|Joseph Millar, Aaron Smith, Melinda Palacio, Maria Gillan, Richard Blanco|
Last Saturday, I enjoyed my fifteen minutes (or more) of fame. I'm still feeling the glow of being including in the finalists for the Paterson Poetry Prize. I had the pleasure of meeting three poets with varying and powerful styles, including our winner, 5th Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco of Beyoncé and Anderson Cooper fame, and finalists Aaron Smith and Joseph Millar. What a way to celebrate Poetry Month!
I'll skip the whiny details about my flights being delayed and then cancelled. Flying into Newark resulted in only a four-hour delay, but the airline gave me a one-hundred dollar voucher, which I'll use for an upcoming trip to Chicago where La Bloga will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the International Latino/a Studies Conference in July. I guess I'm going to complain a little bit more about my travel. On the way back, my plane was delayed by 12 hours, and then cancelled after midnight with no voucher or hotel stay because the problems was weather related. You win some, you lose some, I kept telling myself, and continued telling myself when I realized I had lost an entire day and a half at the airport in Newark.
|Cancelled, delayed, bumped, and finally rerouted to Houston the next day.|
Speaking of winning, I sure felt like a winner being included in the Paterson Prize for my book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press). Our winner, Richard Blanco, delighted the audience with a reading from his latest book, Looking for The Gulf Motel (University of Pittsburgh Press). Blanco reads poetry like a dancer. His foot and hand movements are reminiscent of el maestro Martín Espada. I enjoy watching poets who read with their entire bodies, offering body, soul, and voice to the listener.
Next, Joseph Millar took the stage and read from Blue Rust (Carnegie Mellon University Press). Millar had a casual delivery that impressed me with his ease at being in front of a packed room, his ease at being a poet, and his ease at simply being. He's a cool cat who returned to poetry after two decades of working a various jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area. And he didn't miss a beat.
Maria Gillan, Founder and Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College told us ahead of time that Richard would be reading first, but we didn't know the overall order. I may have been nervous and spacing out during that memo, but recall feeling joyous when she called me up to read at the historic Hamilton Club Building in downtown Paterson, a beautiful building that was once a gentleman's club. Paterson is a town that could use some maintenance and TLC for its gorgeous building and famous Paterson Falls.
|The Poetry Center|
Aaron Smith brought us home and brought down the house with his reading from Appetite (Pitt Poetry Series University of Pittsburgh Press). I already felt as though I knew Aaron because we have a mutual poet friend in New Orleans, Brad Richard, who I had the pleasure of reading with two days before I left for Newark at the Reading Between the Wines Series at Pearl Wine co.
|Aaron Smith asked me to sign his book before we read.|
Aaron also bought my book and asked me to sign it. In fact, he bought all of our books, a wonderful gesture of poet to poet support and camaraderie. Aaron has allowed La Bloga to reprint his poem,
Like Him, also featured on Poets.org, the Academy ofAmerican Poets:
by Aaron Smith
I’m almost forty and just understanding my father
doesn’t like me. At thirteen I quit basketball, the next year
refused to hunt, I knew he was disappointed, but never
thought he didn’t have to like me
to love me. No girls. Never learned
to drive a stick. Chose the kitchen and mom
while he went to the woods with friends who had sons
like he wanted. He tried fishing—a rod and reel
under the tree one Christmas. Years I tried
talking deeper, acting tougher
when we were together. Last summer
I went with him to buy a tractor.
In case he needs help, Mom said. He didn’t look at me
as he and the sales guy tied the wheels to the trailer, perfect
boy-scout knots. Why do I sometimes wish I could be a man
who cares about cars and football, who carries a pocketknife
and needs it? It was January when he screamed: I’m not
a student, don’t talk down to me! I yelled: You’re not smart enough
to be one! I learned to fight like his father, like him, like men:
the meanest guy wins, don't ever apologize.
Upcoming April Events
Santa Barbara Sunday Poets at the Book Den, April 19, 4-6 pm, ***On Saturday.
April 30, UCSB Little Theatre, 4pm
May 2, First Friday Phoenix, 6:30 pm at Obliq Gallery