Yesterday, I knew I had truly returned to New York City. It was cold. The trains were not running–turns out some guy who stole a cell phone was hit by an F Train (served him right) and I got home to an email telling me NO, you are not getting that Fellowship that you’ve applied for a gazillion times. Aah, but from last Wednesday to Sunday morning of week before I was in L.A. and I had a ball.
The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley had a party first day in Echo Park, a charming enclave with actual Victorian houses–some beautifully dressed up and appointed, others falling down, drunken ruins of buildings. Aah. The poets, writers, artists who gathered were charming and lively-the food delicious and I won a bottle of wine for coming the furthest (from Brooklyn) to this party. Thanks Brett Hall Jones, et al. I so look forward to serving as one of the staff poets with Kazim Ali who was there and Sharon Olds, Cathy Park Hong, Juan Felipe Herrera and Bob Hass, the director this June. I went to Squaw, 3 times during the 1990s and many of my best poems started there. To return as a teacher is really a blessing–I think Galway Kinnell is smiling about this.
AWP was held in the Convention Center and well I hung out in the Book fair and ran into good people I don’t get to see like Prageeta Sharma and people I see often like Reggie Harris. There were many major conversations about poets who are going through difficult times and how the community is poorly dealing with all the mess of it. Sad. Poets House presented a spectacular program on poetry and protest with Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Luis Javier Rodriguez and Naomi Shahib Nye. There was a lot of candy at many of booths and tables (I took as much chocolate as I could really take). I saw a good friend whom I need to reconcile with and we did. L. A. was good for that kind of thing.
I read with Black Earth Institute Fellows: Lauren Camp, Taylor Broby, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Marcella Durand (woo hoo) and Melissa Tuckey at this weird bookstore on Sunset Blvd. Getting there including getting the Uber driver to find us on Figuroa in front of the Convention Center–there are different kinds of blindness in L.A. and many one way streets.
I moderated Out of L.A.: A Tribute for Jayne Cortez that was organized by Laura Hinton who has done some serious scholarship on Cortez’ life in LA. as a young woman. Aldon Nielsen, Jennifer D. Ryan-Bright and Pam Ward were the other panelists and they all contributed deep understanding and knowledge about Cortez’ development, but it was Mel Edwards who flew into the L.A. to attend the panel who pointed out that Cortez was NOT a member of the Watts Writers Workshop which was started post the riots of 1965 and enhanced info about the artistic scene that Cortez was a significant member of. Love, courage and freedom–those are the words I think of when I think of Jayne and she is deeply missed. Latasha Diggs is organizing several programs in Cortez honor that will take place in New York City this April.
What I loved the most was moving about downtown–the roundabout way to get to the Double Tree Hotel to meet a filmmaker doing interviews with poets for an upcoming documentary and seeing a Hindu wedding procession at it’s start; looking at the stream of L.A. Kings fans in their sports gear; a handsome man (designer/carpenter/gorgeous guy) talking with clients/friends outside a beautiful Japanese restaurant; martinis with my one my best male friends at the pretty Noe’s bar at Omni California Plaza; bouganvilla on the side of massively ugly buildings; kissing a man I care about; running into a poet I’ve not seen since my first visit to Squaw. In weather warm enough for daytime roaming, but too cool for nighttime hanging w/out serious sweaters, clear skies, and massive billboards with moving parts trans human–Blade Runner with out the murkiness. Northern California was indeed cold and damp at night, but Southern California was simply cold.
I sold out my book, A Lucent Fire: New & Selected at the White Pine Table. I bought books by dear friends and new ones. And best of all I kept running into Patricia Jabbeh Wesley who is the most exuberant poet/scholar ever. You must read/hear her.
VIDA table. Melissa Studdard, Patricia J. Wesley
VCFA’s Table-everyone was great
Myra Shapiro bought my last book at White Pine Press Table
Black women make beautiful poets: E. Hunt, H. Mullen, T. Foster & E. J. Antonio
Crystal Williams & Matthew Shenoda in red lobby light
So many dear friends new friends so many poets and artists and writers and dreamers and hustlers and then at 5:30 or so on Saturday the EXODUS out of the Center began–I was waiting for a parting of the escalators.