Friday, January 19, 2007

Celebrating Toni & Setondji + Barocas at Powell's North + Other Countries Reading

Here are some photos from two recent Chicago events I attended: the celebration and open mic at Muse Café for Toni Asante Lightfoot and Setondji Gbegan's nuptials, and the Barocas/Palmer/Hanafi reading at Powell's North.
On Monday I dropped by Muse Café to celebrate Toni's and Setondji's wonderful news and hear a host of poets perform and offer tributes. I congratulated Toni and Setondji then, but let me just say congratulations again, and may the radiance of both of your spirits combine and shine forth.

People chilling at Muse Café before the festivities; multivalent artist Michael Warr is sitting at left, and Eliza Abegunde Hamilton is at right.

Another shot of the café, and Toni getting things going at the mic

Folks listening to the reading (Krista Franklin, Eliza, Tracy Hall, and Emily Evans are in front)--Setondji, in back, has on the brown-and-white striped sweater

The beautiful Toni performing--beautifully, of course!

Setondji and Toni, the lovely couple, at the mic

What would a celebration be without dancing?

Or (just after) a kiss?

(I'll post more photos when I can!)


Last night, after a loooooonnnnng day at the university, I drove down to Powell's North to see Zach Barocas and two writers I'd never heard of, Justin Palmer and Amira Hanifi, read their work. I usually stay away from Powell's, not because it's not a great store, but because it has such a dizzying array of titles (I counted at least 16 just last night after a cursory review of a few of the flats and shelves) calling my name that I find it dangerous to go in there. (I've found some fascinating and obscure books in there as well, such as a volume of probate records of African Americans in Boston from the 1700s and early 19th century, to name just one.) It was a great reading, and someone brought delicious cakes, wine, soft drinks (do people even use this term any more), and these lozenge-sized pretzels that were filled with sweet mustardish filling--only in Chicago!

Justin Palmer, the first reader; his long, lyric piece led listeners on a humorous journey.

Amira Hanafi, the second reader, read a long poem, with extensive critical material on environmental degradation, that put me in mind of a humming factory floor.

Zach read from his first collection, Among Other Things: Poems and Proposals, which gathers his characteristically short, almost apothegmatic yet wide-ranging poems and poem-proposals that often serve as, well, quiet proposals about the lyric itself. One of my favorite is "There's Nowhere Left to Go But Home." A few years ago he (co?-)established the Cultural Society, which features a great website and has published a number of broadsides over the years, as well as his book. One of the poets he dedicated a poem to was Peter O'Leary, who's also in Chicago.

One of his best poems was dedicated to his wife, Kimberley, who ran one of my favorite stationery stores in the West Village. She now has a store and company, Letterbox, in Minneapolis.

He's reading one of his proposals: Among Other Things is a poem-proposal definitely worth checking out.


Other Countries IIITomorrow's upcoming event, from lisa moore, the founder and publisher of redbone press, on behalf of Other Countries III: Voices Rising: Celebrating 20 Years of Black Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Writing (G. Winston James and Other Countries, editors):

the men of Other Countries have organized a book
launch in New York City for this Saturday, 7 p.m. at
South Oxford Space, 138 S. Oxford St. in Fort Greene,
Brooklyn. Call 917-364-1491 for more information. I've
attached a pdf with the event information for you to
pass to your friends; also attached is a jpg in case
you'd like to post it to your blog.

your contributors' copies arrive Monday, so i'll be
shipping them to you all next week. i'll include a
letter about upcoming publicity, discounts if you
purchase through RedBone Press, etc.

the books will be available on and barnes
and, and through (my
Alongside the poetry, stories, essays, reflections, recollections, and other pieces by the 60 contributors, one of my early stories, from about exactly 10 years ago, is in the collection.


  1. Thanks for those lovely pics of Toni and Setonji's celebration. It's great to see them and also other faces I have not seen in a while -- Eliza! Chicago really comes out, no? And congratulations on Voices Rising, too! I can't wait to get my hands on it.

  2. Yes, the Chitown crew does come out for events, which is wonderful, and it was a joy to celebrate Toni's good news! She's such a sweet and amazing soul. Thanks for the good words on Voices Rising too!

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