Alexis Díaz Pimienta (Photo by Laydirene Pérez)
Las Vegas, NM — Havana comes to Highlands University Nov. 3 when internationally acclaimed Cuban poet and novelist Alexis Díaz Pimienta visits for 10 days of free public programs and teaching.
Pimienta has published 30 books and is the winner of numerous literary awards over the years, including the Latin American Story Prize in 2013 for his book Intercambio de tarjetas.
“Pimienta is perhaps best known as a repentista, or improvisational poet, and has performed in 30 countries on five continents,” said Donna Woodford-Gormley, the Highlands English professor who wrote the proposal to bring Pimienta to Highlands as a visiting Ballen scholar. “He collaborated with the filmmaker David Riondino on three films about the tradition of improvisational poetry in Cuba, with two films using Shakespeare as their inspiration.”
One of the films, Shakespeare in Havana, will be shown at Highlands Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in Ilfeld Auditorium, 900 University Ave. Pimienta will also discuss the film.
“Pimienta’s work meshes with my own research interest,” said Woodford-Gormley, who is the only Shakespeare scholar conducting research in Cuba. She has a book in process, Caliban’s Books: Shakespeare in Cuba, that explores Cuban cultural adaptations of Shakespeare.
“The idea of improvisational poetry is intriguing because the poet takes an idea — like what Romeo’s friends might say to him about his love for Juliet — and instantly transforms the idea into a poem with their own viewpoints and interpretations. Often classical text like Shakespeare is used as a starting point for Latin American repentistas,” Woodford-Gormley said.
She said it’s exciting to bring such a renowned Cuban writer to Highlands and the Las Vegas community.
“Pimienta’s visit is a unique opportunity to learn more about Cuba, its literature, culture and social-political views. Our students will have the chance to see how literature is really part of an international conversation,” Woodford-Gormley said.
She said Pimienta is a dynamic performer and experienced teacher. He is a professor at the Instituto Superio de Arte in Havana. His textbooks, Theory of Improvisation and The Pimienta Method for Teaching Improvisation, have beenused in Cuban colleges for the past 10 years.
Pimienta also collaborated with Riondino to found AEDOS, an experimental theatre troupe that combines theatre, film and improvisational poetry.
Woodford-Gormley said the public is welcome to attend all the free events featuring Pimienta, with the exception of one for local school children that she hopes will fill Ilfeld Auditorium. Pimienta also writes children’s literature.
The public events with Pimienta include:
Monday, Nov. 3
Opening reception 9:30 — 11 a.m. in the Douglas Hall Conference Room, 805 University Ave.
Public lecture 7 — 9 p.m. about repentismo improvisational poetry in Ilfeld Auditorium.
Tuesday, Nov. 4
Film screening and discussion for Shakespeare in Havana 7 — 9 p.m. in Ilfeld Auditorium.
Wednesday, Nov. 5
Repentismoimprovisational poetry workshop 3 — 5 p.m., Douglas Hall, Room 215.
Thursday, Nov. 6
Fiction reading 4 — 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building, Room 320, northwest corner of National Avenue and 8th Street.
Monday, Nov. 10
Repentismoimprovisational poetry workshop 10 — 12 p.m. in Douglas Hall, Room B02.
Lecture “Improving Othello” 6-8 p.m. in Ilfeld Auditorium.
Wednesday, Nov. 12
Poetry performance 12 p.m. in the Champ Tyrone Music Building choir room, 1052 11th St. Music seniors will improvise on instruments, including Daniel Torres on classical guitar and Dennis Montaño on trumpet.
Poetry reading 4 — 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building, Room 320.
Thursday, Nov. 14
Improvisational Poetry Festival 6 — 8 p.m. in the Student Union Building theatre. The public is invited to participate, along with Highlands students, faculty and staff.
Pimienta will also present talks at a number of Department of English classes. The Nina Tesla Ballen Visiting Scholar Program is sponsoring his visit to Highlands.