April is National Poetry Month, and it was marked in San Antonio with what could arguably be called the biggest poetry event in the world - Mega Corazón.
This 10-hour live-streamed poetry marathon grew out of an idea by Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s Poet Laureate in 2014. That year Tafolla staged a production called “San Antonio, Mi Pueblo,” which featured the works of 12 San Antonio poets woven together with music.
That event grew and evolved into Mega Corazon. This year marks its 4th anniversary.
George Cisneros, who is the media and music director at Urban-15, scored the Carmen Tafolla production that birthed Mega Corazón. He helped develop its evolution with Tafolla.
“It’s a poetry project," Cisneros says. "It’s a way of listening to one of the earliest and most important ways of communication throughout all of mankind. And our thought now, is that with handhold devices and telephones, a poet in the handheld is worth two in the book.”
The first half of Mega Corazón was pre-recorded. Poet Bryce Milligan was one of the first live performers to take the stage in the early evening.
He was reading on a barren stage at Urban-15, a music, movement, and media space in South San Antonio. The stage setup consisted of a music stand and a lighted tarp in the background. And the few rows of chairs in front of the stage were mostly empty. But the camera facing him exposed him to an invisible audience of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people around the world.
Milligan says Mega Corazón makes poetry accessible to everyone. "Generally you have to travel someplace or you have to go buy a book or you have to buy a ticket, and this is free access to some of the best material that SA produces in terms of literature and music. So I think the imagination behind it is really at the core of what’s important about it."
Poet Natalia Treviño followed Bryce Milligan on stage.
She chose to read a poem that paid tribute to her abuelita Socorro, as well as other powerful religious and cultural Latina figures – including the Virgin of Guadalupe and Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who is considered the mother of the gods, the sun, moon, and stars.
Treviño, who is also an assistant professor of English at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, says Mega Corazón is the biggest National Poetry Month event in the world. "It really is. It’s this beautiful 10 hour constellation of voices. It is this collection of an incredible amount of talent that we have in San Antonio, an incredible amount of heart and love, I think that’s why they called it Mega Corazon and I was right on board with that, because there’s so much love here that I think keeps the city in check and in balance."
Mega Corazon wrapped up this year with Anthony Flores, know around poetry circles as Anthony the Poet. His poem was a political one, in which he plays the part of both a customs agent asking for the correct paperwork, and the immigrant attempting to cross.
San Antonio is a city full of stories – 300 years worth. And next year’s Mega Corazón will likely share a few more with the world.