Las Abuelas Cuentan


One of the first things Marta said to me when I was selected as RILA’s first poet in residency was: “I do not like poetry.”

Tough for you, I thought, as we started a year-long collaboration that has been both rewarding and deeply engaging. While her distaste for poetry is rooted in mandatory reading, to me, poetry has always been a way to find the extraordinary in daily life.

I knew my job wasn’t to convince her to like poetry, or to make her see the ways in which poetry can transport you with its many rhythms or embrace your soul with metaphor. To me, poetry is what happens when you are present. So, present I was, as we set out to facilitate creation for community members. In my opinion, something magical happens when people have space, time, and prompts to exercise their imagination.

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Over the last twelve months we met at La Galeria in Central Falls and at the Roger Williams Gateway Center in Providence to be present, to share stories and to experience creating together. Naturally, poetry came as a result. Some of our prompts included: Love letters I never sent, Things that I learned from My Mom, What words Describe your Self-Portrait, Who is my Abuela? Among many others. I also set out to interview community elders for my oral history project, Las Abuelas Cuentan. It was a moving experience that started with my aunt, Carmen Villamán. You can read more about her story on this website, soon.

Below: Juan Garcia makes Sussy chuckle during his interview.

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Las Abuelas Cuentan will be part of Nuestra Raíces.

A whole year has gone by and while Marta still does not like poetry, something we both laugh about, I remain grateful and fully convinced that poetry has a magical way to facilitate communication and to create alliances that will transcend 2023.

We will have a final gathering, as my residency closes, on January 27,2024 from 10-11:30am at La Galería. I hope to see you there!
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