trying to understand Mexico

We relaunched our books in Newtown last week with Penny O’Donnell as launcher-in-chief, Ruth Adler, co-editor of the Journeys anthology, as the one who remembered to give thanks to all those who helped make Journeys happen, and Jacqueline as MC.

Jeanie Lewis told us about her friend Hector Caicedo, co-star of her contribution to Journeys, and sang us a Woody Guthrie song: the Deportees. Jenny Pollak also told us the back story of her poetry in the book and read some of her magnificent work.

Penny made the point that, for the Australian women who contributed to Journeys, living in Mexico made our lives bigger, and that’s true, Mexico amplified our experience and our understanding. That latter, the understanding, may have come after months or years of not understanding how Mexico works, but the opportunity for that search was invaluable. I am reminded of Mariko, my Japanese neighbour for a time in Tepoztlán, Morelos, who used to say: “It’s not a matter of trying to understand Mexico, you just have to get it.”

Penny quoted Nelson Mandela – There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

She acknowledged Journeys co-editor Jenny Cooper, still in Mexico, for her work establishing the Mexico National University’s gender and economics program, under the motto: Por una economía feminista que apuesta por la sostenibilidad de la vida – For a feminist economy that is committed to the sustainability of life.

Can I read another poem, asks Jenny Pollak, is there enough time? We poets have so few opportunities to speak…

I was MC, I had no idea if the clock gave us more or less time, but all the audience knew that yes, we had time for Jenny’s next poem, the one she’d written that morning.

It turned out we didn’t have much time and Lily of the bookshop sold some books and said we had to leave. That was a pity because the room was full of people who knew each other from different parts of our lives, which made for a great atmosphere. I was the last to leave, except for Lily of Better Read than Dead, who was left alone with the books, the wine glasses, the accounts, closing the shop. King street on Friday night was buzzing, the busiest place I’ve been since I walked the streets of Madrid the year before Covid.

Thanks to Elspeth and Conrad for taking the photos. Thanks to Ruth and the bookshop for helping organise the event, to our speakers Ruth, Penny, Jenny and Jeanie, to Raewyn Connell and Manon Saur, who contributed to the Journeys anthology and were there that night. Thanks to all the contributors who gave us their insights into their time in Mexico, and to you, our readers!