Archive | July, 2013

Photos from the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival

31 Jul

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I feel incredibly honored to have been invited to read at the 2013 New York City Poetry Festival. I had such a blast hearing so many great poets read at last year’s festival, and it never occurred to me that just a year later I would be joining them on stage. I have poet RA Araya to thank for continually supporting my writing. He invited me to read Homer in the ancient Homeric Greek and from the literary biography I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr. entitled Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” so I read two road trip pieces.

For my Homer selection, I chose the opening passage from The Odyssey. Growing up in the Peloponnesus, my father had to memorize part of the epic poem in school. To this day, he still can recite the lines! I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College (while a student at Scripps), which is different than Homeric Greek. We never really read aloud in class because it’s a “dead” language, one that is no longer spoken but read by scholars. There are debates about how ancient Greek dialects were spoken, as the pronunciation is, according to some scholars, different than modern Greek. I am therefore definitely not adept at reading in the ancient tongue, but if someone asks me to read something specific, I do my best. Fortunately, there are many great English translations of The Odyssey out there too!

It was a no brainer to choose one of the passages about poetry from Burning Furiously Beautiful. In telling the story of the making of the novel On the Road, it was important that the literary biography also explored Kerouac’s poetry and his friendship with other poets. Although he is mainly remembered as a novelist, Kerouac wrote poetry throughout his life, including the period when he was on the road. There’s a really strong section in the book about how Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg influenced each other’s writing, and I wanted to read that, but in the end I found a passage in Burning Furiously Beautiful that seemed to better encapsulate the mood of the Poetry Festival. In the passage, Kerouac has been walking along the highway, hitchhiking, and finds himself composing a poem about everything he sees around him. It reminded me of how out on Governors Island we were all a bunch of writers lofting in the grass and translating the world around us into poetic language.

I read directly after RA, who opened up the event with his famously short-but-sweet poem, and then came Hillary Keel, Sarah Sarai, Carmen Bardeguez-Brown, Kate Levin, Carlos Manuel Rivera, Sparrow, Bonafide Rojas, and Keith Roach. They were amazing! Seriously. Hilary read in German and a couple of the other poets read in Spanish, and I suspect our reading—under the name Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry—was the most linguistically diverse at the Festival. I had traveled over the Governors Island with Kate, and I think this was her best reading yet. In addition to poetry about Manhattan and our value as people, she read from her punk novel, which I would’ve thought was a poem if she hadn’t said otherwise. I always enjoy hearing Sarah read, and in particular enjoyed her poem about meeting an angel at a bus stop. The poet who had me in stitches, though, was Sparrow. I’d heard him sing at RA’s birthday party last year, and I loved hearing his one-liner poems this time around.

Special thanks too to our stage manager Liz von Klemperer, who did an excellent job. There were a lot of volunteers who kept the entire event running smoothly. The New York City Poetry Festival is put on by The Poetry Society of New York and is organized by Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski. For the full lineup of the two-day event, check out NYCPF 2013.

I also want to thank my family and friends who trekked out to the island—some coming from as far as Jersey and Brooklyn—to support my reading. The photos here were taken by Leslie Marks, except the last one which is a self portrait. For more photos of me and all the other amazing poets, check out asterix611’s flickr.

I Am One in 20 Million

30 Jul

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I just read in Shelf Awareness that Goodreads has reached 20 million readers. While that number itself is impressive, even more astonishing is the fact that in this past year alone they had doubled their numbers.

I joined Goodreads a while back after someone at a Mediabistro party raved about it as a great way to find out about books and connect with others in the publishing industry. What I like about Goodreads more than reading other people’s reviews is connecting with people who have like-minded literary interests. There are groups for people interested in the Beat Generation and for those interested in travel literature, and, although I’ll admit I don’t check in too frequently (so many social media sites, so little time…), I do enjoy connecting with readers and authors on the message boards.

I also have an author’s page up, where readers can find and review the books I’ve written or contributed to. It’s been encouraging to see people put one of the books I’m working on on their to-read list even before the book has been published! It motivates me to make the book worth their time.

If you’re on Goodreads, will you please add my book to your to-read list? Also, if you’re an author, let me know in the comments below how I can find your book to add to my to-read list.

The Quotable Greek: All Paid Jobs

29 Jul

All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.

