You can’t swing an artist in this town

18 Sep

By Mark Saunders

I live in San Miguel de Allende,Mexico, ten hours by car from the Texas border and more than six thousand feet above sea level, in what’s called the central highlands.  You can’t swing an artist in this town without hitting a writer.  And if the writer ducks you’re bound to hit a jazz musician. 

That’s just one of the many reasons why I love it here.  I’d much rather live in a community that appreciates and promotes its artists, than in a city that brags about its pro sports team.  And I make that admission as a guy who is all too often caught on Sunday reclining on the sofa, TV remote in hand, switching from game to game.

If you’ll indulge me for a past life moment, I’m going to enter Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and set it to when I was in college.  At the time, one of my favorite poets was an American contemporary named W. D. Snodgrass. I was intrigued by his use of persona in his poetry and bought a copy of his book of monologues titled The Führer Bunker, all written in the voice of Hitler and his cohorts when the end was nigh.

However, what I remembered after all these years was a silly refrain from one of his poems that was not in the Bunker book.  The repeated line at the end of a stanza was: “Snodgrass is walking through the universe.” Mr. Snodgrass spent part of the year in San Miguel and five years ago I got to meet him, ever so briefly, at a book fair. Sadly, he passed away in 2009.

A couple of months ago, back in the near-present and here in San Miguel, I had the surreal experience of dining in the late poet’s Mexico residence.  Our neighbors are writers: one an accomplished short story writer, the other an equally accomplished poet.  Both have been published widely.  Through them we met another successful writer and her husband, who were renting the house where Mr. Snodgrass had lived.  They invited us over for dinner.  And that’s when the tidbit hit the fan. 

During dinner, someone told me that Charles Portis, perhaps best known as the author of True Grit, lived in San Miguel for a time and wrote parts of True Grit while living there.  Coincidentally, that week I had been re-reading The Dog of the South, one of my favorite books by Portis, and that book, too, had a San Miguel connection.  The book’s protagonist goes on a road trip that takes him briefly through the town. Hmm.  Could this have been an omen, perhaps even a salted one? 

Okay, duck!  Here comes the shameless plug.  For more about omens, please check out my book, Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak by FUZE Publishing.  And remember, an omen is a terrible thing to waste. 

Questions, suggestions, objections?  Feel free to contact me at:

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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


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