The few of us Creative Writing majors studying abroad in Buenos Aires this term probably never knew how much we would miss the writing community at Knox.
But now that we are here, we realize it. Every now and then, we need a good reading. We miss Caxton Club events and the Alumni Room. Some days in government class, we wish we could be arguing about line and form in a poetry workshop.
And so, we set out to find poets. It began with the Richter Grant-based project of one student on the Buenos Aires program, junior Emily Oliver.
“This is based on a project that I did in Galesburg with recording Knox poets, and I wanted to do an extension of that in a new place,” Oliver said. “I wanted to see how poetry communities function in different places outside of an academic sphere.”
Through hearing of her project, other students started tagging along to readings and helping in the recording of Argentine poets. In some stumbling upon luck, a woman who works at the hostel that we stayed at for the first three days in the country is part of a well-known group of female poets in Buenos Aires called Pretextos.
At a reading hosted by Pretextos in a café in the barrio Almagro, it seemed like a majority of the 100 or more people there seemed to know each other or at least to have heard of each other. It was a friendly environment of poem-sharing and readings by writers of various ages and backgrounds (even one from Michigan).
“I started to frequent literary cafes about a year ago,” said Jonatan Marquez, 21, a poet who lives in a province of Buenos Aires. He said he was grateful for the strong literary café culture in the city because it gives him a place to share his work. “I think there are a lot of young creative writers,” he said.
When asked about specifically porteño (a word used to describe something originally of the Buenos Aires culture) writing, Marquez said, “We say that every culture has its language. This porteño theme
of the street, of the night, it has to do with the experience of each writer. You’ll find voices of every type here.”
“I’m not sure if there are porteño themes, but there are writers that write about our history and our problems [as a country],” said Walter Ianelli, 47, a Buenos Aires native. “For me, nature and reality interest me a lot. We each construct our own realities. Everyone has their difficulties [in writing], but it’s a lovely journey. The craft of writing is not the same as building a table,” he said.
Oliver will make recordings of poets in Brazil after her stay in Argentina. When the project is complete, interviews and readings of their poems will be archived at Knox for future students, faculty, and staff to enjoy.