Tag Archives: Pablo Neruda

Soft Landing: Oaxaca, Mexico

The Continental flight from RDU to IAH to OAX was easy, fast, painless.  The plane left the gate in Raleigh-Durham at 2:30 p.m.(EDT) and arrived in Oaxaca at 8:30 p.m. (CDT).  I was welcomed into the arms of family cousin Uriel Santiago (you can find him on Facebook: Teotitlan Fruit Company [UriCorp]).  He managed to get my oversized bag stuffed with four months worth of clothing, shoes and workshop paraphernalia (LCD projector, tripod, camera lenses, writing notebooks, pens, external hard-drive, computer, iPad) into his tiny Chevy with room to spare.  Uri named his Facebook page after a Pablo Neruda poem.  In it, Uri says, “Neruda writes that ‘…and on the seventh day, God distributed the world, and South America was for the  United Fruit Company‘ [see link for poem]. Gabriel García Márquez also talks about that in his 100 años de soledad [100 Years of Solitude].”

Quite fitting, I thought, since my last post was about cultural sustainability and big agribusiness.  Zapotecs are quite good at poking sardonic fun at the disintegrating world around them as they continue to preserve culture through tight-knit communities organized and operated by self-governing, communitarian principles.  A great example for thriving and staying true to personal values, which is why I love it here.

This morning I was greeted by Federico and Dolores who had already been to the daily market.  The kitchen table was laden with huge chunks of fresh papaya, a delightful nopal cactus/tomato, onion, pepper salad, chapulines, rice, fresh steamed green beans and mushrooms,  queso fresco sautéed in olive oil with scallions, and tortillas.  I made a cup of my favorite morning beverage, that I call Choco-Cafe (Oaxaca chocolate mixed with coffee and a little sugar).

Now, it’s time to put the Oaxaca Photojournalism Workshop preparations aside (it begins this Friday evening), and take a walk in the campo (countryside) before we welcome Patricia this afternoon who will look at Federico’s extraordinary rugs he weaves with naturally dyed wool.

Pablo Neruda 2011 Prize Finalist Inspired at Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing + Yoga Retreat

Poet Katie Kingston was selected as a 2011 Finalist for the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize for her poem written during our Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat in Oaxaca.  Katie gave us permission to publish the poem and to share her workshop experience (below).

Woman Resting

Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico

 I have been waiting days to move

to the hammock, to drift

beneath the white portal into a white

dream delineated by black


Above me, the green tree

full of green grapefruit and a cluster

of yellow birds. My sky sways

with palm leaves and wingspan.

Footsteps approach

like a lullaby.

In the distance a child

wails blue syllables and the rooster

releases another qui-qui-ri-qui-qui.

I sketch their sounds on paper

alongside the corrugated bray

of burro.

The hammock swings

in the key of G. I am surrounded by tuning

forks and pomegranate blossoms.

I call this place


                     Lull is the word that comes

to mind. Lull says the wood smoke, lull

says the sheet on the line, lull says

the loom’s shuttle tapping wool strands

of indigo and cochineal

into the snug fit

of weft.

Sometimes the name for gold

dye escapes me, so I put down the pen, feel

the rhythm of my body as if I too

am a leaf lulled by breeze,

as if I too am held to the branch

by a nub of stem.


–Katie Kingston, Finalist in the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize,

First Published in Nimrod International Journal, Vol.55 Titled What Time Is It?


What Katie Kingston says about the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat:

Immersion in a new culture with a group of talented and inspiring women was definitely the catalyst for this poem, “Woman Resting.”  One day I found myself resting in the hammock, and while letting its hypnotic sway take over, I experienced the flooding of the five senses in this magical place, Teotitlán del Valle. I was motivated to write this poem, to try in one small way to capture the experience of this slower paced lifestyle. I haven’t experienced such a “lull” since childhood.

Teotitlán del Valle is all about weaving; indigo and cochineal dye hangs in natural wool skeins from the roof top lines. It fact, it seems that everything hangs from the sky in Teotitlan: the drying threads, the hammocks, the pomegranates, the grapefruits, the laundry, and even the sounds: birds, burros, roosters, pigs.  The experience at the Oaxaca Woman’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat was enhanced by the meditative atmosphere that allows for interpretation with a gathering of women who believe in writing as a spiritual plunge into the unknown.

When I returned to the United States, I submitted the poem to Nimrod International Journal’s 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, www.nimrod@utulsa.edu, where it placed as a finalist and was published in the Nimrod Award Issue titled, “What Time Is It?”  Other good news followed. I submitted my manuscript, What Does Lorca Own?, which had been reviewed at the conference by Professor Robin Greene, our instructor.  We discussed the manuscript in depth, and I sent out the revision to several competitions.  It placed as a finalist in the 2011 Idaho Prize for Poetry, www.losthorsepress.org, and will be published in October 2012 by Lost Horse Press (distributed by the University of Washington  Press, Seattle) under the new title Translating Clouds.

No writer ever writes alone, and I have many individuals to thank for their support including Norma Hawthorne, Robin Greene, Susan Florence, and the other talented participants of the 2011 Oaxaca Women’s Writing Retreat.  For me, the experience was a success, giving me the time to write new poems, forge new friendships, and experience a new culture, where I felt welcome and safe as I hiked the village roads and spoke to goat herders, children learning English, and women who smiled back.