By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES — Now that the 2017 Cuba Book Fair has kicked off in Havana, people frequently talk about writers and their great egos, about their verbosity in front of a room full of people who only want to flatter them, to feed their self-regard.
However, I have known many generous writers, who show concern for budding writers, they take on the responsibilty of giving them the push so that they become confident and dare to send their work off to book contests, putting themselves at the mercy of judges, bureaucrats, any “critic of a work”, without fear, or at least, holding their breath, to put their inner thoughts on display.
The help I received from Francisco Lopez Sacha, storyteller and professor, was critical for my work. I met him during the recording of a TV show, which was based on the Beatles Anthology, where episodes were combined with interviews with different celebrities in Cuban culture, and of course, Sacha was asked to take part.
Back then, I worked as an assistant director. When I told him that I wrote poems, he opened his doors to me immediately and wanted to be a part of my work. I began to visit him quite frequently so as to put my book together, as my poems were scattered about, without any order or apparent connection.
Some of them were taken out and there were suggestions, I had to write some new poems… Every meeting with this man was a master-class in itself. What I most valued was his straight-to-the-point way of expressing his ideas, without beating around the bush, even his critique and curses sounded pleasant. He was fun, but serious in his approach, there is no way of ever getting bored when you’re with him.
A lot of things bring us together, love for poetry and the Beatles. We used to always listen to them during our sessions, just like he used to tell me stories about the English musicians. He told me that we were recording my first album, the Please, Please me, making an analogy to their first album. And I used to laugh, but it was true, music and literature go hand-in-hand, they complement each other.
After “completing my book”, I sent it to the Premio David, which UNEAC (the Cuban Writers and Artists Association) holds, a competition for new writers. And even though I didn’t win an award, I continued to write and take part in other writing competitions. Literary awards are important, but they don’t define your talent; when you write, the greatest thing you can enjoy is the act of creating. A book is a never-ending universe, it’s always being constantly changed.
I can’t forget to mention Reina Maria Rodriguez, one of the greatest voices in modern poetry. She was also involved with my poems, she told me what I shouldn’t do and pointed me to the “right paths”, without using flattery.
I also received support from Margarita Mateo, the recent prize-winner of the National Literature Award, who flicking through my poems, told me with great humility that she wasn’t a poetress to give her opinion, however, she pointed out the aesthetic value of one of my poems.
I want to thank these very important Cuban writers for their help, without forgetting that this is a “resistance” career, and you’re not allowed to take a break.
Note: The presentation of my second book, “Mientras hago el amor con George Harrison” (As I make love with George Harrison), will take place on Friday February 17th, at 1 PM in the Salon de Mayo at the Pabellon Cuba.