by Cher Bibler
There is a poem called (I think) Meeting of a Poetry Society. Written in the 1930s, it describes giving a password and going into a clandestine meeting, like a meeting of communists, I guess, inferring that anymore poetry is a secret society that one hides one’s membership of. The poem used to hang on the front of my fridge, the author isn’t particularly well-known, I found it in an old anthology. Most of my belongings are packed up in storage right now, awaiting the finish of a house renovation, so I spent a bit of time googling, trying to find a copy of the poem. I am now acquainted with actual meeting times of actual poetry societies from here to Tanzania, but I’m not any wiser concerning that poem or its author.
I have been involved with poetry all my adult life, and I have gone to many clandestine meetings in secret hideouts (ie readings in coffeeshops and bookstores), and I am proud to say (how loudly depends on who I’m with) that I belong to the great underground movement we call poetry. How did poetry get so far out of the mainstream? Or was it always out? All I know is that saying I write poetry results in lots of eye rolling and dismissals.
I have belonged to many such poetry groups in the states, but after moving to Mexico, I began to despair. I missed the camaraderie, the acceptance, the support, in a big way. Then I discovered Café Poesia. It took me a couple weeks to feel comfortable, my spanish is so awfully, awfully bad. I would get up and read my poetry (in english) and look out at the sea of very, very yucatecan faces, politely waiting for me to finish. They would clap enthusiastically when they perceived I’d come to the end. I, in turn, listened intently to their work and tried to pick out words I could understand. Sometimes I could even maybe figure out what a poem was about. I had no way of judging whether poems were any good or not. Instead I looked at peoples’ faces when they read their poems, their intensity, their fire. And imagined what they might be saying. I got tons of ideas from this for poems of my own, I have to admit.
After awhile, we started recognizing each other on the street, we would smile and say hi. I began to feel like one of the bunch. It was a good feeling. And, yeah, lots of people spoke english, other gringos occasionally showed up, I met lots of great people from here and other places, some of my best friends came via Café Poesia. I am really sad it’s over, but I’m glad I had the 3 years of it that I did (I was a late comer).
The last night was hard. Lots of people came and it was a great send off. I read a poem I remembered reading at the very first Café Poesia I came to. I remembered it because Fer had politely said he liked it, and that stuck with me. At the very end of the night, when we were all saying goodbye for the last time, and we couldn’t say “See you next week!” things began to get a little misty. There isn’t anything that’s going to replace Café Poesia. There are no other secret corners where we can bond and be poets together. It will be sorely missed.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fer de la Cruz for starting Café Poesia and keeping it going for five years, and creating a space for the literary community in Merida that was like no other. We will miss it!!
(Oops, getting misty again…)
Photo by Steve Shewchuk