Mar 19

Colombian Poetry Goes Bilingual in Bogotá.

I don’t know how many of you are aware, but it’s World Poetry Day this Thursday. Ever since the trailblazing work of a certain dapper, bearded man going by the name of Jose Asuncion Silva, Colombian poetry has had a loyal and passionate following. This was brought home for me when we decided to see if we couldn’t set up a fortnightly poetry club here in big, bad Bogotá – bringing together Spanish and English poetry, stories, and music. It turns out we could, and have!

We’ve had three of these events so far, and each has brought unexpected treasures. Never knowing what to expect, the quality and variety of what people have come to share has been a constant source of delight. We’ve had a bearded Colombian gent calmly busting out some Emily Dickinson; metalheads regaling us with quirky, pithy short stories; William Blake getting the Kardashian treatment; bartenders taking a break from their duties to break out into poetry; and exceptional, smooooth, guitar work.

guitar jam
So, an American, an Australian, and a Colombian walk into a bar…

 

Being accustomed to poetry readings back in Australia (no, really: they do happen now and then), it’s been a bit of an eye-opener to see how they work here in Colombia. From what I’ve seen at our poetry club; the performative aspect is remarkable. Having a shocking… what’s the word… memory… I find it impossible to remember my own phone number, let alone a poem – which means I’m always reading from a sheet. It’s impressive for me, then, to watch unassuming Colombians shuffle up to the mike and rip right into a poem from memory. The delivery is heart-felt, effusive, and memorable; particularly when compared to the much lower-key readings I was used to back in Oz. It seems like Minutos Ladies aren’t the only ones that know how to project and emote with their voices.

An unassuming gent getting right into his poetry.
An unassuming gent getting right into his poetry.

 

The poetry club has grown fairly organically, and it’s impossible to know what to expect, except for surprises. This may be just another way of saying I’m a bit lazy when it comes to organising things (you should see my room); but it also draws parallels with my experience of this country as a whole. Life in Colombia is like a quote from a mediocre Tom Hanks movie: you never know what you’re going to get. But, you should expect some magic.

Sadly, the last event for our poetry club was last night (Monday, March 18th); so I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait another fortnight for the next one. It takes place in the relaxed environs of the Rock House Kaffebar, right in the heart of hipster-friendly Chapinero, in Bogotá (regrettably, we haven’t seen too many hipsteros there as yet – I obviously don’t count). All are made welcome – poets both in the Spanish and English tongue; prose artists; and musicians. Why not swing down and join in the surprises? You may just end up liking it. Join our growing community on facebook (we’re just celebrating our 100th like), and get yourself amongst it. And, maybe, wear a velvet suit? 

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