Tag Archives: poetry

“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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Celebrate National Haiku Writing Month with Kerouac

27 Feb

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Most writers know about NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month in November. But did you know that February is National Haiku Writing Month?

To celebrate NaHaikWriMo, I’ve been reading haikus by Jack Kerouac and writing a few of my own.

Interestingly, Jack Kerouac’s Book of Haikus was published in Persian before On the Road was translated.

Here are a few articles from around the blog on Kerouac and haiku:

 

My Literary Highlights of 2015

31 Jan

Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.

 

BurroughsAnne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Jan Herman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Aimee Herman read at Burroughs 101, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Anne Waldman pictured)

HettiePam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick read at Women on Top, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Hettie Jones pictured)

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Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix

brunchEpic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.

SunsetAfter Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.

Budapest1My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.

BookCafeBrunch with friends at the most exquisite bookstore, Book Cafe & Alexandra Bookstore, in Budapest.

ElenaReading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.

BEABook Expo America.

AmramDavid Amram telling stories about Jack Kerouac and other literary figures and amazing us with his music at Cornelia Street Cafe.

MisakoBrunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.

DurdenDrinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.

PoetryNew York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.

OdysseyWatched Homer’s The Odyssey performed, put on by the Public Theater, in Central Park.

Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

HobartTeaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

WritersThe Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice, a conference I co-led in organizing through the Center for Faith & Work. (Pastor David Sung pictured)

BrooklynBrooklyn Book Festival.

ReggioBrunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.

BindersFullOfWomenSpeaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.

LibraryMeeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.

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Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.

OTRSpotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Light

Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Like literature?

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.

My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.

I’m on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Road Trip: Under the Balls in Washington, DC

28 Sep
I road tripped out to DC for the weekend recently to see one of my dear friends from Scripps. She and her husband are both museum people so I always get to soak in a museum with them and learn fascinating history. It was fantastic seeing the greater DC area through their eyes, as most of my previous trips have been boringly touristy. I never realized how much I liked DC til this trip!
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 Crème Brule donuts @ Astro 
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 The Beach exhibit @ the National Building Museum
 
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Veggie tacos @ District Taco
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Like the Beat Generation reader I am, I spotted Amiri Baraka’s book in the window @ Busboys and Poets (named after Langston Hughes!)
 
My friends were the perfect hosts! We talked about our mutual love of Dateline, accosted people with adorable dogs, and confided in one another about working in the arts.  
 
I can’t wait to go back to visit them.

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.

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.

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.

It’s Walt Whitman’s 196th Birthday! …Or a Post that Includes References to President Lincoln and Bon Jovi

31 May

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Here I am in 2013 standing outside Walt Whitman’s Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center in Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in Huntington, Long Island. He’s best known for Leaves of Grass. American schoolchildren are probably most familiar with the poem “O Captain! My Captain!” from the poetry collection. Written in 1865 and not included in Leaves of Grass until the fourth edition, the poem is about the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

There’s so much more to Whitman than that, though.

Walt Whitman is a complex and endlessly fascinating figure of the American poetry scene. He is regarded as the father of free verse poetry. He was also a reporter. He wrote a temperance novel: Franklin Evans (1842). He didn’t believe that all the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually Shakespeare’s. (Hm… what would Miguel Algarin say?) He at first called for the abolition of slavery … and then later thought the movement was a threat to democracy. He’s been inducted into the Legacy Walk, which celebrates LGBT history and people. He passed away in Camden, and the Garden State claimed him in the New Jersey Hall of Fame; that same year (2009), fellow literary luminaries William Carlos Williams and F. Scott Fitzgerald were inducted in the category of “general” while Whitman was inducted in the category of “historical.” (Jon Bon Jovi was one of the inductees honored in the category “arts and entertainment.) Andrew Carnegie said Whitman was “the great poet of America so far.”

“So far.”

Has any other “great poet of America” come along who has taken Whtiman’s place? It’s difficult to say, but this week we’ll be honoring the Good Gray Poet and talking about the poets that have been inspired by him.

Yep! You guessed it. The Beats.

Christina Rossetti and Jack Kerouac Describe the Sound of the Sea

30 Apr

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As April closes out, I dream of warmer days spent reading poetry by the sea. I think of Jack Kerouac captivated by the sound of the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, the poem “Sea” he wrote about it and how his friend and fellow poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti influenced the poem.

Years earlier, Gothic poet Christina Rossetti had written that the sea sounds like moaning.

Christina Rossetti’s “By the Sea”

 Why does the sea moan evermore?
Shut out from heaven it makes its moan.
It frets against the boundary shore;
All earth’s full rivers cannot fill
The sea, that drinking thirsteth still.

Sheer miracles of loveliness
Lie hid in its unlooked-on bed:
Anemones, salt, passionless,
Blow flower-like; just enough alive
To blow and multiply and thrive.

Shells quaint with curve, or spot, or spike,
Encrusted live things argus-eyed,
All fair alike, yet all unlike,
Are born without a pang, and die
Without a pang, – and so pass by.

What does the sea sound like to you?