and well connected.

Ponton is a periodical managed by young writers and with young writers, giving these writers in the age category 15-21 the opportunity to have their texts published and read. The initiative was set in motion by two library consultants at the Stockholm Public Library in 1997, the year when Stockholm was designated European Capital of Culture. A formal organisation came into being as a result of this, and for the past ten years it has published the periodical. Ponton is published on a quarterly basis and has its own website, www.ponton.nu. It is reliant upon government and municipal subsidies, yet has attracted subscribers and sells single copies.

In many respects Ponton has become a culturally creative hotbed for young people. The editorial staff consists of about fifteen young people, also in the age category 15-21, and is placed at the young people’s library punktMedis at Medborgarplatsen public library in Stockholm. Poems, but also short stories and novels, are submitted to the editors of Ponton from all over Sweden. The editorial staff is led by two parttime employed editors, and under their guidance texts are read and about 15 are selected for publication in each issue. Under the heading “Profil” (Profiles) the authors are given a more personal presentation. A text can, with the consent of the author, receive comments by one of the editors. Ponton also contains articles and interviews by and about young as well as more established authors, written by the editorial staff. Book reviews are a recurring fixture. Young people also contribute photographs, drawings and comics to illustrate the texts.

Ponton arranges release parties and readings at punktMedis in order to reach out to a wider audience. Each year members of the editorial board partake in quite a few cultural festivals in and around Stockholm, creative writing work shops and are given support slots at poetry readings to headlining established authors. The publishing house ‘En bok för alla’ has published an anthology containing poems from the first seven years of Ponton. Ponton has also sent a voluntary member on the editorial board to Spain as part of the EU Youth Programme.

Ponton is of value for those young people interested in cultural activities. They learn to read and discuss literary texts, write articles, work together with other young people and adults. They learn to manage a magazine, respond to the responsibilities that come with it and to its form and content. There is also the added bonus of seeing so many of those who had their first literary efforts published in Ponton or were members of the editorial board, to have gone on and made their debut as authors of fiction or have become journalists in the media business. There are even those who have moved on to stand-up comedy.

Reading and writing are well suited to each other, and there are several Swedish public libraries involved in work shops for creative writing, poetry slam competitions and who publish local literary anthologies. In 2003 the Swedish Library Association approved new
recommendations regarding public library activities for children and young people, based on the terms stipulated in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In the first paragraph it is stated that libraries should offer children and young people the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Not all libraries have the necessary funding to publish books or periodicals, but all libraries can encourage the imaginative writings of young people by organising creative writing work shops and readings and inform them as to what kind of possibilities there are in getting published. Libraries can also collect and make accessible what is being written and produced by young people. The library can make a difference, make it visible and that information, encouragement and exposure can be crucial to a young creative person.

Love:

Can you shoot up my trouser leg
And eat me out like chocolate?

Could you please be my ticket-tray,
I am so earnest,
More than that play.
(By the dollar-green man.)

I want you to get me:

Five sweet smelling packs of Marlboro 90s,
One vanilla latte in a claret cup,
Two bags of Doritos, a plump heart, some self-esteem,
And a record deal.

You think you can handle that?

An O & A

Oranges I eat, since a young toddler bundle,
Fruits I’ve picked like parcels off my tablet,
Smacking my lips
In drawn content,
Silent fulfilment.

It never got any better than that.
The melancholy gloss around the apple’s orbit could
have foretold it;
I’ve always been an easy-goer, long-shot thrower,
A procrastinating queen of lock-jaw despair…

Georgia O’Keefe Riddle

Purple petals,
Suggestively scattered on an opaque landscape,
Scheduled to drop on Friday the 30th.

Vague portents where there.
Where there?
The Alice who seeks shall find the hare.
As malevolence is bypassed by benediction,
To my surprise I’ve turned into fiction.

Dési, give life a serious gaze,
Chance you loose your grip and get stuck in this haze.

Désirée Wariaro

Lena Lundgren
Treasurer for the Association tidskriften Ponton
lena.lundgren AT kultur.stockholm.se

Translation: Jonathan Pearman

Treasurer for the Association tidskriften Ponton