“Poesía es muy rico”

¡Feliz día del amor! 

For the last two weeks I have been travelling through the Central Andean Highlands of Peru. I managed to visit the library in Tarma – an impressive building on the central square with helpful staff and a big reading room to hide in on rainy days – and a much smaller one in Jauja – camouflaged on the high street and closed because the only librarian was on holiday. But I never managed to find one in Huancavelica, where I only stayed for 2 nights and it was too cold and rainy to persist in searching!

Biblioteca Municipal Adolfo Vienrich, Tarma
Biblioteca Municipal, Jauja


Biblioteca Municipal Luis Carranza, Ayacucho

Now I am in Ayacucho, a bigger city with a bit less rain and slightly lower altitude, where I am staying for a week and have had time to translate a poem and hand it out today. I was surprised to find that inside the library – on the side of a local market in a bustling neighbourhood – is a small and tranquil reading room, with light green walls and white desks. It is fronted by Juanito, who told me about Luis Carranza who founded the library in 1843, and found me two anthologies of Ayacuchan poetry to peruse. When I asked if he liked poetry he said: “por su puesta, poesía es muy rico” (of course, poetry is very rich).

In each of the anthologies there was only one woman poet, so I translated one poem by each of them. I decided to give out the poem ‘Maestra de escuela’ by Serafina Chuchón Huamaní – and my translation ‘School Teacher’ – because it’s Valentine’s day and it seemed fitting to give out a love poem to good teachers everywhere.




When I came back to show Juanito the poem he said “muy bien” and tucked it safely into his jacket pocket. While handing out the poem I received a lot of ¿por qué? and ¿para qué?‘s, but a lot of big smiles and gracias‘s as well. I met a man from Chile who asked if I had heard of Gabriela Mistral, and recited a Pablo Neruda poem to me. He said he had moved to Peru because he was looking for love, but walked off before telling me if he’d found it yet.


Maestra de escuela

Maestra, nombre universal
luces místicas, tornasol
te ancló el vendaval
tu presencia festival
para niños, felicidad.

Toda la humanidad
de los continentes
de todas las épocas
te ofrendan gratitud
por siempre “Maestra”.

Maestra, los niños sueñan
paz, tranquilidad del aula
paredes encontradas
de bullicios y alegrías
espejo que no traiciona.

Maestra infatigable
paciencia hecha canción
carisma hecha bendición
comprensión angelical
soporte sin igual.

Maestra, sublime en valores
siempre de pie
forjaste Jefes de Estado
con dedicación y esmero.

inculas patriotism a generaciones
el respeto mutuo
amor filial entre hermanos
y amor a los “padres”.

hoy luces cabellos blancos
signo de años vividos
junto al futuro hombre
descanso ¡Misión cumplida!




School Teacher

Teacher, universal name
mystical lights, shining
the gale anchored you
your festival presence
for children, happiness.

All of humanity
every continent
every era
we offer you gratitude
forever “Teacher”.

Teacher, the children dream
of peace, calm in the classroom
walls confused
by chaos and joy
mirror that never lies.

Untiring teacher
patience made song
charisma made blessing
angelic comprehension
support unequalled.

Teacher, sublimely secure
always on foot
you feign leadership
with dedication and care.

you instil patriotism in generations
the mutual respect
love between siblings
and love of parents.

today light white hairs
signal years well lived
beside the future generation
rest – mission complete!


2 thoughts on ““Poesía es muy rico”

  1. Brilliant — as ever. Poetry — and the human condition — across borders — so generously , and so interestingly, shared. A thought: you perhaps need to be talking with a producer who has experience of creating material for Radio 3, if only so that more people can share and enjoy this. Best regards


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