March 30, 2012

Split This Rock, March 24, Evening Reading

Back in the auditorium of the Carlos Rosario International School for another fine reading. Before the reading I was chatting with Sarah Browning & having her sign my copy of her book, Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, when Sonia Sanchez came over to ask Sarah to sign her Split This Rock program. We talked briefly, I praised her Shamanistic performance here the night before, & she asked me to sign her program too. Unfortunately my program was in my bag a number of rows back so while Sonia Sanchez now has my autograph, I, sadly, do not have hers.

The MC for the reading was the effusive Reggie Cabico, who introduced the night's recording of June Jordan reading "Dear Somebody," like having her in the room, as perhaps indeed she was, especially in the hearts & work of all the poets has touched.

DC Youth Slam Team poet Asha Garder gave a charged performance of her piece on domestic violence, "Daddy Dearest." The young poets are out there.

Rachel McKibbens, who came up through the Slam poetry scene (as well evidenced in her work), read work from her book Pink Elephant (Cypher Books, 2009). Most of her poems were tales of violence, such as the 2 poems from what she called her "escape trilogy" from bad domestic situations at different stages in her life, finally making it on the 3rd try. Amidst the violence, her images were often humorous in a Surrealist way, as in "Tom Boy" about bringing a mermaid home, or the title poem of her book, "Pink Elephant" (her brother's costume one Halloween that became an image of comfort for her). She mentioned that today was her son's 10th birthday & read "Central Park Mother's Day," & a poem about his birth, "Finally the Author Gets Personal."

The power of Alice Walker's words come through quietly, even when she was half-hidden by her laptop that she was reading from. She deftly & seamlessly wove commentary, more often political, but personal too, together with the poems, from her work in progress The World Will Follow Joy, beginning with the funny, adoring "What Makes the Dalai Lama Lovable?" Then to a different type of musing, "If I Was President…" the first person she would call, to the "troublemakers." Similarly, her poem "The Joyful News of Your Arrest" is addressed to Prof. Cornel West. "The Foolishness of Captivity" is a letter of advice to a ruler on how to escape from what she called "the Devil's hands." "Despair is the Ground Bounced Back From" was dedicated to parents, others, who have felt the death of children. She ended with 2 more political pieces, a poem of praise "Occupying Mumia's Cell," & the political manifesto with a list of heroes, "Democratic Womanist." & somewhere from Alice's musings I picked up this quote, "Every revolution needs fresh poems…" A quiet voice of truth can be very powerful.

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