Saturday, 31 July 2010

THE BEAR HAS SECRETS TO TELL: An evening with Timothy Young

The Westcountry School of Myth and Story Presents:

An evening with U.S. poet Timothy Young

accompanied by the great Dalyce Elliott on violin.
SAT 21st AUGUST. 7.30 pm. £5 donation.
Tregonning House, 27 Eastern rd, Ashburton.

An evening celebrating the happy arrival of Timothy Young's new book of verse, 'Herds of Bears Surround Us'. Acclaimed poet Timothy Young will be reading from his new book and musicians will accompany. It will be a wonderfully intimate opportunity to witness this 'wild irish rose..fierce with fragrance'(tom mitchell, playwright) throw shoes at the moon and growl lovingly from a tangle of words. DO NOT MISS.
Seating limited so call 01364 653723 to reserve a place or e-mail

So this event will be at the very heart of the school of myth, its HQ itself, Tregonning House. These slightly mad house concerts are great events. Some will remember seeing The Frantzich Brothers belt out dark gospel into our high ceilinged lounge, or Robert Bly reading brand new work while the wine was passed, or Coleman Barks quoting Robert Frost, Gioia Timpanelli telling Italian folktales, Judith Kate Friedman's dazzling music or the night Jay Leeming read and we had folks stretching to the very back of the kitchen. High times my friends, high times; get there and be able to tell the tale 'I t'was there!!'. Various other luminaries from the School of Myth may sing a song or tell a story too.....a great warm up for the storytelling
festival the next weekend!

(27 eastern rd - we are right next to the fire station - turn left onto balland lane, park up and retrace your steps to the turning (we are on that turning) - we will put up a sign)

So here's something from Lorca. We leave for Spain on Tuesday night, heading up into the Andalusian hills for 10 days under canvas, wandering its scorched earth and looking for Lions and Honey. Ole!


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Whoever travels the bull’s hide that stretches between the Júcar, Guadalfeo, Sil and Pisuerga rivers (not to mention the tributaries that meet those waves, the colour of a lion’s mane, that stir the Plata) frequently hears people say: ‘This has much duende’. Manuel Torre, great artist of the Andalusian people, said to someone who sang for him: ‘You have a voice, you understand style, but you’ll never ever succeed because you have no duende.’

All through Andalusia, from the rock of Jaén to the snail’s-shell of Cadiz, people constantly talk about the duende and recognise it wherever it appears with a fine instinct. That wonderful singer El Lebrijano, creator of the Debla, said: ‘On days when I sing with duende no one can touch me.’: the old Gypsy dancer La Malena once heard Brailowsky play a fragment of Bach, and exclaimed: ‘Olé! That has duende!’ but was bored by Gluck, Brahms and Milhaud. And Manuel Torre, a man who had more culture in his veins than anyone I’ve known, on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife spoke this splendid sentence: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ And there’s no deeper truth than that.

Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance of art. ‘Dark sounds’ said the man of the Spanish people, agreeing with Goethe, who in speaking of Paganini hit on a definition of the duende: ‘A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’

So, then, the duende is a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought. I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘The duende is not in the throat: the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive: meaning, it’s in the veins: meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation.

This ‘mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained’ is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched Nietzche’s heart as he searched for its outer form on the Rialto Bridge and in Bizet’s music, without finding it, and without seeing that the duende he pursued had leapt from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz and the headless Dionysiac scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.

So, then, I don’t want anyone to confuse the duende with the theological demon of doubt at whom Luther, with Bacchic feeling, hurled a pot of ink in Eisenach, nor the Catholic devil, destructive and of low intelligence, who disguised himself as a bitch to enter convents, nor the talking monkey carried by Cervantes’ Malgesi in his comedy of jealousies in the Andalusian woods.

No. The duende I mean, secret and shuddering, is descended from that blithe daemon, all marble and salt, of Socrates, whom it scratched at indignantly on the day when he drank the hemlock, and that other melancholy demon of Descartes, diminutive as a green almond, that, tired of lines and circles, fled along the canals to listen to the singing of drunken sailors.

