Poetry at Zero Degrees Latitude

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Spanish and Latin American Literature Professor Ivonne Gordon-Vailakis was invited in March to participate in Paralelo 0, an international festival in Ecuador featuring a slate of distinguished poets. “Poetry can be a little bit like theater or opera, a little bit elitist,” says Gordon-Vailakis. One of the goals of the festival was to make it more accessible to all.

To that end, Gordon-Vailakis and her fellow poets gave multiple poetry readings every day in front of large crowds, including one next to the Middle of the World monument, where the equator passes through Ecuador. Gordon-Vailakis read a poem about the exploitation of mines in the area and received personal thanks from an audience member.

“I experienced what I do to be so real and valuable and I was excited to come back and tell my students.” In Latin America, says Gordon-Vailakis, there is more of a “culture of learning and appreciating poetry” than in the U.S. “Poetry in the U.S. is poetry for other poets or people in the field. In Latin America, it’s more open to the people. They come and they enjoy the experience. I think that’s why readings are so important. It’s that ability to pass on that notion of sound and rhythm and word and make it more accessible.”

Templo

El primer suspiro comienza en el ojo del sol.
Desciendo la escalera a una velocidad inefable,
y el polvo abre el camino.
Recibo el aliento del cielo
y el tiempo se borra.
El alfabeto llovizna sobre mi cuerpo coronado.
El círculo del destino habla con migo mismo.
Busco los nombres secretos en la otra cara del tiempo.
La estrella se oscurece.
Me invento en las nubes del día.
Me retiro esbelta de liras,
y llena de signos astrales.

Temple

The first sigh begins in the eye of the sun.
I quickly descend the stairs,
and the dust reveals the road.
Receive the breath from heaven
and time is erased.
The alphabet drizzles upon my crowned body.
The circle of destiny speaks with me.
I search for secret names in the other face of time.
The star darkens.
I recreate myself in the clouds of day.
I retreat gracefully among the lyres,
and am filled with astral signs.

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