Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Medellin is the city where poets are rock stars

Althea Romeo-Mark

Medellin is a city where poets are rock stars; a city where the masses hunger for the words of poets, a city where people sit in the rain and listen to poets; a city where fans line up to get autographs and take photos with poet-stars. The poetry festival has become a tradition and is part of the social and cultural fabric of sprawling Medellin.

Lectura en el Ateneo Porfirio Barba Jacob Poetas: Javier Campos (Chile) - Consuelo Hernandes (Colombia) - Fabiano Alborghetti (Suiza) - Leon Gil (Colombia) Jenny Tunendal (Suecia) Althea-Romeo-Mark (Antigua) - Obedia Michael Smith (Bahamas)
By:Fabiano Alborghetti

I did my last reading on Friday, July 16th in Auditorio Edificio Torre De La Memoria in Municipio Sabaneta about 40 minutes outside Medellin. We got caught in a horrific traffic jam and arrived 30 minutes late. Read with poets Umberto Senegal (Colombia), Homero Carvalho (Bolivia) and Esteban Moore (Argentina).

It is Sunday, 18 July and I missed the final day of the festival which will feature readings by all poets and a grand party afterward. I had to get back to reality since I don't write for a living. Many poets attending the festival get paid to do what they enjoy--write and teach writing, take on projects that might change the world in some small way,( i.e. preserve dying languages, collect the war stories of women), and perennially attend poetry festivals around the world. It is a lifestyle some of us only dream about. Not all of us can live on poetry. Work starts on Monday at 9:00 a.m.

I am going to miss the bustling city of Medellin. Rainbow-colored buses that make you think of carnival, herds of motorcyclists, streams of yellow taxis and private cars compete in that city where the smell of gasoline in predominant.  One must reach outside the city to get fresh air. It is a city that is exploding with development, a city filled with contrasts. There are looming skyscrapers as well as scrappy narrow building whose doors are protected with iron bars and in which the ordinary people run their business. There are huge shopping malls on the city’s outskirts along with inspiring museums, wonderful architectures and universities.  The mountainsides are painted brown with clay/brick buildings large and small, fantastically designed or hurriedly erected structures build by refugees of war.

It is a city where spring is perennial and that means rain and rain coats, and streets filled with vendors selling fresh fruit and avocados where ever you turn. I am going to miss the fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh juice that we were served every day—soursap juice being my favorite. I hope to shed the few pounds I think I gained.

I am going to miss Fernando Rendon and his army of organizers and helpers, some, who happen to be university students artists and actors, who worked tirelessly as readers, translators, guides, m.c.’s and shepherds of poets who needed to know where to, when to go and how to get to venues. They also gave their free time to take us on cultural tours.  This machine is so well organized; it would give the Swiss a grand competition for orderliness and precision.

Unforgettable are the meals shared, as poets got to know each other informally, the friendships formed by the famous and little known, from all over the world, and the doors that might have been opened through contacts made and networks formed.

Cecil Blarzer Williams (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Alfonso Domingo (Cuba) Howard A Fergus (Montserrat), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas) and Grace Nicols (Guyana)
 I was especially pleased to meet and read with fellow Caribbean poets, Grace Nicols and her husband, John Agard (Guyana), Cecil Blazer Williams (St. Vincent  and Grenadines), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Domingo Alfonso (Cuba) and Howard A Fergus (Monserrat)

Howard A Fergus (Montserrat), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas) and Grace Nicols (Guyana)

Cecil Blazer Williams (St. Vincent and Grenadines) Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Domingo Alfonso (Cuba

Reading with other Caribbean poets at Teatro Camilo Torres
Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
Viernes 9 de julio, 4:30 p.m
 — with Althea Romeo-Mark.

. We learned to reinforce the faith we had in ourselves and our purpose in this world as the mouthpiece of the masses and the interpreters of our own experiences and that of the silent majority.
Out and about in Medellin with fellow  international poets

A Colombian student, translator, and escort who comes from a city that is predominantly black and maintains African roots.

In Bucamaranga, near the Venezuela border for a reading and trying some of the local food.