For every man, every artist called Nietzsche or Cézanne, every step that he climbs in the tower of his perfection is at the expense of the struggle that he undergoes with his duende, not with an angel, as is often said, nor with his Muse. This is a precise and fundamental distinction at the root of their work. The angel guides and grants, like St. Raphael: defends and spares, like St. Michael: proclaims and forewarns, like St. Gabriel.

The angel dazzles, but flies over a man’s head, high above, shedding its grace, and the man realises his work, or his charm, or his dance effortlessly. The angel on the road to Damascus, and that which entered through the cracks in the little balcony at Assisi, or the one that followed in Heinrich Suso’s footsteps, create order, and there is no way to oppose their light, since they beat their wings of steel in an atmosphere of predestination.

The Muse dictates, and occasionally prompts. She can do relatively little since she’s distant and so tired (I’ve seen her twice) that you’d think her heart half marble. Muse poets hear voices and don’t know where they’re from, but they’re from the Muse who inspires them and sometimes makes her meal of them, as in the case of Apollinaire, a great poet destroyed by the terrifying Muse, next to whom the divine angelic Rousseau once painted him.

The Muse stirs the intellect, bringing a landscape of columns and an illusory taste of laurel, and intellect is often poetry’s enemy, since it limits too much, since it lifts the poet into the bondage of aristocratic fineness, where he forgets that he might be eaten, suddenly, by ants, or that a huge arsenical lobster might fall on his head – things against which the Muses who inhabit monocles, or the roses of lukewarm lacquer in a tiny salon, have no power.

Angel and Muse come from outside us: the angel brings light, the Muse form (Hesiod learnt from her). Golden bread or fold of tunic, it is her norm that the poet receives in his laurel grove. While the duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood.

Reject the angel, and give the Muse a kick, and forget our fear of the scent of violets that eighteenth century poetry breathes out, and of the great telescope in whose lenses the Muse, made ill by limitation, sleeps.
The true struggle is with the duende.

The roads where one searches for God are known, whether by the barbaric way of the hermit or the subtle one of the mystic: with a tower, like St. Teresa, or by the three paths of St. John of the Cross. And though we may have to cry out, in Isaiah’s voice: Truly you are a hidden God,’ finally, in the end, God sends his primal thorns of fire to those who seek Him.

Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles and makes Goya, master of the greys, silvers and pinks of the finest English art, paint with his knees and fists in terrible bitumen blacks, or strips Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer stark naked in the cold of the Pyrenees, or sends Jorge Manrique to wait for death in the wastes of Ocaña, or clothes Rimbaud’s delicate body in a saltimbanque’s costume, or gives the Comte de Lautréamont the eyes of a dead fish, at dawn, on the boulevard.

The great artists of Southern Spain, Gypsy or flamenco, singers dancers, musicians, know that emotion is impossible without the arrival of the duende. They might deceive people into thinking they can communicate the sense of duende without possessing it, as authors, painters, and literary fashion-makers deceive us every day, without possessing duende: but we only have to attend a little, and not be full of indifference, to discover the fraud, and chase off that clumsy artifice.
Once, the Andalusian ‘Flamenco singer’ Pastora Pavon, La Niña de Los Peines, sombre Spanish genius, equal in power of fancy to Goya or Rafael el Gallo, was singing in a little tavern in Cadiz. She played with her voice of shadows, with her voice of beaten tin, with her mossy voice, she tangled it in her hair, or soaked it in manzanilla or abandoned it to dark distant briars. But, there was nothing there: it was useless. The audience remained silent.

In the room was Ignacio Espeleta, handsome as a Roman tortoise, who was once asked: ‘Why don’t you work?’ and who replied with a smile worthy of Argantonius: ‘How should I work, if I’m from Cadiz?’

