Mexico, 2013: Rodrigo Solis

First Encounter: Invisible Relationships – An Interview Jam Session on the Chronicle with Rodrigo Solís

We may have been cheating. When Rodrigo and I decided that the first contribution to this blog was an ‘interview’ – I was going to interview him – we probably knew that this wasn’t quite what it was going to be, though we didn’t know what exactly it was going to be. We have known each other for years, and our conversations slide from poetry to love to organizing to the City-Monster to what’s-going-on-in-the-street to cycling musictheorypoetryphilosophylove … and so on – but I swear we never gossip. The interview is a glimpse into a verbal jam session that has been going on for years, where we explore each other’s modes of perception and ways of thinking, and sometimes I prompt him more and sometimes he prompts me more and sometimes we prompt each other equally, and at some point the exploration and the prompting turns into conversation – but you won’t get the conversation on this blog because I don’t want to force you into eavesdropping. You’re going to have to go and have your own conversation.

In our pseudo-interview Rodrigo talks about the chronicle. The chronicle is one of the most popular, most typical genres of Mexican literature. It goes back to the chronicles of the conquistadores at the time of the conquest. The chronicle then disappeared for a while and had a revival in the early 20th century, and it has been flourishing ever since. Initially mostly published in newspapers, the chronicle soon became the literary genre that observed the interaction of Mexico’s rich and diverse popular cultures especially in cities: chroniclers have a keen eye for the everyday, for the small things, for what Rodrigo has called ‘invisible relationships’ between human beings – their minds, bodies, hearts – and their physical surroundings and social context. (For those who like to delve deeper into theory, see The Mexico Chronicle: Reflections on a Liminal Genre by Ignacio Corona and Beth E. Jorgensen; and for those who would like to read chronicles and who read Spanish, Carlos Monsiváis’ collection A ustedes les consta.)

Rodrigo is a spoken word poet, as we might say in English. For many years, he recited his poetry at strike gatherings, occupations (for example, during the student occupation of the National University of Mexico in 1999-2000), and demonstrations. He also recites in cafés, universities, and wherever else he gets invited. Rodrigo was part of the internet-based, creative-commons licensed publishing collective La Tortillería. He is also part of the network Poetics of Resistance; he made it to the network’s 2009 symposium in Santiago de Compostela on his bike and on the Camino de Santiago. The result of this journey is one of his chronicles, which you can find here:

Much of his work is ‘poesía de tránsito’, ‘transit poetry.’ The term is an example of our mutual prompting: After I saw a performance of Rodrigo and the collective La Lengua which included the chronicle Kleto, I wrote an article entitled ‘Los ritmos de la megalópolis’ (published in Ciudad y escritura, edited by Nanne Timmer) where I used that term, Rodrigo read it and decided that he could do much with the concept of transit poetry, and has since taken it to new dimensions in his chronicle La ruta chichimeca.

For this blog – spoken, recorded and written on 6th August 2013 somewhere in the South of Mexico City – he talks about chronicle-writing, about how his shadow became a character, and about poetry, fiction, and cheating in the chronicle, with specific reference to El silencio es un grito / Silence is a Scream, Con la torta bajo el brazo / With a sandwich under her arm, Kleto: Crónicas bicicleteras/ Kleto: Bicycle Chronicles and La Ruta Chinameca / The Chinameca Route (see

Rodrigo’s blog: