Nicaragua poetry festival dedicated to Ernesto Cardenal

Granada’s 9th annual International Poetry Festival, held Feb. 17-24, promises to be bigger and better than years past

They say that all Nicaraguans are poets or hijuepoetas. That dictum, which works better in Spanish than Spanglish, is never truer than in the month February, when Granada hosts its international poetry festival and even the most prosaic Nicaraguans start to speak in rhyme and iambic pentameter.

This year’s International Poetry Festival, now in its ninth year, will be dedicated to Nicaragua’s iconic revolutionary poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, the country’s most revered and internationally celebrated living poet.

 The poetry festival, an annual cultural event that has grown rapidly in scope and prestige over the past decade, is now considered one of the top events of its kind in the world, rivaled only by the International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia.

“In just eight years, the International Poetry Festival in Granada has become an obligatory event for poets; the festival is now firmly established on the cultural calendar of events in the Americas and is second only to the poetry festival in Medellín, which has been going on for more than 20 years,” says event organizer Fernando López.

This year’s festival in homage to one of Granada’s most famous native sons, who last week turned 88, is expected to be an even greater celebration than years past, as Cardenal’s friends and admirers from around the world come to honor an extraordinary life of achievement. Cardenal, the 2012 recipient of the Queen Sofia Prize for Ibero-American Poetry and a former nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, is author of many famous poems, novels and works of poetry, including “Prayer for Marilyn Monroe,” “Epigrams”, and “Cosmic Canticle,” among others.

 The former minister of culture during the Sandinistas’ revolutionary days in the 1980s, and now a leading critic of President Daniel Ortega, Cardenal is also an extremely accomplished sculptor and the founder of the primitivist art community in the Solentiname archipelago in Lake Cocibolca.

The revolutionary poet will be doing a poetry reading on Friday, at 4 p.m. at the San Francisco Convent.

Big international draw

The 2013 International Poetry Festival will draw a total of 123 poets—83 international poets from 58 countries and 40 Nicaraguan poets—who have been invited to participate in this year’s event, making it one of the biggest festivals yet. Among the long roster of internationally renowned poets participating in this year’s festival is U.S. feminist poet, author and social activist Margaret Randall, whose early involvement in the Sandinista Revolution prompted the U.S. government to revoke her citizenship in 1984. After a lengthy court battle, Randall’s citizenship was reinstated in 1989. The following year she was awarded the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression.

Long-time Nicaphiles will recognize Randall’s name from her influential book on the Nicaraguan Revolution, titled “Sandino’s Daughters.”

This year’s poetry festive will also have a special celebrity guest: Bianca Jagger, the Nicaraguan born social and human rights advocate and former wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Ms. Jagger, who resides in London, is founder of Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and currently acts as the European Council’s Goodwill Ambassador, as well as sitting on the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International.

Organizers of the International Poetry Festival hope Bianca Jagger’s participation in the event will provide enough star power to generate some mainstream international attention for the poetry festival.

“Her presence will help make this festival more visible and that will open doors for us to find more funding for the festival in the years to come,” López told The Nicaragua Dispatch.

Event organizers will also seek to elevate the festival’s international status by nominating it for the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award, which is given each year in recognition of those who make significant contributions to peace and culture. The Granada poetry festival was nominated for the award last year and was given serious consideration as a shortlist finalist.

Going global after a decade

For the past nine years, Granada’s International Poetry Festival has been dedicated to a famous Nicaraguan poet, honoring the big names from Nicaragua’s “Vanguard Movement” (José Coronel Urtecho, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, Joaquín Pasos) and the “post-modern” movement (Azarías H. Pallais, Alfonso Cortés, and Salomón de la Selva ). Two years ago, the festival was dedicated to Claribel Alegria, who had the distinction of being the first female poet and the first living poet to be honored. The festivals of 2012 and 2013 were dedicated to honoring Nicaragua’s post-vanguard movement, known as “The Three Ernestos” for poets Ernesto Mejía Sánchez , Carlos Ernesto Martínez Rivas and Ernesto Cardenal.

Next year, the 10th installment of Granada’s International Poetry Festival will be dedicated to Nicaraguan National Hero Rubén Darío, known as the “The prince of Castilian letters” and “Father of Modernism.”

But after that, the festival is going to expand its accolades and start honoring international poets to reflect the globalization of the event.

“After we dedicate year 10 to Darío, we will start to dedicate subsequent festivals to other poets from Central America, and then expand from there,” López says. “This festival has already transcended the borders of Nicaragua.”


2013 Festival Schedule:

Sunday, Feb. 17

Poets arrive from around the world

 5:00 – 6:00 PM

Inauguration of the International Book Fair

Plaza de los Leones

6:00 – 7:30 PM

Reading by Young Poets, with introduction by Gioconda Belli

Plaza de la Independencia

7:30 – 8:30 PM

Concert by Katia Cardenal

Plaza de la Independencia.


Monday, Feb. 18

10:00 – 10:30 AM

Inauguration of Artisan Fair

Parque Central.

10:30 – 11:00 AM

Open Mic Poetry

Plaza de los Leones

10:00 – 10:40 AM

Book Presentation: “LOS POETAS DE NICARAGUA EN MÁS DE 165 ANTOLOGÍAS” by Jorge Eduardo Arellano

Convento San Francisco

10:40 – 11:20 AM

Book Presentation: “PERFIL DEL OLVIDO”  by Humberto Avilés

Convento San Francisco

11:20 – 12:00 PM

Presentation of Poetry Anthology from the 80s, “LAS CARTAS SOBRE LA MESA” by Carlos Castro Jo y Carlos Calero

Convento San Francisco

11:30 AM – 12.30 PM

Inauguration of Literary Workshops and Conferences

Margaret Randall (USA): “Poetry of 20th century women in the United States”

Wanda Cosme (Puerto Rico): “Hacia una inclusiva crítica literaria femenina”

José María Zonta (Costa Rica): “Creatividad Literaria”

Javier Alonso (Uruguay): “Introducción a la expresión sonora y la musicalización poética”

Casa de los Leones

 3:00 – 5:00 PM


Participating poets: Silvia Elena Regalado (El Salvador), Javier Alvarado (Panamá), Rubén Nájera (Guatemala), Francisco Lacayo Parajón (Nicaragua) and Palmira López Fresno (PRACAMS-SIECA).

