The International Poetry Festival in Medellín was founded in 1991, amid a climate of violence and death, as an expression of poetry's capacity for mobilization and the rebuilding of a social fabric lacerated by explosive disintegration.
The rapid progression of the Festival's growth (which is directly related with the number and quality of the more than 747 participant poets representing 131 countries of the five continents, added to the great public attendance to all the Festival's acts) and by other side the consolidation of publications, poet's organizations and international poetry festivals in the world, can anticipate a bigger influence of poetry in human society.
The poets of the world, the directors and representatives of the diverse contemporary projects (festivals, congresses, schools, poetic publications, etc) have an inmense responsability with humanity at the present time.
INVITED POETS FROM ASIA
U SAM OEUR was born in Cambodia in 1936 and grew up in a farming family. After studying in the US, he served in the Cambodian government, becoming part of the Cambodian delegation to the UN. When Pol Pot assumed power in 1975, Oeur, along with his wife and son, survived the killing fields while feigning illiteracy in six forced-labor camps. A devout Buddhist, Oeur now lives in Texas. Books published: Sacred Vows, 1998 and Crossing the Wilderness, 2005. Sacred Vows retells the recent terror of Cambodia and the beauty of its culture. A survivor of the Pol Pot regime, Oeur hopes to inspire young Cambodians to reacquaint themselves with their heritage and make it once again vibrant. Using myths, stories, prophecies, history, and tradition as ironic counterpoint to Cambodia's present-day situation, Oeur foretells freedom's imminent return. Sacred Vows is a mesmerizing call to freedom. In Crossing Three Wildernesses, U Sam Oeur presents a detailed portrait of a twentieth century Cambodian life - a life that followed an incredible trajectory from his near-idyllic childhood to his years as a government official, from the devastating reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to the subsequent Vietnamese takeover and postwar chaos. A witness personally touched by the three wildernesses - death by execution, death by disease, and death by starvation - U Sam Oeur emerged from the experience with his hope for peace, freedom, and the power of literature unshaken. As Oeur relates his attempts to serve his native land in a time of terrible crisis, he creates a stirring portrait of the people, the myths, and the traditions of this beautiful, complex country.
GEMINO H. ABAD was born in Philippines in 1939. University Professor emeritus of literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines, he is a poet, fictionist, and literary critic and historian, with various honors and awards, the most recent being the Premio Feronia of Italy in 2009 for selected poems from his In Ordinary Time: Poems, Parables, Poetics, 2004, which were translated into Italian by Gëzim Hajdari and Amoà Fatuiva under the title, Dove le parole non si spezzano. He has a thirty-four books to his name: Care of Light (2009) is his eighth poetry collection, and Our Scene So Fair: Filipino Poetry in English, 1905 to 1955 (2008), his seventh collection of critical essays; he also has two collections of short stories, Orion’s Belt, 1996, and A Makeshift Sun, 2001. Known also for his three-volume historical anthology of Filipino poetry in English: Man of Earth, 1989; A Native Clearing, 1993, and A Habit of Shores, 1999, he is currently undertaking the last two-volume set of a six-volume historical anthology of Filipino short stories in English from 1956 to 2008: the first two-volume set, Upon Our Own Ground (stories over the period 1956 to 1972), came out in 2008; the second set, Underground Spirit (over the period 1973-1989), is in press. He continues to teach at his University where he has served as Secretary of the University, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of the U.P. Creative Writing Institute.
IMTIAZ DHARKER was born in Pakistan in 1950. She has five books of poems and drawings, Purdah (Oxford University Press); Postcards from god (Penguin India and Bloodaxe Books UK); I speak for the devil (Penguin India and Bloodaxe Books UK); The terrorist at my table (Penguin India and Bloodaxe Books UK) and her most recent collection, Leaving Fingerprints (Bloodaxe Books UK). An award-winning artist and documentary film maker, she has had ten solo exhibitions of drawings in India, London, New York and Hong Kong. She is a poet on the UK syllabus and performs every year at Poetry Live events, across Britain and abroad, to over 100,000 students. Her poems have been widely broadcast on BBC World Service, Radio 2, 3 and 4 as well as television. Brought up in Glasgow, Scotland, she spent many years in India and now lives between Bombay/Mumbai and London.
