IX International Literature Festival 3 Shores in The Canary Islands

Festival Poster
Poets: Miguel Anxo Fernán, Coriolano González and Charles Olsen in the IEC
Charles talking with students in the Institute Mencey Acaymo of Güímar
Dragon tree in Puerto de la Cruz
Sardine poets: Samir Delgado, Lilián Pallares, Charles Olsen, Pilar González and Miguel Anxo Fernán.
The peak of the Teide.
Kiwi poet invited to the IX International Literature Festival 3 Shores in The Canary Islands


Under the title “Miradas Transoceánicas” (Transoceanic Views), the ninth edition of the International Literary Festival 3 Shores (26 – 29 November) in the Canary Islands brought together poets from three continents: Miguel Anxo Fernán Vello (Galicia, Spain), Lilián Pallares (Barranquilla, Colombia), Coriolano González (Tenerife, Spain), Charles Olsen (Nelson, New Zealand) and Pilar González España (Madrid, Spain), with a cultural programme including poetry recitals in colleges, art galleries and literary and cultural spaces in various towns across the island of Tenerife. Our kiwi poet in the Canary Islands, Charles Olsen, recounts the experience.

Up at 4am. Taxi. Take off from Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport in the capital of Spain. Camera framing the red horizon between the black clouds and the streetlights below us. In two hours we are flying down off the coast of northern Africa to touch down on the island of Tenerife with its great mountain a shade (6 metres) short of Mount Cook. Imagine an island a little bigger than Stewart Island with a population of almost the whole of the South Island and with Mount Cook rising up in the middle of the island but the Teide, as it is called, is a volcano (the third tallest in the world measured from its base on the sea floor).

Apart from enjoying the friendly people, marvellous food, the small wrinkly potatoes with mojo (different types of sauces), delicious red wine, the colourful buildings, date palms and dragon trees in beautiful squares, streets full of people soaking up the warm evening atmosphere and the Atlantic in the background washing over black sand beaches, we were there to share our poems and meet other poets.

This festival is coordinated by the Canarian activist and poet Samir Delgado and supported by the Town Council and University of La Laguna, the Educational Institutes Mencey Acaymo of Güímar and Óscar Domínguez of Tacoronte, The Contemporary Art Museum Eduardo Westerdahl (MACEW), the Librería de Mujeres and the Institute of Canary Studies (IEC).

The presentations in the schools were perhaps the most rewarding experiences of the journey. Many of the children had seen The Lord of the Rings although few knew where New Zealand was. I recited one of my poems in Maori, which drew a “What’s that?!” from one of the boys but they listened with interest as I explained a little about New Zealand. Luckily I have learnt Spanish (I also write my poetry in Spanish), which was helpful as afterwards the children came and asked questions. We also projected video poems that I have made alongside Lilián Pallares with our audiovisual company Antena Blue.

It was a privilege to be able to recite my poems surrounded by beautiful paintings in The Contemporary Art Museum Eduardo Westerdahl or the late 17th century Casa Ossuna which houses the Institute of Canary Studies. We also had a guided visit of the Museum Don Quijote en el mundo (Don Quixote in the world) that presents one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of translations of Cervantes’ Don Quixote into languages from around the world from Taiwan and Bangladesh to Paraguay, Syria, Australia and 70 more countries. They told me they would love to find an edition in Maori, or for someone to translate the opening chapter into Maori. The museum includes a gallery of artworks inspired by the story of Don Quixote by contemporary Canarian and international artists.

It was an intense, if brief, visit and left me wanting, as many artists and writers before me have done, to return to enjoy the warmth, escape the rat race and to write and paint.

Like a profound poem the Teide was hidden in grey mists throughout our stay and only revealed its magnificent form rising high above the clouds as we flew out on our flight back to Madrid.



Written by

Charles Olsen

4 Dec 2015