Tag Archives: RA Araya

Save the Date: I’m Reading at the 3rd Annual New York City Poetry Festival

9 Jul

photo-1photo of me from the 2nd Annual New York City Poetry Festival

I’ll be reading at this summer’s 3rd Annual New York City Poetry Festival!

Poet RA Araya invited me to read from Homer’s epic road trip The Odyssey in the original Homeric Greek and from my book coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” as part of Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn poetry series.

I’m SUPER excited. You may remember what a lovely time I had at last year’s New York City Poetry Festival. And that I read from the Kerouac book at Miguel Algarin’s birthday bash and read from Homer at RA’s own birthday reading last year.

Here are the details:

  • July 27, 2013
  • 11:40am
  • Algonquin stage
  • Colonel’s Row, Governor’s Island (New York, NY)
  • Free!

Hope to see you there! I’m looking forward to hearing all the other brilliant poets.

You can always check out the Appearances section on my website (tab above) for my past and upcoming readings, tours, and teaching engagements.

My Year in Review: 2012

4 Jan

What a full year 2012 was! Here’s a quick little recap:::

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In January I announced that the rumors were true. But it took the full year for it to finally look like this.

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In February I joined Pinterest to discover how it may help me as a writer and have been happily pinning ever since.

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In March my personal essay was included in the book Creating Space.

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In April I was one of the editors representing the Burnside Writers Collective at the Festival of Faith & Writing. It was so special to get to catch up with the other editors and writers, whom I just adore. I also had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop while I was there.

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Image via On the Road with Bob Holman / Rattapallax

In April I also worked to create awareness about what we lose when we lose a language. My interview with poet Bob Holman appeared in BOMBlog.

In May I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. I had a fantastic thesis advisor and a beloved peer group, who challenged me to dig deeper in my memoir about growing up Greek American. After I read a snippet at our thesis reading, an instructor I’d never even had came up to tell me how much he liked my work!

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Image via The Human Tower / Rattapallax

In June I witnessed the world record being broken for the tallest castell on a rooftop.

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In July I heard Amber Tamblyn read for The Paris Review at the Strand. Afterwards we somehow ended up on the elevator together, and I didn’t say anything to her. I never know in those situations if it’s polite to say something like “nice reading” or if the person just wants her privacy. I know she’s involved in the Beat literature community, though, so I should’ve probably talked to her about that.

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Image via The Millions

In August an article I wrote about a funny incident I had related to Jack Kerouac sparked a fiery debate and went viral, getting mentioned everywhere from The New Yorker to The Paris Review.

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Photo via RA Araya

In September I had one of the most surreal moments of my life–reading with David Amram. I got to hear him perform again, this time as an enthralled audience member, in December.

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Photo via RA Araya

That month I also read for poet Miguel Algarin‘s birthday bash.

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I also road tripped through northern and central California, visiting Cannery Row, City Lights Bookshop, The Beat Museum, and attending my college friend’s wedding.

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In October Hurricane Sandy hit New York, and I spent a lot of time in bed.

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In November I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo, but I had a lot of fun creating this ever-evolving Pinterest board for the book I never wrote.

I also gave a reading that got upstaged by a wedding proposal.

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In December there was a flurry of Jack Kerouac-related activities to promote the film adaptation of On the Road, and I got to see author Ann Charters and film director Walter Salles in person at IFC. I also got to take a writing class with screenwriter Jose Rivera at 3rd Ward.

I also went out to Lowell and got to meet Jack Kerouac’s friend and pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.

 

What were the highlights of 2012 for you?

Miguel Algarin’s Birthday Reading

4 Oct

Poet RA Araya invited me to read at poet Miguel Algarin‘s birthday bash last month at Mama’s Bar in the East Village.  It was such an honor to read for someone who has influenced so many lives.

Miguel has been a major force of influence in poetry, creating space and awareness for ethnic literature and community.  He is a Shakespeare scholar and Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  He also co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the 1970s, which is one of those sacred New York City literary scenes.

