Archive | June, 2015

Pictures from Allen Ginsberg’s Birthday Party at Poet House

18 Jun
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Allen Ginsberg would’ve turned 89 years old on June 3. The author of one of the most important poems of the twentieth century, “Howl,” Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey. While studying at the prestigious Columbia University, he met fellow student Lucien Carr, who introduced him to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burrough. It was the birth of the Beat Generation. Okay, we all know “Beat Generation” is just a convenient label for categorizing poets and novelists and letter writers and friends and fellow artists. Ginsberg is more than a so-called Beat poet. He touched so many people’s lives and influenced diverse thinkers and creators. Eighteen years past his death, he’s still making headlines. Most recently, a teacher was fired after reading one of Ginsberg’s poems to a class. It makes sense then that friends and people who have been inspired by Ginsberg still come together to celebrate his birthday.
And that’s just what happened on June 3 at Poets House. To celebrate the publication of The Essential Ginsberg, its editor Michael Schumacher presided over a fantastic night of poetry and performance featuring Lee Ann BrownEliot KatzAmy LawlessDawn Lundy MartinRyan Doyle MaySharon MesmerEileen MylesUche NdukaBob RosenthalSteven Taylor, and surprise guest Anne Waldman.
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Grillin’ Like a Villain: Sriracha BBQed Cauliflower

16 Jun

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BBQs can be the pits when you’re a vegetarian. Everyone scarfs down hot dogs and hamburgers, while you’re left with an ear of corn on the cob which you can’t possibly eat in a civilized manner in public and a heap of potato salad that’s been dangerously sitting out in the sun for too many hours.

When my friends at Christ Resurrection Church invited me to a BBQ, I decided to step up my game. Inspired by the buffalo cauliflower recipes I’d seen on pinterest, I came up with my own finger-lickin’ recipe: Sriracha BBQed Cauliflower.

The result?

I literally overheard someone refer to my sriracha bbqed cauliflower as “insane.”

Yeahhhhhh, it had quite a kick to it thanks to the sriracha sauce.

If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a mini lesson on what sriracha is: The legend is so mysterious that no one knows its exact origins, but the hot sauce takes its name from a city by the sea of eastern Thailand called Si Racha, where it is believed to have been concocted in the 1930s. A thick red paste, sriracha is made from chili peppers, garlic, distilled vinegar, as well as sugar and salt. Here in the states, it’s sometimes referred to as “cock sauce” because of the rooster on the bottle distributed by Huy Fong Foods.

My quick-and-easy recipe is essentially a whole lot of sriracha dumped all over a head of cauliflower:

  • wash the head of cauliflower
  • chop off the leaves and stem of the cauliflower
  • chop up the cauliflower into “florets,” those little tree-like nubs you often see on crudite platters
  • dump the cauliflower florets into a large bowl (if you don’t have a large bowl a large pot will also work)
  • next, chop up an entire onion and put the diced onion into the large bowl with the cauliflower
  • open a can of garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drain the water, put the garbanzo beans/chickpeas into the bowl with the cauliflower and onions
  • now comes the fun part: drench the contents of the bowl with sriracha and add soy sauce and garlic powder. I cook a bit like Jackson Pollock paints; I toss the ingredients together til I’m satisfied. I don’t have exact measurements for any of these, but you want the main ingredient to be the sriracha, and you want to make sure the food is evenly coated. It would’ve made sense to stir the sriracha, soy sauce, and garlic powder in a bowl ahead of time so they become a unified mixture, but I don’t have a dishwasher and didn’t want to wash another dish so I just made sure to mix and roll everything around real good in the bowl.
  • next, place a long sheet of tin foil horizontally over a plate or bowl (press it down to the bottom) and then a long sheet of tin foil vertically over the first piece of tin foil so it creates a cross shape (this is so that you have a tough and secure grill packet that you can move onto the bbq)
  • once the cauliflower, onions, and garbanzo beans/chickpeas are evenly coated, pour it onto the tinfoil and wrap it up. i let it marinade in the fridge overnight
  • when it comes time to bbq, put the entire tinfoil packet of food onto the grill. keeping an eye on it, let it grill to your desired level
  • you can serve it right out of the tinfoil packet!

The prep time for this under half an hour; the grilling is also under half an hour. The ingredients can all be eaten raw so don’t worry about having to cook it for any certain length of time.

This is a super budget-friendly BBQ recipe for starving artists. To get more bang for your buck, buy the garbanzo beans/chickpeas dried and soak them overnight instead of buying the canned version.

The Sriracha BBQed Cauliflower works as a main course or as a side. It goes great with black bean burgers.

Hashtag? #notyourgrannyspotluck

Video from David Amram & Co.’s Inspiring Show at Cornelia Street Cafe

15 Jun
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Every time I go to hear David Amram & Co. perform, I am blown away and walk away inspired to be more creative and to live life more fully. This month with no different.
 
