A Reading poet once again has made international waves with his words.
Juan Antonio Franqui-Gonzalez was named the International Poet of The Year at the 5th Annual National Poetry Awards last week. He is the first Latino to earn the distinction.
“It is still surreal, it really is,” Franqui-Gonzalez, 39, said. “To know the caliber of poets there makes it all more special.”
The event was held in Norfolk, Va., and invited poets from all over the country to compete for various titles in the craft of poetry.
Franqui-Gonzalez is better known by his pen name Egedeme (pronounced Eh-hey-dae-mae). The name is the phonetic pronunciation of the Spanish acronym for El Gallo Del Microfono (the rooster of the microphone).
“I love poetry because it is more of a challenge,” Franqui-Gonzalez said. “You don’t have beats and hooks, you just have your voice and that makes it more powerful because you really have to grab people’s attention with your words.”
Voting was held online from June 20 to July 21, pitting Franqui-Gonzalez against poet Ike Boat, a poet from Ghana, for the title.
The award comes as the latest in a long line of successes for Franqui-Gonzalez, having represented the United States at the 17th International Poetry Festival Ditet e Naimit in Macedonia last October. “I wasn’t afraid of losing, I was afraid of letting people down,” Franqui-Gonzalez said. “Just like in Macedonia, I had Reading and Puerto Rico on my back.”
Not only was he the first Puerto Rican to attend the event in Macedonia, he also took home the title of the year’s best poet, beating out poets from 25 different countries. A book of his poetry was published in Macedonian.
Born in Puerto Rico, he lived in Miami before moving to Reading in 2008. Franqui-Gonzalez spent several years working with I-LEAD charter school and in juvenile detention centers to promote poetry. Franqui-Gonzalez, a disabled veteran, said that poetry holds a transformative power that has helped him cope with post traumatic stress disorder.
He currently travels back and forth from Puerto Rico, performing with his seven-poet ensemble, Ovejas Negras (Black Sheep), across the island.
Franqui-Gonzalez is heading off to Ukraine in October as a featured performer and competitor at the Terra Poetica Festival.
“I’m super excited but my family has some fears about it because of the war,” Franqui-Gonzalez said. “But I’m always pushing for the poetic revolution, raising awareness about poetry to the youth and keeping the art alive.”
Source: Reading Eagle, by Anthony Orozco. 610-371-5015 or firstname.lastname@example.org