… FROM OUR INTERNATIONAL FELLOW (PART 4)

… FROM OUR INTERNATIONAL FELLOW (PART 4)

Jenny Valentine is Hay Festival International Fellow 2017/18, travelling to each Hay Festival edition to meet with young people and explore the experience of adolescence. Here the award-winning writer offers her first dispatch from Hay Festival Segovia 2017…

We are in the private garden of Leandro Silva, across the river in Segovia.  He designed the Botanical Gardens in Madrid and this place was his dream, his oasis, his final project, still lovingly tended.  His widow, Julia (sic) opens it for the Hay Festival every September.  Felix, a professor from the IE University down the hill organises a promenade of readings.

A group of fifty of us wander through the spaces, cluster under peach-red overhanging rocks, settle around a raised square of water, and read, and listen.

It is a privilege to listen to a poet under the trees and not on a plastic chair. To follow them through a beautiful landscape. Jay Bernard reads a poem in English, a response to a poem in early Dutch, and the Dutch Ambassador reads the original. Other writers read in Spanish. It doesn’t matter when I do not understand them, because somehow or other, I always do.

Yesterday, I read here, something short from my book, because I’m not a poet.  And then when pressed to find a poem, I remembered a Purepecha verse, from North Mexico, sent to me by a new lifelong friend I made in Queretaro.

In life you don’t win or lose

You don’t fail

Nor do you triumph

In life you learn

You grow

You discover

You write

You erase

And you write again

You weave

You unravel

And you weave again.

The day that I understood

That the only thing that I’m going to take with me

is what I live

I began to live

What I want to take with me.

Afterwards, in another garden, I met Juana, a poet from Monterrey who lives in Glasgow.  She asked me about the poem, and three hours later we were still talking.

We ran to see Jeanette Winterson’s talk.  At the end, Juana turned to me and said, “Has she been inside our heads for the last three hours?”

We are home now, in Glasgow and Hay.  We have been in touch.  We will know each other for a long time.  Another new lifelong friend.  We are all from different places, all returned to different places and the narrative threads of the Festival bind us together.

It occurs to me that this fellowship is allowing me to live what I want to take with me.