There've been maybe half a dozen poetry readings that had an impact on me. I had a nonfiction piece---unpublished, lost---about the one time I heard Paz. It was at the legendary Residencia de Estudiantes in the early 90s. And the five minutes or so I had with him at a private reception afterwards. This was before the Nobel.
Also in the early 90s, and also before his Nobel: Heaney at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, as well, in the Hall of Columns---an intimate gathering of about thirty, with very good Spanish translations.
Albertí in 1987---walking with two canes to get to the front table at the Instituto Internacional on Miguel Angel.
This side of the Atlantic: Cardenal, the only time, in 1983, when I played hooky as a high schooler to hear him in Wheeler Auditorium on the Berkeley campus. He was Ministro de Cultura of Nicaragua.
I may have been at Duncan's last reading----at UC Berkeley in Wheeler on the third floor in the Maude Fife Room. Around 1985. Like Albertí, he sat behind a table, and read about three or four poems in the hour he spent speaking.
And then there was Sekou.
Doug Brown urged me to take BART across the bay to meet him downtown so we could hop a streetcar out to State to see a poet I'd never heard of before. I'd only been to the Poetry Center once.
To this day, I don't think I've ever seen a word of his on the page. My perhaps inaccurate (unfair?) impression is that he is not as known for what I'll call, here, "page work." But hearing him that afternoon in the mid eighties, hearing the sounds his mouth made, brought home, like no reading since, how crucial and key the human voice is in this art.
remembering Sekou Sundiata
PALABRA PURA dispatch forthcoming