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This report is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

The Score at Medellín Lawrence Sail

The broad city street running between two small squares had been blocked off. At one end was a dais surmounted by a canvas awning with, on either side, a bank of loudspeakers. Facing the dais, behind about 250 people sitting in the roadway or along the kerbs, overhead traffic lights continued their calm, now irrelevant commuting between red, amber and green. At one side of the road a café with customers pressing in produced regular crescendos of noise, a great roaring which welled up offstage like the noise of the bullfight spectators in the final act of Carmen. A small service road at the other side of the thoroughfare, still open, allowed for the addition of occasional zipping cadences from accelerating motorbikes.

8 p.m. on Thursday 24 June this year: the last but one day of Medellín's XIVth International Poetry Festival, which had begun on 18 June. The five of us sitting at a long table on the stage - poets from Colombia, Ecuador, Palestine, Turkey and Britain - had hardly expected an audience, since this reading coincided exactly with the Colombian Football Cup Final. What was more, this year the contesting teams were both local - Independiente Medellín versus Nacional. Yet here were over 200 people happy to sit, even within earshot of the excited shouts from the football fans in the café, and listen to poems, many of them by foreigners whose names, work and language would not be familiar to them.

The ...

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