In the room was Elvira, fiery aristocrat, whore from Seville, descended in line from Soledad Vargos, who in ’30 didn’t wish to marry with a Rothschild, because he wasn’t her equal in blood. In the room were the Floridas, whom people think are butchers, but who in reality are millennial priests who still sacrifice bulls to Geryon, and in the corner was that formidable breeder of bulls, Don Pablo Murube, with the look of a Cretan mask. Pastora Pavon finished her song in silence. Only, a little man, one of those dancing midgets who leap up suddenly from behind brandy bottles, sarcastically, in a very soft voice, said: ‘Viva, Paris!’ as if to say: ‘Here ability is not important, nor technique, nor skill. What matters here is something other.’
Then La Niña de Los Peines got up like a madwoman, trembling like a medieval mourner, and drank, in one gulp, a huge glass of fiery spirits, and began to sing with a scorched throat, without voice, breath, colour, but…with duende. She managed to tear down the scaffolding of the song, but allow through a furious, burning duende, friend to those winds heavy with sand, that make listeners tear at their clothes with the same rhythm as the Negroes of the Antilles in their rite, huddled before the statue of Santa Bárbara.

In all Arab music, dance, song or elegy, the arrival of duende is greeted with vigorous cries of ‘Allah! Allah!’ so close to the ‘Olé!’ of the bullfight, and who knows whether they are not the same? And in all the songs of Southern Spain, the appearance of the duende is followed by sincere cries of: ‘Viva Dios!’ deep, human, tender cries of communication with God through the five senses, thanks to the duende that shakes the voice and body of the dancer, a real, poetic escape from this world, as pure as that achieved by that rarest poet of the seventeenth century Pedro Soto de Rojas with his seven gardens, or John Climacus with his trembling ladder of tears.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


So i recently wandered into a tent by a river and realised the man on stage, gesturing wildly about his crazyily wonderful relationship to astronomy was none other than Dr. Feelgood guitarist, Mr. Wilko Johnson. No sooner had Mr. Johnson peaked in his oratical lightning storm he quite literally fled the tent. Gawn. I gestured meekly in his direction but he shot off into the night. He was brilliant. Nervous, but that just made it better.

Outside the tent Bill Drummond (ex KLF, the guy who burnt a million pounds?) spent two days building a bed - a great, jutting longship of a thing. Round the back the drummer from Elastica gave a workshop on the esoteric secrets of the drumstick. I loved it all. The tent (which i tried to buy for the School of Myth for three bronze groats and a used Wishbone Ash LP) belongs to a very fine organization called THE IDLER, British eccentricity at its best. They pay their writers in gold pieces which they procure from a small man in London. All of this is true, as their website will no doubt attest.

I salute their sanity, and advise you check them out. There was a freaky little band called THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER, who used to be in something called Circulus i believe (please You Tube Circulus and their song about bodies and sunlight - (however you react, know this, they thought it was a good idea at the time). They wore very, very tiny shorts, drawn on mustaches and claim their music is influenced by 1972 and 1272. True, as you will see. I'm still in a wonderful kind of shock.

On a saner note, the great American poet Timothy Young will be performing at the Westcountry Storytelling Festival, the last weekend in August. Tickets just about still available at:

Tim has a mighty new collection just out: HERDS OF BEARS SURROUND US. It's solid at 101 poems, takes risks but also consolidates some deep ground he has been burrowing into these last few decades. It's a triumph. Very powerful work.Tim will read at the School of Myth tent as well as the wider festival, and we are hopeful that he will facilitate some sessions with emerging poets. So here's something from Tim:


This day, this arch of birch over the log pile,
this large sky as blue as a sunfish fin,
this pine grove as green as a hunter’s coat.
This bluff, this corn, this mud-wrinkled road
where immigrant Swedes were captured
by the hills, ravines, creeks and oaks--by beauty.

This melting snow, this thawing ice, this heart of mine,
twisting, turning, dangling, wringing, watching and singing
in the clasp of beauty’s large fist. I eat beauty,
I breathe beauty, I rub beauty onto my chest hairs.

The loping dog, the horned ram, the sleek Ford pickup,
the echoing chortle of a strutting tom.
The taupe fields, the cut stalks.
I love the curve of the contoured rows.
The rattling maize leaves slice into my heart,
the plum bush swings its thorns to my throat
Beauty infects me. I accept
the natural hypodermics, all briars and canes,
nettles and thistles, dried and dead and working.
These skin strippers, these clothes tearers,
the ones who wish me naked with them.

I love, too, these stinkpots, this manure bed,
this nest of opossum, rank with winter refuse,
this dormant pile of rot, this embraceable torso, this limp cock.
This stirring, cracking, shuddering heart opens for them all.

Come in maple sap, lanolin, wet resin, cedar scent,
birch bark, elder root, ash gatherer, tractor hum,
horse fart, skunk tread and pocket gopher mound dust.
Put me in your furry mouth, wrap me in your diaper,
bathe me in your silky hide, scrub me with your stars.

Find more about Tim at

Off to Spain next week, following Lorca's trail as research for next book, but will try and tap out some more signs and symbols before then. Got some plans for the School of Myth tent.

Monday, 19 July 2010


As we wander, limp and stride into deep summer, here are just a few, possibly rash, thoughts on community to stick in the back pack. ( A few bits i have put on here before) Talking of community, i send a hearty hail to all second years at the school of myth who have just completed - a great honour to be part of this wylde band of vagabonds, minstrels and river boat gypsies. ( please note above pic of a few of the wider group this weekend on news that more cake, wine and a new translation of the Mabinogion had been smuggled in)....half completed longhouse to far left of snap.

Community and Reclaiming Time
Finding community is a tricky thing; the main emphasis I want to make is the belief that community should live at least partially in the imagination, rather than continually forced into the literal. Our community should involve long dead poets, sharks teeth, the shimmer - mist on a Scottish Glen, the erotic trim of a Bedouin tent. We could reach a wider perspective on the word rather than attempting to wrestle it always into concrete solutions, petitions, cult-is, finger wagging, committees, living in a tiny house of comrades arguing over who last bought the toiletries and who stole the tofu from the back of the fridge.

Communities could also be to do with reclaiming time: it seems to have a harsh, worried, pulse to many people. It is useful to reach back through it to a community of ancestors. I don't mean some vague concept but in the work of vitalising folks down the centuries. It is naive for us to claim personal impoverishment when we are connected to the legacy of Emily Dickinson, Taliesin, Delius, Mirabai, Black Elk, Wolfram Von Eschenbach or John Coltrane. We could find a specific soul - teacher from history and follow their lead. This will also broaden and deepen time around us, and in the same moment make us more genuinely present.

It’s quite possible to completely re - experience time. A start is to regard the coming of night as a regular move into the eternal, the end of clock time till the sun rises the next day. Take questions to the night,questions that could never accomplish themselves in the agitation of day light. Become a night walker, invite it to become an ally. What are the scents and impression that night brings? What Goddesses glide through the open window? Night as a disorderly community of dreams, sudden fears and sideways epiphanies. Allow the art you make of your life to beguile the Moon to wander to your bedside and start to talk. This allows us to flood into the wisdom of shadows and the indistinct blessings that midnight offers. It’s a grave mistake for us to only associate wisdom with the daylight hours or ‘light of knowledge’; we isolate ourselves from half the insights that twenty four hours carries. Night as an ally is to understand that it follows different deities to well mannered day: Lillith, Nyx, lusty Pan and his disgraceful fantasies – the ‘luna’tics have taken over the asylum. At the same time that very hoard of impulses can cut to the marrow of all sorts of worries, and amplify all sorts of truths that we can’t get near in the daylight hours. Night is the entering of a temple.

James Hillman claims that to reach back through history becomes a kind of osmosis, that you can merge into the leafy mulch of mystical texts and hard ideas, that you can become thousands of years old. This is another invitation to shape – leap. So we extend community by actually retreating backwards.

Become an apprentice to the way Caravaggio handled color and don’t worry about having an original thought for at least five years. Allow yourself to feel strange and slightly magical. Compose poetry that is irritable and fiery, that runs to hundreds of lines, then learn by heart and recite to nearby jackdaws. Write letters again, and find the oldest mail box you can to post them from. Decide that your hips are an altar to old Romanian Goddesses and take up Belly dancing. Give out library cards as birthday presents. Run a three week course from your porch on the relationship between the Aztec temples and Gypsy gambling games from Medieval Wales. Don’t go easy on yourself.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Hot off the press - here are the links to two video's of Daniel Deardorff and I's gig at Kulaks Woodshed in Hollywood the other week. The first is Danny, accompanied by me and the wonderful John Densmore, the second is myself with the other two renegades backing. Note - could all second year myth students be restrained and wait till post our up coming weekend where we will be studying the said story -from then on you will have this record to work with.....

