“I am not a hunter of silk worms / but I have passed through sea routes and land routes that I must / I have caressed her silk / but it feels as through my fingers have touched nothing…”
The words of Mexican poet Margarito Cuellar’s poem “The Gazelle and the Ancient Silk Road rang through the Blackstone M+ Music Park in Xujiahui’s Hengfu Scenic District,” stretching halfway around the world to open the Sixth Shanghai International Poetry Festival.
While poets from around the world were unable to come to Shanghai due to Covid related travel restrictions, this year’s International Poetry Festival remained a platform for the celebration of poetry thanks the use of the Internet and online cloud technologies.
The theme of this year’s Shanghai International Poetry Festival was “Poetry, and the Common Destiny of Mankind,” a reflection of the times in which we currently live and the hope of creating a common destiny for all mankind through the sharing of literature and its role as a mirror of the soul. Margarito Cuellar was awarded the “Golden Magnolia” International Poetry Prize at this year’s Festival.
A well-known poet, author, reporter and publisher who was born and raised in Mexico, Margarito Cuellar has published several collections of poems including These Streets of April, Animal Laboratory, Ballads for Graduating Students and The Happy Ages. He has also received the Radio France Internationale Poetry Prize and the Carlos Pellicer Iberoamericano Prize for Poetry. His poems have been translated into multiple languages including English, Portuguese, German, Italian, Bulgarian and Romanian.
Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Writer’s Association and Chairman of the Shanghai International Poetry Festival’s Artistic Committee, Zhao Lihong, said, “The poetic works of Margarito Cuellar have a unique personality, an unbridled imagination and penetrating thought that truly encompass the allure of poetry. He has peered into every corner of this vast world, using the sensory perception of poetry to explore its secrets. His philosophic curiosity has enabled him to explore the long, rich history of mankind as well as its diverse, ever-changing reality. Mankind’s curiosity, restlessness and meditations, even his yearning for a greater ideal, have been brilliantly expressed in Cuellar’s world of poetry. His poems are like enchanted drums that resound in the hearts of those who read them. His poems and his studies on poetry itself belong not only to his home country of Mexico, but to the entire world.” The head of the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Mr. Chen Jing, together with Chairman of the Propaganda Department and Member of the Standing Committee of the CPC for Xuhui District, Mr. Zhao Yi, presented Margarito Cuellar with the “Gloden Magnolia” Prize for Poetry. As Mr. Cuellar was unable to be present at the ceremony, the Consular General of Mexico in Shanghai received the award in this place.
Margarito Cuellar expressed his thanks in a video call, saying “Hello everyone! My name is Margarito Cuellar, a Mexican poet. I would like to express my gratitude and accept the Shanghai International Poetry Festival’s 2021 Golden Magnolia International Prize for Poetry. I would like to also thank my fellow poet, Ms. Zhao Lihong, for organizing this important poetry festival. It is my honor to be the first Mexican to receive this award. It’s also interesting that when I received the news that I had won this prize, it reminded me that next year is the 40th anniversary of my first book May the Sea Open its Doors for the Birds to Enter. For some time now, and especially in recent years, both ancient and modern Chinese poets have been important companions for me. My close interaction with them has provided me with a great deal of inspiration and given my poetry a greater sense of power. It has reminded me of where I was born – the countryside – and where I lived before moving to the city. I am sure that during this time of my life, my poetry and this longing have always been closely connected. My friends, I would like say that while we may face barriers like distance and language, poetry will forever be a bond of friendship and unity between us. Thank you once again. Receiving the 2021 Golden Magnolia International Prize for Poetry is an extreme honor for me. Thank you!”
Margarito Cuellar reads his poem “Hotel Shanghai”
Cuellar also read his poem “Hotel Shanghai”, expressing his thanks to the Festival’s organizing committee and sending his regards to the other poets participating in the festival online.
In a night sea of twinkling lights
Moves slowly onto the runway
The sky seems to stop for a moment
The runway is endless
As if its connected to the earth
The buildings are sleeping
This great dragon does not want to know what is happening on other continents
Someone gave me the latest model of a smartphone
I get in a taxi and head toward my hotel
The driver pretends not to understand my crappy English
The driver smiles for the entire drive
I rest for a few hours in my room with the lights on
From time to time monsters awake and spout fire
Lighting up the other flights that are slowly landing
Airplanes pass over the hotel all night long
Their wings almost touching the stars
A taxi on the way to the airport
At this moment, my homeland
Is deep in the middle of the night
In Shanghai it is still the wee hours of the morning
Everything that I know
I jot down in my notebook
Because I don’t really trust my memory
The flames of the great dragons are filling the skies
Leaving columns of white smoke
The theme of this year’s Shanghai International Poetry Festival was “Poetry, and the Common Destiny of Mankind”. President of the Poetry Institute of China, Mr. Yang Ke, feels that this theme is particularly important as we face the current pandemic and an even more uncertain future. As artists, poets are not only concerned with their individual destinies, but the common destiny of mankind as a whole. Poetry is a guiding light for literature and culture and acts as a bridge linking the hearts and minds of people around the world, promoting understanding and empathy. “The pandemic may have forced us to change the way we interact, but it cannot stop our passion for poetry. Online exchanges between poets has continued throughout the pandemic and these artists continue to keep guard over our spiritual lives, warming our hearts and giving light to the coming dawn.”
Party Secretary and Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Writer’s Association, Wang Wei, believes that this theme has the ability to inspire topics that resonate with a common voice. Poetry is a language shared by all of mankind and continues to grow and change along with our civilization. It overcomes barriers of language and the written word and plays an ever more important role in creating emotional connections and meaningful interactions, which ultimately fosters the sense of a common destiny for all of mankind. “The Shanghai International Poetry Festival is a testament to the power of poetry in promoting the common destiny of mankind in an era of globalization.”
This annual festival is a popular event that the residents of Shanghai look forward to every year and is widely recognized as an important part of Shanghai’s cultural life. The format of this year’s International Poetry Festival is different from previous years in that it has used technologies like the internet and big data to hold both online and offline sessions.
The four day long event included many exciting and interesting activities, such as the launch of Shanghai Literature, the official publication of the Shanghai International Poetry Festival, which was held in conjunction with a poetry forum. There was also an exchange event “The Source of Poetry – life and the land” that was attended by several special guests and local Shanghainese poets. Other events included the Colomen Salon event “Shanghai Poetic”; an exchange between famous poets and university students titled “Poetry Bridge”; a poetry reading based on the theme of the Festival; an exchange forum with well-known poets titled “A Meeting in the Clouds – poetry in everyday life” as well as a poetry competition and appreciation event titled “Rhymes of Seas and Lakes”.
“Shanghai is one of the birthplaces of modern Chinese poetry. For nearly a century, countless poets have been using inspired verses to create a brilliant star-filled tapestry of language that envelops all of us. Shanghai remains important to the innovation, research and promotion of Chinese poetry, but it is also a key location for the promotion of international cultural exchange through poetry.” According to Wang Wei, the original impetus of the Shanghai International Poetry Festival five years ago remains the same to this day – to strengthen Shanghai’s role in this area. “I hope the Festival will continue to serve as a platform for poets from China and around the world to look to the future and learn from each other. We also hope to promote the appreciation of poetry among the general public, awakening the poetic spirit that has been overshadowed by the din by modern life.
Sources: Pengpai News, Shanghai International Poetry Festival Organizing Committee
Editor: Zhang Jiaxuan