History of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin
1991: they were fateful days… It was inevitable to talk about the war, a war that continues in a new phase. Many were those that were murdered because they were adolescents, others because they made cracks in society through their social struggle, and yet others, because of obscure reasons. Selective political crimes. Crossfire. Bombs planted by drug-traffickers. Hired assassins. Indiscriminate massacres in public places. Death squads terrorized the city. There was high tension in the state of mind of its population and even daily language fell into a stage of deplorable decline, spreading violence and unease.
We know that it is in difficult times, in times when life and sensibility are more affected, when the spiritual expressions springs up with greater strength. It is in fateful times when poetry raises its gaze toward the summits where light is captured.
Already since the eighties signs that announced this moment of our history were evident, showing the precarious state of the human condition, and it was under these circumstances that were published poetry reviews (Prometeo, Punto Seguido, Interregno) that, with scarce resources, brought before the public the work of local poets. Many of them had a brief life and very few managed to survive. Anthologies of Colombian poets were published —Poetas en Abril—, and the first poetry meetings were called by the Casa de Poesía Silva, under the slogan La poesía tiene la palabra (Poetry has its say). This is more or less the atmosphere that prevailed in 1991, when the International Poetry Festival of Medellín was founded.
Since 1982, the review Prometeo had constantly worked to spread the reading of poetry. It published world famous, established poets, and also local and foreign poets. Many were the authors and poetry movements that contributed to the formation of a new spirit. Their visions, poems and struggle to change life have had an influence on the nurturing of the spiritual transformation called for by our situation.
All this spiritual legacy of a living poetry, in constant movement, influenced by historical facts and with a critical attitude in defense of human dignity, exerts a fundamental influence that leads the review Prometeo, with the support of the city Cerro Nutibara management, to call a city-wide “Poetry Day”, on April 28, 1991.
Thirteen Colombian poets take part: Raúl Henao, Jorge Mario Echeverry, Fernando Linero, Gabriel Jaime
Franco, Javier Naranjo, Carlos Vázquez, Fernando Rendón,
Jairo Guzmán, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Carlos Enrique Ortiz, J. Arturo
Sánchez, Angela García y Jorge Iván Grisales.
They have an audience of some 1,500 persons. It is the way for poets to counter the constant spiritual deterioration of the city and the reigning darkness. Poetry readings, dance and theatrical adaptations of poems, theatrical monologues, and videos on the life and work of some Colombian poets, and creative writing workshops, are the events that make possible the establishment of new symbols, a more habitable dimension and a collective imaginary peopled by visions awakened by the poetic sensitivity.
It is a vital collective action, intervening in the social sphere with the poetic word as a revitalizing spirit, just when many are losing their lives absurdly, in the horror of the slaughter. A fragment of the organizing committee expressed on that occasion:
“It so happens that in this city there is a vigorous growth of the poetic
expression, from anonymity to that which is identified by the heart, a collective
event which makes real Saint-John Perse’s call: ‘Let the poet say clearly to all the pleasure of living in this strong time. Our call is formulated in the signal that binds us together and becomes a ritual and a celebration.”
One can see that the audience identifies itself deeply with poetry. One can perceive its cathartic action and hints about the possibility of reviving the liturgical being that survives in our innermost being. The whole city, in its different social levels, realizes the transcendence of this event, which since then has been part of its spiritual and cultural life.
The II International Poetry Festival took place between April 23 and 29, 1992,
with the participation of 37 poets from Europe and America. Daniel Samoilovich
(Argentina), Cuban poets Víctor Rodríguez
Nuñez and Antonio Conte, Miguel Donoso Pareja (Ecuador), Adolfo Castañón
(Mexico), Edmundo Aray (Venezuela), Antonio Cisneros (Peru), Manipiniktikinia
Kuna-Tule Nation, Panama), Carlos Sahagún
(Spain) and the Colombian poets Juan Manuel Roca, José
Manuel Arango, Samuel Jaramillo, Eduardo Peláez, Fernando Charry
Lara, Rogelio Echavarría, Gabriel Jaime Franco, Rómulo Bustos,
Javier Naranjo, Fernando Rendón, Fernando Linero, Guillermo Martínez
González, Horacio Benavides, Yirama Castaño, Jairo Guzmán,
Jota Arturo Sánchez, Tarcisio Valencia, Margarita Cardona, Rafael
Patiño, Jorge Iván Grisales, Jesús Rubén Pasos,
Sarah Beatriz Posada, Antonio Correa, Gustavo Garcés, Orlando Gallo,
José Libardo Porras, and Luz Helena Cordero.
There are 16 poetry readings. The musical group Clave de Luna from the Taller de Artes de Medellín takes part. There are also lectures and movie and video cycles. The festival has the support of the Instituto Quirama.
It is something unprecedented in Colombia, in regard to the participation of international poets, as well as the considerable number of Colombian poets that are invited. But most surprising is the massive assistance of people, and their open attitude toward the signs that constitute the poetic image.
It is certainly a most surprising event given the immense audience (20,000 persons in the different venues). It is necessary to stage poetry readings in the streets, with loudspeakers, for the people who can not get in the venues, and who press against the doors. The readings take place in different packed houses at the same time.
Thus is initiated, according to the organizers’ plan, a new moment in which “poetry unexpectedly grows in our lives, blocks the way of violence and waits for youth in its own body. It escapes from books and museums, from the aristocratic disdain of scholars, and meddles in the tortured sensitivity of the streets, taking by storm the heart and the senses”, as one reads in the inaugural statement.
A territory is thus opened to reveal the dignity of poetry, its liberating action and the conscience of the other. A restoring oxygen to live is generated. A new style of resistance is made possible facing the conflicts that go against the spiritual and cultural life, whose expression suffers the blows of a widespread panic. This aspect is basic to understand the further and growing development of this event, whose characteristics establish it as a new form of assuming the proposals of possible worlds through the language of poetry.
The attitude of countering social as well as spiritual decline with the language of poetry, and that with this purpose a representative sector of the population takes part, is the cause of the International Poetry Festival not being lived as one more spectacle. In those days, the organizers declard in their announcement: “By
its very nature, poetry becomes an antidote to barbarity and a fundamental
means of knowledge, a new vision and a new attitude that renews the spirit
of a deeply shocked city, without which a new language and firm hope in the
communion between men and women would not be possible.”
They are truly splendid days, when something that had long ago been forgotten is made visible: our capacity of making symbols, our marvelous and magic condition of having a voice that becomes a unity in multiplicity, through the silence that allows us to listen and which is the very nature of our heart of hearts.
One of the participants, the Mexican poet Adolfo Castañón, said in an interview something that reveals one of the multiple ranges of the Festival:
“In Latin America we are more concerned to talk than to hear, more concerned
about writing than about reading, more concerned to appear on the stage than
to be spectators. And a Festival like this is a sort of great challenge to
pay attention. The value of this is to suspend for a moment the world and
to allow us to hear it in its innocent, original, forms. And these are forms
of attention. We not only live fast, we also live without knowing what we
want. What we need is attention… The important thing about this Festival, though it sounds paradoxical, is that it makes us pay attention to silence.”
This aspect underlined by the poet is essential to understand the atmosphere generated in the readings, where the dimensions dug into by each poet make it a collective reality.
Experience has confirmed that the Festival is more than a literary gesture, that it has the dimension of a catarsis, that it achieves a liturgy in its deepest silence, so that the poetic voice can resurrect images. There one perceives that, facing violence, it is possible to build a protective membrane of imagination. The liberating effect of the II Festival allowed us to project it in a wider scope, with the aspiration of having a larger coverage in a city deeply affected by fear.
The III International Poetry Festival of Medellín takes place between June 2 and 8, 1993; it is called and organized by the review Prometeo. The opening reading takes place in the Teatro Metropolitano and the closing reading in the city’s amphitheater, the Coliseo Cubierto. A total of 25 poetry readings are scheduled in all parts of Medellín and there is a program of 12 alternative activities consisting in exhibitions of visual poetry, which present the historical development of this expressive form of signs; there are also musical shows based on poems of contemporary and past authors.
