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Arts & Culture

Urban 15's 'Mega Corazon' Poetry Festival Shows Its Big Heart

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Images of poets performing in the 2021 Mega Corazon. All photos taken by Catherine Cisneros, Urban-15
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Amalia Ortiz performs

A poetry event that’s huge in scale and as varied as poetry gets is happening now in San Antonio. That event is called Mega Corazon and is a product of performance-based arts organization Urban 15. George Cisneros is with the organization and explained why they target poetry each year.

“I think that poetry is the pulse of the world. What the poets are saying and writing is the speed at which the globe is moving,” he said.

Cisneros said Mega Corazon all sprang out of an idea from a San Antonio poet.

“The poetry group sort of started as a collective that Carmen Tafolla assembled eight years ago when she was the poet laureate, and it was called Mi Pueblo,” he said.

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Images of poets performing in the 2021 Mega Corazon. All photos taken by Catherine Cisneros, Urban-15
Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson performs a poem

That initial group of 14 poets then morphed the next year into something more focused.

“We decided we should do this for National Poetry Month. And we came up with the name of Mega Corazon,” Cisneros said.

Mega Corazon is a gathering of area poets reading and performing some of their works in front of cameras, and the edited results are presented on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and evenings on Urban 15’s website, this year through May 7. The morning poems are targeted at younger people.

“Every poet has to perform at least one poem that's geared towards middle or high school,” he said. “So we are [posting] thirty three poems by 18 poets twice a day that are available to any school who wants to log in.”

There is no charge to access the live stream. Urban 15 also films those poets performing more adult-oriented poems, and those stream in the evening. Cisneros said they have a focus on poets who are performative in nature.

“We have used performance poetry, kind of a more theatrical and more energized reading of poetry,” he said.

Once the initial Monday/Wednesday/Friday website playback has happened, the video clips are then posted to Urban 15’s YouTube channel. Here’s Anthony The Poet Flores’ poem on how normal everyday people stepped up to do what was needed during the pandemic.

Anthony The Poet Flores

George Cisneros said there are many different kinds of performance poetry you can find in these videos.

“Most of them have a lot of experience with slam poetry, improvisational work, mixed media, adding drummers, guitars or improvisational jazz,” he said.

Here is one of poet laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson’s poems.

Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson

There are two primary differences this year from years previous: first off, poets just read single poems rather than doing a whole set of them. Then afterward, several poets’ works are edited together. Cisneros said that means in the course of an hour you see about 18 poets perform. And those poets now have an additional incentive.

The second thing is that this year people are voting for their favorite performance and there is an actual cash prize that is being given from the audience's choice,” he said.

Those viewing get to vote on the Urban 15 site and the prize is the Gregg Barrios Precious Words Prize.

“It is our community, our city that benefits from that [the poetry]. And yet we don't have the kind of support that the city gives to people that do murals and paintings,” Gregg Barrios said of the prize.

Barrios feels the written and performed word simply doesn’t get its due in San Antonio.

“So I felt it was important to give back to that community that I'm part of by endowing an award for the best poetry performance each year,” he said.

Cisneros said the Mega Corazon event is expanding exponentially their reach by way of their YouTube channel playbacks. They check YouTube metrics every day, and people the world over are tuning in.

“Outside the United States. We're getting China, Ireland, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel, Italy, Uganda, South Korea, India, Philippines, Singapore, France, Russia, Asia, Panama, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Denmark, Turkey, Ivory Coast and Hong Kong. That's a typical day,” he said.

And thus even in a pandemic year, Mega Corazon has continued to grow.

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