Inside the San Miguel Poetry Week
reprinted from El Independiente

by Kathy Snodgrass

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.


Yusef Komunyakaa

Barbara Sibley


W.D. Snodgrass

 

 

Through 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.

It 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.

The final evening was a poetic smorgasbord with each of the participants reading their own poems.