The series began by accident on March 27, 2012, the day American poet, Adrienne Rich died. Founder, poet and Episcopal priest, Spencer Reece, held what was intended to be a “one-off” reading on the patio of the Catedral del Redentor to cheer up his friend, Cuban-American poet, Richard Blanco, who was despairing over poetry’s diminishing readership. Ten people attended. Unbeknownst to all, in less than a year Richard Blanco would be reading to millions of people for the second inauguration of Barack Obama.
And yet, while the Unamuno Author Series unknowingly began that day between Blanco and Reece, its spirit originates in a much older relationship between a priest and a poet connected to the very same church community.
In the 1930s, the esteemed and famously heterodox Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno befriended the only protestant minister in the city of Salamanca, Rev. Atilano Coco. They wrote letters to each other, and Unamuno occasionally attended services at Rev. Coco’s church. Their friendship endured as Spanish society teetered on the brink of civil war, divided between opposing ideological forces. But it came to a tragic end with the Fascist military uprising in the summer of 1936, during which Coco was arrested and shot dead in a firing squad. Unamuno died shortly afterward of a heart attack while under house arrest ordered by the Fascists.
Our series echoes at its core friendship and the enduring bond between poetry and the human spirit that Coco and Unamuno shared years ago. Today our series has grown into a team of 14 volunteers who are building this bond into an ever-expanding, borderless poetry community with its heart in Madrid. We have brought over 60 poets to Madrid and are hosting a week-long festival for May 2019, together with Desperate Literature.