Tuesday, November 25, 2008

La Palabra Poets

Michael Sedano

"4th Sunday of Every Month," the email taunts me. Taunts, because invariably my good intentions of attending a La Palabra Monthly poetry event run afoul of some other commitment. I have subscription seats to Sunday concerts for LA Phil at Disney Hall and Coleman Chamber Music Association at Cal Tech. Often our tickets fall on a fourth Sunday. 
Or sometimes I start an early morning project that grows like topsy into the afternoon, and 2:00 p.m. comes and I'm covered in dirt or chicken poop and would make a poor seat mate to some hapless poetry lover.

And poetry lovers are whom one meets at La Palabra's monthly poetry celebration. At any rate, that's how it turned out for me when I was able to get cleaned up early enough on Sunday the 23d of November (tempus fugit!), to arrive unfashionably late.

I'm so late that I don't get a program and can show only the portraits of the gente reading their well-crafted work. I cannot tell you the names of these poets.

La Palabra evidently holds Open Mic readings to launch the afternoon, followed by scheduled poets. The Emcee pictured here with a close-up of her Open Mic sign-up board is most likely the Co-Host of La Palabra, Laura Longoria.

Despite the sign-ups of three men and a woman, one of the poets either did not perform, or, owing to my tardiness, she read before my arrival, and I missed her work.

So I am treated to readings by the three Open Mic men. It's an intimate setting, a white-walled space with twenty or so plastic chairs arranged three rows deep. Being a photographer, I zig and zag myself through the chairs to take an empty seat in the front row. The space is small enough that every word would likely be audible from the back row. This adds to the enjoyment of the verse, not straining to make out the words.

One gentleman, weara a "Poetry Daily" t-shirt publicizing the website of the same name.

Another reader announces he's just written the piece he'll read. He reads his work off the back of the program. 

Dog gone it, I wish I could tell you the name of the Cubana who reads several pieces about her cultura and growing up in Habana with Orishas and Yemeya and Babalaos. She weaves an entertaining narrative between her formal pieces, playing a vinyl disc and a CD that illustrate her work. Fabulously entertaining, she doesn't, or cannot, stay at the lectern but moves about. At one point she dances to the infectious beat of island drumming.

Next up is Don Newton. I can tell you his name because he's one of the sponsors of La Palabra, and Don's and Emcee Laura's name is on the publicity posted at Avenue 50 Studio's homepage, the host of the event. Don shares some autobiographical work recounting events growing up in New Jersey, Mexico, and Brazil.

It's clear that Don and la Cubana are close friends. I'm sure their bonds aren't the sole reason they read today. Obviously both enjoy the process of reading and performing their poetry.

I am relieved I finally had the opportunity of a free fourth Sunday. Here all this time I'd been castigating myself thinking I was missing a grand experience. And I was right, La Palabra is a grand experience, not to be passed by under ordinary circumstances.

Now if the Phil or Coleman would just cooperate and not schedule competing events, I'd have no conflicts and could happily attend every La Palabra. Who knows, maybe next time I have a conflict, I'll give away my concert tickets and sign up for the Open Mic.

Flor Y Canto Progress Report

I spent last week at the University of California, Riverside Tomás Rivera Library Media Center, digitizing the library's collection of U-matic video cassettes. This is a time-consuming process that is 25% completed. Next week I'll post a few snippets of work, for example, Omar Salinas, whose readings would have been the ideal accompaniment to Karen Harlow McClintock's touching eulogy of her friendship with the poet.

I am happy--make that overjoyed--to report that USC, as the Copyright owner, has granted me permission to make these copies and share them with La Bloga and Read! Raza visitors.  Rest assured I'm no Digital Millenium Act scofflaw.

I'll be conducting  a workshop in "reading your stuff" at next year's National Latino Writers Conference, and am integrating selections from some of these 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto readings as part of my lesson plan.

With the creation of DVDs of these historic performances, planning for the 2010 Festival de Flor Y Canto is making great progress. Click here for the Call for Writers to that event. If you're an alumna alumnus of that 1973 Festival, please contact me for an invitation to the 2010 reunion!

That's the final Tuesday of November 2008. It's the week for tofu turkey loaf, if you're so inclined, or real roasted bird. My grandmother, Emilia Macias, was the best poultry dresser of the Inland Empire. People used to drive from all over southern California to DeYoung's Poultry in Redlands to get a bird prepared by my grandmother. Granma, you wouldn't recognize what they do to coconos nowadays.

Happy Thanksgiving, whether you're having tamales or turkey or tofu. See you next week, December 2, with some of those 1973 readers.

Ate, les wachamos,

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Corina said...

I wish La Palabra had been around when I was in L.A. Neat to see Don Newton on La Bloga. I haven't seen his mug in many years!

Thank you for this. It means a lot.

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you for this post. The Palabra fourth Sunday series sounds like a gem. And thanks for the work you're doing with Flor y Canto