December 18, 2014
Poetry festival takes over Buenos Aires
International guest artists will participate in the event that runs through May 7In May 1968, protests among young students in France reached a climax. Revolts and massive strikes were common place, and a general atmosphere of chaos set in. And yet, to many, nothing seemed more urgent than simply writing poetry on the walls, bathing the city in graffiti and street art. “Poetry is on the streets,” was a sort of vow to pedestrians on Rotrou street. Another 1968 French graffiti reads: “there is no city without poetry.” This symbiotic relationship between poetry and cities prevails to this day, “the city is a poem and a poem is a city” as written in the brochure for the IX Buenos Aires International Poetry Festival.
In a conference held in the José Herández Hall of La Rural, the president of the Fundación El Libro Gustavo Canevaro, the head organizer of the Poetry Festival Graciela Araóz and Buenos Aires Minister of Culture Hernán Lombardi opened the Festival yesterday with a brief description of what people can expect from it.
In an attempt to build something from poems that go from the rigidly structured sonnets to free verse, the Festival has several international guest artists, who come from places as varied as India, Croatia and Costa Rica. The poets will not only participate in several events at the Book Fair itself, but will also take their works to the streets. “These Festivals are vital for bringing us closer to foreign poets, to make their voices known to us,” said Araóz.
The Festival, which runs through Wednesday 7, lasts a little less than a week — but the frequency and variety of the events prove that this is more than enough to take over the city. Aráoz emphasized this, as she thanked Lombardi for “demanding that we fill the city with poetry because, as our slogan reads, there is no city without poetry.” Lombardi added that this year’s edition was special precisely because of its comprehensive quality, where poetry goes well beyond the limits of the Fair to find itself in bars and subway stations. “We are convinced that poetry makes its way through the cracks of urban life, that in poetry we find that colossal place where we are made human, and where everyday concerns are fixed by the extraordinary power of the written word.”
Canevaro, on the other hand, stressed the commercial importance that festivals like these have, since he assured that “it is important that the market attempts to get the books out for sale.” He, too, thanked Lombardi for his support, calling him “an intimate friend of the Festival.” Canevaro also highlighted just how far this Festival will go; on a sort of poetic crusade, it seems that no corner of the city will be left unmarked by the sharp teeth of poetry.
And it does seem fair to speak of its teeth. Poetry is a genre that has proved over the years to be more a living organism than merely a style. While its use at first was simply to put words together in a musical-enough way so that the oral tradition would be kept alive, the beginning of the written word wasn’t strong enough to kill it. Similarly, as times have changed and artistic movements have become more easy-going, so has poetry, which was once thought of as a style meant exclusively for the elite. Poetry is today a form of writing chosen by academics and people living in slums alike. In accordance to that, Aráoz also mentioned how pleased she was that Sao Paulo was this year’s guest city, since its saraos “are so in keeping to the path we are trying to take that it is as though the planets aligned.” Poetry is like a chameleon, a living organism that adapts itself to everything history throws its way. Its power of survival is remarkable, but not quite surprising. After all, poetry is nothing more than the most naked reflection of its writers, an honest account of whatever feeds on the insides of its makers. It is inevitable to think that there is no need to understand poetry for it to understand us. As Araóz said, “when we read, we recognize ourselves in others, we get to the core of who we really are.” It is apparent, then, that no genre has been so successful in building cities and making us feel that those cities build us in return.