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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
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|A Peace More Active than All Wars |
Report on the XV International Poetry Festival of Medellín
Fernando Rendón is an editorial board member of Prometeo Poetry Magazine, the organizer of the Poetry Festival.
"Being a Colombian is an act of faith," wrote Borges in his famous short story, Ulrika. This catch-phrase has become very popular in Colombia. Can't our identity amount to something more? If it takes an act of faith to be Colombian, what does it mean to be from Medellin, a medellinense? What does it mean to live and belong to a city that came to be classified as the world capital of drug trafficking, whose inhabitants saw children die by bullets shot from helicopters of war, a city that the paramilitaries have gradually taken through intimidation and blackmail?
But we are not and have not been just that. We will not be just that. In 1991, though it hurts to remember the fear in which we lived, in the midst of the worst of the violence, Medellin birthed the most important poetry festival in the world.
From 1991 to 2005, more than 700 poets (80 this year) from 125 countries and five continents have come to the city, and hundreds of thousands of festival attendees have imbibed the best poetry written in the world during the last fifty years. How do you explain this fervor? We don't know, but we do know that poetry has been a fundamental element in the changes that have taken place in the city. We also know, and this has made us stronger, that the festival has reduced the space of our solitude, just as we know, without the least shadow of a doubt, that although somber forces have had a sinister grip on the city, the sense of justice and beauty that the young people of Medellín have demonstrated will finally make them release it.
The Argentine poet Esteban Moore attended the event in 1995, a year in which he was miraculously saved from the bomb that destroyed "Bird," a sculpture by Fernando Botero (killing 23 people and wounding 200 more). Asked why he was returning in 2005, Moore said, "…today, June 23 of 2005, I return to the Poetry Festival of Medellín. The debris of the bombed bird is still there, as a testimony to the madness of those years; near it, Botero put a replica. Past and present meet in that very place… Medellín today is a city reborn, emerged from pain and madness. A city transformed by poetry. This crowd is avid for life not death, for peace not war, for beauty not horror, for justice not misery, for communion not bombs. For this XV Festival, developed under the motto 'For a peace more active than all wars,' I find Medellín transformed as a city where you can leisurely walk on the streets in the company of a multitude that daily celebrates life."
Participants in the 2005 Festival, held June 24th to July 2nd, 2005, included the 1986 Nobel Literature Prize winner, Wole Soyinka from Nigeria, Antjie Krog and Breyten Breytenbach from South Africa, James Fenton from Great Britain, Shuntaro Tanikawa from Japan, Rita Dove from the US, Casimiro de Britto from Portugal, Gerrit Komrij from Holland, Adnan Al-Sayegh from Iraq, Ibrahim Nasrrallah from Jordan, and Ernesto Cardenal from Nicaragua, among others.
The Festival has served the purpose of reducing our sensation of isolation, since it has put the city on the world map of culture. Medellín, of course, is not paradise. But some sort of miracle has been happening in these last fifteen years. It's an evident demonstration that reality, no matter how adverse, can be transformed, transformed with the help of the most unsuspected but maybe the highest means: that of poetry.
One certain thing is that the International Poetry Festival of Medellín has brought to light the enormous potential of its young people to oppose barbarity and to show its leaders that the option of life, justice, dignity, and beauty, amply represented by poetry, are the only alternative left to us to find an integral way of development. Poetry has an enormous future, because without it there will be no reborn world, nor can any country nurture life on earth without its superhuman energy.
And our persistent call to the poets, the international festivals of poetry of the whole world, the poetry publications and associations of all continents, will always be to advance the interchange of different points of view, and to increase our shared efforts to make the world a luminous and habitable place.
Because being a man or a woman in any place on earth is much more than an act of faith, because poetry is something more than testimony about social change, because poetry must be and can be one of the forces driving humane change, nothing for the time being makes us think that the experience of Medellín cannot and also should not be repeated and replicated any place in the world.