Professor Orlando Menes
The Unamuno Authors Series Festival was the first of its kind: an anglophone literary gathering in Madrid, Spain. It featured sixty poets taking part in public events in five venues over six days—from May 27th through June 1st. Writers hailed from Canada, England, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the United States. Among the poets who participated were ILS faculty fellows Orlando Menes and Francisco Aragón.
The festival was an outgrowth of the Unamuno Authors Series—named after Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936), distinguished Spanish writer and rector of the University of Salamanca. Both the series and festival were founded and spearheaded by Spencer Reese, an award-winning American poet and episcopal priest who resides in Madrid.
For Orlando Menes, a professor in Notre Dame’s English Department, and Francisco Aragón, director of Letras Latinas at ILS, travelling to Spain last May was personal. Menes lived in Madrid during his teenage years from 1973 to 1975. Aragón, after college, made the Spanish capital his home for nine years until 1998.
Menes, whose latest book, Memoria, vividly engages his teen years in Madrid, read on the evening of May 27th alongside American poet Emilia Philips and Irish poet Caitríona O’Reilly at Desperate Literature bookstore, which hosted three nights of readings. “I had not been back to Spain in thirty years, so my participation in the Unamuno Festival felt like a long belated homecoming. And to have read with so many accomplished poets was certainly an honor and a gift,” Menes said.
Aragón took part in a bilingual event on May 30th at La Residencia de Estudiantes alongside Steven Sanchez, inaugural winner of the García Lorca Prize for an emerging Latinx poet, Latinx poet Aracelis Girmay, and Spanish poet Luis Muñoz. “It was especially meaningful to read in such a historic space,” Aragón said. “The last time I’d been at La Residencia was in 1989 when I saw and heard Octavio Paz read from his poetry.”
On September 18th, Menes will be reading from Memoria for the Notre Dame campus community. A reception with food and beverages will take place at 6:30 pm in the foyer of Bond Hall, the ILS’s new home. Menes’s reading, which has been designated a Hispanic Heritage Month event, will commence at 7:30 PM in 104 Bond Hall. It is being co-sponsored by Letras Latinas and Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Program.
As part of ILS’s academic programming, Letras Latinas brings writers to campus to engage with students, and often partners with other Notre Dame departments and national organizations. Events typically take place on campus and Washington, D.C., where the ILS maintains a faculty office and a summer service learning course.
“Letras Latinas enhances the visibility, appreciation, and study of Latinx literature both on and off the campus of the University of Notre Dame,” ILS director and political science professor Luis R. Fraga said. “Letras Latinas supports newer voices, fosters a sense of community among writers, and places Latinx writers in community spaces.”