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The Baltimore Sun

Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez Reads at The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

The sky might be crying real hard but that doesn't mean all you poetry lovers have to shed any tears. The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is still on tonight. You'll just have to seek refuge under a tent. If you decide to brave the weather, you're in for a wonderful treat. Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez will be feeding you with his sinuous words.

Adler-Beléndez carries poetry in his being. He is a true natural. At three years old, he saw the world pulsating with life. "I would start speaking to a flower and I wasn’t really thinking that I was reciting a poem or something particularly special but more that I was engaged in a conversation with a jasmine bush," he said at a lecture presented by WGBH and Bentley University. Esteemed as a poetic prodigy, he was a mere twelve years old when he saw his first book of poetry, Soy (I Am), in print. Since then, he has published three more volumes of poetry, Palabras Inagotobles (Neverending Words) and Weave, his first book in English, and, The Coyote's Trace, which contains an introduction by Mary Oliver.

He was born on September 14, 1987 in Amaltan, Mexico. Seized by cerebral palsy and paralytic scoliosis at birth, he was rendered unable to walk. Adler-Beléndez, however, has adopted a new way of moving through embracing his disability. Bound to a wheel chair, Adler-Beléndez has nothing but time to stop, take in his surroundings, and sink into his thoughts. It is through his immobility where he discovered the power of words and poetry, a vehicle that has metaphorically set him free of his confinement. He says that he not only walks in poems, he acquires “eight legs” and “experience[s] movement," traveling to the sundry places poets conjure up.

In an email exchange with Rick Foster, Adler-Beléndez describes how he locates inspiration in both ancient and contemporary poetry. From a very young age, he has been inspired by the belief of "flower and chant," two elements essential in the Aztec way of thinking that represent 'virtue and song,' entities, according to Netzahualcoyotl, 'which remain with you once the body has perished.' He is also wooed by the lyricism of contemporary Mexican poets such as Octavio Paz and Jaime Sabines, pulled by the "ecstasy of [Walt Whitman's] long lines", and drawn to the "vibrant" voices of Li-Young Lee and Robert Bly. His work, written in both Spanish and English, greatly reflects the land and people he interacts with.When he resides in the U.S. for a long period of time, he is inspired by North American poets. On the other hand, when he returns to Mexico, the landscape and culture of his people stir him to write in Spanish.

Adler-Beléndez can boast an impressive resume. He has twice been awarded a six-month scholarship by the FONCA (the National Institute for Support of the Arts), an honor that is not normally granted to people his age. In 2006, he became the youngest poet to ever read at the Dodge Poetry Festival. He has made an appearance on Dateline NBC, featured in "To Save the Body and Voice of a Poet." Enamored by his talent, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver invited him to read with her in Massachusetts. He continues to flourish in his literary career, giving lectures and readings at high schools, colleges and conferences in the US and in Mexico. Oliver once said, "To speak of Ekiwah, his spirit and his work, is a gift in itself."

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