Jesús Sepúlveda reads at International Festival of Poetry in Nicaragua
The colonial city of Granada in Nicaragua just celebrated its XI International Festival of Poetry from February 15 to 21, 2015. Chilean poet and RL senior instructor, Jesús Sepúlveda, was invited to participate, alongside 120 other poets from over 50 countries. This was an extraordinary week of multilingual poetry readings and festivities. Sepúlveda read selected poems from his recent anthology, Poemas de un Bárbaro, on the main stage Plaza de la Independencia on Tuesday evening in front of an audience of thousands. On Thursday, Sepúlveda and five other international poets from Brazil, China, Belgium, the Philippines, and Germany were invited to visit the city of León where they read in the house (now a museum) of national poet Rubén Darío. The readings were transmitted on TV and made the front pages of the papers. Every night, poetry readings were followed by events celebrating Nicaragua’s artistic culture: craft fairs, folkloric dances, classical and popular musical concerts.
Another highlight was Wednesday’s colorful carnival dedicated to peace and to putting an end to violence against women. A float with a stage stopped at various corners of the city and selected poets read to the crowd of revelers. High school students in white and blue uniforms ran from poet to poet for autographs. The festival took place in the midst of a controversy about the wisdom of building a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific through Nicaragua’s jungle and its huge fresh water lake. The festival remains neutral but renowned 90 year-old Nicaragua’s poet and artist Ernesto Cardenal voiced his opposition by unfolding a map of the country and reading poems celebrating the beauty and fragility of Lake Nicaragua’s unique ecosystem and its archipelago of islands. Poets were treated to a day-long excursion on one of these “isletas,” the gorgeous Isla Ceiba, also known as the “Island of Poets”.
Granada estimates the festival draws around 50,000 tourists. The beauty of this historical city founded in 1524, the enthusiasm of the public, the unforgettable welcome of dozens of volunteer college students, the generosity of the organizing committee, and the friendship struck among poets made the festival an exhilarating and moving experience. In gratitude, Sepúlveda donated his book to Granada’s public library, housed in the convent San Francisco where Bartolomé de las Casas stayed in 1536 and which is now home to pre-Columbian sculptures and art. Sepúlveda comments:
This festival is a unique celebration of poetry in the continent. It isn’t just a great event because of its magnitude but because of its impact in society. For seven days poetry was the protagonist of social and private life—it was in the news, on the streets, in the virtual world, and at home. I personally met and talked with poets from all over the world: Europe, Australia, the Middle East, India, Nepal, Taiwan as well as from the US and Latin America. Reading along with Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli and Argentine poet Jorge Ariel Madrazo was an honor for me. However, the most remarkable thing was to read my poetry in front of almost three thousand people who sat and listened to each line attentively while two big screens transmitted the reading for the distant audience. That was an experience I will never forget. But I will never forget either that Nicaragua—one of the poorest county in the American continent—is so generous and welcoming. People of Nicaragua love poetry and honor poets like anywhere else. And that’s an example that industrialized societies need to consider if we want to live in a more humane and genuine world.
See press coverage at http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/nacionales/342133-leon-recibe-poetas-mundo/ and http://www.laprensa.com.ni/2015/02/17/cultura/1784200-autoridades-de-leon-declararan-visitantes-distinguidos-a-poetas
For information on the 2015 festival see http://www.festivalpoesianicaragua.com/