The following 42 poets from 19 countries from Europe, Asia and America were
invited: From Argentina: Jorge Boccanera, Daniel Samoilovich, Marcos
Silber, Paulina Vinderman and Jorge Ariel Madrazo; Marcelo Arduz Ruíz
(Bolivia), Affonso Romano de Sant'Ana (Brazil), Oswaldo Sauma (Costa Rica),
Armando Fernández, Marilyn Bobes and Víctor Rodríguez
Nuñez; Eduardo Llanos (Chile), Jorge Enrique Adoum (Ecuador), Claude
Esteban (France), Rigoberto Paredes (Honduras), Djahanguir Mazhary (Iran),
Tony Harrison (England), Gloria Gervitz
(Mexico), Claribel Alegría (Nicaragua), form Peru Javier
Sologuren, Aida Alonso, Luis La Hoz, Pedro Granados, Leoncio Bueno and Enrique
Sánchez Hernani; Margaret
Randall (United States), Santos López (Venezuela), and the Colombian
poets Fernando Arbeláez, Juan Manuel Roca, Carlos Patiño, Eduardo
Gómez, Henry Luque Muñoz, Gabriel Jaime Caro, Miguel Méndez
Camacho, Alberto Vélez, Carlos Enrique Ortiz, Luis Eduardo Rendón,
Gabriel Jaime Franco, Juan Diego Tamayo, Omar Ortiz, Daniel Jiménez
and Horacio Benavides.
They take part in 25 poetry readings in auditoriums, halls and parks, and, as a complement, there are concerts, exhibitions of paintings and lectures on poetry, in 12 other venues of the city, with an approximate audience of 50,000 persons.
Poets of several generations make the printed word of their poems sound aloud, showing a transformation in the dream developed and prolonged in life’s journey by the imagination.
It has a real impact, a miraculous intervention in the street, where poetry returns with all the strength of representation and symbolization.
We can assert that in this version of the Festival its effectiveness became evident, through its capacity of intervention in the reality of the city with a new air, with a new light for the sorrowful spirit, and to spread a new joy of living in spite of the explosions and the debris. We know that poetry does not solve the structural problems, but without it human beings would perish in absolutely helplessness, slaves of their precarious activities, shocked by clichés, and mired in the stagnation of life in the industrial society.
“Poetry is taking the space between bombs and flowers, there where hope
is so explosively necessary.” With these words the Brazilian poet Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna referred to what he, as a participating poet, perceived in the intense days of the Festival.
Assistance is so large that one can not quite understand its dimension, its attentiveness and generosity. On this occasion, new features are added to the Festival; space is given to the participation of poets from many more countries (compared with the previous one), and the first steps are taken to transform it into a real world event.
The Festival opens like a flower charged with future, pointing out a very high form of the collective spirit, a nourishing ground of visions, a stage for new possibilities of the word. What is interesting in the massive attendance is that its participation was fundamental in the dialogue between the other’s being which is one’s own being spread in voice, song and dance, breaking with the mirrors of commonplace and without the dissipation offered by massive events designed only to entertain and manipulate the audience.
The III International Poetry Festival of Medellín marks a spiraling growth, surpassing the two previous ones because of its dimension, its social hold (readings in the neighborhoods), the diversity of poetic tones, themes, techniques, forms of communicating poetry and the alternative schedule.
It is a truly revolutionary event, in the sense of its poetic vision and its application on society; in its poetic action springing from a thought about culture and its fostering of a collective participation where there was only desolation and dejection before.
From that time on, Medellín begins to take shape as one of the world capitals of poetry. Thus is unchained with greater force the scope and promising sense of this event, which since then received a more definite sponsorship by the Municipality of Medellín, in accordance with the Bill 39 of 1993 of the Municipal Council, and of the Instituto Colombiano de Cultura (Colcultura), which later became the Ministry of Culture.
Since the III Festival it was decided to hold the event in the month of June of each year, when we are nearer the sun.
The year 1993 marks the consistency of all our activities. From that moment on we saw the need to strengthen further our basic structure of work, and we began the planning and organization of the IV International Poetry Festival of Medellín.
The Prometeo review holds the IV International Poetry Festival of Medellín between June 2 and 8, 1994. It is opened in the Teatro Metropolitano and closed in the Teatro Carlos Vieco of the Cerro Nutibara. In the country, the political, economic and social crisis keeps on growing. Great sectors of the population feel excluded from an active participation in the vital processes of the city, and marginalization increases rapidly.
On this occasion, 45 poets from 27 countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and America
take part: Juan Gelman, Rodolfo Alonso, Jorge Boccanera (Argentina);
Thomas Albornoz (Brazil), Xiao Xue, Sun Youtian (People´s Republic of China),
(Costa Rica), José Pérez Olivares, Zoé
Valdéz (Cuba) , Satoko Tamura (Japan), Jorge Enrique Adoum,
Laso (Ecuador); Jesús López
Pacheco, Jesús Munárriz Spain), Timothy Pratt (United States);
Henri Deluy (France); Roberto Sossa (Honduras), Eva Toth (Hungrary),
Neb Raj Bathia (India), Tony Harrison (England), Valerio Magrell (Italy),
Jean Portante (Luxemburg), Gloria Gervitz (Mexico), Juan Carlos
Vilchez (Nicaragua), Aristeides Turpana (Panama), Blanca Varela
(Peru), Anjelamaría Dávila (Puerto Rico), Marin Sorescu
(Romania), Mazisi Kunene (Sothafrica), Rudolf Peyer (Switzerland), Rafael
Courtoisie (Uruguay), Juan Calzadilla (Venezuela); and Colombian poets: Héctor
Rojas Herazo, Juan Manuel Roca, Humberto Jarrín, Raúl Henao,
Carlos Vásquez, Jorge Mario Echeverry, Víctor López
Rache, Wilson Frank, Javier Naranjo, Carlos Bedoya, Miguel Iriarte, Orietta
Lozano and Jairo Guzmán.
There is an exhibition of sculptures by master Edgar Negret. The Arts Workshop performs “Gestures to people silence”, versions of poems for deaf-mutes, written by Samuel Vásquez. There are 27 poetry readings, four exhibitions, a lecture and a poetry and theatrical show. Events are held in 35 venues of Medellín and two other cities of the Department of Antioquia, with an assistance of 50,000 persons.
This is the beginning of the realization of a dream, which is that poetry influences life of society, that human destiny can become more poetic, that it can be filled with content, with sense in the midst of the difficulties and uncertainty about the destiny of the world and of humanity.
Poets of high standing visit the city to maintain alive the torch of poetry. They accept to come because word reached them of an experience that has to be lived directly. They accept to come not heeding the black legend of Medellín. From this experience the general spirit that stimulates this Festival emerges strengthened, given the increasing number of listeners participating with an ear ever more alert and refined, as well as an attitude more selective toward the quality of the poems read.
The audience sees, more than ever, that poets do a very singular work: to go into the trance of words and to awaken the conscience of the world, of the marvel of the world and the existence of living beings, of memory bringing to the surface submerged worlds.
The V International Poetry Festival of Medellín is held between June 7 and 14, 1995. The opening and closing readings take place in the Cerro Nutibara, an open amphitheater that since then became an emblematic venue of the Festival. It is in fact the venue with which the Festival is more identified, due to the fact that 8000 persons fill the amphitheater each year in the opening and closing readings.
In the V Festival 49 poets from 25 countries, for the first time from all
five continents, take part: José Mena Abrantes (Angola), Lauren Williams
(Australia), Christian Ide Hintze (Austria), Jorge Boccanera, Esteban Moore
Ivo (Brazil), Leonardo García Pabón (Bolivia), Nikola Indjov
(Bulgaria), María Montero (Costa Rica), Alberto Rodriguez
Tosca, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Antonio José
Ponte (Cuba), Gonzalo Rojas, Enrique Saldivia, Floridor Pérez (Chile),
Ulises Estrella (Ecuador), Antonio Carvajal (España), Lilliane Giraudon,
Henri Deluy (France), José Luis Quesada (Honduras),
Edoardo Sanguineti (Italy), Mutsuo Takahashi, Satoko Tamura (Japan),
Anise Koltz, Jean Portante (Luxembourg), José Emilio Pacheco,
Adolfo Castañón (Mexico), Manuel Orestes Nieto (Panama),
Antonio Cisneros (Peru), Elvio Romero (Paraguay), Ida Vitale, Martha
Canfield (Uruguay), Christian Viredaz (Switzerland). Colombian poets William
Juan Manuel Roca, Piedad Bonett, Angela
García, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Felipe García, Elkin Restrepo,
Samuel Serrano, Wilealdo García, Mery Yolanda Sánchez, John
Galán Casanova, Anibal Arias, Joaquín Mattos Omar, Jaime
Alberto Vélez, Pedro Arturo Estrada.
Almost 60,000 persons assist to 32 poetry readings, four lectures and three exhibitions, including the French exhibition of photographs, “Poetry in the Paris Metro”.
Gonzalo Rojas is the symbolic figure on this occasion. This Chilean poet is perhaps one of the most important poets on a world level and one of the most representative poets of the great Latin American tradition. His readings are essential to spread a message of vigor and dignity of life. As he said during his stay in Medellín: “Poetry
is a seed of freedom in our heads, a way of breathing, it is a new air, not
only to inhale it but to live it. It is a child, a baby that is being born
who writes, we are always being born. We are a shadow that is born”. These lucid words reaffirm the renewing character of poetry for which the inhabitants of Medellín love it.
