Friday, October 19, 2018

Drunk on Poetry

Melinda Palacio
Sporting one of my official Bird Forgiveness Tour outfits. 

As the sights and sounds of my magical vacation to Ireland start to fade like the voices in the movie set in Scotland, Brigadoon, I'm thrust back into the reality of my stateside life, which is not bad in itself. The last two weeks, I had two book tour events in New Orleans. The first, reading with the poetry buffet, I was joined by New Orleans Poets Valentine Pierce and Dennis Formento, and our poetess hostess, Gina Ferrara. Dennis reminded me of how our reading was a sort of literary reunion. Four years ago, the three of us read together in the 7th Ward, and Dennis secured a radio spot for us, leading up to the reading. These are connections I'm honored to make as an adopted New Orleans poet. The benefits of being married to a Southern man include an extended home in New Orleans, but California is where I am from and where I vote. 

Recently, a friend wondered if I loved to tour since sighting of the Bird Forgiveness Book Tour is heavily announced on social media. I don't mind running around from venue to venue. The best part of the book tour is sharing my work with newcomers. I especially love when people who say they aren't big readers or who have never been to a literary event, fall in love with my books. And, as my friend, Reyna Grande says, the books don't sell themselves. People enjoy hearing from the author directly. They want to hear the words in the poet's own voice. Recently, I received a phone call from someone who attended my reading at the Maple Leaf Bar last Sunday. She spoke about how much she enjoyed my presentation and also complemented me on my bird dress. Although I've seen plenty an author show up in frumpy clothes, my mother taught me better. It is from her that I get my aesthetic to show up properly dressed when speaking in front of an audience, even if that audience is made up of a handful of people. When I was a teenager, I was a slob and often went to school with shorts over my pajamas and a big lumpy sweater, while my mother, a teacher, was always dressed very nicely. Somewhere along my journey to healing from the grief of losing her (she was 44 when she left this earth), I took on the quality she had of putting some effort into my appearance and planning my outfits ahead of time. I still don't go all out the way she did. I don't roll my hair because it's naturally curly (she always wanted curly hair and I always wanted her straight hair) and I don't wear much makeup because I have allergies and I am always rubbing my eyes and sneezing (I am especially allergic to cats).
The Maple Leaf Bar's back patio

When people compliment me on my presentations and my appearance, I know she is smiling on me. Last Sunday, at the Maple Leaf Bar, was no exception. A friend in the audience asked if I had noticed the gigantic Monarch Butterfly that graced my reading. How could I not notice the larger than life creature, a blessing indeed. The Maple Leaf Bar can be a tough venue because some people don't necessarily show up for the poetry, but to throw back a few drinks in the outdoor patio. While one or two inebriated people were a little loud in their applause or praise for my poetry, I was not thrown off and I steadily and professionally delivered each poem. At the end of the day, I sold and signed more books than I had expected and won over some new fans, drunk or not. 

Poet Charles Baudelaire, asks us to be drunk, "But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk."  "Enivrez-Vous. Mais de quoi? De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, á votre guise. Mais enivrez-vous. In New Orleans, The Soul Rebels Brass Band suggests: "Drink A Little Poison Before You Die." 

If you're in New Orleans the second week of November, don't miss a chance to experience the Louisiana Book Festival, beginning with a cocktail party at the State Library Friday, November 9 and a full program of literary events Saturday, November 10. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the best literary event in Baton Rouge. Your poet will read from 12:15 to 1pm at the Capitol Park Welcome Center, Glass Room on Saturday. 

1 comment:

Daniel Cano said...

Melinda, your post definitely is on target. I've found that writing a book is a three phase process, 1) writing the book (the easy part), 2) finding a good publisher (the tricky part; most publishers only print the book and put it into their catalogue) 3) selling the book. Reyna is absolutely correct. At this point a writer becomes a business person and is no longer the artist. I remember following Victor Villasenor once, and, as we walked down San Vicente boulevard talking, he interrupted out conversation to hand out flyers and talk to strangers about his new book. I think the third phase is actually the most difficult, or we are left with boxes of books in the closet, attic, or garage. Thanks for your post.