San Miguel has added another festival
to its arts roster: the San Miguel Poetry Week, a week in January
of workshops, readings and general immersion in poetry.
The credit belongs to Jennifer Clement and Barbara Sibley,
sisters and poets, who grew up in Mexico City. As a founding
member of the Tramontane Poets, a group of English-writing poets
based in Mexico City, Clement has been successfully organizing
poetry events for several years. In fact, the Tramontanes are
unique in this country for their sponsorship of workshops and
readings by important American poets. For the first ever San
Miguel Poetry Week, she persuaded three major US poets -- Robert
Hass, Yusef Komunyakaa and W.D. Snodgrass -- to each present
a workshop and a reading.
Robert Hass, Go
Poh Seng & Jennifer Clement.
ads placed in US literary magazines and flyers mailed to colleges
and universities, they reached their goal of 27 participant poets.
Ranging in ages from 21 to 82, the writers came from as far away
as Vancouver, Vermont and Montana and as close as California,
Texas and, of course, San Miguel. Many of them have published
in such literary magazines as Ploughshares, The Texas
Review and Puerto del Sol.
was, from the outset, a remarkably congenial and lively group
on whom San Miguel worked its expectable magic, from the grackles
in the Jardin at sunset, to margaritas at, well, just about anywhere;
from shopping on dusty streets to immersions at La Gruta. The
city and poetry made for an ideal mix, as students started the
day with three-hour workshops, then were free to explore and
kibitz, regrouping in the evening for readings.
San Miguel reaped the benefits, since all five readings
were free and open to the public; there was also the bonus of readings
by the Mexican poet, Victor Manuel Mendiola, and the Singapore
poet, Goh Poh Seng, who now lives in Vancouver and spends part
of the winter in San Miguel.
It's hard to think of even the toniest universities up north
presenting poets who, among them, have chalked up two Pulitzers,
a MacArthur, and a Poet Laureateship. The visiting poets and
participants marveled at the community turnout, something that
locals, accustomed to San Miguel's enthusiastic support of the
arts, have learned to take for granted.
final evening was a poetic smorgasbord with each of the participants
reading their own poems.