Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Poet Interprets the World She Inhabits: Poems published in June 2015


The Vengeance of Gods and Spirits

Poseidon is getting back his own
for land deprived of long ago
by furious, ancient gods
who froze waters in the north and south.

Island nations do not know
what that quarrel was about.
But Helios no longer spares the sun
and, Poseidon, freer to roam,
batters and eats our shores.

Houses hang on precipices of eroding soil.
Aguoeh, the sea spirit has not taken our side.
Met Agwe has lost his way.
They watch as Vulcan and Agwe Flambeau
set our homes and land aflame.

Will our island nations cease to be?
How great is our offence?
Have we marred beautiful Heaven,
stifled wind’s freedom?
Have we made Mother-earth anemic,
sucked life out her bosom?

If we promise to mend our ways.
Christ, Buddha, Allah and Loa may intervene.

© Althea Romeo-Mark 15.5.15.

*Poseidon- god of the sea
*Vulcan-god of fire
* Loa (also spelled Lwa or L'wha) are the spirits of Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo.[1] They are also referred to as Mystères and the Invisibles and are intermediaries between Bondye (French: Bon Dieu, meaning "good God")—the Supreme Creator, who is distant from the world—and humanity.
*Agwé (Agueh) is a Loa  who rules who rules the sea.
*Met Agwe is the Loa of direction. His territory is the winds and the currents, waves and depths of the oceans. He helps sailors find their bearings when lost at sea. He provides inspiration and guidance whenever an individual needs them in times of turmoil, loss, or indecision over the sea, fish, and aquatic plants, as well as the patron Loa of fishermen and sailors
* Agwe Flambeau is from a realm of boiling water, like a hot springs or an underwater volcanic eruption.é

Poem published in the 2015 issue of Caribbean-American Heritage Month Literary Magazine, page 13 Published by the Institute of Caribbean Studies and features short stories and poems by Caribbean authors on the theme global warming.


I          Departure

We are driven away from English Harbour,
watch the village flee into distance:
its sea-splashed coves,
its tiny island houses, some thatched,
some wearing sun-glinted, galvanized roofs,
its brown men on cane-stacked donkeys,
pickers plucking cotton and the smells of
callaloo, pepper-pot and dukanah
teasing the sweltering air.
It is the beginning of losing part of ourselves.

II        Arrival

Father makes a heroic figure
guiding the landed plane on the runway.
We watch as its swirling fans settle into standstill.
Valises in hands, we disembark to new landscapes.

Our old island home is transformed into an idyllic realm.
Its scenes become locked-away treasure taken out
with flourish and shared at special gatherings.
Our hands dance in the valleys and hills of loud recalling.

© Althea Romeo-Mark Revised 26.02.2015, revised 12.03.15

English Harbour- a natural harbor and settlement on the island of Antigua.
Callaloo, pepper-pot and dukanah- food specialties of the Caribbean

Another  of many departures and arrivals Haiti (extreme left) age 16 , part of a methodist mission.
Haitian Memories 1960s

Papa Doc, threatened,
forbids snapshots of his mansion.
Men in dark glasses
glare behind giant steel gates.

Our sneakers brand us American.
A beggar, spying foreigners,
pinches her baby to bait our pity
but we do not fall prey.
Curses pummel our ears.

Overrun by a swarm of vendors,
we flee without paintings and carvings
that speak of Mother Africa.

An invitation to a voodoo ceremony
parades zombies in our heads.
Our shuddering senses shout no.

II Journey to Petit Goave

Long ride.
Overcome by sleep,
we lean on strange shoulders.
But the bus bounces and we are shaken,
stomach stirred, car sick.

Flood swallows roads.
Rivers scale embankments.
We disembark in the dark,
scan banks for alligators
we’ve been cautioned about.

We climb on and off again
as bus drivers test
the safety of the river-road’s depth.

Arriving at midnight,
we listen for the echoes
of drums in the hills
that fantasy foretold,
but fall asleep betrayed.

Petit Goave

Heads filled with warnings
of island magic,
we dare not walk bare foot.

Do not want to return home
the jackasses they have warned
we would become.

Petit Goave: The Darkest fudge

It is only mud.
It will do for now,
for they are alive,
and feign it’s
the darkest fudge.

They eat the clay
from which
life comes.
It is sweet.

Petit Goave :Naked Truth

The plight of the poor
is a weight
we have never carried.

We bend steel, mix mortar,
build a foundation for a church.
Provide food for the soul.

Learned to bend steel to build a foundation for this church in Petite Goave, Haiti.

Made a Haitian friend, Celeste. I wonder where she is now? Is she still alive and a grandmother like me.

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.