Saturday, June 2, 2007

Dispatch from Pittsburgh, PA

First things first: a note of thanks to Didi Menendez for writing and posting a review of, From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (Momotombo Press, 2005) by Brenda Cárdenas. One of the ideas she brings up, which resonated with me as someone who lived in Spain for ten years, is the fact that Spanish (any language, really) does indeed have variations in its vocabulary. One of the words she highlights is tortilla.


Last month I wrote about how much I enjoyed my time at the Bruckner Bar and Grill in the South Bronx for Acentos...

Last night I experienced Gist...

I can say with certainty (and Scott Hightower can vouch for me on this): I've never been part of a reading where food and drink plays such an integral part of the experience: a baked ham, pizza, wine, beer, homemade ice cream, and more. There are regulars who each do their part to make this, literally, a monthly feast. And door prizes at evening's end. Like Acentos, one eases into the evening, where the time-table is concerned. And people buy books!

But arguably the star of the evening, month after month, is the space: it's on the third floor of an artist's studio. You walk up two flights of stairs, passing through James Simon's (a sculptor) work space before arriving to a very spacious room with chairs, sofas, armchairs, exposed brick, all forms of art. The podium: the most charming and idiosyncratic I've ever read from. The sound system: intimate and impeccable at once. Attendance: to capacity. It's no surprise that poets are more than willing to travel to Pittsburgh on their dime to read here. The curators, Sherrie Flick and Nancy Krygowski, are onto something truly special and I'm grateful to have been a part of it. To get a much better sense of what I'm talking about, here is a great article, with photos (when Terrance Hayes read) about the Gist Street reading series. I was joined by New York-based poet, Scott Hightower, and Pittsburgh poet, Deborah Bogen.

Today, I taped an interview for Prosody, a Pittsburgh-based show on contemporary literature that airs on Tuesdays from 7 - 7:30 PM on WYEP 91.3 FM, hosted and produced by the poet Jan Beatty and fiction writer Ellen Wadey. It will likely air sometime in the Fall and will be podcast and then archived, which means that anyone, anywhere, with a computer and internet will be able to listen to it. I read three "post-book" poems of mine from The Wind Shifts, and then read a poem each by Eduardo C. Corral, Lidia Torres, Steven Cordova, and Maria Meléndez, respectively--also from The Wind Shifts. I'll be sure to alert readers of this blog when it airs.



After the reading last night, I had dinner with two individuals I had the pleasure of meeting and breaking bread with in Chicago last winter: Henry Reese and artist Diane Samuels. Henry and Diane are behind the Pittsburgh chapter of Cities of Asylum, whose mission is as succinct as it is compelling:

"providing refuge for persecuted writers"

Last February Pittsburgh's Cities of Asylum program welcomed Salvadoran novelist, Horacio Castellanos Moya. Their passion for COA is both inspiring and contagious. In this sense, where Letras Latinas is concerned, both Reese and Samuels are role models. It's an idea I hope to expand on as this weblog continues.

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