Last night I caught a really fresh poetry reading at the launch of Ronaldo V. Wilson's Poems of the Black Object (Futurepoem Books, 2009). This collection, Ronaldo's second, is one of J's Theater's October book picks, and it's easily one of the sexiest and liveliest collections you'll find on bookshelves today. Teachers and Writers Collaborative hosted the event at its 8th Avenue offices, which I'd never visited before. (I had to cancel a Seismosis reading that coincided with university events during the first year I served as the undergraduate program director, and never was able to reschedule.) I really like the new space, which is roomier and has even more dramatic views (of the Hudson River) than the old Union Square offices.
After Futurepoem Books founder and head Dan Machlin introduced the book and described the process by which it was selected (Futurepoem Books has a revolving cast of judge-selectors), three outstanding writers--Frances Richard, one of the book's judges; Wayne Koestenbaum, one of Ronaldo's graduate school profs; and Meena Alexander, who also taught him at CUNY--spoke about Ronaldo and read and performed poems from the book before he came to the podium. This was a great set up that I wish more readings would try; each reader gave the poems different and distinctive shadings, while whetting the desire to hear the poet himself read them. Richard described hearing Ronaldo read in Provincetown like witnessing the ocean rush through a large glass background window into the room, and I would have to concur, both when he reads alone and when he's with his fellow Black Took Collective poets. Last night, like Serena he served up three straight aces.
I'd never met Machlin, Richard, Koestenbaum, or Alexander (in person), though I'd corresponded with the Richard and Alexander times over the years via email, and I have been known to quote Koestenbaum from time to time. (He wrote the best Bette Davis poem I've ever read.) I also got to meet Garrett Kalleberg, whose collection Some Mantic Demons was the first Futurepoem book I came across (via Chris Stackhouse). Also wonderful was running into fellow language-lovers Tonya Foster, Duriel Harris, Bakar Wilson, Erica Doyle, Khari Polk, and Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene, among others. As always, I took photos, which are below: