By Magdalena Herreshoff
My husband Daniel and I are artists. He is a jazz and blues piano player and I am a poet. We met Johnny Jara Jaramillo in the first year of retirement to Ecuador in 2011. A friend of ours had a love affair with him and she introduced him to us as her “New Flavor of the Month” at one of Cuenca’s coffee cafes. Johnny’s love has long left Ecuador, back to her Texas malls as Johnny likes to joke, but Johnny and his papi, Efrain Jara Idrovo, became dear friend of ours ever since.
Back then, in 2011, Johnny invited his new love and us and two other friends for lunch at his papi’s condominium. Efrain greeted us with a big smile at the door. We talked about art, music and poetry. Johnny, chef par excellence, cooked up a delicious corvina and vegetables lunch served with fine white wine. We had a lot in common, he and his father have a fabulous Ecuadorian art collection and Johnny is a great storyteller and writer. And of course Efrain is an honored and much loved Poet Laureate of Ecuador.
In 1999 he was awarded the Premio Nacional Eugenio Espejo. He has published numerous poetry books and on February 26, when he turns 91 years old, he will yet launch another poetry book about his years in the Galapagos.
When we had finished our lunch, Efrain pulled out some of his poetry books and he and Johnny read to us. We were all enchanted. Next, Johnny asked me to read an English translation of one of his famous poems about the tragic death of his son: sollozo por pedro jara, estructuras para una elegia (Cuenca,1978). It is a very long poem, executed on a large foldout paper. The original poem was written in such a way that the stanzas can be read from various directions. The English translation was written in a more conventional manner, but it did not take me long to get into the musical rhythm of this powerful poem. My voice rose and fell as the subject matter delved into the father’s lament about his son Pedro Jara.
Glancing at Efrain, his eyes reflected an ocean of love, beauty and sadness, weaving in and out of unexpected illusions. I could see his weeping for his son, Pedro the ageless rock, Pedro the laughter of rock, Pedro made of basalt, however the stone cracked … and so did my voice as I unraveled the roads Pedro had traveled. I faltered and broke into tears along with Johnny, his then love, friends Peter and Sally. Efrain’s smile was like a faraway anchor lost at sea.
His poem burned into me and breached my breath into whales of oblivion with a deafening blow. I will never forget this luncheon and the strength of this old poet’s smile. Now, when he comes to visit us, partially deaf and blind, I ask him how things are, he says too many visits to the clinic this year and smiles, his eyes glistening.
He is always gracious and I am honored that he and Johnny have agreed to read a few of his poems at the upcoming International Cuenca Writers Conference (http://cuencawritersconference.com/) on Tuesday, March 14 at the Sound of Four Rivers Poetry Workshop led by Barbara Snow, Charlie Romney-Brown and myself, Magdalena Herreshoff.
Come and join us and meet this amazing Ecuadorian poet, Efraín Jara Idrovo, and his son Johnny Jara Jaramillo, a very talented writer of short stories.
Magdalena Herreshoff has published four limited edition handmade poetry books which have been collected by several University Libraries including the Seattle University library, Special Collections, and other book art collectors. She is presently publishing her two new limited edition hand sewn poetry chapbooks Vodka Musings and Cloud Poems (2016) and High in the Andes, Book One (2017) about living in Ecuador, which will be available at the International Cuenca Writers Conference this March. Her website is www.highintheandes.com.