 Hope I will be back to try the “changua” soup made of potato, egg and bread, the wonderful tamale cooked in banana leaf cups and munch on “fat ass” ants and remember that “embarazada” doesn’t mean to be embarrassed but to be pregnant. And I hope that I can remember that in some parts of the country, “muy caliente” can mean I am upset or sexy hot. I must see the beautiful smiles of the Colombian people and become the object of their kind spirit once again.

Vendors selling fresh fruit

Beauty and the Beast Dance a Duet in Medellin

The clay god lives here.
Red dwellings paint blue sky-line.
Wedged between steel and cement giants,
scrappy narrow structures,
play hide-and-seek in their shadow.

Bricked barracks, sprung up like weeds
in the aftermath of reckless wars,
clutter and cling to steep mountainsides
and brim over with refugees.

Clay homesteads, teeter on the edge of precipices,
line roadsides like lost itinerants.
Lone figures lean out the minescule windows
of rainbow-colored concrete closets,
dream of pennies and escape.

Herds of motorcyclists and streams of yellow taxis
clog the roads. Pedestrians inhale suffocating gas fumes.

Street vendors brave noise and smoke as they sell
mangoes, lemons, watermelons, pineapples,
sugar apples and sliced flesh of coconuts.

Pastry shops, doors adorned with iron bars,
bloom out of nooks, appease the hunger pangs
of sweet-toothed passers-by.

In a crowded market, displaying souvenirs,
a man grinds sugarcane stalks.
People wait to buy juice trickling into a pan.

The wealthy retreat in gated communities
with modern amenities and live in soap-opera worlds.
Drug lords orchestrate fiefdoms in the shadows.
Danger and death lurk round corners.

A black granite library, a misfit
among random construction,
stretches defiantly skyward,
to bring knowledge to the masses.

Medellin, a world metropolis,
masquerades in a carnival of contradictions.
The clay god watches
as beauty and the beast dance a duet.

© Althea Mark-Romeo 02.04.2011

A Poets’ Oasis
(Medellin, Colombia)

Cement seats in the amphitheater are full.
A gripped audience, parasols up,
 or wrapped in plastic covering,
 sits hours in rain.

Caught in the magic swirl of a poet’s realm,
crowd clings to the nectar of word-rush,
as voices, dressed in  rhythm,
do laps through verses.

Ears grasp messages,
eyes lock messengers,
propelled into spoken trance
poets and listeners,

©  Althea Romeo-Mark                   23.10.2011   

La poesía va desde el centro a los poetas
  • La poesía va desde el centro a los poetas | Hernán Vanegas | Patricia, Alhahi Papa Susso, Lola, Verónica, Althea y Jean Jacques Sewanou compartiendo su poesía y su encanto por Medellín, en la Avenida Oriental.
    La poesía va desde el centro a los poetas | Hernán Vanegas | Patricia, Alhahi Papa Susso, Lola, Verónica, Althea y Jean Jacque

La poesía la dejaron para más tarde. Tal vez se fueron a buscar historias para escribir después. Lo que sí, es que tenían unas ganas gigantes de conocer, de "caminar por ahí", como dijo Verónica Zondek, poeta chilena.

Y se fueron en compañía, conversando en inglés. Patricia Jabbeh, de Liberia; Althea Romeo Mark, de Antigua y Barbados; Verónica Zondek, de Chile, y Lola Koundakjian, de Armenia.

Pasaron la Oriental, con risas y hasta corriendo. Se pasearon por el Parque Bolívar y Junín y se dejaron sorprender por las guanábanas, que no habían visto nunca, y que encontraron en un puesto de frutas. Patricia se puso a bailar en un almacén, mientras miraba ropa, porque ella, según dijo, en Medellín se siente como en casa.

Eso fue la poesía mientras recorrieron el centro de la ciudad. En el escenario, los poetas sí que son sorprendidos. En la inauguración, al ver la cantidad de gente presente anoche en el Teatro Carlos Vieco, pese al fuerte viento y la lluvia, no pudieron dejar de admirarse. Y cuando los autores empezaron a leer sus poemas, el frío desapareció por completo. Así como lo hizo ayer y de seguro lo hará los días que vienen.

Los poetas se convierten en mensajeros de sus propias y lejanas tierras y hacen que la multitud se transporte a los ardientes desiertos del Sahara o respire la fresca brisa de las montañas de Mongolia.

