Last Sunday, 3 members (myself and two others) of our poetry club, Casa los Altos, collaborated with the PoetrySlam group of our city in their annual “Grito de la Mujer” (Woman’s Scream) live performance event. This year, it was held in our Central Park.
Guatemala consistently ranks, unfortunately, as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. This annual event invites poets from our city and the surrounding region, both men and women, to give voice to the often invisible and unspoken fears, heartbreaks, hopes, desires, experiences, spirit, anger, and more that we are often called upon to suppress. The power of the written and spoken word to shine light into places that affect us, cannot be overstated. This event is not for poetry that is merely “pretty” or that sounds “nice.” Our presenters this year talked about being mistresses, about balancing motherhood with career, about being accosted in the streets, about being young, about being men trying to navigate a world where power dynamics are changing.
This was my own third year participating. I read a brief introduction about the often very intimate nature of my own work, and read three poems. The first was about a woman’s experience, exactly one year ago, facing a miscarriage and pregnancy termination alone, after being abandoned by a partner. In the Cree tradition, there is a guardian spirit, called the Moon Bird, that appears to women suffering alone in times of great need, and I wrote about this woman’s experience of being held in spirit through the process that she otherwise faced down, alone.
The second was a tongue in cheek poem I wrote this year in response to my frustration as a strong woman returning to the dating scene and constantly being told I am “intimidating’ or “too passionate,” or otherwise “too much.” Modeled after another slam poet’s own work, I brought the perspective of wishing my would-be partners, an utterly uninteresting life, to the Guatemalan stage (“may your hotel rooms come without toilet paper, may you always get the aisle seat on the bus, may you only date women your mom approves of).
The third was a poem I wrote in 2016, about my struggles as a white/ foreign woman trying to make it as a professional and be accepted in a Latin country. I wrote about the effect of being seen every day, several times a day, as a transaction. About talking and having nobody listen to what I say. About being treated as a potential conquest, and never being good enough to invite home to meet a friend or lover’s family. “[I am] the person most watched but never seen.”
Here are a couple of photos of us at the event, and there are links below to the three works I read. Photo credits to PoetrySlam Xela.