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Trees and Rivers: Poetry and Ecology in Latin America
Seven Trees: Digital Photographs by Wilmor López (Nicaragua)
Confluence (The Imperial River): A Video and Photographs by Mariana Matthews (Chile)

March 5 – April 12, 2008

el panama by wilmor lopez

El Panamá by Wilmor López


The lecture and exhibition focus on the relationship between literature, the visual arts and the physical environment, highlighting how human culture is linked to the physical world, and the primary importance of place—of the imagined spaces in poems and images that serve as intermediaries between the human and what David Abram calls the more-than-human world.

Throughout his life, Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra (1912-2002) demonstrated a keen sensibility toward the physical environment of his native country.  Deeply familiar with its visible landscape of volcanoes, mountains, jungles, savannas, lakes, islands, rivers and coasts, Cuadra also discovered how to reveal the secrets of another landscape, invisible but etched by history and animated by the collective memory of a people through folklore and popular songs, as well as through myths of indigenous origin.

In his book Seven Trees against the Dying Light, first published as Siete árboles contra el atardecer in 1980, Cuadra uses seven species of trees to explore Nicaragua’s past, present and potential future.  His ceiba (Ceiba pentandra), jocote (Spondias purpurea), panamá (Sterculia apetala), cacao (Theobroma cacao), mango (Mangifera indica), jenísero (Albizia saman) and jícaro (Crescentia cujete) are all part of Nicaragua’s rich biodiversity and become poems of sustainability.  Cuadra’s poetry also incorporates a mnemonic technique for remembering who we are, where we are from, and above all, where we are going if we do not manage to learn to root language in the earth and care for what sustains us.

Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) attributed his genesis as a writer to the Río Imperial, a river in southern Chile, where the poet was raised, that flows to the Pacific Ocean.  In his autobiography, Neruda wrote about a time in his life when he had to flee from Chile to Argentina to avoid political persecution: “My poetry was born between the mountains and the river.  It took on the voice of rain and was impregnated with the forests as if it were wood.  And now, en route to my freedom, I was camping briefly near Temuco, and I heard the voice of the water that taught me to sing.

- Steven F. White

Here it grew, with a trunk fortified like a heavy door,
buttressed and resisting the wind like the feet of the colossal pharaohs of

Aquí creció fortificando su tronco con jambas o contrafuertes
que avanzan contra el viento como el pie de los faraones colosales de

Excerpt from El Panamá by Pablo Antonio Cuadra

Seven Trees against the Dying Light was translated from the Spanish by Greg Simon and Steven F. White (Northwestern University Press, 2007).