~ Aristotle

Friday Links: Homer and Kerouac

26 Jul

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Happy Friday! Any exciting plans for the weekend? I’ll be at the New York City Poetry Festival. Poet RA Araya invited me to read as part of the line up for Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry happening on Saturday at 11:40 at the Algonquin stage on Governor’s Island. If you want to come, take the first ferry out of Battery Park. It’s free! The ferry’s free, the poetry reading is free. If it’s anything like last year, you can envision yourself lofting in the grass and losing yourself to the Siren-pull of beautiful words. Speaking of Sirens, I’ll be reading from The Odyssey in its original Homeric Greek (help!) and from the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

In light of this, here are a few Friday links on the topic.

Literary Elitism vs. Populism (Is Homer much better than Kerouac?)

The New Yorker rejects Homer and Kerouac

Paul Maher Jr.’s Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road”

“Like Odysseus in Homer’s poems, Kerouac in The Duluoz Legend is a restless adventurer that embarks on an epic journey — an Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer in modern guise,” writes LewRockwell.com

“Dean Moriarty was the Odysseus of Tennyson not Homer, sailing away again from his island-kingdom not because he loved his family less, but because he loved more the drumbeat of heroic adventure in his breast,” writes HistoryJournal.org

Steve McCurry looks at Travelers’ Tales

“[T]he Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer has persisted down to modern times in works as diverse as James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain,” and even in the film “O Brother, Where Art Though?” in 2000,” writes Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Everything since the Greeks has been predicted wrong, he says, because geometrical systems of thinking are fundamentally flawed. On the Road, then, is not just a travel memoir, a series of successive “kicks” from travel and all its accompaniments; it is Kerouac’s aesthetic manifesto that he sets up in opposition to the dominant idea of beauty-as-geometrical-harmony. This is why On the Road arrives out of nowhere and goes nowhere. That is why if you look for structure, for symmetry, for a narrative with a categorical beginning, a clear ending and internal consistency throughout, you will be disappointed,” writes anenduringromantic

“I listened to Snyder attentively. I wanted to understand more. In preparing to write the nonfiction saga of our long walk across Turtle Island –  Odyssey of the 8th Fire – I’d been informed by books telling of our human journey: Homer’s Odyssey, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways,  Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Paolo Cohelo’sThe Pilgrimage. Inevitably, Kerouac’s On the Road also touched me with its entraining cross-America accounts of reaching outward, inward, downward, upward,” writes Steven McFadden

 

 

Clip: The Engagement Room

25 Jul

Rain2Random International. Rain Room. 2012. Photo via

Have you heard about the Rain Room at MoMA? I read a really sweet story about it the other day and blogged about it for Burnside. You can read it here.

Clip: New Abstraction News

24 Jul

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Back in 2008, I had the fun experience of doing PR for Lesny JN Felix‘s art exhibit at Gallery Bar down on the Lower East Side. I got to see his paintings, wrote up his press release, and helped him with set up for the opening reception. We also attended other artists’ shows and had a lot of conversations about the art world. I was thrilled when he asked me to write the catalog copy for his upcoming new exhibition.

Painter Lesny JN Felix is starting his own one-person school of art: the New Abstraction News. The Haitian’s show Instant Identification will debut at the Lower East Side’s pop-up gallery 215 Bowery (215 Bowery St., Manhattan) on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, with a free opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be one hour of hands-on silkscreen making.

The exhibition includes a collaborative painting with artist Rick Wray that emphasizes JN Felix’s unique New Abstraction News style and, in contrast with Wray’s style, explores the diversity found within abstract art. Fans and collectors will have the opportunity to meet both artists.

Since JN Felix’s last major show in New York, his work has matured into more complex abstractions. Read more here.

In the catalog copy itself, I explore how JN Felix works in a similar method as Jack Kerouac and how he is different than the abstract expressionists of the 1940s and ’50s. You can pick up a copy of the catalog at the show. Hope to see you there! It’s going to be a lot of fun!

The Quotable Greek: No Matter How Slow

22 Jul

Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress,

no matter how slow.

~ Plato

Clip: A Time to Embrace … Or Not

19 Jul

Forgot to mention that Burnside published two of my art posts:

A Time to Embrace

A Time to Refrain from Embracing

 

In case you missed them:

A Time to Gather Stones

A Time to Scatter Stones

A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn

A Time to Laugh

A Time to Weep

A Time to Build

A Time to Tear Down

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

 

Should Women Dismiss Beat Literature?

