Tag Archives: collaboration

“Tomorrow Jams More” Nuyorican Recap

3 Apr

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When RA Araya puts on an event, you want to be there. He’s the glue. He’s the person pulling creative types from various artistic backgrounds and bringing them together for events that are so full of joyous community spirit and memorable work. The result is that he creates once-in-a-lifetime events — no two are the same! — that leave you energized and inspired. You’ll also probably leave with a new friend or two.

I call RA my Allen Ginsberg. Like the Beat poet, RA is a poet who works tirelessly on behalf of other poets and writers. He gave me my first ever reading for Burning Furiously Beautifuland I owe much of the opportunities I’ve had to read in New York City to him.

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This past Saturday, RA organized fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More” plus open mic and Katie Henry Band at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

flash-back-puppy (fbp) and the Katie Henry Band rocked the room. It was a total jam session. The two bands merged and morphed and picked up new musicians along the way and exchanged instruments at various points:::

Chris Barrera was on vocals and guitar; RA Araya on harmonica; Ciro Visconti II on lead guitar; Jonathan Toscano bass; Misia Vessio on drums and vocals; Rick Villa on timbales, congas, and bongos; Jonathan Fritz on guitar; Katie Henry on piano, guitar, and vocals; Antar Goodwin on bass; Adrian Norpel on guitar; Pablo O’Connell of the DSA on oboe. They created something beautiful separately and together.

 

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As the band jammed, readers took to the mic.

I was the first reader up! RA had specially requested that I read Homer in his original Ancient Greek (well, technically, Homeric Greek), so I read the opening of The Odyssey. Moving from the ancient Greek bard to another intrepid traveling poet, I then read from the Kerouac biography I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr. I closed my set with the debut of a poem I recently wrote having to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.

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photo of me by Sue J. Chang

Ronnie Norpel read a riveting section from her novel Baseball Karma & the Constitution Blues! I don’t want to spoil it but buy her book! Later, she came back and did some comedy. Ronnie is also the host of one of my favorite reading series: Tract 187 Culture Clatch. Held at The West End, the reading series often has a theme. I read a while back at the We’re All Kerouacky reading she organized. This month it’s baseball. Ronnie is amazing. She is a genuine soul who makes you feel instantly connected and included. My hope is that she writes a memoir next!

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Lama John Heaviside performed poetry. This was the first time I’d heard his poetry, and now I’m eager to hear more! His poetry had grit and power. He knew how to work the audience.

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Beatrice Pelliccia performed in Italian and English. Half the time I didn’t know what she was saying (the Italian half, of course!), and yet I was still so absorbed in her performance. She brings a real passion to her work.

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There were also several poets not on the program who ventured to the open mic. I loved, loved, loved listening to them read.

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Adrian Norpel

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Antar Goodwin

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The Katie Henry Band was phenomenal. Katie Henry’s vocals are powerful, taking you on a journey as you listen. You can listen to her here. Hailing from Vernon, New Jersey, Katie “discovered” Eric Clapton when she was six years old. Today, she is a regular on the tour circuit on the East Coast.

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Thanks to all who read, performed, cheered, and chatted!

 

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fbp’s “Tomorrow Jams More”

30 Mar
#fbp’s ‘Tomorrow Jams More’ plus #OpenMic and #KatieHenryBand 
Nuyorican
SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2018
4PM-7PM
#NuyoricanPoetsCafe (236 East 3rd St., New York, NY)
$15 door
See more info here.
Featuring:::
#ChrisBarrera vocals guitar songwriting 
Ciro Visconti II lead guitar
Jonathan Toscano bass
#KatieHenry vocals piano songwriting
Misia Vessio drums vocals
Jani Rose and sons poetry guitar vocals
Camille Schmoeker interpretive dance
Lorena Mnemosyne Cabrera belly dance
Rick Villa timbales
Angel Segarra congas
Elena Ridolfi vocals and social-media
Beatrice Pelliccia theatre and social-media
Lama John Heaviside poetry
Dana Steer theatre
Michael Oakes theatre
Elizabeth Botti opera
Stephanie Nikolopoulos reads #Homer in #AncientGreek and her original work
Virdell Williams opera and gospel
#JonathanFritz guitar
#AntarGoodwin bass
#AntoineAlvear keyboards 🎹
Adrian Norpel guitar
Ronnie Norpel comedy, theatre
RÁ #poetry #theatre harmonica tabla vocals