HALA MOHAMMAD was born in the Syrian port of Latakia. She grew up in a liberal household, studied film in France at the University of Paris VIII and went on to work as a costume designer in three Syrian films (tr: »The Night«, »The Zograscope«, »Under the Roof«). She also wrote scripts and worked as Assistant Director. She directed several documentaries (including »When Qasiyun Grows Tired«, 2006). Since 1994 Hala Mohammad has been active as a poet. Five collections of her poetry have been published to date: The Soul Has No Memory, 1994; Over That Mild White, 1998; A Little Life, 2001; This Fear, 2004 and As If I Knocked On My Door, 2008. The prose poet belongs to a new generation of modern Arabic women poets, who express their individual experiences as women and intellectuals in the Arab world. What gives Hala Mohammad's poetry its unique character is its spontaneity. Instead of complex reflections there are ideas which flicker momentarily into life: colours, sense impressions, smells and movements are evoked and connected to the manifold and recurring themes which flow through Mohammad's poetry like leitmotifs. These include memory, which also plays an important role in her fimic work, emotions like fear, alienation and loneliness, as well as a profound sense of grief and having lost one’s way: »On this morning / light broke without mercy / with clear eyes / I saw / my solitude« (from: »The Soul Has No Memory«). The presence of the »other«, manifest even in his absence, bound to the narrator in love, can always be felt. In her poetry Mohammad rejects complex syntax, relying instead on simple expressions. Modern Arabic dominates, but is free of dialect. In her first work every piece had a title, but later works are numbered instead, identifying them as mutually dependent elements of a greater, many-faceted whole. Her atmospheric poems derive their power from sequences of images characterised by continual shifts between reality and metaphor. The punctuation at times reinforces the elliptical nature of individual sequences. Translations of some of Mohammad's poems have appeared in various publications (»Banipal«) and anthologies (Basel 2006, tr: Things Which Other People Do Not See). As a journalist she has been writing for different Arabic newspapers for many years. She is married to the Syrian director, Haitham Hakki, and lives in Damascus.
AK WELSAPAR was born on 19th September 1956 in the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan. He received his Masters degree in Journalism from the Moscow State University of M.Lomonosov in 1979 and his Masters in Literary theory from the Moscow Literature Institute of M.Gorkiy in 1989. Ak writes in Russian, Turkmen and in Swedish. He became a member of the Soviet Writers’ Association in 1987. However, on 25th of August 1993 Ak was excluded from the Writers’ Association after publishing investigative articles about major ecological problems in Turkmenistan. Ak wrote many critical articles about the enormous ecological problems that he had exposed in Central Asia – the shockingly high rates of infant and maternal death and the reason behind these awful statistics – overuse of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture. The overuse was caused by the monoculture of cotton – which required enormous amounts of chemical fertilizers, defoliant butifos (a substance similar to Agent Orange) and pesticides. Cotton monoculture in Central Asia, which was ordered by the Soviet regime to cover the cotton needs of all Soviet Union, led to deep-seated ecological problems in the whole region, problems that rapidly turned into global ecological disasters, the most noticeable of which is the subsequent drying-out of the Aral Sea. The above mentioned interviews and Ak’s own articles were published in such journals and newspapers as Literaturnaja Gazeta, Druzhba Narodov, Soviet Culture, Moskovskie Novosti, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Independent, Asahi, Dagens