18 Jul

 

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Google+ was all the talk at BEA this year and last. I’ve been on the social media platform for a while now, but just the other day decided to see how it compares with Facebook for finding the latest conversations on the Beat Generation. I did a keyword search and immediately found an article that was right up my alley: “The Feminist Backlash Against the Beat Generation.”
Kimberly J. Bright writes for Dangerous Minds about her experience viewing the now legendary scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and having another person there remark in surprise that she was there of her own volition. Bright writes:
Their teacher asked me a question about the scroll, obviously assuming that I was a museum employee. When I explained that I was just a visitor, she apologized and said, “But I didn’t think women read Kerouac.”
That was news to me.
The backlash against the Beats in general, and Kerouac in particular, is becoming more evident and is mostly coming from Feminists.
Oh, how I could relate—which Bright noted, referencing my apparently controversial Millions article. Just like Bright, I never knew some works of literature were supposedly for men and others were for women. How silly of me to not realize there was an entire list of writers whom I should ban without reading them to decide for myself or that I should dismiss the literary and cultural merits of a highly innovative and influential body of literature just because certain aspects of it might offend my sensibilities.
I attended a women’s college, where we read a wide breadth of literature and learned to think critically about works—literature that included Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Isaac Asimov, Kathy Acker, comic books, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Richardson, and Jane Austen. In my MFA program, we specifically discussed the distinction between the author and the work as well as the literary merit versus our individual preferences.
Bright went on to write:
Personally if I purged my bookshelves, real and virtual, of all the alcoholics and misanthropes – let alone all the manic-depressives, opium addicts, suicides, eccentric asexuals, adulterers and misogynists – I would hardly have any books left.
It seems a bit hypocritical, to me, for people to lambast the Beats while still reading other authors whose personal lives and even the content of their work are not any less controversial. This summer everyone rushed out to watch The Great Gatsby, read or reread the novel, and plan their weddings around the theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story that placed women as secondary characters, kills off one of the women, glorifies a criminal, includes affairs, and exalts illegal substances. It should also be noted that Fitzgerald is widely known to have plagiarized his wife’s work for some of his own books. If we’re dismissing authors on so-called moral grounds, perhaps we should then also dismiss:
  • Miguel de Cervantes (prison time after the money he collected as a tax collector went missing)
  • Paul Verlaine (prison time after shooting Rimbaud)
  • O. Henry (prison time for embezzlement)
  • Jean Genet (prison time for lewd acts)
  • Leo Tolstoy (secretly abandoned his wife in the middle of the night)
Of course, choosing whose work is “worth” reading becomes problematic because whose morals must we go by? Furthermore, which attributes of a person are more or less important when deciding whether we should read their literature? Should we praise Betty Friedan’s entire body of work because she is pro-choice? Should we dismiss her entire body of work because she did not further lesbian politics? Or vice versa? Should we dismiss her altogether? What about Bill Clinton? Should we not read the former president’s books because he cheated on his wife? Because he wielded his position of power over a twenty-two-year-old intern? Should we dismiss Jack Kerouac’s work because of the way he treated his daughter? Should we praise his work because of the way he treated his mother?
I don’t mean to make light of any of these issues or to excuse anyone from anything. My point is simply that we need to take a closer look as to why we excuse some authors but not others. Why have the writers who have been marketed together as the Beat Generation been targeted while others get a free pass?
And why don’t those so-called feminists who target the so-called Beats acknowledge the many women writers associated with the generation? Here were women who faced tougher socio-political times than we do today who got their own apartments, who studied at well-known undergrads and went on to work toward their MAs, who didn’t just sit around cooking dinner for their husbands but created works of their own. Should we forget their body of work or negatively lump it into a category we don’t read because of their associations?

Strawberry-rubarb Bread and Books

17 Jul

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Came in to the publishing house and discovered my coworker had made a delicious strawberry-rhubarb bread. I love mornings of delicious pastries, hot coffee, and books!

How do you like to start off your day?

You may also enjoy these other strawberry breakfast posts:::

French toast at Supper

Fage yogurt with strawberries and bananas