“El primer verso es el más importante.” The first verse is the most important.
To Pedro Enríquez, an acclaimed Spanish poet, this statement is the foundation of his entire career.
Sponsored by the Southwestern College Guest Writers Series and Revista Radio de las Artes, an online radio magazine that highlights Latino poets, Enríquez conducted a two and a half hour poetry reading and workshop in Student Union East.
Francisco Bustos, an English professor and director of the Guest Writers Series, said Enríquez was special.
“We were very lucky in that we didn’t have to set out to contact him,” he said. “I knew Diana Rios (poet and creator of Revista Radio de las Artes) and she contacted me a week before the semester started to see if we would be interested in having Enríquez read. There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare and we put it together fast.”
Rios said Enríquez’s reading at SWC was part of a bigger celebration.
“It is the Revista’s first anniversary,” she said. “We are on our way to El Centro Cultural de Tijuana (Cecut) to give a two-day workshop.”
Born in 1956 in Granada, Spain, Enríquez has published 14 books of poetry in his native Spanish. They include his first published work from 1987, “Extremo a extremo del silencio” (“End to end the silence”), which won the Villa de Peligros award, “El eco de los pájaros” (“The echo of the birds”) and “Ciudad en obras” (“City under construction”).
Dressed in white linen pants, a matching shirt, which was unbuttoned, over a black undershirt under an unbuttoned white dress shirt and all black Chuck Taylors, with his long grey hair done up in a ponytail, Enríquez was cool and composed, a defiant remnant of the hippie era.
For the first hour (after a late start due to parking mishaps and technical difficulties) he read selections of his poems in Spanish. Bustos banged on his drum set to the rhythm of the poetry, adding an air of tribal mystery to the proceedings.
Enríquez read in Spanish and others translated his poems for him, including Bustos and Professor of Spanish Angelina Stuart.
“Busco una amante que me ame,” one of his poems read. “No todas la amantes te aman / ni todas las que te aman son amantes. / A veces alguien dice te amo / pero tampoco es amante.” (I’m looking for a lover who loves me / Not all the lovers love you / not all lovers that love you are lovers / sometimes someone tells you they love you / but neither are they lovers.)
For the last hour and a half, Enríquez conducted a writing workshop called “La importancia del primer verso (The importance of the first verse).”
He passed out cards with a red and blue background painted into them, the red blending with the blue towards the middle.
“I want you to create a first verse of a poem with just these two colors,” he said through a translator. “What do they mean to you? Feel them. Write without thinking, experience the colors. There is poetry in everything.”
Once 10 minutes of silent creativity passed, Enríquez circled the room giving everyone the opportunity to read their creations with translation help from Bustos.
“The first verse is the most important in poetry,” Enríquez said. “You can create a whole poem from a first verse or discard it. It’s a starting point, it doesn’t have to be perfect but at least you planted the idea.”
Those who wrote poems for the workshop were invited to read their works at El Centro Cultural de Tijuana alongside Enríquez and submit them for an anthology of poetry he is editing, tentatively called “Memoria.”
Bustos said he got the opportunity to practice with Enríquez at his home studio.
“I got on the drums and played while he read a poem about Frida Khalo,” he said. “We filmed it and put it on YouTube. He’s a really interesting guy.”
Enríquez said he prefers writing poetry over any other type of fiction.
“Writing a poem is much more different than, say, writing a novel,” he said. “A novel requires discipline, many days and nights of work. An entire poem can be written in a bus ride. I like to travel. I like to live. Writing poetry allows me to live life to the fullest.”