So, just get and paste the links and you should be off to the races.

Ciao for now,


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Coatsy Heads To The Western Isles

A hard one this week. We lost a great one, Emma Coats - Bandit Queen of the Oxford Spires, expansive poet and great presence at the Westcountry School of Myth and Story these last few years. Invoking some story around a blustery Dartmoor fire it was always a boost to see her keen eyes through the smoke, taking it all in and carrying it back to the hermitage in her soul. Not a death any of us would have predicted at the school, and doubly shocking for that.
So, 'Coatsy', we will craft a thick rope of story, poems, ritual, tears and laughter for you when we meet on the moors in a fortnight, your fellow vagabond monks and students of the sacred. May it wrap itself three times round the moon and pull you lovingly into all the deep peace this universe can offer. We'll see you by the fireside madam - a doffed hat and a spilling of the old drop. Tears falling here at the house.

Visit to read the woman's words.

The Dream of the Gods

Dragging myself along by bootstraps I am also throwing in a new chunk of essay (Coatsy had a quicksilver mind for myth) - it lacks charm and weight, but has some good thoughts from Hillman and Eliade about myth showing up in difficulty and pathology....

...... Mircea Eliade also claims a ‘mythology of modern elites’ that harks back to some of the very earliest impulses towards myths function:

'we may note the redeeming function of “difficulty”, especially as found in the
works of modern art…it is because such works represent closed worlds,hermetic universes that cannot be entered except by overcoming immense difficulties, like the initiatory ordeals of the archaic and traditional societies'.
(Eliade 1963 :188)

So to Eliade we locate ancient urges reconfiguring; that abstraction and complexity in art represent a labyrinthnal challenge-the artist enters a ritualised container-the studio-for much the same motivation that the young tribeswoman enters the desert for fasting and vision, to be set apart from her peers, to amplify inner revelations, to suffer, study and grow.

For James Hillman (Hillman 1989 : 150), the old gods have fled into our pathologies and reveal their character through symptoms - Saturn handling depression, impotence and emotional distance while Aphrodite revels in the endless erotic undertow of much of our advertising, for example. The myths remain, their hints of the transcendental dimmed, but shifting effortlessly into whatever psychological triggers hold society in general captive. A god stands behind the trigger.

But Hillman typically reviles the idea that somehow mythic figures are nothing but mental constructs; “when we think mythologically about pathologizing, we could say, as some have, that the “world of the gods” is anthropomorphic, an imitative projection of ours…but one could start the other end, the mundus imaginalis, of the archetypes (or gods) and say that our “secular world” is at the same time mythical, an imitative projection of theirs, including their pathologies.” From this position, the ‘Otherworld’ of folklore could be this very one we live on.

We are the dream of the Gods.

The aggression of our ambitions, the wild affairs that rupture a steady life,the cradling of a young child, all could be caught in the dream tendrils of some luminous diety; working through their ‘issues’ as they slumber, our myth world framing their lunar wanderings. The Irish always claim the Otherworld is as interested in us as we are in them (Meade 2009), maybe we offer a hall of mirrors to each other.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Luis Rodriguez UK Visit

Eyes on stalks, wandering the house at 3 am singing Blake to a gentle rain on the window. It's our old friend jetleg. Still, at least the other two have it as well,
so we have had some funny early morning tribal gatherings -nutty walks around Ashburton as the sun comes up- priceless actually, if seen through a rather fuzzy inner-fog.

I was in L.A. a few weeks ago and met Luis Rodriguez, an award winning writer and man who knows a great deal about mentoring (old colleague of Michael Meade), to discuss with others the possibility of the establishing of an organized rites-of-passage programme for men and women all over the U.S. Can't say much at present, or who's involved, but it looks very exciting- watch this space. Anyway, i liked the man, so i wanted to get in the below and the call to get to one of his gatherings if you can -he's actually in the UK this fortnight-even coming to Dorset-where i fully intend to meet up with him and continue our conversation. Check his website for schedule -this is great work.

WHEEL OF STORY event this saturday! The LIND WURM is the gnarly old fairy tale we will explore, with side portions of Lorca, Machado and Hughes. £60, 10-5 lunch included- we are almost at capacity so ring 01364 653723 today.

