Essay: A personal and universal journey towards poetry

By Mariano Rolando Andrade

 Poet Mariano Rolando Andrade reading aloud some of his verses in popular market Mercado del Progreso on the second day of the FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires (June 14-18, 2017). Photo credit: Manuela Uribe 

Poet Mariano Rolando Andrade reading aloud some of his verses in popular market Mercado del Progreso on the second day of the FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires (June 14-18, 2017). Photo credit: Manuela Uribe 

 

 “Well, write poetry, for God's sake, it's the only thing that matters.”  

                                                                                                                            e e cummings

 

Although many might think poetry died away as a force after Auschwitz and the tragedies of the 20th century, this art is going through a strong revival today. Poetry is being rediscovered as one of the most natural and authentic forms of human expression, rescuing readers overwhelmed by data and dry, mathematical approaches to life. The poetic spirit allows us to hear our voices again, a miraculous innovation in the noisy world of cyber communication. Poetry is coming back to rescue words, restoring their original force and value after so much abuse and misuse.

A writer, poet, journalist and translator, I'm currently the editor of Buenos Aires Poetry, a revue created by poet, critic and translator Juan Arabia. My relationship with Buenos Aires Poetry started after a chance discovery a couple of years ago and this was a kind of comeback for me too. After one and a half decades as a news journalist at Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Paris, Brussels and New York City, I had decided to take a sabbatical year and return to my literary roots.

Years ago, I published a book (Los Viajes de Rimbaud, Vinciguerra, 1996) and earned some recognition. But journalism took over. I have nothing to complain about: I’ve had a wonderful career as a correspondent. But for a long time, I have felt a need to return, to be cleansed by poetry, and this break gave me the opportunity to do so. I am now working on a collection of poems about a recent voyage I made in the mythical South Seas and I've completed Beat anthology, which will be released this summer in Spanish. And I was kindly invited to the XII FIP International Festival of Poetry in Buenos Aires, which ran from June 14th to June 18th in the Argentine capital.

 A reproduction of the XII FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires poster. The festival opened its doors on June 14th and ended on June 18th, 2017 in the Argentine capital.

A reproduction of the XII FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires poster. The festival opened its doors on June 14th and ended on June 18th, 2017 in the Argentine capital.

This year's gathering saw 35 poets from 17 countries gathering, and I was one of them. It was my first appearance at the event where I got to meet peers from around the world and it provided a unique occasion to read my work in front of a large audience. An original idea of the Society of Writers and Writers of Argentina (SEA), the FIP takes place annually and has become the largest in Argentina, winning international recognition. During its 12 years, the FIP has featured about 400 poets, some of them among the most prominent of our times, including the winner of the Cervantes Prize, Antonio Gamoneda from Spain.

“We want to invite countries that have never been at the festival to introduce their language, culture and traditions to our readers,” Graciela Aráoz, poet and director of the FIP, recently said. This 2017 edition introduced poets from Canada, France, Slovenia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, Portugal, Uruguay, Ecuador, Netherlands, Finland and Spain, plus a solid representation from Argentina.

That fits in with Buenos Aires’ cosmopolitan and cultural spirit. The FIP, which has opened a School of Poetry and is one of the founders of the World Poetry Movement, is not only about readings and performances in big cultural centers; it's also about bringing poetry to life, in the subway, in popular markets, etc. I was lucky enough to experience this firsthand: on the second day of the festival, I read some of my work to a mixed crowd of local shoppers and neighborhood figures. The scene was reminiscent of the old-time bards reciting poems and epics, except that I was holding a megaphone and reading straight from my mobile phone. I saw the eyes and the ears of the people open, I saw some of them nod or smile, I saw them react to my words, my verses, my emotions, and escape. It's been a return, for sure, but also an epiphany: just like the world seems to have embraced poetry again, I came back to something that had never really vanished after all.

 

Mariano Rolando Andrade is a poet, a writer and a journalist from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

 

Escape a Nashville

 Poet Mariano Rolando Andrade reciting his poem "Escape a Nashville" on stage at the FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires (June 14-18, 2017). Photo credit: Soledad Nieto

Poet Mariano Rolando Andrade reciting his poem "Escape a Nashville" on stage at the FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires (June 14-18, 2017). Photo credit: Soledad Nieto

  By Mariano Rolando Andrade

(In Spanish)

Si pudiera llevarte esta noche

lejos de Nueva York.

Correr entre los espirales

de luces y neón de Chinatown,

disfrutando la belleza y el crimen

de huir de la ciudad,

sus bocas de subway atascadas

y los paraguas que se chocan.

 

Si pudiera subirte a este bus

y dejar atrás los vahos asmáticos

que exhala Manhattan

 Writing, editing, and reading poetry. Photo Credit: Mariano Rolando Andrade

Writing, editing, and reading poetry. Photo Credit: Mariano Rolando Andrade

con sus tuberías monolitos,

los bares con parroquianos

fumando al ritmo de la lluvia,

las peluquerías vacías,

los taxis en cámara lenta.

 

Si pudiera llevarte lejos,

chapotear en charcos

de esquinas pegajosas

 The isolated tomb of legendary Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson photographed by Mariano Rolando Andrade during his travels in the South Seas in 2016

The isolated tomb of legendary Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson photographed by Mariano Rolando Andrade during his travels in the South Seas in 2016

y refugiarnos bajo toldos gastados.

Si pudiera subirte a ese bus

hacia una carretera sin número,

bordeando moteles y gasolineras

borroneadas por tormentas.

 

Serían cientos

de mojones en la noche,

con las ventanillas empañadas,

acunados en un aire

 The cover of Mariano Rolando Andrade's first book: Los Viajes de Arthur Rimbaud (Arthur Rimbaud's Travels), ed. Vinciguerra, 1996

The cover of Mariano Rolando Andrade's first book: Los Viajes de Arthur Rimbaud (Arthur Rimbaud's Travels), ed. Vinciguerra, 1996

impregnado de Oriente

y el rumor

de una lengua susurrada

como un poema incomprensible.

 

No recordarías

ningún cartel, ninguna ciudad.

Apenas decenas de camiones

velando en desolados playones.

El silbido del caucho

en la negrura de Estados Unidos

y nuestras vidas

 Cutout from Argentine newspaper "La Gaceta" showing a review of Mariano Rolando Andrade's first book: "The Travels of Arthur Rimbaud," written early in his career

Cutout from Argentine newspaper "La Gaceta" showing a review of Mariano Rolando Andrade's first book: "The Travels of Arthur Rimbaud," written early in his career

vertidas sobre el asfalto.

 

Te despertaría

al primer claror para ver juntos

el perezoso amanecer en Tennessee,

las siluetas de cedros y robles,

las quebradas, los ríos.

Hank Williams en la radio

llenaría de luz

las millas finales a Nashville.

 

 

Si pudiera llevarte esta noche

nos perderíamos para siempre

en los bares de Stetsons

de la Broadway del sur.

Los dos,

nuestras vidas derramadas

como una canción

sobre dos amantes olvidados.

 

 

Poet Mariano Rolando Andrade reciting his poem "Escape a Nashville" on stage at the FIP International Festival of Poetry of Buenos Aires (June 14-18, 2017). Video credit: Diego Lluma