Here’s a section of Algarin’s bio from his website:

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Algarin moved with his family to New York City in the early 1950’s where his love for the written word intensified by the artistic energy radiating from the City streets. Obtaining advance degrees in literature from the University of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania State University, Algarin developed a successful career pursuing his passion for literature. He served as a Professor Emeritus for more than 30 years of service to Rutgers University where he taught Shakespeare, Creative Writing, and United States Ethnic Literature.

The life and work of Algarin spans the universities and the streets, so much so that combining the two resulted in the development of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a New York City cultural haven within the Lower East Side famed for being creatively drenched with great artistic intensity. Being the founder of such an organization, Algarin’s mission was to create a multi-cultural venue that both nurtures artists and exhibits a variety of artistic works to both enlighten and empower the underclass, it is a mission that has remained true to this day.

When I first moved back to northern New Jersey, after attending college in California, I became friends with a group of people that included many first- and second-generation Puerto Rican Americans and Colombian Americans.  It was through one of them that I first heard about the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.  Nuyorican is an amalgamation of the words “Nueva York” (Spanish for “New York”) and “Puerto Rican,” and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe championed Spanish-language poets and spoken word.  At the time, I had never been to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, but together my friends and I founded a coffeehouse in suburban New Jersey, where we invited bands, poets, and visual artists to perform.  Most of the people involved were immigrants or children of immigrants–including myself.  As the child of an immigrant father, I have always gravitated toward other immigrants and children of immigrants.  That’s why even though I myself am not Nuyorican, I in many ways relate to the issues of identity and language raised through Nuyorican poetry.

That being the case, one of the highlights of Miguel Algarin’s birthday bash reading was hearing poet Joe Pacheco, whom I had just heard read “The Night Charlie Parker Played Tenor at Montmartre Cafe in Greenwich Village” at David Amram‘s show the week prior, read his poem about the pronunciation of his name and other immigrant people’s names.  I couldn’t help but laugh when he included a Greek name!  With great humor, Pacheco pointed out how people with ethnic names are often perceived by others (“but you speak English so well!”).

Produced by Araya, the reading also included:

  • Brian Omni Dillon
  • Rome Neal
  • Charlie Vazquez
  • Ray DeJesús
  • Danny Shot
  • Jeff Wright
  • Puma Perl
  • Kymberly Brown
  • Carlos Manuel Rivera
  • Lydia Cortes
  • Noah Levin
  • Edwin Torres
  • Nancy Mercado
  • David Henderson
  • Lois Griffith
  • Adam Ash
  • Susan Yung
  • Nancy Mercado

It was really great meeting Edwin Torres, who was huge on the poetry scene when I first came back to the East Coast but has since moved out of the city, making it rarer to get to see him perform.  I enjoy his poetry so much, and he was really down to earth and easy to talk to.

Jeff Wright and I had connected through social media a while back, and it was fun to finally meeting him in person.  He even gave me a copy of Live Mag, which I was really excited about because I had gotten a chance to skim it at John Reed‘s reading at the Guerilla Lit Reading series back in July and really wanted my own copy because it contains poetry by some of my favorite living poets.

Well, I could obviously go on and on about how great everyone was, but really the night was about Miguel Algarin.  I had actually never heard him perform before, so it was awesome hearing him scat!

The last time I saw him, Miguel had told me about how he had known Jack Kerouac and was very interested in having me send a copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., to him.  The photo above, taken by Ra, is of me reading from the book for Miguel’s birthday.

Recap — with Photos! — of David Amram Reading

10 Sep

 

When musician David Amram introduced me before I read with him at Cornelia Street Cafe on September 3, 2012, he very generously said people should pay attention because one day they’d see me on television.  To me, though, reading with David Amram was a much bigger deal than being on television.  There are countless television shows, but there is only one David Amram.  While there are many fantastic musicians and writers out there whom I’d be honored to read with, there are few who hold such a special place in forming my creative identity as Amram does.

