At the end of the 1990s, there was a great stir in live poetry in Barcelona. In 1997, David Castillo and Gabriel Planella, with the push of Ferran Mascarell, had created the Barcelona Poetry Week to bring together a whole spirit that ran in cycles such as Eduard Escoffet’s “Voyage to Polynesia”, in the programming of the G’s Club that Lis Costa did at Sidecar, Xavier Sabater’s polypoetic celebrations of the Pope, the acts of the UB Poetry Room (with Jordi Virallonga and Eduard Sanahuja at the head) or the thousand actions that took place in art rooms, bars and associative premises. The spoken word had been circulating for some time in the underground with gangs such as Poesia or Así or La Sopa Negra and spread with quasi-humorous shows such as Accidents Polipoéticas or with anarchist actions such as those of Jesús Lizano, heterodox parties such as those of Carles Hac Mor and Ester Xargay, speculative evenings at the Sala Metronome, endless auditions at the Heliogàbal or more sumptuous recitals at the CCCB or the “la Caixa” Foundation. I contributed from the Container Cultural Association, with Víctor Nik and Anna Pla, setting up the weekly cycle at Bar Siena, the meetings at the Golfes de Gràcia or a cycle at the Ateneu Barcelonès.
It was in this context that Meritxell Cucurella-Jorba decided to open a bar-library dedicated exclusively to poetry and, above all, to live poetry (recitals, actions, etc.). The location in the heart of the Raval (La Rambla del Raval had just been inaugurated) made sense because it was a fully active area, with recitals at the Muy Buenas bar, the Granja de Gavà or the Almirall and with the beginnings of the Poetry Slam at the Rita Blue or the theatrical movements of Àrea Tangent. There was a buzz in the area that created what we then called “synergies”. Therefore, in May 2001, shortly after the poetry festival, with a festive recital with Francesc Bombí, Helena Porteros, Martí Sales and Gerard Altaió, we inaugurated the Horiginal.
La Meritxell folded after a few months of jam-packed programming, where every day there was one sideral or another. But in order to somehow continue with the initial poetic ideal, Manel Pérez, the owner, asked us to take over the reins of the programming from Ferran Garcia and a server, who we found sensible to do only one act at the week So we reopened the space in April 2002 with a debate on the figure of Josep Carner, with Sebastià Alzamora, Jordi Galves and Jordi Manent; a very successful act because it embodied one of the buzzes of the moment.
At the end of the 1990s, there was a great stir in live poetry in Barcelona in the Raval
The first seasons established a formula that worked: they were almost monothematic recitals, where you went to listen, with a guest or two (invited to dinner and open bar), tributes (like the one we did to Segimon Serrallonga few weeks after his passing), festive presentations of books and magazines, poeticomusical concerts and other unspeakable events. We set it up with a vocation as a capital, to pass through Barcelona the echoes of what was happening poetically throughout Catalonia, looking to bring people from everywhere and of all ages. It was, therefore, eclectic within the immense scope that embraces the idea of ”poetry”, and every week was a completely different adventure.
I was watching Calafell reciting L’Horiginal. Francis Gelonch
Since the business was doing well enough, in 2004 Manel expanded the premises with a very beautiful space that had been the seat of MACBA’s educational workshops. There we were able to make a stage with a little more face and eyes and gained space for the audience. With this growth began the most glorious era of Horiginal, and that new room, with its strange energy, served to generate a whole series of connections, affections and passions.
Little by little, we gained a good collection of regulars who, with a good predisposition and a critical sense, came to enjoy and evaluate the poets as much as to reason and debate about the vagaries of the literary current or the substances deep of the perennial controversies. It became a poetic meeting point beyond the stage, but the stage was its gravitation point and, therefore, what was said there and how it was said did the job of opening the tin. There was a lot of rambling about saying, writing and transmitting, with opposing points of view, with clashing sensibilities and conflicting intentions, with circumstantial agreements, with fleeting assurances and with victories and defeats worth forgetting . The funny thing is that it was an open and welcoming atmosphere where anything new was welcome, so the community that gathered there was very wide and very diverse, with more regular visitors and others more discontinuous. Everyone was there at one point or another and, if not, we tried to invite them to come.
The organization of all this, we called it Workshop on Recitations and New Literary Attitudes (Horinal).
At that time, LaBreu Edicions, the Pedra foguera anthology, the Front d’Alliberament de l’Escritura (the FAES) and some couples who are still together were born there. But, above all, it was interesting because we found in it a sense of welcoming space that served as a counter for the projects that were cooked in Quark Poesia (poetry classroom of the UAB), at the Proposta festival, at the Institution of the Catalan Letters, the Writing School, the Pen Club, the Barnils Group…
Suddenly, there were first-class international guests because it was the ideal place to bring a foreign poet, it was the ideal setting because the room had a sufficiently large and sufficiently limited capacity, because the propitious atmosphere and comfort were generated there and the comfort to enter a kind of collective catharsis, and because the public was already predisposed to it. One day I made a list of the languages in which I heard poems in Horiginal and it was quite convincing: Catalan, Spanish, Occitan, French, Basque, Asturian, Galician, Portuguese, Italian, Breton, Amazigh, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian , Slovenian, Macedonian, Greek, German, English, Gaelic, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Armenian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Russian, Hebrew, Icelandic, Yoruba, Angami Naga, Ogoni, Afrikaans, Kinyarwanda, Urdu, Chinese, Japanese, Sephardic and Esperanto.
Gentrification has meant that poetry, like everything else, has to go to the first periphery
The fact that we were so open to the world led to a contradictory effect: at the same time that the classics were enthroned, new generations of poets were born. The curiosity of the newcomers mixed with the expectation of the veterans, the fascination for what was exotic with the suggestion of what was fresh, the word with the pronunciation, the signifier with the signified. And an inspection arrived that closed the premises due to permit issues. We were so licensed, that our licenses expired.
By having to interrupt the cycle, in mid-2010, a great uproar was created and poetic militancy from everywhere sounded the alarm, because that had become a necessary space, a “cathedral” (which he said, ironically , Hac Mor). From north to south, poets felt it as something of their own, like a nest, and the imperative obligation to keep it alive and functioning was claimed. And so it was. So we resumed programming thanks to the good work of Jordi Martí, who helped us from Barcelona City Council, after going back and forth for a few months.
After a while, the weight of the years made those of us who had started it withdraw from the task. Little by little, between 2015 and 2018, Ferran Garcia and I passed the baton to the trio formed by Laia Carbonell, Raquel Santanera and Maria Sevilla, who have given another meaning to those meetings, facing more the shortcomings of these moments: the Horiginal performs another function in another context. Now you can hear more open mic sessions and necropsies (looks at dead poets), or more book launches. But it continues to serve as a refuge for lyrical vocations who are looking for a listening ear or a group to discuss, it is a home for poets who had already been there in the past.
The L’Horiginal room, in the Raval. Llibert Teixidó / La Vanguardia
Over time, however, the place has also changed hands and, finally, this summer, the latest new owners, without contemplation, have dismantled the temple that had been the den of poets for twenty years, they have thrown the sculptures that were given to it personality, the work of Ferran Garcia, in the trash and they have destroyed the bar and the stage. There is nothing left. And it is true that, sooner or later, something had to happen to the place, but it would have been nice not to find it destroyed without compassion or tact. The orphanhood of poets is made harder by the lack of diplomacy and contempt. The destruction of patrimony (material and immaterial) is hard to deal with.
If the Raval twenty years ago was a hive of cultural life, now gentrification has meant that poetry, like everything else, has to go to the first periphery, towards the old towns of the Barcelona plan ( Gràcia, Sants, el Clot, Sant Andreu, Sarrià…), or further afield (l’Hospitalet, Santa Coloma, Cornellà…). It is therefore appropriate to think about the way to reconquer the city for the people of Barcelona. Or, on the contrary, capitulate and give it to those who neither know it nor want to know it beyond its now incidental in a beautiful print. A decorated Barcelona, with the adjective “Mediterranean” for empty and obvious and “cosmopolitan” to sell it better.
L’Horiginal (l’Horinal) starts the 2023-24 season at the Calders bookstore and it is not clear where it will go. The trio Carbonell-Santanera-Sevilla know what they want to do with it and will look for the most suitable options to move forward.
For now, the footprint of that sanctuary remains in a myriad of events that have marked a period and ways of doing poetry in Catalan. For better or for worse.
#Attempted #history #LHoriginal