Whilst living in Spain – though I have missed my loved ones – what I have missed most is the abundance of poetry and arts nights you can find in London. It wasn’t long before I arrived in Córdoba that I went in search of events. I saw an old poster for a “Poetry Slam” at the Jazz Café, but it didn’t appear to exist any more. I then stumbled upon Mujeres Poetas Internacional. I contacted founder Jael Uribe, from the Dominican Republic, and she soon responded and contacted the organisers in Córdoba, and even translated four of my own poems into Spanish.
I corresponded with Sergio Perez Rodrigeuz and Maria Pizarro, organisers of the Grito de Mujer at which I was booked to read. I emailed in Spanish, which perhaps led them to believe I could speak Spanish, which is certainly not the case (writing =/=speaking). There were awkward moments, such as me not realising a group photograph included me and having it retaken, and me staring blankly when trying to discuss the proceedings (thankfully an audience member with some English skills stepped in). But for a night of poetry where I could only pick out a few words, it showed that poetry was well and truly alive in Spain.
for a night of poetry where I could only pick out a few words, it showed that poetry was well and truly alive in Spain.
Another English person had previously heavily implied that Spanish people aren’t very emotive when speaking. I wasn’t aware of this cultural stereotype, but in my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. From the onset, it was clear that the topics of most work were emotional, and the readings were akin to flamenco, in the passion they conveyed for their subject matter. I didn’t need to know all the words, because I could feel them.
After about an hour and a half of poetry (okay, and I admit, a man who was more monotone and read three pages of prose – there’s always one) the first section ended with some music. A man played guitar and sang beautifully, dealing with sensitive subject matters such as the sexual assault of young girls. We all chorused with “todas las niñas” (‘all the girls’) and it felt powerful to be inside this little patio, in a city which is supposedly quite conservative, men and women gathered to advocate women’s rights.
I had planned to read ‘The Knitted Womb’, a poem about FGM inspired by ‘Casting Off My Womb’ by artist Casey Jenkins, and ‘Monkey Bars’, about my experience with pole dance. I felt these pieces portrayed both the vulnerability and strength of womanhood, and would have been more suited to the theme of violence against women and girls. However, the translations of these pieces are lost somewhere inside the Patio Vesubio. Instead I read ‘Paradise’, an anti-Page 3 poem, and ‘Computer Generated Images’, about growing up as a digitally native girl.
The night ended on one man reading poems from his sister’s book and then singing. It was clear that something painful had happened to his sister, perhaps she had passed away. He read the poetry with such emotion that he would have frequent bursts of tears. It was a beautiful moment to share, in a world where men are still punished for expressing their emotions. He sang to his guitar, accompanied by a violin, his long hair falling in front of his face, his voice guttural and emotional.
the event as a whole illustrated the need for all genders to fight against the dangers of a patriarchal society
Of course, it would have been wonderful to see women musicians too, but the event as a whole illustrated the need for all genders to fight against the dangers of a patriarchal society, to unite against rape culture, and to celebrate women’s artistic work in equal amount to that of men.
The festival Grito de Mujer continues in Córdoba until 16th March. To find about more events as part of the international festival, head here.
Featured image via Mujeres Poetas Internacional-MPI, Inc.