With the V International Poetry Festival of Medellín the “dislocating energy of poetry” becomes one of its permanent features: some poets participate with sound or non-alphabetic, gestural or performance poetry. This new experimental factor gives the Festival a new versatility and reminds us of primitive poetry, before writing.
The Austrian poet Ide Hintze is one of the invited poets. He introduces a new method of poetic expression, sound poetry, at the heart of the poetic vanguard. We thus widen the range of expression and manage to present in our milieu a novel context of references. It is the first time in the history of poetry in Colombia that this type of exploration is presented, thus showing a kind of polemic creation, in contrast with the conventional structure of lyric poetry.
With Ide Hintze are laid down the combined bases for the creation ot the Poetry School of Medellin, which is founded in June, 1996.
“The angels in my mouth will talk in your heart”, is the verse by
Guillaume Apollinaire that symbolizes the VI International Poetry Festival
of Medellín, which takes place between June 13 and 20, 1996, and in which poets
from 22 countries of four continents take part, with a program of 31 readings
and a lecture in different places of the city and Antioquia. It has an audience
of nearly 60,000 persons. The following poets are invited: Tobías Burghardt
(Germany), Grant Caldwell (Australia), Christian Ide Hintze, Wolfgang Bauer
(Austria), Abdullah Sidran (Bosnia), Haroldo
de Campos, Marilia Yoshimasu, Lindolf Bell (Brazil), Jorge Arturo Venegas
(Costa Rica), Sigfredo Ariel (Cuba), Raúl Zurita (Chile), Aurora
Luque (Spain), John Oliver Simon (United States), Josée
Lapéyrere, Yves Prie (France), Ernest Pépin (Guadalupe),
Humberto Ak´abal (Maya Nation, Guatemala), Paolo
Ruffilli (Italy),Gozo Yoshimasu (Japan), Coral Bracho (Mexico),
Benjamin Zephaniah (United Kingdom), Sainkho Namtchylak (Tuva), Martha Canfield
(Uruguay), Alicia Torres (Venezuela), Colombian poets Juan Manuel Roca,
Mario Rivero, Edmundo Perry, Renata Durán, Luis Eduardo Rendón,
Ricardo Cuéllar, León Gil, Víctor Gaviria, Omar Ortiz,
Rómulo Bustos, Gloria Posada, Omar Castillo, Hernán Vargascarreño.
On this occasion one of the most representative figures of the Festival, because of his important contribution to contemporary poetry as well as the high quality of his work, is the poet Haroldo de Campos, founder of the Brazilian syncretism.
A constellation of poets peoples again the streets of Medellín. The International Poetry Festival of Medellín has a new initiative; it opens the School of Poetry of Medellín, with the cooperation of the School of Poetry of Vienna and the Universidad de Antioquia. A theoretical and practical base is materialized and developed in courses, in which the participating poets in the Festival talk about different subjects.
It is a significant spiritual advance that can be defined with McLuhan’s phrase: “The city as a classroom”. Taking away its academic connotation, it is important to point out that what is displayed in the classes is the knowledge of different kinds of poetry flowing like energy among those present.
We can highlight the presence in the School of Poetry of the vocal virtuoso Sainkho Namtchylak, a native of Tuva, Siberia. She makes possible the opening of a new, possible way of expression with a poetry connected with the ancestral voices of the shamanic tradition of northern Asia. This reveals the need to preserve a summary of the different traditions and styles present in the different versions of the Festival.
These new elements give poetry a character close to the oral, ancestral, onomatopoeic tradition. This display enriches the expressive panorama and informs about several world poetry trends.
Quite interesting is the presence of the Bosnian poet Abdulah Sidrán, because of the profound content of his poems describing the fragmentation caused by an absurd conflict of war and slaughter. His poetry deeply moves the audience on account of its concentration on pain and its acute longing for a country divided by war. One can also highlight the singular poetry and performance of the Japanese poet, Gozo Yoshimasu, with his perception of the world as a ghostly reverberation.
The International Poetry Festival of Medellín, under the Summer solstice, rides a cloud full of poetry. The girls sing and are happy because the city is peopled by unique phrases, not said before, that invite us to live without fear, in the joy of each instant. Men are serene, listening in order see through the poetic images, living in each verse said by their own author, with his or her own rhythms, tones and modulations, to remind us of the marvel of listening and speaking, that is to say, to live again a recovered passion, that we thought lost by the distance imposed by the force of survival.
The VII International Poetry Festival of Medellín is held between June 13 and 21, 1997. The symbolic phrase that is the motto of the readings this year is Cocteau’s verse, “A great Spring maddens the veins”.
This year 51 poets from the five continents are invited: Rodolfo Alonso (Argentina),
Peter Boyle, Pi-O (Australia), Werner Hörtner
(Austria), Weydson Barros Leal (Brazil), Blanca Wiethüchter (Bolivia),
Nedzad Ibrisimovic (Bosnia), Paul Dakeyo (Cameroon), José
María Zonta (Costa Rica), Norberto Codina y Sigfredo Ariel (Cuba),
Yao Shanbi y Ji Di Ma Jia (People´s Republic of China), Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt),
García (Spain), Jean Clarence-Lambert (France), Ersi Sotiropoulo
(Greece), Jaap Blonk (The Netherlands), Ashok Vajpeyi (India), Sutardji Calzoum
Bachri (Indonesia), Birgitta Jonsdottir (Iceland), Giuliano Scabia
Tendo Taijin (Japan), Jean Portante (Luxembourg), Elsa Cross (Mexico),
José Craveirinha (Mozambique), Giovanna Pollarolo (Peru),
Carlos Wong (Panama), Egito Gonçalvez, Rosa Alice Branco
(Portugal), Nicola Prelipceanu (Rumania), Pavel Grushko (Russia), Claude
Darbellay (Switzerland), Marosa di Giorgio (Uruguay), Eugenio Montejo
the Arhuacos from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Juan Marcos
Pérez, Manuel Chaparro, Gregorio Pérez and Francisco Zalabata,
Mapuche poet Lorenzo Aillapán, and Colombian poets Raúl
Henao, Guillermo Martínez, Carlos Bedoya, Eufrasio Guzmán,
Jorge García Usta, Monique Facuseh, John Sossa, Gloria Posada,
Orlando Sierra, Fernando Linero, Wilson Frank, Juan Diego Tamayo.
The VII Festival, with its 42 readings, widens its range together with the
II Poetry School. The poets deeply touch the audiences. Notable is
the presence of four Arhuaco shamans from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta,
their interest in making known messages which are fundamental to preserve the
In the broad Summer solstice, Medellín becomes a poetic center of the world between 6:40 PM and 10:15 PM. The audience that packs the Carlos Vieco theater transforms itself into the metaphor of “the greatest wish to love.” The poets, enlightened by the verb, go on record saying aloud their gratitude for having been allowed to penetrate in the heart of a city that lives a need of communication and tolerance.
The Russian poet Pavel Grushkó said “that in Russia there are no more poetry readings in the stadiums and it seemed to me that I went back to something beautiful that I used to have in my country.”
So many people united in silence manage to write a poem between June 13 and 21, on sheets of paper, where each one writes a verse. The final result is a long poem dedicated to the city. This makes possible a conscience of the poem as a collective creation and asset of everyone.
The Italian poet Giuliano Scabia says in this occasion in a Colombian newspaper: “Suddenly
an image comes to me: De Vulgari Eloquentia by Dante. Yes. All the languages
of the world, through translations, are the mother tongue. My mother tongue,
that I learn. And I think: my mother tongue is the dialect of Padua (my arhuaco)
together with Italian, but my mother tongue is also all that corpus of mixed
languages/poems, of roads that meet. I feel now the nobility of poetry (its
being the voice of the world classroom). And that poetry is not here a shy
and sad phantom, but a young goddess, dancing in the ferment of the world and
keeping alive the vitality of language". This is perhaps what Vajpeyi said
in the great Teatro Metropolitano: ‘This is the first time that I am not
ashamed to be a poet, and perhaps this is also what the boy that asks for an
not to a football placer, but to a poet, thinks: that before everything comes
language, guided by poetry”.
The VIII International Poetry Festival of Medellín is held between June 12 and 20, 1998. “And death shall have no dominion”, the verse of Dylan Thomas, is this year the protecting shield, the spell of the Festival. With this verse we touch the miracle of voice: an essential music, like a swell going through all bodies, making them a single mind.
The dates coincide with the World Football Championship and the presidential elections in Colombia. These events of great impact on daily life do not prevent the Festival from developing with the necessary intensity.
