Email. Online comments. SMS. We speak with our e-motions, you know, emoticons, shortcut typos of LOL, IOU, 🙂 etc, things that would make our language teachers snap in horror. Let’s face it. Although language and feelings have evolved to accommodate our magical handheld sets that are now fused organically as part of our bodies, we have unfortunately lost a sense of depth in expression which once graced majestically through elaborate and thoughtful time-consuming hand-written words.
José Luis Mejía Huaman has nevertheless been able to go through the digital fumes, unharmed and unscathed by cleverly harnessing its energy to spread his works via social media. “I write poetry every day and for all kinds of reasons. I love to interact with my readers,” José explained his decision to ride upon the e-poem wave. Born in 1969 in Peru, José holds a Master in Children and Youth Literature, and two diplomas in Teaching and Philosophy. He prides in exercising his literature and language skills through directing school plays, writing children books and Spanish poems which have been published in mainstream media around the world in the USA, Spain, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American countries, and of course, SouthEast Asia.
Now a well-known poet in his own right, José is not showing any signs of slowing down his poetry pursuits. Madly in love with both the written word and with his pianist/music teacher wife, Alesia Arnatovich (yes, he writes romantic poems to her very often), José recounted melodically his first love with poetry, “My grandfather was a journalist and a well-known writer in Peru, so I grew up surrounded by thousands of books. Literature has been part of my life since I was a baby so I naturally became a writer.” He credits well-known Latin American poets like Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, Manuel Gonzalez Prada, Chocano, Eguren and Vallejo from Peru and Spanish literary tradition of the Golden Century, Romanticism, the 98 and 27 Generation for influencing his works.
José explained to me the process of how he creates his poems, “My creative process varies from poem to poem, I cannot say that, like others, I have a creative methodology. In my case it’s a discipline, writing, editing and editing, every day. It may take a few minutes or several days and depends on very human factors as my mood, my enthusiasm, my fatigue or my concentration.” Common themes that he loves to explore draw from everyday human existence, nature and life’s unanswered mysteries. Jose is always keen to encompass and show the meaning and wholesomeness of what life can bring.
His poems range from simple coplas (in Spanish, it means a poetic form of four verses) to the sophisticated décimas (ie. 10-line stanza of poetry). Though his poems are only written in Spanish, you don’t have to be a native speaker to enjoy it. His book of coplas called Morir Acaba En Tu Vientre is a bilingual publication with English translations to each poem:
Todos los hombres mentimos
una vez y sin razón;
después mentimos dos veces
y lo llamamos amor.
Once, us, men we all tell a lie
and for no reason and no rhyme,
and then we lie a second time
and we call love such a lie.
Sin ella todo recobra
su estatura natural;
la nada vuela a ser nada
y el amor de los demás.
Without her all things recover
their height and natural stature;
the void is back to be devoid
just as everyone’s else’s love.
Quien busca el fuego no sabe
que no lo podrá encontrar;
el fuego solo calienta
a quien ya no busca más.
Those who search fire ignore
the fire that’s not to be found;
that only by ceasing searching
you can, by fire, be warmed.
Extracts from Morir Acaba En Tu Vientre (coplas y haikus) by José Luis Mejía- http://issuu.com/joseluismejia/docs/moriracabaentuvientre
For new Spanish speakers, Jose’s works are enriching additions to improve your Spanish language skills and understanding, nurturing in you a greater love and appreciation for the Latin American culture.
When asked which of his poems is his favourite, José admitted that it was hard to single out a specific poem since each poem is unique in its own way, just as he found it baffling to decide which of poems are the three most popular to date. “Time, critics and readers will decide on that. But I can share with you three short poems from my book Death ceases in your womb (Jakarta 2011),” he chirped.
¿Dónde comienza la vida?
¿Dónde se acaba la muerte?
Vivir empieza en tus ojos,
morir acaba en tu vientre.
Where’s the beginning of life?
And where is the end of death?
Living does start in your eyes,
Death ceases in your womb.
Es inútil extrañarte
porque siempre estás conmigo;
la muerte no mata a nadie,
lo que mata es el olvido.
It is quite useless to miss you
you are always by my side;
death never kills anybody,
it is oblivion that strikes.
Un poco más de lo mismo,
nada nuevo bajo el sol;
la vida, pasito a paso,
a veces sí y otras no.
A little bit of the same thing,
nothing new under the sun;
life, little step by little step
sometimes does, and sometimes not.
José first stepped into Asia five years ago in Jakarta, Indonesia. “Asia is an amazing part of the world full of history, colourful traditions, beliefs and amazing people. I was hired to teach Spanish in Jakarta International School and now I am starting a new adventure here in Singapore at the Singapore American School,” he said.
So, has he ever written a poem in any other language apart from Spanish? José admitted, “As a language teacher, I have a problem. Even though I encourage my students to learn a new language which they do not initially master in it (because is the best way to learn more and improve), when we talk about poetry and literature in general, I am reluctant to do so since literature holds the highest regard than language. However, I have a couple of “crimes” that I can share with you (I know that Shakespeare will never forgive me!):
What’s life? Good question. Indeed.
I tried. I swear it! To know.
There are not answers, there is
only the path of the unknown.
The end it’s coming. No anguish.
We will leave. I fear? Not.
I hope oblivion don’t swallow
the voice of our last song.”
We wish José and Alesia all the best living in Singapore and hopefully, he can write some poems about his experiences here.
You can read and follow José’s poems at http://www.joseluismejia.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jlmejia.You can also order his children books here: http://www.perubookstore.com/autor/jose-luis-mejia
This article was published on Vida De Latinos’ online magazine, 1 February 2013.
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