I first became acquainted with Amram through studying Jack Kerouac when I was just a teenager.  I was enamored with his improvised performance as Mezz McGillicuddy in the 1957 Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie film Pull My Daisy.  In fact, this photograph, featuring Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, who all collaborated on the film, is probably my all-time favorite photograph of the poets, writers, and artists associated with the Beat Generation.  It seems to so purely capture their friendship: just a couple of people hanging out at a cafe, maybe talking about the arts, or maybe just drinking coffee late into the night and enjoying each other’s company.

Although it was literature that introduced me to Amram, his music fascinated me.  Here was a musician who was more than just skillful.  Amram is an innovator.  He’s someone who experiments, improvises, blends genres, captivates.  He is, quite simply, mesmerizing to watch and listen to.

Through reading biographies on Kerouac and also reading Amram’s own biographies, I came to discover the jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac began doing in the Village in 1957.  These were improvised sets, requiring each to masterfully foresee and adapt to changing tempos and moods in each other’s works.  These jazz-poetry collaborations captured my imagination, challenging my view of art and the way in which it’s created, the musicality of words, and the role of collaboration, improvisation, and performance in literature.  As I read about the collaborations in musty library books, forty-some-odd years after they’d taken place, I envisioned what it must’ve been like to be in the crowd at a painter’s loft or at the Circle in the Square.  Did the people there realize they were part of history?

In 2001, I had the opportunity to ask Amram just that when I interviewed him for some research I was doing at the time.  I sat enthralled, clinging to his every word, as he told me about all the places he used to hang out at in New York, about collaborating with Kerouac, and about how the term “Beat Generation” is just a marketing term that people later attached to the individual artists who each create unique works.  As he talked, answering all of my questions and never rushing me, and later as I read another biography of  his, I realized that Amram is the real deal — a creative genius and also a beatific individual, an artist who inspires and encourages.

Amram has been someone whom I’ve long admired, both on an artistic and a personal level.  Reading about those 1957 jazz-poetry readings he did with Jack Kerouac, I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to read the book I’m writing on Jack Kerouac with him.  When my former editor suggested we attend Amram’s show at Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village, I excitedly said yes.  A few days later, I had to email him back to say Amram had invited me to read with him.  It was completely surreal.

The September 3, 2012, show was completely sold out.  I had some friends who were turned away at the door.  Special thanks to Cornelia Street Cafe’s Robin Hirsch and the staff for hosting the reading and for doing such an excellent job in organizing the event.  I read a short selection about Kerouac’s time in Mexico from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m co-authoring with Paul Maher, Jr.  It was really exciting because author Larry Closs and painter Jonathan Collins, both of whom I met through the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page, were in the audience.  Poet and producer RA Araya, who has been hugely supportive of my work and whose birthday bash was the premiere reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful, was also there, and graciously provided the photography you see here.  I had some other family and friends there as well and am so appreciative of their support.  It means more to me than most people realize.

As soon as my videographer, Liz Koenig, sends the video, I’ll post it so you can hear me reading with David Amram and his band.  The band, consisting of Amram, Kevin Twigg, and John de Witt played so beautifully — even more of a feat, considering Twigg had hurt his hand before the show.  The music was haunting and fit the piece that I read so perfectly.  I wanted to remain present in the moment, to really hear what they were playing, and savor the moment.  It was one of those times in life that I wanted to tuck into my heart and cherish.

 

 

David Amram, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Joe Pacheco

Stephanie Nikolopoulos, David Amram, RA Araya

Videos from Premiere Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

31 Aug

Here’s video from the very first reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, cowritten with biographer Paul Maher Jr.  This is the reading that took place at The Sidewalk Cafe, to celebrate poet RA Araya’s birthday, and the awesome band I collaborated with is called flashbackpuppy.  Not only was this my first reading from the book — it was also my first time reading with a live band!  We didn’t rehearse the collaboration at all.  I literally met them for the first time when I got up on the stage.

Video via Liz Koenig

Video via Fred Rodriguez

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Don’t forget to come out this Monday night, September 3, at 8:30, to  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St., NYC).  Just steps from where Jack Kerouac and David Amram did their jazz-poetry readings in 1957, I’ll be reading about Kerouac while David Amram plays!  If you’ve ever caught any of his performances, you know that Amram is not only a phenomenal musician but also a great storyteller.

Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.

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9/2/12: That’s Jon Martinez on bass, Patrick Conlon on drums, Peter Beckett guitar playing in the videos.

Moose!

24 Aug

Last Friday night I went to The Buffalo Readings to celebrate poet Kate Levin’s birthday.  It was my first time at the reading series, and everyone was encouraging and inviting, making me feel like part of the group.  It was a real laid-back sort of evening, very far east in the East Village.  A hot and rainy night, where we crowded together on metal folding chairs, listening to different poets read from iphones and sheets of tattered paper stapled together.  Musicians jammed on various instruments, while the poets read.

One of the prose writers told me a hilarious story about working at a camp with Gregory Corso, saying the Beat poet hated all the kids.

I also spent some time chatting with Steve Cannon, the founder of The Gathering of the Tribes.  We talked for quite some time about the business of poetry and the arts, but we also talked about life … about where we were from and what we’re doing with our lives.  I walked away feeling so blessed when he said, “you’re my type of person.”

Here are a few photos poet RA Araya — who is probably one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met; the type of person who is the glue that holds everyone together — took.  The first two are of me promoting Burning Furiously Beautiful (since it was my first time there, I wanted to hear everyone else and didn’t read, but I happened to have a few postcards for the book in my bag, which I was more than happy to share), and the last two are of me with Steve Cannon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re in the New York City area, you may want to check out this Charlie Parker Festival.

 

Photos from Reading at Sidewalk Cafe

15 Aug

I had so much fun reading at poet RA Araya’s birthday bash at the Sidewalk Cafe this past Sunday!! RA was such a great host and is so encouraging.  There were so many amazingly talented poets and musicians there.  I felt so honored to get to read with them.

I started off reading the beginning of Homer’s The Odyssey in Ancient Greek (bringing awareness to Greece’s cultural heritage as well as the plight of endangered languages) and then read a section from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book that I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., while the flashbackpuppy band improvised a jazzy tune.

Here are some pictures RA took.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me sitting next to poet Juan Valenzuela.  In the foreground is poet Miguel Algarin, who co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and knew Jack Kerouac back in the day.

Special thanks to my friends, who came out to support me.

God Has a Sense of Humor — Either That or Everything I Think I Know about Myself Is Wrong

10 Aug

 

My mother always told me God has a sense of humor.  I believe her.

Growing up, I was terribly shy.  Perhaps because I felt so uncomfortable speaking, I turned to writing.  There, in the safety of my Hello Kitty journal, I could express my innermost fears, my hurts, and also my dreams and loves and cherished memories.

As I grew up, I continued to write.  I wrote for my high school newspaper and became copywriter for my high school yearbook, and when I went off to college I submitted poetry to my college’s paper.  While still an undergrad, I worked my way up from staff writer to editor in chief of a local indie newspaper and also began interviewing musicians for national magazines.  After college, I entered the world of book publishing, where to this day I blissfully sit in silence, getting paid to read for a living.  It’s the perfect job for an introvert.

Although I love editing and working with other authors and editors and designers, I always dreamed of writing my own book, so I’ve continued to work on my own writing.  My weekends are spent at the library or in the bookstore, crafting sentences.  I try to pour my heart out with the same abandon as I did when I was writing in the privacy of my little journal with the lock on it when I was a child, except now I’m working toward having people actually read my work.  I revise, I get feedback, I pitch, I query.  –And I get silence.  It feels like I rarely hear back from acquiring editors.  Writing is what I’m supposed to be good at.  It’s what I’ve always been told I’m good at.  And yet I have a hard time placing my writing in publications.

Instead, the skill I grew up thinking was my weakest is the one being called into action.  I don’t go out trying to book readings, but time and time again, I’m called upon to give readings and to teach.  It’s public speaking in all its knee-shaking glory.

I’m immensely thankful for these opportunities, and they’ve all gone pleasantly well, but I have to laugh that I seem to get more speaking engagements than publishing credits.

* * *

As I was writing this very post a few days ago, I got a message from poet and musician RA Araya asking me to read a poem in Greek at Sunday’s reading.  Talk about irony!  The memoir I’ve been writing deals with my conflicted Greek identity and the fact that I don’t speak Greek.  Now, as I was writing about laughing over the fact that I’m having to overcome my introverted tendencies to give readings, I’m asked to read in the very language I don’t speak.

But you know what?  I said yes.

Maybe I’ll crash and burn and make a fool of myself, but at least I’ll have tried.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Life is too short to be scared of anything.  Living means growing, and the best way to grow it to try new things.  Challenging yourself can lead to rewards.  I believe people surprise themselves and rise to occasions.  I’ve also learned that people want you to succeed and that literary crowds tends to be rather supportive.

I’m actually excited about this opportunity.  It’s a great way to promote the beauty of the Greek language and culture during Greece’s economic crisis, and I’m thinking I may read something in an archaic Greek dialect (I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College), a dead language, to further bring awareness to endangered languages.

If you’re in New York, stop by.  I can’t promise perfection, but we will have fun!!  Here’s the info:::

August 12, 2012.  5:00-9:00pm.  The Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A).  New York, NY.  Stephanie will be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, as part of RA’s Music Poetry Jam Celebration.  flashbackpuppy, Patricia Spears Jones, Sparrow, Puma Perl, Kate Levin, Sarah Sarai, Foamola, Virdell Williams, and Steve will also be taking the stage.  Free, but there’s a one-drink minimum.

Now… what to wear?

 

Also!  Save the date::: September 3 I’m giving a reading that I’m beyond excited about.  Details to come soon.

 

Do you ever find that the very skill you least like using or think is your weakest is the one you need to rely on the most?  What do you think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to push yourself to do the things that scare you?

Save the Date! I’m reading at Sidewalk Cafe on August 12

1 Aug

Image via the event’s Facebook invitation

Poet RA Araya invited me to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m coauthoring with esteemed biographer Paul Maher Jr.  It’s going to be an AWESOME event!  I’m so honored to have been invited to read as part of R’s birthday jam.

Get a load of this line up:::

RA’s Music Poetry Jam Celebration… FREE ADMISSION Sunday August 12th 5PM-9PM

Featuring:
Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder and pianist composer Mr Bill Sefiro

… Foamola to perform

Opera gospel singer Virdell Williams

Tango singer Steve

Poets Patricia Spears Jones, Sparrow, Puma Perl, Kate Levin, Sarah Sarai, birthday-oh-boy RA “R!” Araya and the German poetry of Hillary Keel

Stephanie Nikolopoulos will read, as the f-b-p band plays, from her upcoming co-authored biography about Jack Kerouac: Burning Furiously Beautiful

RA’s Flashbackpuppy band featuring bassist singer Jon Martinez and guitarist singer composer Peter Becket

With poet Mia Hansford via telephone

MORE PERFORMERS TO BE ADDED AND YET CONFIRMED

Plus invited performers from the audience

Free Admission, one drink minimum

http://www.sidewalkny.com/

It’s my b-day celebration… With artists friends at a nice hip restaurant bar with a stage in the back room, free admission with a one drink or coffee minimum… ’tis to be a sweet four hour event, come and go and come back for more on a Sunday that’s surely be filled with fine seasoned performers… Open-mic with band backing yer poetry or and music… Don’t bring a present, bring a poem 🙂 -R!

Seriously, seriously excited about reading while Flashbackpuppy plays and hearing all the other amazing poets and performers.  This also will be my debut reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful.