The intensity of a day filled with conversation accelerates time while maintaining recollection, or awareness of time passing, as the very opposite. So it feels like I’ve been in Xalapa a week, and yet the day passes so rapidly I have write it down to remember it.
The day began with media stuff, not exactly a commonplace feature of my life as an experimental poet barely known in England let alone elsewhere. Five interviews, everyone was conducted people who had deeply researched and engaged with my work, which I found absurd and exhilarating, and everyone then railed off then into wide discussions about the place of the human being behind literature, language and my lack of it, ethics, humour and other lofty things. Always Mexico, its openness, hospitality, the warmth of its people defined these conversations. A lot was said about generations in Mexico, shifting understanding in a young and powerful and troubled country, or so it would seem. They ended up very personal, close engagements, and lasted hours all in.
The hotel has an in house gym, all shiny and empty and mine, so I punished myself a wee bit before having a lunch with post gym lobster face clean sweats and meeting the remarkably humble, intelligent people who seem to populate every room I eat in, every bus I ride in. I was then ferried in Xalapa to watch a wonderful event that saw Nell Leyshon in conversation with Pura Lopez Colome. Another packed event, the beautiful contrast between Pura’s academic erudition and Nell’s unpretentious engagement with instinct, narrative and story led practise, and way of communicating generally, really accentuated the power of both women. Nell’s work seems to be defined in the same way mine is, that it is occurs as an extension of a very specific and decisive life choice, a very distinct identity that Nell inhabits with great credit to her, most especially as a hugely successful writer, because it is defined by brevity of spirit, humour, passionate engagement with fundamental narrative ideas and a clear, untrammelled sense of clarity. Lovely to discover this, and more about her heritage in Somerset, near my own home in Devon, over the hour.
We had a small break in a bar and then returned to the Casa del Lago, right by the lake, in a rainstorm for my second and final event. A poetry pantheon, 9 poets sat on thrones in front of a massive audience, at least 200, maybe up to 400 crammed into two levels and a balcony area, while each of us shared a short burst of work. I was the only one who read in English, but the audience were incredible, so attentive, so generous, and some of the other poets were remarkable. Forrest Gander, whose work and translations I’ve followed for years, was brilliant, and Joumana Haddad, was a revelation, an activist, a poet, a polyglot, she read in Spanish, despite being from Beirut, and killed the audience with her delivery and wit. It was an amazing mix of ages and styles, but really that’s what I always seek, so was delighted.
For my own part I read my poem Atacama, about Chile under Pinochet, and Que Bonitos Ochos Tienes, which is about Cartels in Mexico. I tried, as I often do, to be gentle and jokey in the intro, before my work, which is always depressing. It seemed to strike a chord with people, and the kindness of the people who came to watch, who came to speak to me, take pictures, sign books and stuff like that, made me feel very humbled, embarrassed and even a bit vulnerable, such was the openness and generosity. I was having picture requests with children and stuff. Quite mad, but enjoyable and resonant in its moderation. Another beautiful day, an unforgettable day, as all seem to be for me in Mexico