‘The Bard of the Walls’ Celebrates 20 Years

Mexico News Daily, June 6, 2017

The man who founded an international movement that brings poetry to the urban landscape is to be feted in Texas next month, heralding the arrival of Acción Poética, or Poetic Action, in the United States.

Armando Alanís Pulido is celebrating 20 years of bringing poetry to the streets of his native Monterrey, Nuevo León, and indirectly to cities in some 30 countries.

Armando Alanis

April 29, 2012 – Monterrey, Mexico – Armando Alanis poses in front of one of his poems written on an abandoned wall. It reads, “Every time you dream, I’ll be dreaming of you.” (Credit Image: © Gabriela Espinoza/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com)

An Acción Poética inscription consists of a whitewashed wall showcasing a short but thoughtful line of original or well-known poetry.

Founded in 1996 by Alanís, also known as El Bardo de las Bardas, or the Bard of the Walls, the urban art movement has spread slowly through Spanish-speaking cities and beyond under the motto sin poesía no hay ciudad, or “without poetry there is no city.”

In Mexico, citizens of 175 cities have experienced poetry on the streets as more and more poets have been inspired to emulate Alanís.

Alanís himself travelled to a section of the border fence between Mexico and the United States where he left one of his favorite phrases: También de este lado hay sueños, or “There are dreams on this side, too.”

“Acción Poética is the search and, at the same time, the appropriation of public spaces through verse, through poetic language. To expose that language to more people — readers — and make it part of the everyday landscape is the idea,” Alanís told the newspaper El Universal.

The movement that started with a single wall two decades ago has now taken over the world: “On social networks, for example, and taking into consideration the followers of over 500 [local] pages, there are millions of us.”

Alanís acknowledged that the internet helped his movement “go viral” but he remarks that in this case, “real walls find support in the virtual [Facebook] wall.”

There are few requisites to join the Acción Poética urban art movement. “You don’t have to be a poet, although there’s a bit of one in all of us,” said the 40-something writer.

One main rule is to avoid religious or political topics. And poetry being the favorite of those in love, most wall verses are of that style.

Alanís says he has found it difficult to live as a writer in Mexico, and has had to look for other means of financial support. Still, his words have not only been written on walls but in several books, too, and he has earned several national writing awards. He was also recently acknowledged with a civic merit medal by the Nuevo León Congress.

Alanís had one single advice for poets, young or old: “read the old, read the young.”

Walls in the United States may soon be displaying lines of poetry as the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, Texas, is preparing to fete Alanís’ 20 years.

The community of the Río Grande Valley will open the celebrations July 7 with Alanís himself writing on a dedicated wall.

The exhibit Sin poesía no hay ciudad, to open alongside Alanis’ wall, will gather a collection of black and white photographs by Gabriel Bojorquez that depict the poet’s street art. These two events will mark the official debut of the movement in the United States, where the organizers hope it will expand to other cities.

Acción Poética McAllen is part of Feipol 2017, the International Festival of Latin American Poetry.

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