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Spanish poets inspired by Given Words

27 Jan 2019
Poets from Spain, Argentina, Panama and Uruguay join New Zealand poets in writing poems inspired by words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

Written by

Charles Olsen
May 14, 2023

During my poetry residency in Segovia and Soria, Spain, with the III Antonio Machado SxS Poetry Fellowship, I invited poets to write poems which included five words I'd chosen from Machado's poem 'The Hospice': decrepit, window, nest, draw and snow. There were entries from as far afield as Argentina, the Republic of Panama, Uruguay, and across Spain, and school children of all ages in Soria participated. Some students even created animated visual poems inspired by the five words. The poems are published in Spanish on Palabras Prestadas in both Adults and Under-16s categories, and for those whose Spanish isn't up to scratch I have translated the two winning poems below. Last August I invited New Zealand poets to do the same for National Poetry Day and I wrote about the winning poems here. Due to the vagaries of translation the five words were slightly different in the Spanish edition.

The jury, including the Palabras Prestadas team, the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares and myself, along with the poet and publisher, Miguel Ángel Arcas—Miguel Hernández National Poetry Award, XXII Ricardo Molina Poetry Award of the City of Cordoba, and director of the publisher Cuadernos del Vigía—awarded Best Poem to ‘Dibujo’ (Drawing) by M. J. Pebar of Barcelona. The poem is an intriguing fiction about both writing and painting. We liked how the disappearance of the elements unfolds and how the poem closes in on itself. The award for Best Poem by Under-16s was for ‘El Viejo Caserón’ (Ramshackle House) by Alba Latorre Sala (12 years old) from Soria, which tells a beautiful and moving story. The winning poets received the complete collection of Palabras Prestadas, Ediciones de la MediaNoche and a selection of books from Olifante Ediciones de Poesía.



In the snow I draw a man
leaning from a small window.
The man throws stones,
round and noisy,
at an empty old nest.
The wind flies low
and erases,
with long fingers,
the nest, the window and the stones,
and leaves in the air
only white noise as it falls
on the shadow of a man
caged in a drawing.

M. J. Pebar (Barcelona)


Ramshackle House

Awake, thinking
of this old house,
sat in my bed
was I.

I spent my brief childhood
in that small house
that held me in winter
and in summer, sent me out to play.

Most special in the house
was the little window
where I’d find my grandmother
all the hours the cuckoo sang.

Her long hair,
soft as snow,
she’d let me brush
with or without a comb.

From her wheelchair
she'd gesture.
I’d go to her
and she’d look at me,

She’d say,
‘See that decrepit nest?
It’s old but brave.
One day it will fall
but it will have cradled chicks.’

I was small
and didn’t understand.
I would draw
while grandma sang to me.

I’ll always remember
that old house
that with care and cuddles
sheltered my short childhood.

Alba Latorre Sala (Soria)


About the Antonio Machado SxS Poetry Fellowship

The award is open to non-Spanish poets resident in Europe who have a basic knowledge of Spanish and offers 3,000 euros to cover a two month residency in the Spanish cities of Soria and Segovia, as well as travel costs from the European city of residence. The applicant must present a project of poetry creation and social participation, preferably related with Antonio Machado, including an outline of a future collection of poems. Soria and Segovia are two of the places where the poet Antonio Machado lived and taught French, and whose landscapes and people inspired many of his poems.  More information about the fellowship (in Spanish) in RevistaDeArte and you can read more about the fellowship and Charles Olsen's residency on NZ Poetry Shelf.

Article first published in Elige Soria (in Spanish)
Palabras Prestadas (in Spanish)