Dick Edelstein, born in Chicago, became an Irish citizen in 1999. Now retired and living in Barcelona, he has worked as a writer, editor, translator and journalist and published fifteen books as well as a number of translations and articles. An active member of the Irish-based writing group Poets Abroad, he tours Ireland by bicycle with his wife each summer. His poems have been included in anthologies in Spain and Ireland, most recently in Autonomy, published in support of the campaign to repeal the anti-abortion amendment to the Irish constitution. His poetry reviews have been published in The Dublin Review of Books and are forthcoming in The North and The Blue Nib.
An enthusiastic polyglot crowd turned out on 18 October for the inaugural event in a new trilingual Barcelona poetry reading series entitled Poémame en el Raval. The reading paid recognition to Women Writers Day in Spain, convoked by the Biblioteca Nacional de España under this year’s theme: Mujeres rebeldes y transgresoras -- rebellious and transgressive women. It also celebrated the forthcoming anniversary of the successful Fired! campaign to gain recognition for historical Irish women poets.
The event kicked off a series of free trilingual poetry readings to held bimonthly at the Cafè de les Delícies on Barcelona’s central Rambla del Raval, sponsored by the digital poetry publishing platform Poémame, featuring local poets, both known and unknown, and guests from nearby and far away.
In his introduction, Poémame editorial board member José Luis Regojo, read PEN Catalunya’s recent declaration on universal women’s rights and remarked that “a virus of racism is cutting a swath across Europe”, endangering the already precarious existence of refugees on the move. He described the efforts of the local NGO BarcelonaActua to receive refugees, providing material support and facilitating their integration in Europe. Participants contributed to a collection of funds and bought copies of Acogida/Acollida, a Spanish and Catalan poetry anthology published to raise funds for refugee assistance. Regojo noted that several contributors to the anthology were in the audience.
Featured reader Gemma Rabeneda, also known as Ze Pequeño, opened the reading with poems in Spanish, drawing on her recently published collection Setenta lunas de abril y un baile postumo. Noting that fellow Barcelona poet María Antònia Massenet had been forced by health problems to withdraw from the event, she included poems from her own collection in Catalan Poetitzant-te to reinforce the trilingual character of the reading. A regular contributor to Poémame, she welcomed other contributors who had shown up, meeting each other in person for the first time.
The distinguished Mayo poet Geraldine Mitchell, winner of the 2008 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, expressed her support for the Fired! campaign and her admiration for the tireless work of Christine Murray in support of Irish women poets. Although Chris was unable to appear as planned, attendees admired a display of the artwork from her recently launched work Bind, facilitated by publisher Liz McSkeane.
Like the previous reader, Mitchell easily drew in the audience of English, Spanish and Catalan speakers with her sensitive interpretations. The poets showed that there is clearly a place for trilingual poetry events in Barcelona, demonstrating the power of poetry and narrative to draw together members of diverse communities. Mitchell noted how strange it felt to travel all the way from the remotest corner of the Mayo coast to end up in Barcelona reading amongst family and friends. She is fairly well known in Barcelona and her daughter Lisa Molina, whose cover art for Mitchell’s last two collections was displayed at the reading, had caught the high-speed train from Perpignan to participate, arriving in just 80 minutes along with Mitchell’s London-based stepdaughter, who was on vacation, passing through on the same train.
Before the break, in keeping with the Fired! liturgy, several poems from historical and contemporary Irish women poets were read. Ann King performed Lola Ridge’s “Manhattan”, recently featured in The Guardian. Geraldine Mitchell read a poem by her namesake the 19th century Leitrim poet Susan L. Mitchell based on The Song of Amergin, thought to be possibly the first known poem from the so-called British Isles, comparing this version with a translation by her contemporary Lady Gregory, a founder of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Your reporter ended the first part of the event by reading poems by Fired! founder Kathy D’ Arcy and Jane Clarke, who was known to a part of the audience.
Participation was lively during the open mic session that concluded the event. Several regular Poémame contributors performed poems and new poems were read by Kymm Coveny, featured poet in last year’s precursor event, and Judy Thompson, reading a poem in English by last year’s featured poet Francesca Castaño. Barcelona-based writer and journalist Michael Bunn, featured reader in the forthcoming 13 December event read two poems from his sequence of autobiographical verse to whet the appetite of the audience for the next event.
Well past the 11 pm weekday closing time, the café staff was good-naturedly pouring wine from vineyards throughout Catalunya and Spain and serving delicious local snacks like torrat amb escalivada to animated stragglers still fervently discussing the night’s events and other urgent matters.