To San Jose with Thanks & Poetry

I am sitting in bright sunshine under a blue clock tower in Prague but all I can think about is San Jose: the thick humidity cloaking its streets, the shelves and shelves of poetry written in a language I cannot yet reach, and the school I visited on the outskirts of the city—the Institute of Modern Education (Instituto Educativo Moderno).

I can’t help but think too of the haiku-writer, poetry-promoter and thoughtful translator, Esteban Alonso Ramirez, who took a chance on my work and led me to some of the most wonderful poets. It is because of him, as well as the talented G.A. Chaves, that my poems have now been published in Mexico, reaching an audience I never imagined, in a language I long to speak.

I would like to thank Esteban (who I call Alonso) for being so kind and generous with his time, translations and friendship. I’d also like to thank every local poet I met, as well as the university, bookshop and school, for welcoming me into their world. And finally, I’d like to thank the Costa Rican students and audiences who listened with an intensity and enthusiasm that humbled me, kept me still. I am so lucky to have met you all.

I know I will remember these experiences for the rest of my life. In July, I shared one poem about my first reading in Costa Rica but they just keep coming, shaky and new. So, I’d like to share another piece here (as well as a few photos) from the second reading I did as a small token of my gratitude to this place and these people:

The Translator

For Alonso

In the back of a San Jose taxi
I give gifts: Welsh cakes, tiny bottles
of Pendyrn, a signed copy
of my collection.

He hugs me and I hug him:
we are both grateful
so we thank
and thank
and thank

until we reach the school
where we read, in English
and Spanish, about fathers
and grief, blood and burnt
houses—

then listen to questions
from eager students:

Where does confidence live?
What has writing given you?
How can poetry help me?

We answer—
but, inside, we know we’ve been asking
these same questions all along:

cross-examining verbs,
line breaks, syntax,
loose commas,

hoping that one day the poems
will answer back.

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