We’ll open with a jam of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and end with Chris Barrera sing-along jam of The Kinks’ live “Lola”

In between with the original songwriting of Chris Barrera, RÁ Araya’s new concept experimental script musical…. And other special guests yet to be confirmed

Produced by #flashbackpuppy #fbp #ElectricCupidund the one chord wonders

#Loisaida #LowerEastSide #Manhattan #NYC

https://www.nuyorican.org/event/1645891-ra-araya-s-music-poetry-new-york/

 

Sophfronia Scott on Writing About a Generation

26 Aug

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I had the opportunity to interview Sophfronia Scott for the Festival of Women Writers. She is the queen of outlining, and her discipline makes me realize how structure can actually free up creativity. Sophfronia’s first big publication was writing about Generation X for Time Magazine. Since I am interested in the notion of categorizing people and literature by generations — the Beat Generation! — I was excited to ask her about her role in speaking for a generation.

Here is a snippet from our Q&A:

Nikolopoulos: While at Time Magazine, you and David Gross collaborated on the story “Twentysomething,” about Generation X. From the Lost Generation to the Beat Generation, and from Generation X to Generation Y, society tries to label groups of people based on when they were born and their shared historical and cultural experiences. As a writer, in what ways do you see yourself speaking for your generation?

Scott: The point of the Time Magazine story was that our generation, having observed and taken in the issues of the previous generation, seemed to be proceeding with our lives in a very thoughtful, observant manner. As a writer I tend to pursue my projects in similar fashion. Yes, I want to tell a good story or write an engaging essay but I’m also conscious of the fact that the story or essay has a deeper meaning. The story or essay interests me for a reason—I know I’m trying to say something important even if I don’t know right away what it is. The novel I recently completed explores sexuality, love, identity, and faith and when you read it you may find it challenging to what you believe about these things. In the big picture my writing, I hope, on some level will always leave you questioning who you are, what you believe, what your life is, in a style that will move you in positive ways.

If you missed it, I also did a Q&A with fellow Festival instructor Esther Cohen.

And, Breena Clarke interview me for a Q&A.

Poet Esther Cohen on Collaboration

19 Aug

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I had the opportunity to interview poet Esther Cohen for the Festival of Women Writers. She is an amazing talent, and I learn so much just from listening to the types of questions she asks. As someone who has studied writers in collaboration, I was particularly interested to ask Esther about her collaborative projects.

Here’s a snippet from our Q&A:

Nikolopoulos: You’ve done several collaborative projects. For your book Unseen America, you gave cameras to the working class so that they could document their lives and you helped tell their stories. For Don’t Mind Me: And Other Jewish Lies, you worked New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chas. For Painting Brooklyn Stories, you contributed bio-poems to Nina Talbot’s portraits. What is it about collaboration that appeals to you? 
 
Cohen: Yes I have done many collaborative projects, all my life. I’ve written poems with visual arts like the wonderful Nina Talbot, I was lucky enough to collaborate with amazing cartoonist Roz Chast, and I’ve been doing an ongoing project for many years with my favorite photographer Matthew Septimus (our work is on the ON BEING blog on the NPR site at http://bit.ly/1Mb5MZa.) Other people often bring our own work Somewhere Else. Matthew’s pictures, for instance, take my words into another place, a place they want to go.

You can read the rest of the Festival of Women Writers blog.

And just in case you missed it, here’s the interview novelist and Festival co-founder Breena Clarke did with me.

A Collage of Art and Literature at the Guggenheim

14 Aug
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Carol Bove, Vague Pure Affection, 2012, wood and steel shelves, paper, brass, concrete, and acrylic, 85″ x 35 1/2″ x 16″. © Carol Bove, photo courtesy Maccarone Inc., New York
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an artist. So I became a writer. At Scripps College, I majored in English literature and minored in studio art. I wrote my thesis on the influence the Abstract Expressionist painters had the Beat Generation. At The New School, I studied the collaboration between the poets and painters of the New York School, which also touched on a lesser extent on the Beats. Next month, at the Festival of Women Writers in the Catskills, I will be teaching a writing class called Cut-Ups, Jazz-Poetry, and Picture Poems: Writing Under the Influence of the Beat Generation.
 