Ya sea acompañados por un tambor o con el único instrumento de la voz, los poetas declaman versos colmados de ironías y tristezas, de amor y muerte, incluso de animales o cotidianidad. A veces tampoco es necesaria la traducción. La gente ríe o hace silencio, y se encanta con el poema.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

In 24 Hours: Poems on Today's State of Our World

In 24 Hours

I.               Bring Back Our Girls

On this April day,
Nigerian girls were brought back.
Two hundred rescued
from a Boko Harem bush-prison,
where iron-fisted men
are trying to turn time back.

Demoted  to property,
equated with cows and goats,
our Nigerian daughters were herded in pens,
to be bartered for.

FAITH is what our girls held onto
when another armed posse came,  
declaring themselves to be their saviors.

 A choice between two hells,
our girls must have thought
when told by armed men
they were fated to be free.

Taken from ABC news.com

II.           Falling Mountains

The sky in Katmandu is a gray choking cloud.
It’s earth has trembled, crumbled
and now greedily swallows its children.

Mountains are angry, hungry dragons
woken from a deep sleep.
They roar in their trampling rampage.

The smell of death
rises from the rubble
of unplanned graves.

How many lives will be sacrificed
before Agni is appeased.

*Agni, Hindu god of Fire and the acceptor of sacrifices for onwards conveyance to other deities. 

New York Times.com
Boiling Point

Another American city
tells the tale of two worlds,
laws shaded by
class and ethnicity.

Darker brothers nurse broken bones,
count their bullet-pierced
and tasered dead.
Spirits are wounded.

Anger is a riotous roar.  
The fire is upon us.
How soon will it be put out?
How soon before the next one flares?

*taser- a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporary paralysis.
* verb verb: taser; 3rd person present: tasers; gerund or present participle: tasering; past tense: tasered; past participle: tasered; verb: tase; 3rd person present: tases; gerund or present participle: tasing; past tense: tased; past participle: tased
*fire a taser at (someone) in order to incapacitate them temporarily.


Lives in Shards
(for those oppressed by man and nature)

We wake to daily news of those
whose worlds are broken clay pots.
How to mend them, make them whole?

We cover wounds with plasters
of kind words and short lived charity.

The strong-willed hide scars
under self-determination.

The fragile are handled with care.
Weak seams of threadbare living easily fray.
Their wrath writes headlines in our media.
Experts offer formulated explanations.

We live in unease, wonder when our
tidy existence will become scattered shards.

© Althea Romeo-Mark 2015

Photo taken at Kenya's Museum of Natural History 2014, Althea Romeo-Mark

Nigeria army rescues nearly 300 females from Boko Haram ...


Apr 29, 2015 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Escape Route, Basel poems

Escape Route

This I do in summer.
Winter, being least a friend,
is not the companion
I choose to walk with.

I stroll along the Rhine.
It is the route I take to escape
nagging thoughts holding me prisoner.

As I amble under the canopy
of sun and sky, along the flowing river,
between luscious leafy trees,
nature speaks to me and brings a quiet calm.

Cyclists, joggers, lovers holding hands,
young mothers out with toddlers and
babies in prams, swimmers bobbing
and floating in the grey-blue Rhine
are welcome distractions.

I admire the tenacity of a medieval city wall
and buildings still standing after six centuries.
I brood about the battles, quakes and fires
they have withstood to tell their story.

The lens through which I see the world
lose their grey tint. It is cleansed
by hope and the light of life.
I am whole again before I cross the Rhine,
long before my sauntering comes to an end.

©  Althea Romeo-Mark 13.03.15

A River Runs Through It
(Basel, Switzerland)

Basel Separated, yet connected,
“gross und klein,”
thrive on the River Rhine.

The River Rhine,
at times a murky blue,
a murky brown,
flows through Basel City
like blood through veins,
gives life and links
sister towns, and countries.

Witness to history old and new,
city and river have much to tell
about plundering tribal giants,
from north and south,
and death by plagues,
the rise and fall
of European nations.

Beautiful Basel
laughs in the sun.
When it thunders
and lightning tear clouds
and rain swells the Rhine,
Basel refuses to be cowered.

© Althea Romeo-Mark 18.09.2014