Tuesday, February 05, 2008

AWP Part 2

Another highlight of the AWP weekend was Krista Franklin's, Duriel Harris's and Lisa Lee's 2nd Sun Salon SoHo. Talk about an extraordinary event! I've written many times and posted photos from the Chicago 2nd Sun Salon gatherings, but the one in New York translated an amazing event almost perfectly onto a new setting. (I actually have dreams about this sort of thing occurring on a regular basis, so I'm glad I was able to experience it in the flesh.) After our Between A and B reading on the LES, Chris and I walked down to SoHo to catch the last portion of the event. I wasn't able to catch the multitalented poets Tyehimba Jess or (singer-playwright) Karma Johnson, but I did arrive in time to catch Duriel embody--because really, Duriel goes beyond reading or performing or singing, and little incarnates the work, physically, psychologically, durationally--some of her new work, and also to hear a sharp set by singer Gina Breedlove. One of the most exciting aspects of the event was the crowd, which included folks I hadn't seen in a long time, including some of my Dark Room compatriots, loads of Cave Canemites, and even someone I'd recently wrote about on this blog but had never met, poet Uche Nduka. I cannot possibly mention all of the people who were there, but much love to all of you, and once again, I thank Krista, whose artworks (cf. one of the flyer, above at right) were the event's cynosure, along with Duriel and Lisa, in whose dream loft the event took place, for a wonderful experience. It's got me very excited about the next 2nd Sun in Chicago, whenever that's going to happen, and, as these events always do, left me feeling that creative work was as important and necessary as I tend to think and profess it is.

Tonya Foster and Tyehimba Jess
Listening to the performers
The gathering at the salon (Ross Gay at left, Sharan Strange at center)
Krista and Bakar
Krista Franklin and Bakar Wilson


A final highlight of AWP I'll mention was one of the last panels of the weekend, the "Avant-Garde Latino/a Poetry" panel that took place on Saturday, at 4:30, in one of the host hotels. I joined Evie, Dorothy, Tisa B. (who'd persuaded me to go see the Kara Walker show at the Whitney, for which I thank her a million times), and Shelagh, and was very glad I checked it out. (Rodrigo Toscano, Cornelius Eady, Erica Doyle, and Greg Pardlo, among others, were in the audience.) Organized by poet Gabriel Gómez (at far right), the panelists included, from left, Maria Meléndez, Valerie Martínez, Roberto Tejada, Monica De La Torre, and Francisco Aragón.

On his Letras Latinas blog, Francisco, writing about Gabriel Gómez, quotes the organizing statement:

"The objective of this panel, made up of Latino/a poets, critics, and publishers, is to interrogate the very terms "avant-garde" and "latino/a experience" as intersecting locations of poetic practice so as to bring forth work that bears witness to our varying aesthetics as artists and thinkers."

Each of the poets read their work, which was enjoyable enough, but what really got me thinking were some of their responses to the concept of "avant-gardism" in relation to the concept of "Latino" in its American sense, and in particular, the exchange with the audience was especially informative. Roberto's critique of the breakdown of "nation" as a category and the reformulation of new identities in relation to global flows of capital and his historicization of experimentalism in Latino literary production were really enlightening, as was Martínez's reading and discussion of her poetic work on the hundreds of women murdered in Juárez (one of the central subjects of Roberto Bolaño's last novel, 2666.) One of the respondents, poet Urayoán Noel, really brought the noise with his discussion of his dissertation project (at NYU), which makes some crucial connections between the Puerto Rican literary avant-gardes connected with the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (still in existence), and figures from the West Coast Chicano literary scene. I got to meet Tejada (after having admired his work for years), and then to chat with Noel after the event, learning not only that he was close friends with Ángel Lozada, a writer I'd wanted to meet but missed during the Santo Domingo Book Fair two years ago (and whom Anthony wrote about on his Monaga blog), but also Rey Andújar, the brilliant young Dominican writer whose new book Candela, has recently hit bookstores.

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