Saturday, July 19, 2008
Poets José Emilio Pacheco, Joaquín Sabina & Luis García Montero
Exclusive reports from Crime Fiction's international big-bash by our roving reporter.
6th Day - Thursday's Poetry Reading
This morning, José Emilio Pacheco, Joaquín Sabina and Luis García Montero read their poetry at the main tent of La Semana Negra. Since the recital was scheduled for one in the morning, I had planned to arrive an hour before, thinking I was going to get a good, comfortable spot. But it seemed dozens of people thought the same thing. Usually at this hour people are at the clubs dancing away the night, and you would think no one would even think about poetry. But in Gijón this was not the case.
As Paco Ignacio Taibo, II said, “Some years ago when I proposed a poetry reading late at night, people said I was crazy, that no one would actually attend.” But in fact a lot of people attended, and as I made my way through the audience that was trying to find chairs and move closer to the stage, I soon realized I wasn’t going to get a chair. So I made my way through to the front to sit wherever possible. I got a little spot right on the front between two couples and took out my camera. I’m a big poetry reader and just thinking that I was going to be listening to these three important poets of the Spanish language made me shiver. Before the recital, the tent was noisy, people desperately trying to find a place, but by 1:00am, no one else was able to get in. This made me feel more excited, and I felt envious looks from people behind me.
The recital got started by Yampi who livened up the tent with his guitar so people started singing. With his endless smile, Yampi thanked everyone for being there so late at night. He honored the deceased poet Ángel González by singing some of his poems, verses that quickly changed the mood of the tent. Ángel González died this year on January 12th and his death is most felt at La Semana Negra, because since the late-night poetry readings got started by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Ángel had never missed a year.
Joaquín Sabina, famous songwriter and poet, has been attending La Semana Negra for the last six years and Luis García Montero, has also attended for many years. The only newbie was José Emilio Pacheco, who in some way came to replace Ángel González. Not an easy task, but knowing that José Emilio is considered one of the most important Mexican poets of our time, with his brilliant work in narrative, translation and most importantly poetry, he had nothing to fear.
A little after 1:00 Paco Taibo went on the stage and people went crazy clapping. Taibo said how happy he felt that so many people were at the event and that he knew we would truly enjoy it because, "poetry has less and less space in our society." He introduced the poets and surrounded by claps, cheers and yells, the three poets got on stage and waved to everyone. It was an amazing moment when the poets took their seats. Sabina and Montero seemed very comfortable on stage. Pacheco on the other hand seemed nervous and timid, but this didn’t stop his smile.
The recital started with Sabina and Montero together reciting a poem dedicated to Pacheco, verses that truly evoked the importance of Pacheco’s place in Spanish language poetry. The two poets declared that the poem was an homage, following the example of Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca's tribute poem to Ruben Darío. The poem was recited with enthusiasm, vividly, full of respect and admiration for the Mexican poet. Pacheco was moved by the poem to reply, “The least I can do you for you is read you poems that haven’t been publish yet.” He read three short poems and afterward timidly thanked everyone.
For an hour the poets took turns reading their poetry, and after each, the crowd got rowdier and louder. Many times you would see Taibo II trying to silence everyone from the side, because as he said at the beginning, “I want to establish a quiet and peaceful atmosphere so everyone can hear well and enjoy the poetry.” This was impossible. People would scream and tell Sabina or Montero that they loved them; or to Pacheco, “You are the greatest,” and similar remarks. I have to confess I was loud too, but how could you not in the presence of these eminents breathing the same air you are, stepping on the same sand and, most importantly, listening to their verses in such an intimate space?
Joaquin Sabina was the last to perform; García Montero joined him by singing the choruses. It was a tango entitled "Semana Negra", lyrics especially dedicated to La Semana Negra and all the happiness it brings to Gijón. After the song, a lot of people tried to get on stage. I got pushed and stepped on, until Taibo announced the poets would be signing books, but that everyone had to make a line. The organizers of La Semana Negra also gave away copies of a special anthology of Pacheco’s poetry to everyone.
For half an hour the poets signed books, and people in line were excited and had big smiles on their faces. Unfortunately, when the poets tired and decided to head to the hotel, people still in line got a little crazy and started pushing. Security intervened to protect the poets, who at the moment were much like rock stars. I don’t blame anyone; getting their autographs is special.
After the poets left, there was a strong energy in the air. It was like one of those moments you don’t believe just happened and you know they will never happen again--truly an unforgettable night for the people and visitors of Gijón.
I love La Semana Negra!
Besos desde Gijón,