This year the Festival is greatly expanded: 72 poets from 44 countries of
the five continents, read their poems before a audience of nearly 120,000 persons.
The poets that take part on this occasion are: Joachim Sartorius (Germany),
Yurkievich, Hugo Mujica, Pablo Narral (Argentina), Lionel Fogarty (Aboriginal
poet of Australia), Bernard Widder (Austria), Noureni Tidjani Serpos (Benim),
Thiago de Mello
Chang Soo Ko (South Korea), Tanella Boni (Cote d'Ivory), Alfonso
Chase (Costa Rica), Loredana Bogliun (Croatia), Nancy Morejón, Gerardo
Fernández Fe (Cuba), Erik Trigger Olessen (Denmark), Abdouhraman
Wáberi (Djibouti), Jorge Enrique Adoum (Ecuador), Mohammed Ibrahim
Abu-Sinnah (Egypt), Justo Jorge Padrón (Spain), Julie
Patton (United States), Nicole Laurent-Catrice, Josée Lapéyrere
(France), Tassos de Negris (Greece), Ernest Pépin (Guadaloupe),
Carmen Matute, Héctor Rodas (Guatemala), Jaap Blonk (The Netherlands),
Juan Ramón Saravia (Honduras), Ferenc Szónyi (Hungary),
Ramakanth Rath (India), John Deane (Ireland), Khal Torabully (Mauritius),
Edoardo Sanguineti, Claudio Pozzani (Italy), Mutabaruka (Jamaica), Takashi
Arima (Japan), Mateja Matevski (Macedonia), Roberto López
Moreno (Mexico), Malangatana Gwenya (Mozambique), José Carr
(Panama), Mario Casartelli (Paraguay), Arturo Corcuera (Peru),
Fernando Echevarría (Portugal), Vahé Godel (Switzerland),
Mazisi Kunene (South Africa), Sainkho Namtchylak (Tuva), Clemente Padín
(Uruguay), Rafael Cadenas (Venezuela), the Chilian Mapuche poet
Elicura Chihuailaf, Yanacona Colombian poet Freddy Chicangana,
the Arhuacos indigenous from Sierra Nevada de Santa
Pérez and Manuel Chaparro, and Colombian poets Álvaro
Romero, Rogelio Echavarría, Samuel Vásquez, Julián
Malatesta, Jairo Guzmán, Jorge Torres, Pablo Montoya, Víctor
Raúl Jaramillo, Edgar González, Gustavo Tatis Guerra, Mario
Angel Quintero, Edgar Trejos, Carlos Enrique Sierra, Olga Lucía
Estrada, Liliana Ladrón de Guevara, Pedro Olivella, Andrés
Nanclares, Sabas Mandinga.
In the III School of Poetry of Medellín, the poets Saúl Yurkievich, Josée Lapeyrére, Bernhard Widder, Julie Patton, Sainkho Namtchylak, Oscar González and Clemente Padín, among others, give eight lectures before average audiences of 300 persons. The VIII Festival reaches a high coverage: 73 readings in eleven cities of the country and four in Antioquia take place. The audiences hear poems in 26 languages, and the sky of the city is filled, like a Tower of Babel recovered to facilitate communication betwen human beings. Its essence is reaffirmed in its attitude to condense the spiritual force of all participants.
In the midst of a serious situation of internal war, economic decline and
an explosive social situation, and three days after the American State Department
published a circular warning tourists not to travel to Colombia, where they
could be killed, began the IX International Poetry Festival of Medellín (June
18 to 26, 1999), in which the poets who take part were: Hans Magnus Enzensberger
(Germany), Francisco Madariaga (Argentina), Christian Loidl (Austria), Judith
Beveridge y Dorothy Porter (Australia),
Anibal Beça (Brazil), Eduardo Mitre (Bolivia), Paul Dutton, Émile
Martel (Canada), Lee Kang-won (South Korea), Guillermo Fernández
(Costa Rica), Alex Pausides (Cuba), Gonzalo Millán (Chile), Hassan
Teleb (Egypt), Miguel Donoso (Ecuador), Otoniel Guevara (El Salvador),
Aitana Alberti, Andolin Eguzkitza (Spain), Anne Waldman (United States), Beniat
Achiary (France), Ken Smith (United Kingdom), Francisco
Morales Santos (Guatemala), Oscar Acosta (Honduras), Surjit Patar (India),
Fatema Rakei (Iran), Tomlin Ellis (Jamaica), Kazuko Shiraishi (Japan),
Norma Wanless (Mexico), Remco Campert (The Netherlands), Zakaria
Mohammed (Palestine), Consuelo Tomás (Panama), Susy Delgado
(Paraguay), César Toro Montalvo (Peru), Ana Luisa Amaral
(Portugal), Alexis Gómez Rosa (Dominican Republic), Mircea
Dinescu y Peter Sragher (Romania), Mahmoudan Hawad (Sahara), Lasse
Söderberg, Guy Persson (Sweeden), Jaques Roman (Switzerland), Washington
Benavides (Uruguay), Juan Calzadilla (Venezuela), Nguyen Trung Duc (Vietnam),and
the Colombian poets :
Alfredo Vanin, Andrea Bulla, Daniel Dia, Eugenia
Sánchez Nieto, Everardo Rendón, Fernando Cuartas, Gabriel
Jaime Caro, Gonzalo Márquez Cristo, Gustavo Garcés, Jorge
Alberto Naranjo, José Luis Diaz-Granados, Juan B. Velasco, Nicolás
Suescún, Rafael del Castillo, Rafael Patiño, Samuel Jaramillo,
As our Committee said in its report on the 1999 Festival, some of its achievements were: The consolidation of this singular poetic project, at a time of great social and political tension and serious economic crisis in the country, when there were closures of factories and banks went bankrupt; the qualification of an audience that listened to poetry and bought poetry books, as was reported by bookshops that had a 50% sales increase; the widening of the Festival to new venues and cities, and the increase of readings to 77 in Medellín and the country; and the valuable participation of a group of important poets from the five continents, that contributed to the breaking of Colombia’s cultural isolation.
Poetry is the highest dialogue of the human spirit. It makes possible for men and women, for centuries at the edge of the abyss, to recover their lost memory and equilibrium, in order to transcend our difficult condition. Colombian youth does not see salvation in poetry. It sees itself. Poetry is the youth of the world. Poetry does not stop hunger, but it makes us hungry of infinity.
Parallel to the IX International Poetry Festival, sponsored by the Municipality of Medellín and the Ministry of Culture, the IV School of Poetry of Medellín takes place, with the attendance of nearly 200 students, most of them young poets from other cities, who can thus share with the poets invited to the Festival their veiw on the experience and writing of poetry. In the program of the School four lectures are given, and there are three symposiums and one session of chats. There is also an exhibition of Visual Poetry and graphic art.
There are many points of view to interpret the Festival and its scope. Its effects will be confirmed in a near future when the new manifestations derived from this dynamic will be perceived. Understood in literary terms, the Festival achieves a living anthology of world contemporary poetry. The Memories remain as a literary trace. The personal sound and rhythms of each author circulate. In each one remains the revelation of a whole range of imaginaries, the styles of poetry that is now written in the world. The interviews, the references and the information remain. But it is not enough. Much less when we think about the origin of this event: The International Poetry Festival of Medellín did not appear as a literary event or a meeting of poets. It appeared in 1991 to oppose the revitalizing power of poetry to the deadly language of violence.
The Festival is a surge of the sun. The sun is a poet that transmits its songs through light, the promoter of living things. The International Poetry Festival of Medellín is a gesture of the interior sun, of all those who contribute to remind us that we are song and legend.
To make livable the world is a reality that we must build day after day, from every being to every other one, from sun to sun, now more than ever; now that the hope of stable world free from devastation seems to collapse for many.
76 poets from 46 countries and several indigenous nations take part in the X International Poetry Festival of Medellín, which is held between June 23 and July 2 of 2000, with the carrying out of 88 poetry readings in Medellín and other Colombian cities: Bogotá, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Tunja, Ibagué, Pereira, Armenia, Bucaramanga, Quibdó, Barrancabermeja, Villavicencio and Leticia.
International institutions such as the Dutch cultural foundations Hivos, Prins Claus Fonds and Novib, the German foundation Heinrich Böll, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affaire and the UNESCO, give financial support to the X Festival. In Colombia the event is sponsored by the Municipality of Medellín (which reduced 60% —$ 155 million Colombian pesos) the budget that according to the agreements 35 of 1993 and 40 of 1997 was supposed to give the event), the Ministry of Culture and the diplomatic corps accredited in Colombia.
