Volcanoes, Versus And Wind

Exclusive interview with facilitator and poet Mercedes Minguela

As a self-styled literary theorist I am interested in words and ideas that get lost in translation but I am as much interested, too, by the sense of humanity that can be created by speaking in tongues, as it were. So on Friday 25th 26th and 27th November, come follow you art down sidetracks and detours through Villa de Teguise, the former capital of Lanzarote, to see and hear the beauty of humanity at The Verses, Volcanoes, Wind Poetry Festival.

There is nothing we love more here at the Lanzarote Information arts-desk than receiving an e mail advice or press release that describes its subject concisely but comprehensively. We therefore very much enjoyed reading an e mail from Mercedes Minguela who, coincidentally is also my wife´s yoga facilitator, that gave us the following information. 

Friday 25 at 19.30 h. Poetry recital at the Timple Museum. Admission is free until full capacity is reached. 20 Canarian poets or residents in the Canary Islands will participate. This list is closed.

Saturday 26 at 10.30 h. Historical and poetic tour of La Villa de Teguise. The chronicler Francisco Hernández will make a tour of the most emblematic places of Teguise and the participating poets will read a poem at each point. The tour can be joined by all the inhabitants and visitors of Teguise who wish to do so.  The list of poets who will read on this tour is closed. 

Sunday 27 at 10.30 am Street Verses: Recital of free participation, in the Plaza de los Leones (Plaza de la Constitución) of Teguise. There will be a microphone and paper to write and everyone can write and read their poem there (you have to be the author). Then each participant will take a picture with his poem and we will hang it in the RRSS of the Festival and each author in their own. You will have to take a photo author and poem and hang it on your social networks and read it right there

I would very much like it if you participated in the recital on Sunday. You can take a poem of yours (not very long, or some stanza) and there read it, write it and hang it. 

Mercedes also told me she would be happy to answer any questions about the event in my daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours  or at this weekly column on these pages.

I immediately responded to arrange an interview, but time and deadline wait for no man, so we expedited matters by conducting an internet chat. Once again I relied on my five old friends, gentlemen, who, what, when, where and why to help me figure out everything I wanted to know. That all resulted in the discussion below.

I know you, Mercedes, as my wife’s yoga instructor, providing me with at least a few hours a week that allow me the peace and quiet to move on with my work and for that alone I am very grateful to you. I know we have occasionally bumped into each other at arts events but I was nevertheless surproised I hear from you about a poetry festival, and you tell me you love poetry.  

So, WHO, really, is Mercedes? Tell us about yourself.

It is difficult to tell you who I am, but I am going to tell you something about my life, what I do and why and let you draw your own conclusions. I am a girl born in a village in Castile, who for various reasons went very young, at 15 years old, to study outside the home, without the guardianship of the parents and living with young people from different places, mentalities and even cultures. That ensured, I think, that I have an open mind and that I am able to adapt to very different environments comfortably and with respect.

I studied journalism because I like to write, and I wanted to change the world! At that time I wrote poetic prose, my emotions, impressions of things that were happening, very short stories, and something, little, of poetry.

I worked in different small newspapers in the provinces, where I loved writing interviews, small reports and opinion articles. This was an enriching professional and vital journey.

I returned to Madrid and spent years working as Marketing Director for the written press (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and during that period I discovered Yoga. I spent years juggling my stressful job in marketing while studying and practicing Yoga, delving into this science of life that was my “lifeline” both physically and emotionally

Five years ago I voluntarily left my job, my home in Madrid, I gave a brutal 180 degree change to my life and I currently live in Lanzarote. I am a Yoga teacher and I write poetry like crazy because I enjoy doing so and because I want to make in myself the change I want for the World.

WHO first introduced you to poetry, was it your family, your school or your friends and how did they do it?

I think my first contacts with poetry were through music. Thanks to my older sisters in my house I listened a lot to the singer-songwriters of the time of the late 60s and 70s, people like Joan Manuel Serrat or Paco Ibañez who muttered to many Spanish poets especially of the Generation of 27 (1927) and 98 (1898) I loved: Rafael Alberti,  Gabriel Celaya, Antonio and Manuel Machado, Luis Cernuda, Federico García Lorca, and many others. This awakened in me an interest in poetry and made me enjoy it very much. Being that a world still very macho until: Rosa years later I did not meet the women poets of that same generation of 27 as Chacel, Jose Fina de la Torreo, María Zambrano, Ernestina Champoucin, and a long list of others too-

The Festival you described is about poetry and selfie photographs.

What do poems tell us about their writers? Do the poems reveal or conceal the poet, do you think?

Complicated issue. My first answer would be that poems do reveal their poet, but if you reflect a little then you see that writing poetry, like any intellectual act has a lot of volunteer, of studying, of working, therefore I would say that the poem reveals what the poet believes it is and that only in sublime moments, which in psychology are called “states of flow” and in spirituality is “to be in connection with the Divine or the Supreme”,  Only in those states does it reveal who the poet really is. But, yes, be that as it may, in a state of flux or not, the poem always helps the poet to know himself every day a little more and his readers probably too.

What do you think poets and poems should try to do for their readers?

The poem first tries to do for the poet, since it is usually for many poets almost a necessity to communicate, to express his most intimate self (or the most intimate self that the poet believes it is). For the readers the best thing the poet can do is to be honest

Some people hardly ever read poetry, some only occasionally, and some read poetry constantly.

When do you read poetry? 

Not as much as I would like, but almost always at night in the privacy of my living room or bedroom, in silence and sun

When you read poetry, does it inspire you to write?

Not at the same time, but there is no doubt that everything you read inspires you to write and also influences you

When I lived in the UK, our public readings often took place in libraries, but the group of poets I led, called Just Poets, preferred to read in more public settings such as, parks, schools and bars. There was an element of ´performance´ to it as well. It looks like you’re doing the same thing.

WHERE, in your head, does poetry take you when you’re reading poems silently?

Deep within me, it shows me a map of my own being.

WHERE else have you read or heard other people reading poetry aloud?

In Lanzarote, on many occasions. I am a member of two literary groups: Los Jueves Literarios where we read prose and verse, and another, Letras para el Alma, that we read exclusively poetry and give recitals for the public, and of course I often only go to listen to the poems and enjoy the poetry in the mouths of my colleagues,  who by the way are very good at reciting.

I write poetry not because I think others can learn from my poems, but because I want to learn something about myself. I often don’t know how I feel about important issues like love, hate, war, peace, and even religion. It’s as if writing the poem clears my mind.

WHY should people visit this poetry festival?

I think people should visit this Verses Volcanoes and Wind Poetry Festival, because you don’t need to be a great connoisseur of poetry to enjoy it here. Because we are going to read for the people, and because if the people who go there wish, they can also participate, write, read and throw their verses to the Lanzarote wind so that they spread them through Teguise, the island, the world, the Universe.

WHY do you write or read poetry?

Because poetry is beauty that humanizes the world and makes me stop and look within. That’s why every day I enjoy reading and writing poetry much more.

This poetry festival in Teguise seems to be in good hands. It was obvious in interviewing Mercedes that she has invited some of her favourite poets, from Lanzarote and neighbouring islands to encourage the general public to devote themselves to writing and to contribute their results. Posting selfie-pictures of all readers on the last day sounds like a fun idea, and I hope to get there to read Doing The Spacewalk, a celebration in a way, or our clear, unpolluted skies here over Lanzarote.

So why not follow your art down to Teguise where you may well find a  beauty that humanizes the world?

We hope to see you there and you will be made very welcome.

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