BALANCE OF THE XX INTERNATIONAL
POETRY FESTIVAL OF MEDELLÍN
By Jairo Guzmán
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.
In this stage of the development of poetry as an active part of the social, cultural and spiritual development of a city that has assumed poetic experience as its most valued asset, the XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín has been the Festival shedding more light on the progress both in awareness and in the human spirit, personified in the people benefiting directly from the therapeutic and pedagogical actions of this event which has proved itself to be the true spiritual and cultural heritage of the world in times when issues that are very important for the preservation of our species, both biologically and culturally, are being debated. The dynamics of the XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín, with its massive summons to 184 programmed events throughout the city (as well as in twenty-eight municipalities of Antioquia and in ten cities of Colombia), enable us to visualize a field of action that will have to be strengthened in order to take direct and ongoing action in the city’s neighborhoods, performing a pedagogical task from the great poetry-related issues. With this twentieth version of the Festival there was experienced, in a more consistent manner, the city as a plural environment, open to the experience of freedom and love joined by high sensitivity born of coexistence, from the poetic word expressed by authors representative of contemporary world poetry.
The perception revealed is that the actions of the Festival enable the assumption of its organizational, pedagogical and cultural practices as an awareness development model, headed towards a strengthening of the spirit and towards giving it a human dimension, a dimension of true practicing of peace, in a social environment which needs awareness-shaping actions projecting their light towards a more inclusive and life-enabling society, in its luminous and edifying dimension.
After twenty years of an experience fully committed to an increase in awareness and its luminous expansion in Colombian society and specifically a city like Medellín, there was observed in the XX International Poetry Festival an audience that has increased its dialogue awareness, its cognitive and discernment ability and its ability to listen to and appropriate the gifts of poetry. The audience participating in this Festival demonstrated that they are not a social group of incautious or unwary citizens. They have built, step by step and year after year, a cognitive level, renewed awareness and self-awareness and autonomy ability that place them on a high spiritual level – thanks to their lucid qualifications and the great impetus of their imaginative and creative powers. In order to observe the effects of something as apparently intangible as poetry, cultivated and promoted in congregational, pedagogical and celebratory practices such as those of the Festival, it has been necessary to reach this twentieth edition.
There are many people who from puberty have grown up attending and participating of the different activities organized by the Prometeo Art and Poetry Corporation, of which the Festival is the backbone and vital mainstay. The Festival’s actions constitute a paideia, a contemporary pedagogy in which the protagonists are the inhabitants of the city, in this case Medellín, a city with a population of two and a half million which requires these formative activities, forging a new awareness and attitude towards the living, aiming at peaceful coexistence and spiritual and cultural growth. The Festival’s twenty years in existence begin to show their effects upon the new generations nourished on the best poets of the contemporary world, who take part in the Festival.
All this pedagogical projection of the Festival has arrived at a peak moment, with the success of the XIV Poetry School of Medellín, consisting this time of thirty-three activities between courses, workshops, panels and lectures enjoyed by some 1,500 people who gave much vitality and lucidity to all the activities. Again, in this aspect of the Festival, the audience showed their cognitive growth, intelligence, lucidity and creative ability. Those who attended the courses, workshops, panels and lectures showed real interest in the proposals of the poets, who engaged in intense sharing with their interlocutors – giving life to this aspect of the Festival which leaves a strong mark in the minds of its participants. This experience enables us to project a new stage in the development of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín as a proactive and proposal-making actor towards a society which heads towards existential, spiritual and cultural change. Insofar as this goal is achieved, we will be facing deeper transformations, which will prepare a fertile soil for the seeds of a freer humankind, in accordance with its dreams and its dignity called into question by a history of outrages and affronts against its spirit.
The XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín showed the need for ongoing action in the different spaces of the city, through creative and pedagogical proposals made by poets both local/national and international.
The XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín demonstrated, in its human and foundational dimension, that it is not a mere show with a random audience imprisoned by the mass media. It demonstrated that perseverant labor, year after year, enables the building of a spiritual and poetical sensitivity that leads towards a better world.
The XX International Poetry Festival of Medellín consolidated this event as the most important of its kind in the world. Once again the audience was the protagonist of this poetical action that has become a worldwide model. This perspective has been observed on a wider scope thanks to this twentieth Festival which enabled us to visualize a clearer panorama of the future of these poetical actions with a worlwide social impact.
It can be foreseen that the XX International Poetry Festival will open the door to the greater transitions now beginning to appear in a time of fundamental change at a worldwide level.