Convento San Francisco

6:00 – 8:00 PM

Official Welcoming of Poets by Blanca Castellón

Poetry readings

Iglesia La Merced.

8:00 – 9:00 PM

concert by Norma Elena Gadea

9:00 – 12:00 PM

Welcome cocktail in Hotel Darío

Tuesday, Feb. 19

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Encounter between Nicaraguan and International Poets, followed by poetry readings

Casa de los Leones.

3:00 – 5:00 PM

Workshops and Conferences:

Margaret Randall (USA), José María Zonta (Costa Rica), Escritora Wanda Cosme (Puerto Rico), Javier Alonso (Uruguay)

Casa de los Leones

6:00 – 6:30 PM

Official Inauguration of IX International Poetry Festival

Featuring: Festival President Francisco de Asís Fernández Arellano; Poet of Honor Ernesto Cardenal; Spanish Ambassador León de la Torre Krais; EU Ambassador Javier Sandomingo; Granada Mayor Julia Mena; Granada Bishop Monseñor Jorge Solórzano; Festival Vice Preident Gioconda Belli, Blanca Castellón, Nicasio Urbina and Director of Casa Tres Mundos, Dieter Stadler.

Plaza de la Independencia.

6:30 – 8:30 PM

Poetry Readings

Central Park

8:30 – 9:30 PM

Concert by Carlos Mejía Godoy

Central Park

Wednesday, Feb. 20

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM


Convento San Francisco (Salón de los Arcos)

Participants: Jaime Siles (España), Julio Valle-Castillo (Nicaragua), Jorge Román Laguna (Chile)

2:00 – 6:00 PM

Poetry Carnival “to bury arrogance and pride”

Carnival leaves from La Merced Church and goes down La Calzada to Lake Cocibolca, with poetry readings on each corner along the way

7:30 – 8:30 PM

Homage to the poets of the Caribbean:

Participating poest from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua

Iglesia San Francisco.

8:30 – 10:00 PM

Concert by Phillip Montalban

Parque central


Thursday, Feb. 21

10:00 – 10:30 AM

Offical group photo

Iglesia San Francisco.

10:30 – 11:30 AM

Workshop by Wanda Cosme Montalvo (Puerto Rico): “HACIA UNA INCLUSIVA CRÍTICA LITERARIA FEMENINA”

Casa de los Leones

10:30 – 12:00 M

Workshop by Jose Maria Zonta (Costa Rica) “CREATIVIDAD LITERARIA”

Casa de los Leones

2:00 – 4:00 PM


Casa de los Leones

3:00 – 4:00 PM

Book Presentation: “LA TRAICIÓN DE LOS SUEÑOS” by Francisco de Asís Fernández

Convento San Francisco (Salón de la Estatuaria).

6:30 – 8.30 PM

Poetry Readings

Plaza de la Independencia.

8:30 – 9:45 PM

Folkloric Ballet Tepenahuatl

Plaza de la Independencia


Friday, Feb. 22

9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Poetry Readings in the municipalities: Rivas, Nandaime, Masaya, Nindirí, Catarina, Niquinohomo, Diriomo, Diriá, Masatepe, San Marcos, Diriamba y Managua

 10:00 AM

Poetry Readings in Granada

Locations: Intecna – Colegio Salesiano – Universidad Uhispam

11:00 – 12:00 PM

Workshop by Jose Maria Zonta (Costa Rica): “CREATIVIDAD LITERARIA”

Casa de los Leones

3:00 – 5:00 PM

Poetry Readings in Granada

locations: Policía Nacional and Colegio San Antonio.

Ernesto Cardinal during the 2007 poetry festival (photo/ Tim Rogers)

4:00 – 5:00 PM

Poetry Reading by Ernesto Cardinal

Convento San Francisco (Salón de la Estatuaria)

6:00 – 8:00 PM

Poetry Readings

Plaza de la Independencia

7:30 – 9:00 PM

Concert by Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy and Teirra Fertil

Plaza de la Independencia.

Saturday, Feb. 23

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Youth Poetry Marathon

Parque Central

10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Poets visit Las Isletas       

 4:30 – 5:30 PM

Unveiling of Statue to Rubén Darío

Parque de Xalteva

5.00 – 5.30 PM

Closing Act and Reading of “Declaration of Granada”

Plaza de la Independencia

5:30 – 7:30 PM

Poetry Readings

7:30 – 8:30 PM


Plaza de la Independencia


  • Tio Pere

    Ernesto always reminds me of the good ol’ days. Remember how the FSLN tried to start up a fake parallel “People’s Church” in early 80’s but Pope John Paul II came over and DEFROCKED li’l Ernesto. Google for the picture of Ernesto on his knees with big crocodile tears while John Paul wags his finger at him. Search Google Images for “Ernesto Cardenal finger wagging pope” for a good chuckle. Write a little poem about that Ernie!

    Also search for “Sandinistas Gagged and Bound Us” by Obando y Bravo before he sold out and became Cardinal Piri. Too bad the real Pope ain’t alive or there’d be one more defrockin’ afoot. :-)

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