Mexican Writing, an Insider’s View with Gabriel Orozco
Edinburgh International Festival
Wednesday 19th August, 2015
The third of three programmes on Mexican Writing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival featured three young poets: Mónica de la Torre, Julián Herbert and Gabriela Jauregui. Introduced and championed by the distinguished visual artist Gabriel Orozco they turned up to be a good mix: with stimulating commentary on the Mexican literary and performance scene as well as their own practice.
Nick Barley, the Festival director, came in to top and tail the event: highlighting a special in-house and frreely distributed anthology production Mexico in Words (selected by Gabriel Orozco), and promising that the Mexican-Scottish connection established here would be strengthened and maintained in the future.
The three poets turned out to be other things as well – performers, musicians, editors, impresarios, actors, photographers – and this many-sidedness kept surfacing in the transitional scene they described and the options they kept open. They read their poems in Spanish, which was good (the anthology is monolingual English translation) though the pieces themselves (a riff on the ‘invisible city’, a tip-off that ‘Jesus doesn’t love you’, a drifting catalogue of rain and moon and water), while solid enough, didn’t quite jump as much as I had hoped.
More local settings, varied media and production, a little unloosening (difficult here) would have underlined the impact and promise more emphatically. However in conversation, spurred on by Orozco and getting a bit of a purchase on each other, they kept up interest and had us engaged. What made them different, what sounds and vision they were after, what they did and didn’t want to deal with, what they sucked on early, what they spat out later, what English meant and how it was inflitrating what they knew, how things formed and deformed, how they cut off then sewed back on the toes and ears of tradition, what was ‘gnarly’ what was not, what skins of feeling and language they shed, how they lapped up narco-culture, necro-culture and things of the ‘north’, what they intuited, what they warped, how language as material was bumping and grinding, what became of the soul, what was lost in translation, what discovered in manipulation – all these things rattled around in the gourd of talk and kept us ticking along.
Review by Mr Scales