Poetry in Cuba with Loud Speakers

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 16 — Just before the end of the year, some friends from the Alamar neighborhood got Irina and me to go to the “Poesia Sin Fin” (Endless Poetry) festival organized every year by the OMNI cultural group.

To carry out any independent cultural event in Cuba is a huge battle, so I was amazed by the perseverance of the young people who pulled it off; they really deserve recognition.

This was the second time I came out for this poetry festival, and on both occasions I perceived a street vibe with loads of swing and lots of irreverence and creativity within the framework of the performances, which were always in line with the urban nature that characterizes these events.

What I failed to understand, though, was the need for audio systems blasting at full volume even when the readings take place in fairly small enclosed spaces.

I would have loved a more intimate and less strident environment (the poetry would have benefitted) for listening to the “artists” and at the same time sharing with people around me.

Also, why did they force the neighbors to participate? Irina already talked about that in a previous post. http://havanatimes.org/?p=59342

Another thing I noticed in my two visits to the Endless Poetry Festival was that the performances were too polarized (for my tastes and for my expectation of what a neighborhood underground festival should be) between the artists and organizers on one side and spectators on the other.

There was a relative separation — actually minimal, but noticeable — which marked the dynamics of what was happening and what was allowed to happen.

Once again, I thought that lowering the decibels or completely eliminating the audio system in the festival would be a move in the right direction. Microphones establish hierarchies; plus, poetry amplifies itself by itself.

At one point during the night, members of the OMNI group took advantage of the chance to read off a list of the “most influential” Cubans of the year as selected by the DIARODECUBA website. OMNI itself was among those included, along with other artists, cultural figures and star dissidents (who all received lavish praise).

I’m not against dissidents, stars or the politicization of the event, but what I saw looked like a typical media event or …something unusual that had nothing to do with the underground character presumed by the event.

Members of the group “Porno para Ricardo” (“Los Singaitos,” which is what they call themselves in public) played their latest songs while interjecting their unbearable punk wisecracks.

In the silence of the night, it was unsettling to hear them scream at the top of their lungs  “Don’t eat so f…king much comandante.” For this they could have used more loud speakers.

From time to time I looked out the window fearing the arrival of the police or a “Rapid Response Brigade” of brownshirts, but everything unfolded peacefully. Nor was there any “meeting of approval” – only the royal chorus of Alamar’s crickets and frogs was heard when the speakers finally took a rest.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

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