114 poets from around the world attended the 2nd International Poetry Festival 4th- 7th July in Lima Peru.
LIMA JOURNAL 2013
In Lima I have some friends, at least an old friend from New York, a Sri Lankan poet/diplomat who has waited for me with impatience—we hadn’t seen one another for 20 years! I survived flight transfers at different airports; and with a certain pomp, after some 19 hours of travelling from Madrid arrived in Lima at 5 am. The airport (a real American one!) contained long lines waiting for passport and immigration control. Suddenly I had a taste of the deserted, abandoned regions of North America—even here the people were imitating the worst modes of behavior and administration rules. I was standing now in one of these immigration queues again; and out of boredom, I wrote the following sonnet about the destiny of a human being, or “gua” as the Indios would call it:
Letter from a GUA
I am just a Gua
While I am moving and breathing
from Trujillo to Lima, I see a python,
I see a flower, I see the pain of the last
Inca emperor dying of lice and scorbutic in Lima
I will never sit down
I will never sit down
Because the meaning of ‘Gua’ is the-one-who-never-sits –down
When I sit down I die
I am here, after all, to understand
How we can preserve the forest
And the Gua who belongs to the forest..
The immigrations officer has given me exactly what I asked for—permission to stay for ten days, stamped in my passport. He did not exaggerate with his generosity, but I did not ask him for more, as I figured this would give me enough time to read and to write a couple of poems, as I am Gua, a human being constantly on the move…
My Peruvian friends and fellow-poets waited for me at Lima airport. It was their winter season, a cold July morning in Lima, so the organiser of the festival tried to accommodate the three of us quickly. The taxi driver waved in a Columbian lady poet, her elderly Swedish husband, and myself. The organiser’s overwhelming concern for our well-being was lingering in the air — I am not able to describe their concern for our “gua”, which largely went beyond the normal concern of any ordinary poetry festival organiser. I became aware of an uncanny and imminent danger wafting about, a sentiment suggested to me by certain friends, and which some of them even spelled out in detail before my departure from Paris, as they had lived or travelled extensively in Latin America.
Human life has very little value here, and it is even less valued than “in some parts of Africa”, they would tell me and then say: “Take good care of yourself, Nina, don’t ever leave the hotel alone, do not even go to buy cigarettes in Lima unless you are accompanied.” But who am I to figure out this huge country on my own? I am aware of all the prejudice against Latin America which has been dominant in Europe for centuries.