Las Abuelas Cuentan


May has been a busy month at RILA!
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What is Poetry?

Cafe Recuerdos April 2023 _ FB

Someone who admits to dislike poetry asked me to write about what poetry means to me. Let me start by saying this is not an attempt to convince them or anyone else to like poetry. Instead, this is an exercise in self-reflection. These are a few of the many definitions I came up with:

  • Poetry is a sensibility rooted in the way we experience the world around us. It has nothing to do with writing, although putting it on paper is one of the countless ways to express it.
  • There are poets who never write a single poem.
  • Written poetry is the reaction to an exchange of emotion between you and something or someone else, that exchange makes you more human in return, more aware of your own fragility.
  • Poetry is an awakening to what we have in common, the way we express this joint awakening then gets categorized by the form we use (spoken word, lyric, epic, etc)
  • Poetry makes that which is understood by our inner knowing, the intangible, visible. It is the recognition of our own humanity.
  • None of the above.

My first encounter with poetry came when I was around 8 years old, a beloved teacher asked me to memorize a Ruben Darío poem for a school event. As I recited the poem something shifted inside me, I saw the magic of words, their power to shift emotions, to soften a gaze, to move people. I was hooked, which represented a challenge since I didn’t have access to many books growing up.

One day, my mom took out a loan to buy an 8-volume encyclopedia, it was one of the most poetic gestures she ever had. I read about famous poets, I’m happy to say my collection has grown since, and that my mom still has the encyclopedia.

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the power of words to move us, to make us more human. I hope you will join us in this month's Café Recuerdos, especially my friend who doesn’t like poetry, by bringing a favorite poem to read. It could be your own or someone else’s. Let’s read poetry together to find the many forms in which we are one, in the human condition. You can also just come to listen! Café Recuerdos happens on the third Thursday of every month, register here.
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Cafe Recuerdos March 2023 _ Flyer tr

A few years ago, we commemorated International Women's Day with a group of artist friends in Chile. I had never seen such a large and powerful manifestation. There were thousands and thousands of women of all ages, lining the streets of Santiago, all marching together. It was a transformative experience that has deeply inspired me in the years since.

On 8M (March 8) we remember the struggles and fight of the women who worked hard for the equal rights that we enjoy today. We also continue to fight for the right to live our lives in the way we want, to have agency over our bodies. There is still a long way to go, and we continue to create spaces to support each other and move forward in unity. There are different opinions on whether or not to celebrate this day, the way I see it, each woman should decide how to show up on this and every other day of her life.

This month at Café Recuerdos we continue to commemorate women's month by talking about: The things I learned from my mother. We want to honor the wisdom of the women in our lives. What have you learned from them? Come tell us! Join us this Thursday, March 16 at La Galería, 209 Central Street, Central Falls from 5:30-7pm. FREE. you can sign up here.

Café Recuerdos happens on the third Thursday of every month. It is a space for conversation, where we get together to reflect on the theme of the month, while enjoying coffee (or tea), stories, and a delicious snack. Come!
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Our first Café Recuerdos of the year was focused on love, as we reflected on the topic: “Love letters I never sent.” Much like love, our gathering was cozy and warm, funny, and emotional. We recalled memories of letters we sent to our loved ones many years ago. We cherished the memories and joy of re-reading the letters that were sent to us.

Technology has created new ways of communicating and it may seem that writing letters in a lost form of expression, but some people still do it. There is something magical about receiving a handwritten letter. It’s an intentional act that requires setting time aside, putting pen to paper, selecting words and thoughts to share. Sure, you can send a voice message, but it simply isn’t the same.

I invited participants to reflect on what love means to them. We wrote poems in response to prompts from a “Love Yourself” deck. Profound words surfaced about coming back to the quiet of ourselves and to the love of our families, hobbies, lovers, pets. Love manifests in many ways, I’m thankful we were able to hold its magnificent power to come together in person.

Café Recuerdos, is a space for conversation. We make coffee or tea, eat a snack, while getting to know each other. The idea is to share and reflect on our theme for the month. Join us! We meet on the third Thursday of every month at La Galería del Pueblo 209 Central Street, Central Falls. 5:30-7pm. FREE
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Sussy-muertos-event-2023 Photo by Oliver "Syde-Sho" Arias

Sussy Santana

I’m thrilled to be RILA 2023 Poet-in-Residence. During my residency I will be working on Las Abuelas Cuentan, a bilingual, multigenerational, oral history project focusing on the personal narratives of our community elders. In the context of a global pandemic, it felt more necessary than ever to honor the wisdom of our grandparents. I wanted to reflect on what they consider essential, how they view legacy, and what experiences have shaped them into who they are.

For this project, I specifically wanted to work with Marta Martínez, because of her background as an oral historian and archivist of Latino histories. Marta has become a mentor and friend; I am excited to develop this work alongside her.

I will continue to host Café Recuerdos on the third Thursday of each month! Café Recuerdos is a space for storytelling with community members. We meet to tell stories under a specific theme and the rest is just fun, heartwarming conversation. I hope you will join us! (FREE: Register here)

Lastly, I will be hosting a series of writing workshops inspired by the stories from our elders. Newer generations will get to reflect on their thoughts and write poems in response. This will become a multigenerational “poemario/journal” for our community to enjoy. This particular series will be divided in two groups, group 1 (April-June) group 2 (Sept-Nov). We will meet once a month. In order to have your poem included in this journal you have to participate in at least 5 sessions. Sign up opens soon!

Thank you for reading,
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