The poets who participated were: Víctor Redondo (Argentina),
Leroy Green (Belize), Pedro Shimose (Bolivia), Haroldo
de Campos (Brazil), Thiago de Mello (Brazil), Jean-Marc Desgent (Canada), the
natives Renata Durán, Jorge Bustamante García, Jorge Torres, Liana Mejía, Miguel
Angel López -Vito Apshana-; Armando Orozco, Julián Malatesta, Antonio Zibara,
Federico Diaz Granados, Celedonio Orjuela, Eduardo Peláez, Carlos Bedoya, Robinson
Quintero, Miryam Montoya, Darío Ruiz, Eduardo Escobar, Enrique Buenaventura,
Andrea Cote, and Giovanni Quessep (Colombia), Kama Kamanda (Congo), Drazen Katunaric
(Croatia), Camila Schumacher (Costa Rica), César López (Cuba), Reynaldo García
Blanco (Cuba), Gonzalo Rojas (Chile), Annemette Kure Andersen and Lenne Henningsen
(Denmark), Fernando Cazón Vera (Ecuador), Nasar Abdallah Nasar (Egypt), Mario
Noel Rodríguez (El Salvador), Aida Párraga (El Salvador), John Hegley (England),
Eira Stenberg (Finland), Tobías Burghardt (Germany), Ana María Rodas (Guatemala),
Frankétienne (Haiti), Kofi Awoonor (Ghana), Kedarnath Singh (India), Kailash
Vajpayee (India), Naim Araidi (Israel), Franca Bacchiega (Italy), Giuseppe Conte
(Italy), Homero Aridjis (Mexico), Galsan Tschinag (Mongolia), Hassan Elouazzani
(Morocco), Alan Brunton (New Zealand), Odia Ofeimun
(Nigeria), Héctor Collado (Panama), Washington Delgado (Peru), RayVi Sunico (Philippines),
Carolina Ilica (Romania), Adonis (Siria-Lebanon), Anne Rananzinghe (Sri Lanka),
Ana Rossetti (Spain), Bengt Emil Johnson, Kerstin Stáhl, Lasse
Söderberg (Sweden), Christian Uetz (Switzerland), Euphrase Kezilahabi (Tanzania),
Tugrul Tanyol (Turkey), Saúl Ibargoyen (Uruguay), Francisco Pérez Perdomo (Venezuela),
María Antonieta Florez (Venezuela), and Musaemura Zimunya (Zimbabwe).
For the first time in the history of the Festival a great diversity of indigenous poetic expressions (ceremonial songs, mythic accounts of the creation of the world and poems) is included. The Amerindians who participated were: Miguelangel López-Vitorio —Vitorio Apushana) a Wayuu national, who in 2000 was awarded the prize Casa de las Américas; the Huitoto nationals Rodolfo Giagrecudo, Antonio Dimas, Manuel Safiama, Prudencia Farecade and Pablo Piarecudo; Leonel Lienlaf (Mapuche nation, Chile); Ariruma Kowii (Kichwa nation, Ecuador); Simón Ortiz (Acoma nation, United States); and José Ángel Fernández (Wayuu nation, Venezuela).
The XI International Poetry Festival is held between June 1 and 10, 2001, in which 97 poetry readings are scheduled in Medellín, as well as in 11 towns in Antioquia and 18 Colombian cities.
The following 101 poets from 69 countries were invited: Michael Speier, Gerhard
Falkner (Alemania), Julio Salgado,
Martín Prieto (Argentina), Coral Hull (Australia), Heidi Pataki
(Austria), Hayat Saif (Bangladesh), Qassim Haddad (Bahreim), Winston Farrell
(Barbados), Leroi Young (Belice), Juan Carlos Orihuela (Bolivia), Luiz
de Miranda (Brazil), Vito Apshana -Nación Wayuu-, Freddy Chicangana
-Yanacona nation, Colombia- , Hugo Jamioy Juagibioy -Kamsá nation, Colombia-
José Sixto Bolívar -Arzario nation, Colombia-, William Agudelo,
Raúl Henao, Miguel Méndez Camacho, Elkin Restrepo, Ramón
Cote Baraibar, Miguel Iriarte, Tallulah Flores, Nelson Romero, José
Libardo Porras, Luis Eduardo Gutiérrez, Carlos Fajardo, Flobert
Zapata, Pedro Blas Julio Romero, Amparo Inés Osorio, Alexis Zapata,
J. Arturo Sánchez, Hadder Bedoya, Jandey Marcel Solviyerte (Colombia),
Ko Un (South Korea), Luis Chaves (Costa Rica), Oscar Hahn (Chile), Elicura
Chihuailaf -Nación Mapuche- (Chile), Bei Dao (People´s Republic of
, José Félix León (Cuba), Thomas Boberg (Denmark),
Edwin Madrid, Aleyda Quevedo (Ecuador), Federico Hernández
Aguilar (El Salvador), Kevin MacNeil (Scotland), Ales Steger (Slovenia),
Antonio Colinas, Juan Vicente Piqueras (Spain), Amiri Baraka, Amina
Baraka (United States), Andres Ehin (Estonia), Athena Papadaki (Greece),
Adolfo Mendez Vides (Guatemala), Georges Castera (Haiti), María
Eugenia Ramos (Honduras), Sunil Gangopadhyay (India), Adrian Mitchell (United
Kingdom), Saadi Yussuf (Iraq), Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir (Iceland), Gaetano
Longo, Enzo Minarelli (Italy), Yasus Afari (Jamaica), Yasuo
Fujitomi (Japan); Teresia Teaiwa (Kiribati), Edvins Raups (Latvia),
Abbas Baydoun (Lebanon), Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Nicole Cage-Florentiny
(Martinica), Juan Bañuelos (Mexico), Jorge Cocom Pech -Maya nation-
e Irma Pineda
-Zapoteca nation- (Mexico),
Galsan Tschinag (Mongolia), Ron Riddell (New Zealand), Katarina
Kupu -maori´s poets- (New Zealand), K. Michel (The Netherlands), Kishwar Naheed
Pablo Menacho (Panama),
Renée Ferrer (Paraguay), Renato Sandoval (Peru), Américo
Ferrari (Peru), Fernando Aguiar (Portugal), Vicente Rodríguez
Nietzsche (Puerto Rico), Wenceslao Serra, José Acosta
(Dominican Republic), Dumitru M. Ion (Romania), Sia Figiel (Samoa),
Syl Cheney Coker (Sierra Leona), Ramya Jirasinghe (Sri Lanka), Karin Bellman
(Sweeden), Tresa Rüthers-Seeli (Switzerland), Lesego Rampolokeng
Marosa Di Giorgio, Clemente Padín, Martha Canfield y Luis Bravo
(Uruguay), Armando Rojas Guardia (Venezuela), Zlatko Krasni (Serbia),
Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe), la actriz francesa Nathalie Richard y Thomas
Wohlfahrt en representación de Literatur Express.
This event has a complementary program: In the V International Poetry School, 6 courses and 10 lectures are given; there is also an International Exhibition of Experimental Poetry, in which 300 works of visual poetry are shown, as well as the work of 13 contemporary sonorous poets; additionally there is a second display of poetry books and reviews of nearly 1500 titles from 32 Colombian and foreign publishers; and a cycle of poetic movies and videos consisting in 16 movies shown in four venues.
The First International “International Poetry Festival of Medellín Poetry in the Spanish Language Prize” was offered, to which 120 books from Spain and Latin America were sent. The winner was the Uruguayan poetess Marosa Di Georgia, who was invited to the Festival as specified in the bases of the contest. Considering the quality of their work, the jury recommended that the poets Juan Vicente Piqueras, from Spain, and Luis Chávez, from Costa Rica, be also invited, as was done by the organization of the event. The Festival also offered the “II National Poetry Prize” for Colombian poets born after 1970.
Overcoming serious financial difficulties and the unprecedented worsening of law and order in Colombia, due to the internal confrontation, the XII International Poetry Festival takes place between June 21 and 30, 2002, on this occasion with the presence of 70 poets from 54 countries.
Some 180,000 persons, mostly young men and women, attend massively 101 poetry readings in Medellín and 25 Colombian cities, confirming their extraordinary certainty in the liberating power of poetry, and they massively commit themselves to preserve this annual event, one of the main poetry festivals of our time, threatened by the transfer of funds from culture to war by decision of president Pastrana’s government.
The deliberate disregard and playing down by most national and international media of the preparation and celebration of the XII Internation Poetry Festival, in a city where 50,000 persons have been murdered in the last decade, must not go unnoticed. It seems to show that, ambiguously, in the news from Colombia is more important to highlight the explosions and the destruction, than the increasing mobilization of spiritual forces demanding the reconciliation of Colombians, through a process of creative dialogue between the guerrillas and the Colombian government.
