WINONA, Minn. — Ken McCullough, Winona’s Poet Laureate, has been invited to read his poetry at the 20th International Poetry Festival of Medellin (Colombia), the largest event of its kind in the world. Nearly 1,000 poets from 158 countries around the world, from every continent, have participated in the 20 years of the festival.
In previous festivals, such luminaries as Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka (Senegal), former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russia) have presented their work. This year, 71 poets from 36 countries will participate. The festival runs from July 8-17, with readings and various other presentations throughout the day in a wide variety of venues. The opening and closing ceremonies have grown to the extent that they are now conducted in Medellin’s municipal soccer stadium.
McCullough will give four readings of his poetry during the festival. Each poet reads in his or her original language and then professional actors perform translations of the work in Spanish.
The International Poetry Festival of Medellin began in 1991 as an antidote to the prevailing atmosphere of violence in the city between governmental forces, paramilitary and guerilla groups, and the drug cartels under the aegis of Pablo Escobar. The emphasis of the festival continues to be peace, and the influence of the festival has spread throughout South America and the world; many similar festivals now exist based on this model. In 2006, the festival received the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, awarded at the seat of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm.
McCullough is assistant director of Academic Advising and director of the PASS program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.