In the old times, I used to be what my friend Raquel (I think it was her!) called a social butterfly. Now I am more of an antisocial cocoon. I'm almost afraid to go out in public. I feel awkward and misplaced when I am around many people. The reasons for this are complicated, but all the same they don't make sense. So this weekend I added one more element to my socialization recoup: Tertulias.
My friend Lucy defined a tertulia as a special gathering where a group of friends get together to share poetry and art. I think she said it better, but that's what I recall right now, thinking of this weekend and the two tertulias I attended. I guess if we tried to say tertulia in English, it would be salon. In the old days of East Harlem, intellectuals like Julia de Burgos would get together in apartments to share their creations, recite, live the bohemian life. While I am not great at being a bohemian, I do enjoy a noche de tertulia a great deal.
Friday night was my own tertulia, which it's been going on for two years with only about 5 gatherings, but still, it is a tertulia and we get to take over the American Wing Cafe of the MET to read and share and laugh. We laugh because whoever does not bring a poem or something to share will have to answer a question, and shy people don't like to answer questions! But this time we had a group of teachers, and 5 poets, which turned out to be great fun and also filled with tender moments. One of the teachers actually recited a poem a boy gave her when she was 15 years old. She still remembers it, more than 30 years later. Another teacher recited a Neruda poem, and the poets all brought their wonderful work to share. I read a spiritual-erotic poem with a wish for everyone present to have a passionate night of love in the next three days...!
Then Saturday I was invited to another Tertulia Night in Lucy's house. When I got to the hallway, approaching Lucy's apartment, I could hear voices, as if the night was already started. It turned out a group of musicians was there, a poet, and Lucy. The music group, a young woman singer Alexandra Castano, a young man as guitarist, I don't remember his name but I do remember his smile, and Joe Falcon at the bass, was wonderful. They began playing their boleros before more people started arriving, and it was a great concert that I wish more people get to see. I hear they are at 110 street or 103 street on the #1 platform at 2 p.m. on Saturdays... I plan to go see them again. Then it was happy birthday to Lucy (which she did not tell me about, bad girl!) and then, hmm, me. I did not know I was being featured, and filmed... and unfortunately my nose was red from sneezing and my makeup almost gone, but well, how could I say no? So I read 3 poems from Sagrario and Destellos de Sofia while explaining how I began making poetry books. It felt really good because I did not have much time to get nervous about the camera and because a lot of the people present were people I had met at some point in the last 13 years. Then everyone left, and 5 of us stayed talking about Mary Magdalene and derivative topics. It was 2 am by the time we realized it was time to leave!
The tradition of tertulias has been going on for a long time, and I hope it never stops. It is so different from a "presentation" because what you share in a tertulia, you share among friends, and you are part of a circle rather than in front of a group. People can laugh and comment, and tell what is meaningful to them without having to say anything. Spontaneity rules, the heart rules the tertulia. There is no end, and usually no beginning, since it all starts when it starts. A tertulia makes the solitude of the studio more balanced, and bearable. It provides a space to share what is created in solitude. What a wonderful privilege to be able to take part in this tradition, I hope all artists get to experience it sometime.
While I am not cured yet, I did feel happy sharing with people and was able to not feel anxiety after these two nights of art and poetry. It's a good restart. Unfortunately, Sunday was bed day with a terrible cold. I wonder if the recipe was just too much medicine. Next time, may be just 1 tertulia!
Have you ever been to a tertulia? Have you ever organized one? How did it feel?