The following poets participated this year: Esther Dischereit (Alemania),
Hamid Skif (Argelia), Mario Sampaolesi (Argentina), Manfred Chobot (Austria),
Lauren Williams (Australia),
Aminur Rahman (Bangladesh), AJA (Barbados), Humberto Quino (Bolivia), Sergio
Lima, Humberto Mello (Brazil), Louise Warren (Canada), Omar Lara
(Chile), Neshe Yashin (Cyprus), Jotamario Arbeláez, Gabriel Jaime
Franco, Yorlady Ruiz López, Juvenal Herrera, Elmo Valencia, Anabel
Torres, Luis Iván Bedoya, Santiago Mutis, Alvaro Rodríguez,
Víctor Gaviria, José Martínez, Winston Morales, Luz Helena
Vélez, Winston Morales, Juvenal Herrera, Antonieta Villamil, Angie
Gaona (Colombia), Kwang-Kyu Kim (South Korea), Adriano Corrales (Costa
Rica), Jorge Luis Arcos, Ismael González Castañer (Cuba), Marianne
Larsen (Denmark), Euler Granda (Ecuador), Mohammed Afifi (Egypt), Miguel
Huezo Mixco (El Salvador), Dane Zajc (Slovenia), Juan Carlos Mestre (Spain),
Tua Forsström (Finland), Kofi Anyidoho (Ghana), Veroniki Dalakoura
(Greece), Otoniel Martínez (Guatemala), Amanda Castro (Honduras),
Sudeep Sen (India), Massimo Mori (Italy), Satoko Tamura (Japan), Henri
Corbin (Martinica), David Huerta (Mexico), Natalia Toledo -Zapoteca nation-
Hanne Aga (Norway), Arjen Duinker (The Netherlands), Jacobo Rauskin (Paraguay),
Urzula Koziol (Polland), Paulo Teixeira (Portugal), John Hartley Williams
(United Kingdom), Josef Hrubý (Czech Republic), León
Batista ( Dominican Republic), Anzhelina Polonskaya (Russia), Taban
Lo Liyong (Sudan), Bengt Berg (Sweeden), Alberto Nessi (Switzerland), Zolani
Mkiva (South Africa), Jit Narain (Surinam), Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukrania),
Jorge Arbeleche, Roberto Mascaró (Uruguay), Rafael Arraiz Lucca,
Eleonora Requena (Venezuela).
The International Poetry Festival of Medellín has confirmed again that this event is more than an open and free dialogue between our people and some of the main representatives of the poetic traditions of the world. Our people, and mainly our young men and women, need to deepen their knowledge and experience of poetry and of its vital breath, to strengthen a life continuously threatened by hostile forces, to bring together the radiant powers of imagination, to exalt life in a time of darkness, and to affirm their trust and dream of a high and just motherland for life and the spirit.
Parallel to the event, the VI School of Poetry of Medellín takes place, in which the following courses are offered:
“Encuentros disparadores”, by Serio Lima (Brazil).
“The Orígenes group”, by Jorge Luis Arcos (Cuba).
“The Haiku”, by Satoko Tamura (Japan).
“Ceramics: Expressive Possibilities of an Ancient Craft”, by Celia Cymbalist (Brazil).
“The Poetic and Pedagogic Spirit in the Life and Work of the Liberator Simón Bolívar”, by Juvenal Herrera (Colombia).
"Central America Women Poets”, by Amanda Castro (Honduras).
Additionally there was lecture on the History of Dadaísmo by Jotamario Arbeláez (Colombia).
Apart from some press articles about the Festival in all these years, which have been no more than brief items or descriptions, we don’t know about the existence of a serious study or an analysis of the Festival as a cultural phenomenon. Numberless are the reports by poets in the sense that what happens in Medellín with respect to poetry has no parallel in any other part of the world. On the other hand, works studying the phenomenon of violence are plentiful, so much so that this may be the only country where the profession of “violentology” exists. What explains that in a city classified as one of the most violent in the world, there are young people truly enthusiastic about art and in particular about poetry, in a way without parallel in the world?
With 77 poetry readings, the XIII International Poetry Festival of Medellín, was held between June 14 and 21, 2003, before packed houses. And one cannot assert, without being disrespectful to it, that the audience is ignorant or insensitive. Any one that has attended the readings of the Festival can confirm that we are talking about listeners who select and choose, who absorb poems deeply, who know that poetry is also about them. It would seem that the traditional rhetoric, the academia rhetoric, the political rhetoric, the rhetoric of the media, are not enoug to answer the questions or satisfy the needs of our young people (one must not forget that 80% of our listeners are young people aged 15 to 25). Poetry then appears here as an alternative, not to give definite answers to each one of the listeners, but for these to think about themselves and their environment with a new and renewing perspective.
The International Poetry Festival of Medellín has proved that if one conceives projects of an open and popular character for all, the impact, although its immediate effect is intangible because it acts on the spirit, is also positive and direct. And we are sure about something else: The International Poetry Festival is not a mass performance or aimed at an amorphous mass, or to ignore the darkest aspects of our reality. Poetry arises precisely from a conscience of darkness and from the necessity to throw light on reality from the perspective of beauty.
In its alternative program, the following events take place: The VII School of Poetry of Medellín; the V Display of Poetry Books and Reviews, of 2,300 titles of 34 Colombian and foreign publishers; several exhibitions; a filmfest of five poetic Soviet movies, and another one of thirteen anthological videos, realized by Prometeo, as visual Memories of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín.
The I World Poetry Summit for Peace in Colombia
It was is held between June 16 and 19, 2003. In the opening round table take part Messrs David Best (Ambassador in charge
of the Switzerland); Guillermo Segura (Undersecretary of Culture
of the Municipality of Medellin); Julián Malatesta (Colombian poet who was
the moderator of the Summit); Gabriel Jaime Franco (Colombian poet who was
of the Festival and the Summit); Francisco Sesto (poet and deputy Minister
of Culture of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), and Gonzalo Rojas (Chilean
The themes dealt with are:
“Culture and Globalization.” Lecturers: María Consuelo Araujo (Minister of Culture of Colombia); Mateo Morrison (executive secretary of the Ministry of Culture of the Dominican Republic); Francisco Sesto (deputy Minister of Culture of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela); and Thiago de Mello (Brazilian poet).
“Writers and Politics.” Lecturers: Saadi Youssif (Iraqi poet); Enrique Buenaventura (Colombian poet and dramatist); and Amiri Baraka (American poet).
“Forced Displacement, Cultural and Spiritual exile.” Lecturers (Alfredo Vanín (Colombian poet); Arturo Alape (Colombian writer); and Eduardo Acevedo (member of the National Coordination of Displaced Persons).
“Biodiversity, Ethnicity and Cultural Rights.” Lecturers: Jack Mapanje (Malawian poet); Abadio Gren (Tule Kuna indigeneous poet); Darío Restrepo (member of the Corporación Ecológica Penca de Sábila); and Jairo Ramírez (member of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights).
“The Colombian Conflict Seen by Colombian poets”. Lecturers: The Colombian poets Samuel Vásquez, Juan Manuel Roca, William Ospina, Fernando Rendón and Samuel Jaramillo.
Invited to participate with papers or in the discussions were the participating poets in the event, the national government, the diplomatic corps accredited in Colombia, the most representative political Colombian forces, cultural institutions, national and foreign Human Rights agencies, social organizations of displaced persons, NGO, artists, writers, journalists, scholars and public figures whose opinions may be heard and taken into account, because of their influence on public opinión and among the direct actors of the conflict.
As scheduled, the XIV International Poetry Festival of Medellín is held between June 18 and 26, 2004. The opening and closing readings take place in the Teatro Carlos Viejo of the Cerro Nutibara that exceeds its capacity, as is the case in the venues of the 89 readings that take place in Medellín, Bogotá, Cali and eight cities of Antioquia. In the program of the VIII School of Poetry of Medellín there are seven lectures for a general audience; four workshops; three courses for the city young poets; and12 documentaries, summarizing the history of the Festival and produced in a DV Cam format by the Prometeo Corporation, are shown; and there is also a display of poetry books and reviews.
The first version of the XIV International Poetry Festival of Medellín in Bogotá, with the participation of 28 of the invited poets, has a resounding success, far exceeding expectations, since the audience almost doubles the capacity of the venues chosen.
The International Poetry Festival of Medellín has become a space offering an aesthetic debate with an aim highly characterized by the pressing need of social justice and political renewal in Colombia. It is clear that the listeners in the different venues are selective; they know what they want and what they like, and they chose, they are far from being passive or ignorant. The wide reception by the audience of the voice and poems of the seven Arabian poets that were invited, proves our assertion: On one hand, they are excellent poets whose work in general is not “easy”, and on the other hand, the audience seems well informed about the situation in that region of the world, specially as regards Iraq and Palestine, whose poets Nidaa Khoury and Abdulhadi Sadoun receive broad and loving tokens of solidarity. There is in it then more than an aesthetic choice, there is also and ethical and political choice from the perspective of art.
We have not sufficiently insisted on the quality of the audience of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín: It is now fourteen years that we have held the event without interruption, and the amount of aesthetic information is now reflected on the high level of perception of the listeners. Moreover it is a process in which we are continually advancing, we will always have new listeners who in their turn will attract new young people. Even though it seems exaggerated, we believe that the Festival has immensely contributed to the formation of a new generation, more tolerant and in a certain way more prepared spiritually and culturally to face the challenges of our present historical reality.
This sole fact (the formation of an audience) shows the necessity to protect and strengthen the International Poetry Festival of Medellín. There are more reasons for this effort. In a city, indeed, that in a certain way was the greatest laboratory of violence of this country (remember the war against drug-trafficking, the struggle for the holding of positions in the neighborhoods of the city between the insurgency and the paramilitaries, the bloody confrontations in the Comuna 13, and the terrible campaigns of “social clean-up”), but that has been able to create a space for a fraternal reunion centered around beauty, one cannot avoid mentioning the impact that this gathering has on the “spiritual state” of the city, specially if we take into account the traditional pragmatic spirit of our culture, in an environment that has traditionally been opposed to any activity that does not generate profits.
We must also emphasize in this report a fact that seems irrelevant but that shows how worthy of praise is the Medellín audience: in fourteen years of the Festival there have never been incidents, such as fights, disturbances or violence of any kind, that are so common in massive events. Doesn’t this show that the Festival is really a profound act of meeting and communion in the midst of an atmosphere of separation and estrangement?
There are three aspects that must highlighted about the XV International Poetry Festival of Medellín, held between June 24 and July 2, 2005, with 88 poetry readings scheduled and 17 activities in the School of Poetry. The first is the extraordinary increase of listeners with respect to previous years, when attendance was already massive. The spread of the Festival is greatly increased through the broacasting of three readings by the TV channels.
The second is the clear and continuous rise of the level of perception of the audience, evidently a product of the fifteen years of permanent contact with the best and latest trends in world poetry, of the nine consecutive years of the International School of Poetry of Medellín, and of the periodic publication of the Prometeo review. The third is the coming to the Festival of some of the main figures of contemporary poetry: the 1986 Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, the South Africans Antjie Krog and Breyten Breytenbach, the British James Fenton, the Japanese Shuntaro Tanikawa, the American Rita Dov, the Portuguese Casimiro de Britto, the Dutch Gerrit Komrij, the Iraqui Adnan Al-Sayegh, the Jordanian Ibrahim Nasrrallah, and the Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal, among others.
The increase in the quantity of listeners and the bettering of their degree of appreciation of poetry ara linked to several characteristics of the event: on the one hand, its open, plural and democratic character, and on the other hand, the careful and intense work of extending its range. If you look at the general program of the Festival, indeed, you can see that there is no sector of society excluded from it: public and private universities, labor unions, private enterprises, settlements of displaced persons, houses of culture, libraries, streets, parks, subway stations.
One cannot fail to notice that a good part of the success of the Festival is due to the inhabitants of the city of Medellín who have for the event a strong and deep sense of proprietorship, product among other reasons of an event that has reduced our sense of isolation, since the Festival has in a certain way put Medellín on the world map of culture, and in these first fifteen years, its inhabitants have been in touch with poets from more than 125 countries, something that no other poetry festival in the world has achieved.
One must also emphasize that the Colombian media once again kept silent about the event. Except for the coverage of the opening reading by a few media and some columnists that wrote about it, newspapers were shamefully silent to such an extent that they did even interview Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka.
It is held between June 24 and July 2, 2006. There are 74 readings and 30 activities in the School of Poetry, a photo exhibition of a history of the Festival, and an exhibition of the works by children who participated in “Project Gulliver”, a contest sponsored between 2004 and 2005 by the foundation France Libertés.
Among the poets invited are also Rodolfo Alonso (Argentina) who was granted the “I International Prize City of Medellín” for books published in the Spanish language; the poet Cristian de Nápoli (Argentina) who was awarded the “V Latin American Prize City of Medellín” for unpublished books; and Saul Gómez (Colombia) winner of the I Incentive Prize for Young Colombian Poets.
The XVI International Poetry Prize of Medellín was sponsored by the Municipality of Medellín, the Dutch foundations Hivos, Doen, Cordaid and Prince Claus, the Swiss Embassy, the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, Confiar Cooperativa Financiera, Organización Internacional de Francofonía, and the Fundación Suramericana. Numerous foreign embassies accredited in Colombia and international and local institutions contributed in several ways to make possible the Festival this year.
Parallel to the Festival, but part of it, the X School of Poetry of Medellín was developed with the participation of a large group of international and national poets who gave six courses, seven lectures, three workshops and five sessions of chats, attended as usual by young poets of the city, readers of poetry, and university professors and students of the city and the rest of the country.
Three Japanese and five Cuban movies were shown, as well as the films of Charles Chaplin The Great Dictator and A King in New York, thanks to the film distributor MK2, and the Cultural Institute Leo Tolstoy of Bogotá.
On July 22 took place the closing ceremony of the XVII International Poetry Festival of Medellín, with readings by 70 of the poets who took part in this annual poetic event, which has been considered by the international press as the most massive poetry festival in the history.
In this closing ceremony there were two unexpected, or so taken by some, circumstances. The first one was the fact that several hundred persons, listened for three hours and under heavy rain to the foreign and native poets; this was certainly the living expression of the firm compromise, conscience and vocation for peace and a new life for the Colombian people.
Secondly, this year’s festival was like no other. Besides showing the incredible qualitative and quantitative development after 17 formidable years, thousands of persons took the open and brave decision to actively struggle for peace in Colombia, as part of the movement For Peace in Colombia, promoted, so far, by 596 Colombian artists and intellectuals with the support of 593 artists and intellectuals from 87 countries.
The XVIII International Poetry Festival of Medellín is not over although the closing ceremony has already taken place. During eight days Medellín and several other cities in Colombia lived something unthinkable in any other corner of the world: the gathering around poetry of thousands of persons, who as if they were in a concert ask the poets for one more, one more poem!
In spite of the successive attempts of a local newspaper to block the way of this feast of culture, and of the telling silence of most of the media about the impact of a festival of this magnitude, the strong affinity of the people of Medellín with poetry cannot be undone. The massive and warm attendance to the more than 120 venues to listen to poetry, confirms the urgent need of poetry in our times.
The closing ceremony of the XVIII Festival was another great cultural feast, proof that the Festival is a process built from the heart of the city; the audience of thousands showed its support of the organizers of the event, recognizing the festival as an asset of the city and of Colombian culture.
The massive attendance of the festival which surprised, without any exception, all the poets, is explained by the fact that the audience has been formed during the eighteen years of the most important poetry festival in the world, which tends to become a true cultural movement. Far from the lies and innuendo of those who wanted to check the impulse of the Festival, what they really did was to propel its growth, as Fernando Rendón, its director, said to the resounding applause of the audience of thousands in the closing ceremony. And he added: “Nothing can check the impulse of the Poetry Festival.”
From resistance to the promotion of culture
The main characteristic of the Festival has been the fact that it is a cultural event of resistance against the war. But this year has advanced, and from resistance is gradually becoming a movement of political action: the proposal put forth in it to call for another meeting of Colombian poets to discuss peace and to build a wide cultural movement with the support of intellectuals and poets of the world.
The main objective of this cultural fact is to propose a peaceful solution for Colombia and to contribute, from art and creation, to the search of solutions for Colombian problems. From this point of view, the Festival and the Movement of Artists and Intellectuals tend to fuse into one single voice directed to the country in an unprecedented style and practice. We face a fact of transcendental dimensions for the culture of the country and a new experience coming from a new cultural initiative.
In the evaluation of the XIX International Poetry Festival of Medellin (July 4th to 11th, 2009) by the Organizing Committee, we have thought in the first place about the need to clarify the nature of the Festival through its historic development, which constitutes the strengthening of an aesthetic proposal for our country, with vast connections and correspondences with other important poetic projects of the world, in a time of universal desolation and barbarism.
Facing the extreme duress of the war that has ravaged Colombian society for several decades, before the impotence or indifference of the world, the International Poetry Festival of Medellin shares these words of Saint-John Perse when receiving the Nobel Literature Prize in 1960: “Do not fear, do not doubt, for doubt is sterile and fear servile… It is not true that life can disown itself. Nothing living proceeds from nothing, nor does it love nothing”.
The peaceful process promoting the Festival symbolizes an instance of experiential collective reflection and construction, affirming the interior strength of Colombians in their search of a high, just and beautiful form of existence, in contrast with the absence of elemental rights such as employment, health, education, housing and peace for millions of citizens.
The Festival remains its attention against the attempt to silence and censure it, and against every blackmail searching in vain to silence it facing the serious crimes and killings affecting Colombians in the midst of a general intolerance. The Festival received from the Swedish Parliament the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2006, “for affirming and expressing the human values of beauty, creativity, freedom of expression and for its work with the community, in opposition to the fear and violence still prevailing in Colombia and the world.”
In 2009, the Festival had the financial support of the Governments of Germany and Switzerland, the Dutch cooperation agencies Humanist Institute for Development Hivos, Oxfam-Novib, Döen Foundation and Prince Claus Fund; of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation; of the American Caipirinha Foundation, of the French Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. As a result of an Agreement of the Council of Medellin from 1993, the Festival has the financial support of the City of Medellin. Because of its national impact it receives by law a contribution of the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, all of this not implying the putting at risk of our ethical and aesthetic tenets.
Naturally there is fear among the conservative intellectuals and the more refractory sectors of the National society about the influence of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin on the young people of the country and on the presumed political use of the event made by its organizers. Poetry as a vigorous manifestation of beauty and action transforming society, is in clear contrast with the monstrous reality of intransigence, promoted by the hatred fruit of war and the antagonist positions arising from it, fed even by some Colombian poets.
The organization of the Festival, in spite of all kinds or pressure, will never write or promote hymns of war or take part in any political organization, nor in any form of war or violence. Its aspiration corresponds to a deep vocation of peace of the Colombian civil society that claims to be excluded from the war, but also to be included in more generous concept of social justice.
We have and shall inform —if it is necessary— the world community of poets and artists, as we have done through the Campaign of Solidarity with the International Poetry Festival of Medellin, backed by more than 970 poets, artists and intellectual of 126 nations of all continents, about the process of unprovoked attacks against one of the most progressive cultural events in Colombia, such as the Festival, and against its organizers, which at all costs must be respected by the forces in the conflict.
On the public of the XIX Festival
“Colombia has in the International Poetry Festival of Medellin the most important poetry festival in the world, because of the massive participation of the public,” wrote the Colombian poet William Ospina in his column of last Sunday, July 19 in the newspaper “El Espectador.”
The Festival is an expression of the poetic art as a collective experience of mutual enrichment of the poets and the public, thus taking part in a shared intellectual and living experience, in which the audience searches in poetry the transformation of their lives. The public of the Festival is an acting public, not a mere spectator.
The public of the Festival grew in quantity and quality in 2009. Surveys showed that it regularly reads books of poems. The social and cultural impact of the event also increased because of the greater access of people to the information about the Festival, now with a greater TV (live and pre-recorded broadcasts), radio, press and Internet coverage. The Web site of the Festival reached more than 40,000 browsers during the last month and it is now read in 135 countries in two languages.
Each celebration of International Poetry Festival of Medellin is a ritual exercise of energy renewal of the city. Though apparently poetry has not changed human history, it has however transformed the human spiritual vision and sensibility of history. Without poetry the world would not exist. Rational and irrational forms of poetic knowledge run through each Festival, and the people know well that terror and death are not the solution for the deep crises of human beings, and they also know that the Festival is a great living energy in strong contrast to death, as the poet Nguyen Quang Thieu expressed it.
The Festival produces an atmosphere and a movement of the collective conscience of the public who perceive that reality can be modified from the interior of persons, who express themselves as the manifestation and action of a personal and collective intimacy. A reality is produced diverse from the painful history of Colombia.
The evaluation also took note of the constant and deep solidarity of the world community of poets with the International Poetry Festival of Medellin, its strong relation with the organization of the event and the high participation in its history, that this year reached the number of 915 poets from 144 nations of all continents, which certainly places it as the poetry festival with the widest geographical coverage in the world.
The evaluation approved the significant extension of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin to 16 towns in Antioquia and ten other Colombian cities, as well as the carrying out of 130 activities: Individual and collective readings of poems, workshops and poetry courses, lectures and conversations between poets and the public.
The complete list of poets participating in the Festival is as follows: Vladimir Marku (Albania), Teresa Colom (Andorra), Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Esteban Moore (Argentina), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Quito Nicolaas (Aruba), Udo Kawasser (Austria), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Quamruzzaman (Bangladesh), Homero Carvalho (Bolivia), Paul Dakeyó (Cameroon), Alberto Vélez, Andrea Cote, Ángela García, Argemiro Menco, Berenice Pineda, Claudia Trujillo, Consuelo Hernández, Eduardo Peláez, Fernando Rendón, Gabriel Arturo Castro, Gabriel Jaime Franco, Gustavo Garcés, Héctor Fagot, Jairo Guzmán, José Libardo Porras, Juan Diego Tamayo, Juan Diego Velásquez, León Gil, Marco Mejía, Pedro Arturo Estrada, Piedad Bonnett, Rafael Patiño, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Tarsicio Valencia, Tatiana Mejía, Umberto Senegal, Walther Espinal (Colombia), Guillermo Sáenz Patterson (Costa Rica), Domingo Alfonso, Oscar Cruz (Cuba), Verónica Zondek, Javier Campos (Chile), Mette Moestrup (Denmark), Amin Hadad, Arif Khudairi (Egypt), Lauri García Dueñas (El Salvador), Bob Holman, Ken McCullough (United States), Gemino H. Abad (the Philippines), Alice Caron Lambert, Julien Delmaire (France), Carolina Escobar Sarti (Guatemala), John Agard, Grace Nichols (Guyana), Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), Howard A. Fergus (Monserrat), Erling Kittelsen (Norway), Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay), Renato Sandoval (Peru), Caroline Bird (United Kingdom), Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic), Milena Ercolani (San Marino), Cecil "Blazer" Williams (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Hala Mohammad (Syria), Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka/United States ), Jenny Tunedal, Lasse Söderberg (Sweden), Fabiano Alborghetti (Switzerland), Jean Jacques Sewanou-Dabla (Togo), y Ophir Alviarez (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
The line of Friedrich Hölderlin, Human destiny is one single celestial rhythm, has been the motto of the XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín, held from 8 to 17 July, 2010. A luminous parade of the poetic word –which connected us to a single celestial rhythm– expressed by one hundred poets from fifty-eight countries and the five continents, consolidated the city of Medellín as a radiant center of universality and intercontinental gathering through the poetic word, giving new senses to existence and tracing new paths to the spiritual, emotional and congregational future of societies wounded by the scourge of violence and social exclusion. This was a surprising rising of the spirit in the population of Medellín, represented by the lucid and large social group which attended the one hundred and eighty-four programmed activities fully carried out in each of the scenarios arranged for that purpose. This new experience confirms that we are on the right path, following the route of sensitivity, of the human heart and its social projection through an ancient life-affirming rite – through poetry as a cohesive force, as a light that purifies the spirit and intertwines the individual intelligences with the common aim of transforming the city into a true space of growth and awareness expansion. This twentieth Festival has sharpened our resolve to propose the city as a sacred gathering space, in order to celebrate existence and stave off death. Considerable progress has been made in the strengthening of the spirit and elevation of human dignity, through poetry, in a city which in 1991 (the year of the first Festival) seemed like a battlefield, its population suffering a noticeable detriment in its spiritual and human condition – so much so that there was an epidemics of interpersonal aggressiveness and the emotional health of the population was seriously impaired. This time, after twenty years of holding these great poetry-for-life events, a truly increased fervor could be observed – truly, because of the honesty of a great audience of people who assist in the Promethean mission of sharing the sacred fire of poetry; because of the solidarity of their lucid and loving company, of the fraternity expressed between them as a social group and towards the poets who hail from all the corners of the globe, to heed the call of the global human condition from a place that renders itself visible through the concurring forces of poetry. READ MORE
The International Poetry Festival of Medellín celebrated its homage to the spirit of Africa, with the participation of poets, musicians andspecialists in the poetry and literature of the original continent, in coordination with Peter Rorvik (Poetry Africa - Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal) in Durban, South Africa.
In 21 years, Prometeo has generated an extraordinary expectation in Medellín and the world towards poetry and has performed with great aesthetic care and deep human quality.The poets who have visited Colombia have developed processes to communicate with the audience, composed not only by the concepts in poetry, but also withsensitive, emotional and human elements that fostersa communitarian communication, congregant, that transforms the city.It is these aspects that have drawn on multiple planes, the life of our city and its inhabitants.
The public of the 21st Festival showed event after event, his hope and confidence that poetry can change their lives and change, with poetic actions sustained over time and of profound social influence, the life of the city. READ MORE