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Healing poetry for a wounded world

If poetry is the mirror of the vicissitudes that shake us, of the stumbles and emotions that move us, the one that has been harvested in 2021 paints us as vulnerable and passionate as we feared. A tasting in some of the books and awards of poets of different ages, origins and genders this year throws an urgent portrait of the regret of the disease, the care, the evanescence of the body, the exile, but also of the flashes of vitality that light up this world that stumbles along.

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“Poetry is like an X-ray: superimposed areas of light and darkness that reveal and hide in equal measure”, describes with scientific clarity Orlando Mondragón, precisely a 28-year-old Mexican doctor and winner of the recent Loewe Prize for Poetry with Notebooks of human pathology, to be published in March. Between guard and guard at the Fray Bernardino Álvarez Psychiatric Hospital (Mexico City), Mondragón has found his particular escape valve in a genre that helps him put order in his mind and find direction in chaos. “Poetry stretches language to its limits and this is also what it sets out to communicate: an idea, an emotion or a fact in a non-transferable way. It depends on the trigger that made me sit down to write. ”

And that trigger has taken the shape of a hospital in some of the most applauded collections of poetry in recent months. Just as the Mexican dazzled the Loewe jury with verses such as: “I take my sick man's hand / to know that I'm still alive”; Begoña M. Rueda also did it when he won another prestigious award, the Hiperión, written from the laundry of the hospital where he works, in Algeciras (Cádiz):

“The military deployed

throughout the hospital complex,

All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.


armed men, strong,

getting off a red truck

parked at the door of the laundry.

In the afternoon, according to the press,

were fumigated

emergency areas, nuclear medicine,

cleaning areas, kitchens ,

semi-basement and waste warehouses,


seemed having forgotten about the laundry,

in front of which they parked the red truck

and got out, armed, strong

as if they could shoot down the pandemic,

we saw them get off

and pass by

as if the clothes of the infected washed themselves

as if we did not even belong to the hospital.

As if not We would matter. very little: loneliness ”. “I try to make a warm garment out of the poem. I write verses like someone who makes crochet gloves, scarves and hats, with every intention of taking the cold out of my readers ”, the young author responds. “I try that everyone who cries silently at the bus stop because they feel they can't, those who shout against machismo and lgtbiphobia or those who scrub steps and are looked over their shoulders, find in my poetry a little warmth and understanding ”. Rueda writes, in short, because he needs it as others need it —believe—.

Transcending events to climb towards a reflection, an emotion and a spirit to change reality is the great motivation that Rueda expresses and that is also found in others. Fernando Beltrán has now added the third edition of La curación del mundo (Hiperión), a collection of poems written practically in the delirium of his illness, which prostrated him for several months in 2020 and whose name he does not get to pronounce. “I never name the words covid or coronavirus, perhaps because those are the circumstances and, deep down, what the book talks about is the human being, his vulnerability, his fears, but also his capacity for flight, harmony and beauty ”

Beltrán, born in Oviedo 65 years ago, believes that people have turned their attention to poetry in these times of pandemic because this genre often starts from the fragility of the human being. “Writing this book helped me overcome the disease. Medicine saved me, but poetry healed me. The poets' couch are their poems “, he assures.

” What are we whales if it is not this

that you now see , now I am, this that remains

when there is no more, when you have already died

stranded on any beach, chosen, forced

unexpected, what difference does it make, what difference does it make. ”

The poet created the first verses of the book in his head, without pen, no notebook, and relied on various metaphors to recall later: the train he heard going around the hospital, the image of the cyclist López Carril reaching the top of Alpe d'Huez almost broken, out of breath, as he felt in his prostration; the search for the light that illuminated in the first light of the day the verses “Never / the light of the day / so much light …”, which is routinely repeated today to celebrate that he lives. Like Begoña M. Rueda, Beltrán also imagines writing as that way of going to the scarf drawer, which is also the cold drawer.

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