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Leaving You Speechless: Granada's International Poetry Festival

Every Nicaraguan is a poet until proven otherwise.

-- Granada poet José Coronel Urtecho

Nicaragua's taxi drivers, waiters, street vendors, and ex-guerrillas can all spin a line from some of Nicaragua's many famous poets or, indeed, make an attempt at their own. Even President Ortega and his wife are known to scribble a line of their thoughts in rhyme, and the nation's newspapers are full of stanzas celebrating love and country. This is why Granada's annual poetry festival is such a runaway success. Started in 2004, the wordsmith's jamboree has become a significant date on every poet's calendar and is easily the most important literary get-together in Central America. Poets from all over the world (130 attended in 2009) gather in front of the city's flood-lit facades and recite their lines to an avid audience. Words in English, German, Arabic, and Croat float through the city streets, then are translated into Spanish by a local scribe. Flower-decked floats traverse the city with a team of bards, while musicians, dancers, street performers, and 12-foot puppets known as fantoches add a heady air of carnival and celebration. What makes Granada's poetry festival all the more unusual is the distinct difference in the audience from what is usually associated with literary events. Granada's festival attracts a colorful melee of workers, businessmen, and intellectuals. Nuns, school children, farm laborers, and city workers all follow the cycle of readings with unparalleled enthusiasm, as well as delighted tourists who find themselves in the city at one of its most vibrant moments. To read more about the nation's love of poetry, Or, better still, find yourself in the city in the third week of February. For exact schedules, check out the festival website at www.festivalpoesianicaragua.com.

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