Hey, the one rose i planted is in full bloom in the garden, hidden behind a wilderness of grasses and weeds. I'll go and give it some Neruda. Over to Mr Rodriguez.....

"I met a fella named Luis Rodriguez, a writer and a poet, who had a cultural center in Los Angeles. These are people I've known and worked with for a long time. These are the people trying to fill the holes that should long ago have been filled by government. Those are the people who give me optimism. They're relentlessly hopeful, and they face it all on the front lines on a daily basis."
- Bruce Springsteen from Rolling Stone magazine, Nov. 15, 2007.

By age 11, Luis J. Rodríguez was already a veteran of the gang wars in East Los Angeles. He escaped that world through poetry and literature, he says, and found success as an author and community activist. In his memoir, Always Running, La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A., he captured his experience as a gang member and his use of drugs, testifying to the city’s dark underside. He now shares his story with youth across the United States and Latin America to provide those at risk for violence with hope and the tools for change.

During a weeklong program in February sponsored by the U.S. Department of State in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City, Mexico, the writer and community activist drew from his experience to share ideas about how to create community in violent times. Rodríguez spoke with youth at juvenile detention facilities, gave presentations at the state’s largest university, conducted workshops with community organizers and participated in poetry jams.

His stories resonated with audiences at a personal level, allowing for honest and constructive exchanges. The goal he says, is to help repair communities, like Ciudad Juárez, that have been most affected by drug-related violence.

Rodríguez said his philosophy for community building focuses on empowering young people through the arts, creativity, imagination and looking at the roots of violence. “These are the things that [have] worked in some of the most violent communities of L.A. and Chicago that, even though it’s not the same as Ciudad Juárez, there were some good lessons,” he said. “I have a friend who used to say, ‘If you don’t turn the young people toward their beauty, they will turn toward violence.’ In many ways, the creation of beauty, art, music, dance, theater pulls away from that uninspired, sad existence that they’re in.”

With more than 4,300 homicides over the past year in Ciudad Juárez, violence is rampant there. In March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led a delegation of top-ranking officials to Mexico, where the issues of violence and drug trafficking were discussed.

In Chihuahua City, a significant number of those killed are young people whose communities are broken and desperate for hope and change. As a former gang member who went on to become a leading author and activist, Rodríguez exemplifies a powerful alternative to a life of violence through community building and creativity.

Rodríguez meets inmates at the Chihuahua prison.

Rodríguez visited the Juárez Juvenile Detention Center and forged a connection with many of the juvenile inmates by sharing details about his own incarceration at a young age. Rodríguez said the dentition center is the only juvenile facility in that area that provides arts and expression training.

“I met with poets and artists. A rich and intimate discussion was held with spiritually hungry and intelligent young people — although many have committed serious crimes, including murder,” he wrote on his blog. “The facility’s director, a young woman with a big heart, even allowed five of the youth to leave the detention center and show me several murals they painted with members of the community along the high concrete walls. They plan to cover even more walls once they obtain more resources. I could tell the administration was helping move the minds and hearts of youth offenders to become whole and healthy — and creative — when they leave this facility.”

Rodríguez told inmates about the gang life that put him in jail, his transformation through writing and poetry while there, and the struggles he faced as he began to reconstruct his life after serving a prison sentence. Many of the inmates were serving sentences for similar crimes and also felt that they had little voice within a community surrounded by violence.

“I used to be a very troubled young man myself. I was in gangs, I was a violent person, I was in and out of jails and juvenile halls, and it was good to see and hear what these young people had to say because they’re very strong and articulate about their issues,” he said.


On his return to Los Angeles, Rodríguez shared his positive experience in Mexico with community members and activists. “I just feel bad that nobody wants to hear the positive side of Ciudad Juárez or Chihuahua,” he said. “The other side of the story is that most people in places like Juárez or Chihuahua and probably most of Mexico are working hard to not have the violence, to work with the kids. They are doing the very best that they can with very little resources.”

He left Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua with a hopeful message. “Even in the midst of violence and poverty, there can come great poems, great songs, great practical organizational measures,” he said. “Always showing the worst aspects doesn’t point out that there’s actually a lot of strong positive energy for change in those communities.”