On Monday, June 1, I brought my friend who was visiting from Brazil to Cornelia Street Café to hear David Amram perform with Kevin Twigg (drum, glockenspiel), Rene Hart (bass), Elliot Peper (bongos), and special guest Robbie Winterhawk on congas. They played all the literary-inspired classics, from Arthur Miller’s After the Fall to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady’s Pull My Daisy.
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Between songs, David Amram told stories of how he came to learn to play the hulusi, a Chinese flute made of bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd wind chest; how he met Woody Guthrie (“There was Woody sitting in this little kitchen….” in an apartment between Avenue C and D in New York City); to the fact that Pull My Daisy was written in an exquisite-corpse fashion (“People would come into town and add lines”). The stories behind the songs are themselves sweet melody to a life of passion, dedication, and originality.
 
David Amram uses his platform to inspire people both on and off the stage. He encourages the crowd with words of wisdom:
 
“Every day is an experience. Every day is an adventure.”
 
“Pay attention to anybody and everybody, and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.”
 
He invites people up to the stage to perform him. 
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People like Frank Messina, who is known as “the Mets poet.” He told a story about playing baseball with some of the legends of baseball while growing up in Norwood, New Jersey. It was so fun to hear because I grew up a few towns over from him and lived across the street from a Yankees player! Messina’s handwritten journal of 9/11 poetry is in the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
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And people like Mike Shannon, an actor, who read Kerouac’s “Children of the Bop Night.”
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I happened to have incidentally sat down next to one of the performers, Connie Diamandis. She turned out to be a Greek American from Lowell and that we knew some of the same people! A singer, she did an amazing rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” She also told a story about Jack Kerouac and friends coming back to Lowell and hearing the Beatles and the new music of the era and pronouncing it good “but nothing like the classics.”
 
You can find out where David Amram will next be performing here.

Shamed for Self-Publishing? Just Tell Them Walt Whitman Did It

2 Jun

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The Good Gray Poet in all his glory

Even though many successful — and I mean New York Times best-selling authors — authors have turned to self-publishing, self-publishing today still carries a certain stigma to it. Many readers think that if an author self-publishes, it means he or she failed at landing an agent or a publisher. That may be true for some authors.

However, there’s another truth.

There are some authors who self-publish and then get picked up by major publishers. There are other authors who never bother trying to place their work with so-called traditional publishers at all. Further, some authors have found critical and monetary success in traditional book publishing, and then have turned to self-publishing.

I am an editor at a book publishing house, so I’ll say that I have firsthand experience as to the many benefits of signing with a traditional publisher. That said, there are also benefits to self-publishing. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. I think it’s a matter of knowing your strengths and knowing what works best for you and for your book.

There is no shame in making the decision to self-publish. It gives you complete creative control over your words. This includes selecting the title for your book. Many first-time authors don’t realize that, though they submit their book with a title idea, the editors, marketers, and publishers at traditional publishing houses have the final say and may completely alter your title. Same goes for cover. Most authors have little, if any say, as to their cover design. As a self-publisher, you make all the decisions. You also generally have a higher profit margin, though you personally will incur the cost of hiring an editor, hiring a cover designer, hiring someone to layout your interior pages, printing the book, marketing the book, shipping the book to retailers, and so forth. There’s an incredible amount of dedication and work that goes into self-publishing. It’s not the easier route.

And if someone still shames you for self-publishing, just tell them Walt Whitman did it.

Walt Whitman self-published the seminal poetry collection Leaves of Grass in Brooklyn in 1855. Bridges and schools have been named after him. His birth home is a pilgrimage for poets.

For the 150th anniversary of the self-published book, literary critic Harold Bloom said:

If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse. You can nominate a fair number of literary works as candidates for the secular Scripture of the United States. They might include Melville’s Moby-Dick, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Emerson’s two series of Essays and The Conduct of Life. None of those, not even Emerson’s, are as central as the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

I don’t mind being in the company of Walt Whitman. Do you?

Walt Whitman Was the Original Kim Kardashian

1 Jun

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Walt Whitman himself!

If you visit the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, you’ll notice that there are a LOT of photographs of the Good Gray Poet. I don’t mean three or four distinguished portraits artfully framed and hung. I mean an entire wall is covered with various portraits of the great American poet.

The tour guides at the museum will tell you that Whitman understood the power of portraiture as a branding tool and harnessed it for all it was worth when it came to marketing his literary output. In fact, he believed his self image was even greater than his name. When he published his poetry collection Leaves of Grass in 1855 he included Samuel Hollyer’s engraving of him in work clothes and a hat [pictured above] — and didn’t even bother including his own name on his book!

With all those selfies, you might say Walt Whitman was the original Kim Kardashian!