I’m excited about my poetry reading to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin tomorrow. I will be reading via zoom as the event is broadcast live through the youtube video link below as we read. I”m honored to be reading with another African writer, Koulsy Lamco from Chad, North Central Africa. I will also have the pleasure of a Spanish reader who will read my poetry in the Spanish translation for Spanish people all over the world and particularly, in Colombia, the home country of the Festival. Join me at 12 noon Eastern Time for the broadcast. My newly assigned reader is Valentina, a lady I work better with. We have already traded voice conversations as she needed me to pronounce the difficult words from the Grebo Language of Liberia, like: Gbaliahde, Tugbakeh, Kaluway, and Kwadi Chee, all in Grebo. Imagine translating English to Spanish, and then you are faced with a very strange language, so, I had a good laugh before I recorded the words in Grebo pronunciation for her. She is such a sweet person, I’m excited to hear her read each of my poems in Spanish. I also told her she didn’t have to do the popowlee chant, hahahah🤣🤣🤣, but imagine the Grebo Popowlee chant in Spanish, hahaha.
In its 30th year, one of the world’s most dynamic poetry festivals was forced to go virtual this year due to COVID-19, drawing together nearly two hundred poets from more than a hundred countries around the world, every area of the globe, represented in this very professional and well-organized festival or world poets for an entire month. The festival, founded 30 years ago by Fernando Rendon and his team of writers and supporters of poetry, peace and freedom, have dedicatedly served the world of poetry for three decades. My first invitation to the festival was in 2007, and my life has never been the same. I can say that the festival has inspired much of what I have done with poetry over the years since that first year. I was invited the second time in 2010, and again, I saw the power of words, of poetry, or writers, and was honored to meet poets from every part of the globe, to watch the power of words come alive and read to thousands of enthusiastic audiences for nearly two weeks each time. Well, tomorrow, at about noon, tune in to the link below and join us as another poet from another end of Africa reads with me and as our Spanish translators read each of our poems in Spanish. My third time being honored to join voices with poets around the world, I am very honored and humbled to celebrate poetry and life in this very difficult time in our world. This is a moment in the world that will be remembered in history, and you must join me and my fellow poet read for you, wherever you are on the globe.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixfWnrorCB8&fbclid=IwAR0VLLJzkHegt72nm-Rt9csOSYyVaFQk_dRPZLWft6Ybilb97BNOcmd4UX0
Here is a poem I wrote from my first influenced at the 2007 Festival.
A Poem for Fernando’s Colombia
Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
to God, how I wish I could take out my heart for you,
but how will I sing this song to you without a heart?
You, with so much heart for love and poetry,
for hope in the eyes of the little girl
who, with a scrap of white paper, wants me to say a word
to her, to autograph my name for her, in her name.
She tells me with that unusual smile how
she loves my poems, but she is only eight years old.
She and Carlos, the five-year-old brother, who have
pushed through the thousands to get to me.
Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
where we go down from the mountain
into the bowl of a city, into the deep heart of a city,
so warm, a city where people still smile
and clap to a poem and cry for the war, a city
where concrete houses hold up the hills with muscles
of steel, muscles of pain, and somewhere along the roads
as the bus descends from the airport, the poor have
erected their own lives so sadly, waiting,
and yet, they overlook the city with hope.
From the edge of sharp cliffs and the side roads,
the burning lights and flames of the city, hard
and indistinguishable from anger.
But theirs is of the pain from the years gone.
Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
Waiting can be so hard, Medellin.
But I love you from my heart. I love your laughter,
your warm hugs and kisses, your Spanish, so simply
plain and warm. I love even your tears that you
have shared with me when a poem I’m reading
touches you in that place where only a poem can go.
At the International Poetry Festival, you sit there,
along your hill arena, clapping, thousands of people,
sitting and thinking and listening and hoping,
Medellin, I have never seen anything like this before.
Thousands of people sitting for long hours
at a poetry reading, Medellin…
we wait for that day, Medellin, we wait.
Trust me, I know how to wait, and I know you do too.