Nyheter, Moscow News, Hürriyet, and also in newspapers and periodicals in Greece, Denmark, Germany, France, Canada, and many other countries. The regime in Turkmenistan declared Ak “Public Enemy Number One” and the persecution was intensified. He was interrogated several times and placed under house-arrest for long periods of time. His work became forbidden to publish and his published books were seized from stores and libraries and burnt in a bonfire. His family was also increasingly affected. Ak’s wife was fired from her position as a teacher in an elementary school, and their ten-year old son was not allowed to continue the elementary school. This persecution was the reason why Ak and his family finally left their home country in 1993. They have now been residents of Sweden since 1994. Ak Welsapar has been a member of the Swedish Writers’ Association since 1996. He has also been an honorary member of the International PEN-Club since 1993. His poetic works are: Which of us will dive deepest?, 1982; The first drop, 1983; The Round House, 1996; Longing for Another Sky, 2005; If I Only Were a White Bird!, a book for children, 2006. He has published the following novels: The Melon Head, 1984, was awarded a prize in a Turkmen national literature-competition; A Long Journey to Nearby, 1988; This Darkness Is Brighter, 1989, banned in Turkmenistan; The Bent Sword Hanging on the Old Carpet, 1990; The legend of Aypi, 1990; Mulli Tahir, 1992, banned by the Turkmen censor; The Revenge of the Foxes, 1993 and The Cobra, 2003. He also published The salty twilight, Short stories, 2000. Essays: The white dragon's path, a publicistic book about environmental degradation in Central Asia, 1994; The ones vanishing in the daylight, 2009. Ak Welsapar is still a proscribed writer in Turkmenistan and his name has topped the list of black-listed writers since 1993.
INDRAN AMIRTHANAYAGAM was born in Sri Lanka in 1960. He is a citizen of the United States. Poet, essayist and translator in English, Spanish and French. His first book The Elephants of Reckoning won the 1994 Paterson Prize in the United States. His poem Juarez won the Juegos Florales of Guaymas, Mexico in 2006. Amirthanayagam has written five books thus far: The Splintered Face Tsunami Poems (Hanging Loose Press, March 2008), Ceylon R.I.P. (The International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2001), El Hombre Que Recoge Nidos (Resistencia/CONARTE, Mexico, 2005) El Infierno de los Pájaros (Resistencia, Mexico, 2001), The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press, 1993). Amirthanayagam's essays and op-eds have appeared in the Hindu, the New York Times, El Norte, Reforma, New York/Newsday, The Daily News, The Island, The Daily Mirror, Groundviews (Sri Lanka). He has played with Non Jazz at various concerts where his poems were set to music by Omar Tamez. He directed Mexico's first ever program dedicated to conversations with poets "Palabras En Vuelo: Poesia en Conversacion" which appeared on cable television in Northern Mexico in 2006. Amirthanayagam is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow and a past recipient of an award from the US/Mexico Fund for Culture for his translations of Mexican poet Manuel Ulacia.
HADAA SENDOO was born on Mongolia in 1961. He is a poet and translator in Mongolia. His poems have been translated more than 30 languages and he has won the Poet of the Millennium Award, the Best Poet Prize, the Literature Achievement Award, the poetry Merit Award, He founded the most important World Poetry Almanac in 2006. He was considered a very great poet and one the most valuable poets of the world by some scholars. He was received the Creative Giant Award in India in 2008. He is winner of the Mongolian Writers Union Prize and World Poetry Ambassador medal 2009 in Canada. He presents as consulting editor of the review in a world renowned the International Literary Quarterly.
