Jesús Sepúlveda Celebrates the 27th International Festival of Poetry in Medellín, Colombia
Eleven days after the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) laid down their arms, the International Festival of Poetry in Medellín began its 27th version, celebrating world peace and reconciliation in Colombia.
If Medellín was associated with Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels in the early 1990’s, today it has become the capital of poetry.
From July 8th to 15th, 2017, an international community of poets met in Medellín to celebrate poetry and peace through the slogan “construyendo el país soñado” and explore possible articulations to link poetry to the peace-making process.
Chilean poet and RL instructor Jesús Sepúlveda was invited to participate with more than 100 other selected international and Colombian poets to read poetry in public. Readings were also held in Bogotá and in other locations in the country, including the so-called “normalization zones” near temporary guerrilla camps where former fighters transition into civil life.
Each day poets shared their poetry in public spaces—local libraries in underprivileged neighborhoods, countercultural theaters, universities, public plazas, and many cultural buildings.
This year was symbolic because of the recent peace agreement, but also particularly difficult because of political conflicts, which led some important institutions to withdraw their support from the festival. As the founder and director of the festival poet Fernando Rendón put it, the cultural functionaries feel they own the public budget, therefore:
“Aunque la guerra haya terminado, se mantiene la escala de tropas y armamentos, y el mal gusto por la áspera dominación y la cultura de la fuerza; se menoscaba aún más el presupuesto de la cultura; se interceptan los fondos de las agencias de cooperación que engrosan los presupuestos ministeriales; se imponen nuevos tributos y requisitos a las actividades culturales; se privatizan espacios tradicionales para el arte; se restringe al máximo el uso del espacio “público”; se hace inaccesible el costo de los libros y otros productos culturales; se incumplen compromisos con sectores avanzados del teatro nacional; se imponen a los actores culturales las mismas normas contables que a las empresas trasnacionales; se retienen aportes vitales para desarrollar procesos en los tiempos puntuales; se maltrata a los creadores y gestores.”
In spite of these difficulties, the festival was able to assemble poets, musicians and the public in an exceptional and peaceful symbiosis that makes this festival one of the most important poetry events around the world.
Poets also led literary workshops on current issues. Jesús Sepúlveda delivered a talk on poetry and utopia called “Jardines para la paz” at the Corporación Ecológica y Cultural Penca de Sábila. At the end of this workshop, participants wrote their own creative pieces. The following day a reading was organized at the Palacio de Bellas Artes where poets Samuel Bossini and Graciela Maturo from Argentina and Jesús Sepúlveda read together with some participants from different workshops that took place during the week in the context of the “Escuela de Poesía del Festival” directed by poet Jairo Guzmán.
The closing ceremony of the festival was a collective reading where many poets, including Sepúlveda, read their work in front of a multitude that gathered at the Parque de los Deseos. The crowd’s enthusiastic cheers and applause were an uplifting confirmation of the powers of poetry to embrace peace and unity in a country submerged in armed conflict for the last 53 years.
Jesús Sepúlveda adds: “I can only express my gratitude for the warm welcome and dedication of Fernando and Luis Eduardo Rendón, Gloria y Natalia, and all organizers for the smooth organization led by a team of presenters, interpreters, and translators, and for the energizing spirit of Colombia. Language transformed into poetry and poetry transformed into peace are the keys of this festival whose creative resonance is a crucial experience for poets in all languages. ¡Viva el Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín!”
[For more information about the “Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín,” click here: https://www.festivaldepoesiademedellin.org/es/Intro/index.htm]