24° Medellin Internacional Poetry Festival: Triumph of Life
24° Medellin Internacional Poetry Festival
Triumph of Life
By Jairo Guzmán
Direction Committee Medellin Internacional Poetry Festival
With the 24th Medellín International Poetry Festival, held from July 19th to July 27th, 2014, the light became brighter which opens ways and enables us to see a promising, foundational horizon, with an open spirit enriched by the conjunction of the world’s different cultures which come into poetic harmony, with the effect of a collective mood sublimated into song and memory.
We have experienced the future, what will be after war and its horrors disappear for good.
Nine memorable days have reaffirmed us on the solar ritual of poetry, with its load of vitality and invoking of a new spring in the collective soul.
A great poem, the human river that moved to be permanence of song in conjunction with the poets’ voices and presence.
A galloping spirit of renewal, to the rhythm of poetry which distils life, has manifested itself on what used to be a land threatened by fratricide and charged with deep pain.
Each event was traversed by the lightning bolt of transformation, whose urgency unites and enlivens us.
This time the poetry experience has confirmed the high sensitivity that has been cultivated in the collective mood.
A crowd, representative of society, consolidated the population of Medellín as a city prepared to continue making progress in the substantial changes of our awareness, through art and poetry, with its high keenness for listening, lucidity, and spiritual transparency.
The wounds of fratricide are difficult to heal if one goes around in circles amidst promises and deceit, without urgent and radical changes where the main assassin has been the exercise of a ruthless notion of economy that bases its “success” on a billion starving humans.
In this Celebration of the Earth with the native peoples, which invoked a fair peace, we understood, with the aboriginal poets, among the 70 poets who attended, that peace “is the breath of the human tissue”.
It was confirmed that poetry is something more than a literary genre: it is a way of breathing – an alternative to evict the war that has deeply damaged culture, which we need to repair.
The union capability of poetry became surprisingly possible. An intense spiritual irradiation was perceived in the community attending the events, which are the backbone of the transformations we as humans require.
We experienced the glorious return of the read-aloud poem. We experienced the return of the congregational voice, which interprets us and reminds us of the great miracle of existence, through which we rejoice and appreciate life.The 24th Medellín International Poetry Festival was revealed as solid as the root of a people’s sensitivity, and transparent in its spiritual dimension.
“Fair peace, spring of the world” was the motto through which the Festival synthetized its invocation and exercise of peace for Colombia and for a planet in sore need of generalized calm to face the risks of a catastrophe that is imminent if we continue on the same path of destruction we are stumbling along.
Peace was built through the energy of the poetic voice that congregates people who join the world clamor for a world vested in the dignity a whole people have been deprived of.
A beautiful human congregation raised its spirits to the most sensitive fiber in its solidary dimension, joined to the pain of the slaughtered Palestinian people.
From the viewpoint of the poetry actions for world peace, the most beautiful poem ever seen was the closing act, when three thousand people lit a candle each as a symbol of solidarity and light for a people subjected to harassment and massacre.
It has been one of the most moving events, due to its deep impact on the collective sensitivity due to its true blossoming as an überpoem written with humankind’s most sensitive chords, looking with dignity upon the awful horizon, in face of which it reaffirms life and existence.
A shining edge of brotherhood in the face of the horror of a massacred Palestine, this collective experience reaffirmed the immense transforming power of poetry on the sensitivity of a population. Poetry made by all, driven by the symbolic force of the triumph of life.
Our resistance in the face of History’s trepidations places us in an environment where poetry is a purifying fire, a life-driving force and the will to advance with dignity towards the present day’s challenges.
All the activities were performed with the aim of forging an atmosphere favorable to peace. Among them there was held the forum “Poetry, art and culture for peace in Colombia”, in which poets, artists, philosophers and anthropologists took part over two days with relevant lectures. There issued from this event a document highlighting the following principles, among others:
“Justice is the most difficult but most authentic manifestation of peace processes. In order to achieve justice, a poetic and memory-oriented justice is needed. This is founded on the recognition of the complex victimization processes in Colombia, of manifestations of a massive and radical silencing that we need to revert through the social willingness for justice, understood as the recovery of a voice for the absent.
We believe in the good living notion of our native peoples, which holds that no one can live well if the others don’t live well. In this case, we know that the poetic and literary imagination is an essential ingredient of an ethical attitude that requires us to attend to the welfare of other people whose lives, due to war, appear very different from ours.
Poetry is called to note and contribute to the recovery of memory. Together with the traces of the memory of horror, poetry bears witness to survival and even to resistance against death and resilience against war.
Poetry will contribute to the ethical and moral willingness for a culture of forgiveness as a civic virtue that must be promoted alongside the peace efforts. But it’s not just any forgiveness – it is the forgiveness of the unforgivable, it is the difficult, face-to-face forgiveness, which, although not impossible, cannot be easy or induced, imposed or forced. Forgiveness cannot mean forgetting, and poetry is memory.”
Of great relevance was the participation of poet Oumar Farouk from Sierra Leone (Africa), a country very affected by the scourge of violence and the massacres arising from conflicts. His testimony evidenced the harrowing experience of his people, of which he said: “Our poetry is scarred. It’s full of pain. Poets feel their people’s pain, hence the need to put it in their poetry. In my country, fifty thousand people died over twelve years. The madness of war can destroy a country. Our war is one of the bloodiest and grotesque wars ever experienced by humankind. These were terrible histories. My poems bear witness to this war. Wars change a people’s psychology. The wounds of war go on. Peace returned and my country is now one of the most prosperous. It has not healed as a nation. The purpose of war is to plunge us into nothingness. Language was wounded. The horror was so great there were no words to name it. That is why we became a nation of poets. Sierra Leone’s path to peace is similar to Colombia’s.”
Peace was promoted through the force of poetry as a great display of sensitivity which raised the population’s spirit to a collective catharsis of the pain inflicted on it for so long.
Another essential element was the Celebration of the Earth with the native peoples.
The presence of twelve native poets, with their poetic works and interventions in celebration of the earth through songs and rituals, was a great contribution to the aim of giving a wake-up call, from their ancestral knowledge and their poetry as the vigilant eye of the great crises, on the dangerous edge we walk on when we damage life on the planet.
This was the perspective of the Celebration of the Earth Forum, held with native peoples with the participation of native poets from different parts of the world. From there arose a declaration and their commitments in defense of the earth were:
“To gain absolute awareness, day by day and in each action of life, of the belief that we are fruits of the biological system of Earth … and thus depending on its permanence; that we are tied to its fate; that the transcendence of our species is subject to the manner in which we treat it.
That it is essential for that purpose that humankind shall recover the notion and practice of the sacred ritual to Nature. We need to urgently ritualize our behavior vis-à-vis the Earth. The teachings and knowledge of the Spiritual Authorities of the world’s native peoples are definitive. We need to instill the sacred rituals of nature in the world’s children and youths.
It is unavoidable to offer the Earth the best in our lives: our capacity of sacrifice for the restoration of the Earth’s ecologic balance, and our integration into associations and diverse and independent citizen groups within ongoing programs for the preservation and safeguard of the Earth’s vital system.
The human being is the cosmos in a nutshell… is interpreted Earth… is a representation of what becomes life.”
World Poetry Movement
A hundred years after the birth of the Panidas (1914), poets and artists from the former Villa de la Candelaria, modern-day Medellín shines as a center for the convergence and conjunction of all the world’s cultures, represented by their poetry. This capacity for the conjunction and international deployment of the world forces of poetry has enabled this issue of the Festival to bear witness to the strength of the World Poetry Movement (WPM), which coordinated and drove 500 poetry actions, including the Festival’s 146 poetry actions, in 50 countries during July 2014, for the support of peace in Colombia.
The presence of the WPM coordinators was essential to demonstrate the great strength acquired by this transcontinental network.
With the holding of five meetings within the context of the 24th Medellín International Poetry Festival, the WPM Coordination Committee said, the meeting “proved its deep unity, its harmonious work, the progressive renown and international impact, and the optimal conditions under which its work grows worldwide, due to the blossoming of meetings, festivals, publications, schools and workshops which prove the historical role of poetry in the current moment of human history, as we struggle under pessimism and the lack of great solutions to our greatest problems: war, the material and spiritual destitution of hundreds of millions of human beings, the ecologic crisis and the deep financial crisis.”
The thousands of people who gave meaning to the 24th Medellín International Poetry Festival, with their sincere attendance and their focused and committed attitude towards the value of the poetic word, are essential to the World Poetry Movement. They are the human tide that marks the vanguard of the new practice of cohesion and spiritual growth through the power of poetry and its impact on collective awareness. Thus we advance along a difficult moment, of transcendental and transitional changes where the living are at stake due to the environmental and war catastrophe. Hence the urgent need to continue in the ongoing task of building a new humanism that will have an impact on the changes we urgently need as a species. The global poetry actions have a lot to contribute from this viewpoint. Another fundamental experience of WPM’s participation in the Festival was the ensuing declaration, which was read and submitted to the world on the closing date, July 27th, 2014. (http://www.wpm2011.org/es/node/527).
The statement, which is actually an important manifesto of the 21st century, says:
Towards a Worldwide Poetry Revolution
The world´s poetry movement declares itself to be in a state of rebellion regarding the sad history of humanity.
We are against the war-torn history of countless barbaric civilizations that have left hundreds of millions of dead throughout the so called "human evolution" here on earth.
We oppose the petty and dangerous practices against nature and the peoples of the world, which have deteriorated and damaged our oceans, lakes, rivers, atmosphere, the earth´s climate, devastated forests, inviting expanding deserts to take over our glorious green planet, and imprisoning the human species in a miserable existence.
We oppose slavery material and rigid religious dogmas which have taken away the freedom and dignity of millions of people, chained in dejection and hopelessness.
Against the failure of the economic, political, social and cultural systems that imprison humanity, we call on the world to join this Worldwide Poetry Revolution.
We are calling all of humanity to rise from the ashes of defeat and build with great energy,
-before it is hopelessly too late- a superior world, filled with poetry, social justice, dignity and truth, beauty and kindness. A splendid world united by brotherhood and mutual recognition.
Let´s gradually prepare a nomadic world festival, from country to country, from continent to
continent. Let´s build a global school of poetry. Poetry should be massively expressed in every street, in every country, in every language, in the mouths of everyone, children, women, men and elders. Let us anticipate the victory of life over death.
We invite poets and artists from all over the world, their organizations, and all organizations in the world to take a part in these international spiritual and cultural activities, for a planet free of the horrors of war and hunger, for an independent and fair world, united as one by the indestructible hand of a Worldwide Poetry Revolution.
The declaration, which is a relevant 21st century manifest, states that “the support for this beautiful poetic rebellion was unanimous, with genuine fervor on the part of all the closing event’s attendees, who filled the Carlos Vieco Theater, located on the emblematic and tutelary Nutibara Hill in the city of Medellín.”
The significant increase in attendance to the programmed events materialized in the increase of the youth population, more and more identified with the poetic language. This proves that the Festival is already an organic part of a collective awareness, which lucidly assimilates the urgent need for change required at all levels, now more than ever, when the great problems that put us to the test require immediate transformation of all aspects of our lives.
A relevant issue was the participation of four young poets who won the poetry awards called: the National Poetry Prize and the III City of Medellín Young Poetry Award. These competitions showcased relevant works being created now, which are important contributions to the new oxygen of poetic expression.
All programmed readings were held, and their high quality consolidated the attendance of people who showed the traces of real changes in their human condition and attitude to modern challenges. As expressed by the poet from the People’s Republic of China, Luo Ying: “In Medellín, many people love poetry, and read and listen to it attentively; I have seen it in this festival. Now they enjoy it. I wonder what would have happened in the city if this did not exist, as well as what would happen if it should cease to exist. It would possibly be worse.”
Training activities, materialized in the 18th International Poetry School, were highly valued by attendees. There was highlighted the quality of all the courses, workshops and conferences, sustained on the human and experience qualification of all the poet-directors. These activities reflected the high quality of their beneficiaries, who showed themselves active, with lucid and creative contributions, with their open and flexible attitude and with good judgment. The high-level training effect that these activities have had on one thousand two hundred persons is well-known. Thus there have been promoted many motivational aspects, at the training level, which need to be maintained throughout the year.
Prometeo poetry magazine, which organized the Festival, was present in the event’s printed reports, materialized in its issues 98 and 99. This publication has been a wise move in terms of printing quality, contents and circulation. Thus, the magazine continues to contribute to the knowledge of the works of authors who for the most part had not been translated into Spanish and are difficult to find in our environment.
The other essential action line which was carried out with great quality and professionalism is carried out by all the actors and people in charge of reading the translations of foreign-language guest poets.
The qualified and responsible work of all the translators of the poets’ work into Spanish should be highlighted, as should the essential role of interpreters.
Another essential aspect developed with great application and very good results was the ongoing communications work, materialized in the Festival website, in the networks tasks and in the information broadcast through different media (press, radio and television).
The spiritual fire and human quality of the attendees has made possible the Festival’s transcendence as an experience highly committed to the protection and qualification of collective sensitivity through poetry.
The Festival was established as a great spiritual diamond, whose edges reflected the shine of renewal.
The anticipatory reality of a new country has been experienced, as well as the time to come, loaded with offerings to life and to the gifts of the earth recovered by the sun of love.
Published at February 2015.