LOLA KOUNDAKJIAN was born in 1962. She is an Armenian living in NYC since 1979. The grandchild of four genocide survivors, she writes about her heritage, urban life and struggles of people worldwide. She has served on the editorial board of ARARAT, an Armenian-American Literary Quarterly for twelve years. She has freelanced for the Armenian Reporter, Armenian International Magazine andthe Armenian Weekly, all U.S. based newspapers. Lola’s poetry has appeared online on GROONG (University of Southern California), and in print in the Armenian Weekly (Boston, USA) and Pakin (Beirut, Lebanon). She has read her work on several stages in New York City and Los Angeles and frequently collaborates with GARTAL Armenian and the Greek-American reading series in New York City. After her Master’s degree from Columbia University, Lolahas presented academic papers at the Middle East Studies Association, Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennesand the Society for Armenian Studiesconferences and has been published in conference proceedings in the U.S., Europe and Armenia. For the past 20 years, she has organized evenings dedicated to the Dead Armenian Poets’ Societyand since 2006 has produced and edited text and audio for the multi-lingual Armenian Poetry Project. Bibliography: Selected Poems, currently at pre-press; Armenian poems: Pakin, Beirut, Lebanon, September 2009. Works included in Cynthia Maris Dantzic’s 100 New York Calligraphers, Schiffer Books, New York, USA. English poems in the Armenian Weekly, 2006-present; Interview and pieces in Horizon Weekly, Montreal, Canada, to be published late 2009; Interviews in Azad-Hye, UAE, Horizon (Montreal), Armenian Mirror-Spectator (Boston, USA) and the Armenian Reporter (USA), 2006-present.
QUAMRUZZAMAN was born in Bangladesh in 1966. He has published, among others, the poem books Jharnar Kase Ak DIN, 1990; Amar Protibimber Protk, 1994; Mayabi Ovishar, 1998; Nirbachita Kabita, 2007 and Selected Poems, 2008. In the words of Mizanur Rahman, "... Quamruzzaman Swapan is a fervent exponent of both romanticism and realism. He’s been writing poetry since 1980, and has published three books that have been widely welcomed by both public and critics. Though his poetry he has attacked the modernism of Dhaka and the evils of modern society. It is regrettable that the poems written by modern Bangladeshi are mostly incomprehensible. The common reader cannot understand the meaning of some poems that are, apparently, always inscrutable. Most of those poets don’t even know what their writings mean. Maybe they’re expecting the critics to clarify their obscurity. Long foreign words are now introduced in Bangladeshi as symbols or metaphors that mean nothing. I have great confidence in Qumruzzaman because he limits himself to be concrete. In name of expressionism, surrealism sensualism, one does not have to use incomprehensible words in poetry in order to generate pedantic applause instead of making the poem be understood because of it’s well used rimes and reasons. Even analysts get confused in the complex background of modern poetry. But Quamruzzaman poems have the necessary qualities to convince the readers that their task is not going to be vain. He is the promising young poet of Bangladesh that will be able to reflect with a clear perspective the images of our time and our land in the different ways and tones of his poetry."
NATHALIE HANDAL is an award-winning poet, playwright, and writer born in 1969 in Haiti but her family is from Palestine and Lebanon. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, such as, Poetrywales, Ploughshares, Poetry New Zealand, Stand Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Perihelion, and The Literary Review; has been translated into more than fifteen languages and she has been featured on NPR, PBS Radio as well as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, Mail & Guardian, The Jordan Times and Il Piccolo. She is the author of the poetry collections, The NeverField and The Lives of Rain (short-listed for The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize/The Pitt Poetry Series and recipient of the Menada Award); the poetry CDs Traveling Rooms and Spell; the editor of The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology (an Academy of American Poets Bestseller and winner of the Pen Oakland/Josephine Miles Award); and co-editor along with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008). She has been involved either as a writer, director or producer in over twenty theatrical and/or film productions worldwide. She was a finalist for the 2009 A Room of Her Own's Freedom Award, and her forthcoming poetry book, Love and Strange Horses, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She received an MFA in Poetry from Bennington College, an MPHIL in Drama and English from the University of London and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Fiction from Humber College, Canada. She teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, most recently in Africa and at Columbia University in New York City. She is Poetry Books Review Editor and Tutor for Sable Literary Magazine and Forum, United Kingdom (www.sablelitmag.org); an Advisory Board Member for The Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University, New York City (www.centerforliterarytranslation.org); an Advisory Board Member for The Levantine Center, Los Angeles (www.levantinecenter.org); and a Member of the Laboratory of Frontiers Studies at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil.