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the International Day of Poetry – Havana celebrates all over

By Samuel Rivas / Posted April 8, 2015

Poetry can be a natural condition in Cuba, an island with a rich cultural life and a profound literature. That’s why the International Day of Poetry, last March 21st, was a party in several places of Havana city.

In fact, celebrations started the previous day, with a late-night poetic reading at Victor Hugo’s park, in El Vedado. A group of young poets, most of them still unpublished, shared their verses in this beautiful site, surrounded by Ceiba trees and the shadows of the evening.

Darkness was the perfect armor for those shy writers who decided to go public with their poems. Proyecto Sur made a call for everyone who wanted to receive the spring, so they came.

young-poets-anthologyEvery year March 21st marks vernal equinox, and Cuban writers use that symbol. On that date, days and nights in North hemisphere are the same length, so it’s the moment of equality, brotherhood, and solidarity. That’s why Instituto Cubano del Libro decided to present a very recent book, entitled “El árbol en la cumbre” (The tree at the heights), where the researcher Roberto Manzano gathered a significant number of young Cuban poets. “New Cuban poets at the doors of millennium” is the subtitle of this anthology, and almost one hundred persons, counting the authors included in the book, came to its launch at Plaza de Armas in Old Havana.

It seems that in this century people don’t read poetry, but then you see events like this one in Cuba, and change your mind. Poets from this anthology offered a reading later in the afternoon, at Plaza Vieja, accompanied by their friends, family, and the public visiting this traditional square. Seduced by Cuban music, visitors stayed, when they discovered this unusual gathering of young poets.

At the same time, but in other spot of this city, a peculiar presentation was also taking place. Another anthology, this time edited outside the country, has been presented to the national public at UNEAC (Writers and Artists National Union). “Todo parecía” is a selection of Jesús J. Barquet and Virgilio López Lemus, and book was produced, edited, and printed in USA by La Mirada editors. Texts included in the compilation stood out because of their homoerotic orientation. Gay poems written by Cubans from both inside and outside the country are unusual material to build anthologies. But this was the case, so LGBT community in Havana was there, supporting their poets.

This was an important event, also due to the presence in the room of renowned writers and intellectuals, giving visibility to LGBT issues. But that was not all – several rallies in institutions and open places were happening at the capital, and poetry was the main topic. For example, the gathering “El huésped de la noche” (Guest of the night), conducted by narrator Arnaldo Muñoz Viquillón at Centro Provincial del Libro y la Literatura, was also dedicated to the International Day of Poetry. Invited poets read their work and contributed to the celebration.

As a result of these celebrations, literature was visible for everyone who walked the streets of Havana, and that is much more common than anyone would expect. In April, May, or any other month of the year, visitors can find a place to discover the poetry of the Island, new incredible books, or the talk of a renowned writers.

Samuel Rivas

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