FICRT pays tribute to María Victoria Atencia on Poetry Day

The Complutense University of Madrid and Casa Árabe also took part in the tribute to the Spanish poet
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 -   The Spanish poet María Victoria Atencia

In 1990, during the 30th General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation decreed 21 March as World Poetry Day, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and promoting the visibility of endangered languages.

Since then, on 21 March, which also coincides with the first day of spring, countries around the world have been honouring poets, promoting the art and remembering its ability to unite people from different cultures and traditions. "Poetry enriches the dialogue that catalyses all human progress and is more necessary than ever in turbulent times," said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. 

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Tribute to María Victoria Atencia

On this special day for culture and literature, the Foundation for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance (FICRT) has organised a tribute to the famous Spanish poet María Victoria Atencia, together with the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and Casa Árabe.

Atencia (Málaga, 1931) is one of the most important Spanish poets of the Generation of the 1950s. Her impeccable style has earned her numerous literary awards, such as the National Critics' Prize (1997); the Royal Spanish Academy Prize for Literary Creation (2012) for her book El umbral; and the 23rd Queen Sofia Prize for Ibero-American Poetry (2014), the fourth woman to win it and the first Spaniard.

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María Victoria Atencia with Sergio Santiago and Marta López Vilar

She is also a corresponding member of the Royal Academies of Antequera, Cádiz, Córdoba, San Fernando and Seville, and a full member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Telmo, in Málaga. She is also a member of the Centro Andaluz de las Letras de la Junta de Andalucía; the "Centro Cultural Generación del 27" in Malaga; the "Fundación de la Generación del 27" in Madrid; and the "Fundación María Zambrano".

As the Cervantes Institute explains, "María Victoria Atencia weaves a meticulous gaze on the world, domestic, attentive, detailed and clean, which captures the essence of the object or experience represented". It should also be noted that, in 1971, the poet became an airline pilot

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The day dedicated to Atencia began with a colloquium in the Faculty of Philology at the UCM, in which the poet took part alongside Sergio Santiago and Marta López Vilar, both university lecturers and writers. The conference was presented by José Manuel Lucía Megías, Vice-Dean of Library, Culture and Institutional Relations of the Faculty.

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María Victoria Atencia
Atencia: "Poetry will always be with us because it is something that life needs"

Both Santiago and López Vilar expressed their excitement at having a conversation with the prestigious poet, "one of the most important voices in Spanish poetry", as they stressed. Santiago began the colloquium by referring to the current world situation and the importance of poetry in bringing people together. "Despite wars and pandemics, 21 March always comes to remind us that spring cannot be stopped", he said. Along these lines, López Vilar described poetry as "a place of refuge". 

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María Victoria Atencia

"This is a temple of the word, which welcomes students who love words and, anyone who loves words, loves yours", declared Santiago, who asked Atencia to introduce herself, explaining her work and influences

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María Victoria Atencia

Atencia highlighted nature, an element that is very present in her work, as she spent her childhood in the countryside.  "The sounds of nature, the birds, stayed with me," she recalled. Among his influences he highlights Vicente Aleixandre, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Federico García Lorca.

"The start came to me with the freshness of the fields, of love, of what I felt. Now I see that those poems reflect what I was living. I was picking the words like someone who picks flowers", she declared. "Poetry will always be with us because it is something that life needs", she added.

Regarding the moment when the 'start' to write poetry comes about, Atencia advises patience. "There is something very big and special in this, where many have been before us", she explained. 
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Nature is a central point in Atencia's work because of her childhood, a period she remembers with happiness. "Writing is a way of returning to what was given to us. To remember. Reconstructing the past in order to understand the present, but without nostalgia," she reflected.

During the event at the UCM, several of Atencia's poems were also read in different languages such as Portuguese, Hungarian, Chinese, Arabic and Italian. "Poetry has a universal language," said López Vilar. 

​ María Victoria Atencia  ​
​María Victoria Atencia
Jumaa Alkaabi: "The arts respond to the needs of the human soul, such as painting, dance, music, sculpture and, of course, poetry"

The day dedicated to poetry and María Victoria Atencia continued at Casa Árabe. The cultural event was presented by Manuel Gahete, poet, literary critic, essayist, Professor of Language and Literature and director of the Gongorinos Institute of the Royal Academy of Cordoba. Mohammed Dahiri, PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies and professor at the UCM, coordinated the event.

Gahete opened the second part of the tribute to Atencia by stressing the importance of poetry. "Poetry is vital. It is the beginning and the origin of all peoples. When people want to express themselves, they turn to poetry, which is also the language of love, of resilience. The language that unites us all in the same language", he emphasised. 

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María Victoria Atencia and Manuel Gahete

In this sense, Gahete stressed the links that poetry has with humanity and, therefore, with fraternity. "Poetry makes us all equal", he added.

The event dedicated to literature was accompanied musically by the lute player Hamer Bitar, since, as Gahete said, "poetry is linked to music".

Later, Cristina Juarranz, assistant director of Casa Árabe; Jumaa Alkaabi, president of the Foundation for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance (FICRT); and José Manuel Lucía Megías, Vice-Dean of Library, Culture and Institutional Relations at the UCM's Faculty of Philology, took part.

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Mohammed Dahiri

Cristina Juarranz stressed Casa Árabe's commitment to literature, poetry, theatre and other cultural fields. "Our lives without poetry would be emptier and less joyful," she said.

On the other hand, Jumaa Alkaabi began by recalling the importance of poetry for humanity, since one of its objectives is to give endangered languages more opportunities to revive. "The arts respond to the needs of the human soul, such as painting, dance, music, sculpture and, of course, poetry," he explained. These arts, moreover, "celebrate peace, seek love and human brotherhood, and spread the culture of coexistence and acceptance of the other".

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Raquel Lanseros

Finally, José Manuel Lucía Megías expressed his joy at representing UCM in the tribute to Atencia and being accompanied by wonderful poets. ''Fraternity'' was a word that was very present in the vice-dean's speech. "We are brothers in poetry, in life, in ideas, even when they are contrary, because they enrich us as people and society," he declared.

In this sense, he also expressed his satisfaction at being part of this space of tolerance by accompanying the FICRT. Lucía Megías praised the role of the foundation because "it aspires to create meeting places". He also stressed that the association uses poetry as "a tool to achieve tolerance". "Poetry helps us to understand each other. 21 March is a day to promote understanding", he concluded.

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Mohammed Achaari

Afterwards, Atencia took to the lectern to read some of her poems dedicated to the Andalusian city of Granada. After her, Raquel Lanseros, Luis Alberto de Cuenca, Mohammed Achaari, María Ángeles Pérez López and Manuel Gahete recited. They all expressed their joy and emotion at participating in a tribute dedicated to Atencia. "Atencia opened paths for women and for human beings", said María Ángeles Pérez López.

After the recital, prizes were awarded to the collaborating entities and, with the sound of Hamer Bitar's lute, this emotional day dedicated to the great poetess Atencia, to poetry and to fraternity came to an end.