So you can imagine how excited I am about the Storylines exhibit at the Guggenheim. Robert Anthony Siegel did a provocative write-up on it in The Paris Review.
 
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You can pick up your copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” here.

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.

Clip: One Subject Many Ways: The Sunflower

6 Aug

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I’m currently enjoying art critic Martin Gayford‘s The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles. Published in 2009 by Hachette, the well-researched book tells the story of how the artists ended up living in a house together in the south of France and how their time together influenced their work. It’s a great read for anyone interested in artists’ collaborations.

Both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted sunflowers, but today we remember van Gogh’s still lifes better. It got me thinking about how even though van Gogh’s name seems synonymous with sunflowers, so many other artists throughout history have also painted this captivating flower.

Read more and see painting selections at Burnside Writers Collective.

Clip: Trading Text for Visuals: Poets As Visual Artists

25 Apr

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I had a really fun time putting together an article for Burnside about poets who are also visual artists. From the time I was a little child, I have been drawn to both the literary and visual arts worlds. Even in undergrad these two loves of mine co-mingled, as I majored in English and minored in studio art. My undergrad thesis looked at the relationship between writers and artists in New York in the ’40s and ’50s. It didn’t end there. While obtaining my MFA in creative writing, I took a poetry class on the collaborations of the poets and artists of the New York School. My article touches on some of the poets I’ve studied over the years, with of course a focus on the people commonly associated with the Beat Generation, but I pushed myself to find other examples as well.

Our cannons are so steeped in “dead white males” that it was important to me in stretching my knowledge to seek out poet-artists who did not play into that categorization. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Bishop painted.  Two years ago it was the hundred-year anniversary of the former Poet Laureate of the United States’ birth, so there were many readings and events to honor her work. Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she was a painter. Maybe it’s because she herself did not take it all that seriously, as I point out in my article. I happen to think they’re delightful, though.

A contemporary poet-painter I am quite interested in researching more about is Babi Badalov. As my article touches on, he mixes languages in his works, a result of having moved a lot between cultures to avoid persecution for his controversial visual poetry. As a writer, language is something I hold dear. My vocabulary is a key to who I am: the words I’ve picked up come from my mother’s midwestern phrasing and my father’s Greek tongue as well as the vernacular of northern New Jersey and the jargon of the institutes of higher learning I attended. I’ve found the preservation of endangered languages so critical because language is about identity. The idea that a poet has no language and has many languages intrigues me. When does Badalov express himself in his native Azerbaijani language and when in Russian? Is his use of English a political act?

In my exploration of the Beats as visual artists, I could have easily waxed on and on. In fact, I did not go into any detail about Jack Kerouac’s artwork, even though he has been the subject of much of my studies. If this is something you’re interested in, leave a note in the comment section below, and I’ll write something up on this. What I did try to do for the Burnside article, though, was show that the Beats were following a rich tradition that came long before them. I point to William Blake and the Chinese and Japanese calligraphers as forerunners and influencers on the work of Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Whalen, for example.

My article was limited to just a few examples, a small taste of the artwork of poets. I’d love to hear who you think should be added to the list. Maybe I’ll make a part II!

Clip: Paintings in Praise of Poets

10 Apr

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Back when I was in undergrad at Scripps, my thesis involved the relationship between poets and painters. Later, at grad school at The New School, I continued to study the way visual and literary artists influenced each other other and collaborated with one another. It’s endlessly fascinating and much more broad than the time periods of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s that I tend to focus on. Burnside Writers Collective just published a survey I did that shows painters honoring poets throughout the ages called “Painters in Praise of Poets.”

Clip: Art to See Across the Country This New Year

11 Jan

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A Word Made Flesh…Throat, by Lesley Dill (1994). Gift of Stanley Freehling. via the Art Institute of Chicago

Burnside Writers Collective published my roundup of art exhibits to see across the country at the start of this new year. The list emphasizes shows that touch on themes that will challenge your worldview.

What did I miss?