Friday, June 15, 2007

The skin of our Teeth, smooth and beautiful...

Three weeks ago, here is the reality of what I woke to on the Wednesday after Acentos:

1) My partner-in-crime, co-founder, and sometimes DJ Fish Vargas is going to be on vacation to California during Aracelis Girmay's book party, an event for which we should be packed.

2) Maria Nieves, my stalwart show starter and organizational maven, has to work that night.

3) While debating how many books to have in the house, Curbstone Press has not yet received any books from the printer, but expects to have some in time for the reading. Expects. I hate expecting, especially in the publishing world.

Added to the pot approximately one week later:

4) Ara calls with the news that Bill Moyers Journal might be in the house for the party, taping for a piece on Martín Espada. Oh right...did I mention Martín made plans to be in the house that night?

Now stir in appropriate amounts of angst, worries about attendance, and the need to do an above-average hosting job due to the importance of the night, and the fact that this might be televised.

Then add the scare of a lifetime, exactly one week before the festivities:

I find out from the PBS people that Alex, the managing partner at the Bruckner Bar and Grill, is suddenly under the impression that Acentos is biweekly, not every second and fourth Tuesday, and he announces that he may have booked a party for the space on June 12th. CRAP.

Right. Well it's now Friday, and I haven't slept since Tuesday night. Part of it is being run ragged by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, which I've been working since Wednesday morning. But the other part is sheer euphoria, frenzy, and of course much much love, after what I believe to be one of the best nights, if not THE best night, Acentos has ever had. Of course it went off without a hitch...that's just how we do. Of course it was magic, how could it not be? Yes, the books indeed arrived as ordered. And no, there was no competing party. And YES, Bill Moyers Journal was in the house for a piece on Martín, and I think Ara too. Stay tuned to this blog for details on airtimes. Oh yeah, and Maria actually made it to the show, and she managed to snap some lovely pictures, including this one of our star being just a tad heavenly.

Tuesday. What energy. What excitement, what love, what ENERGY. Wow, wow, and wow. And wow. Acentos threw its first official book launch party, and I'm ready to do a thousand nights like these. DJ Raymond Daniel Medina knew exactly how to keep the party moving and going. Eliel and John and Jaime were there to lend what hands they could. And my lady was holding it down, holding court over by the BOAT— Bruckner's Official Acentos Table. (That's right, the BOAT. A legend is born.)

Let me say that the poems in the book are ridiculously gorgeous. "Loisferibodi" has got to be one of my favorite poems—a poem about a Spanglish pronunciation so wonderfully right, a praise poem dedicated to 6-year-old Estefani Lora, who sent her the word in a thank-you card. There is "Love Poem for the Pilon," an Ode on a Grecian Urn for the twenty-first century, a vessel that breaks open possibilities and garlic. And there is her unflinching poetry of witness—poems for family, for the women of Darfur, and the startlingly powerful "Arroz Poetica." This book has teeth. And it IS Teeth. And it IS for sale. BUY IT NOW!

Ara's list of readers was impressive: Simone White, Samantha Thornhill, Patrick Rosal, John Murillo, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Abena Koomson and Ray Medina, Dante Michaeux, Marcus Jackson, Ellen Hagan, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (who also took pictures), and Ross Gay. I read one too. So did her amazing young students from Dreamyard Prep. Those kids got the best applause of the night and really enjoyed being in the room with the poets, and the poets loved being in the room with them. Energy.

Her introduction was equally impressive: Martín Espada, who made the trip all the way from Amherst, read the poem "Rain Without Rain" AND the foreword to the book. What he said resonated with us...he's never heard one person say an unkind word about Aracelis. Neither have we. By we, I mean everyone.

But it was that reading, that exquisite reading she gave, that really put a perfect cap on a perfect evening. She was not rushed, she chose work that cut to bone, work that healed, work that sang. Ara is a very special person, a spritely one who does everything she can to make the room glow.

The poetry of the 21st century was alive and well this night. Poets from Cave Canem, the Acentos poets, poets from Kundiman, poets of every stripe, every skill level, every style imaginable, came to celebrate this book. And celebrate we did, into 11pm, midnight, and later. No one seemed to care about the clock. And why should they?

It was the perfect mix of comrades, poets, serious thinkers, silly people, and one jolly host. In the end, Ara's choice of intro music for her guests served to propel the evening forward, and one hearty soul named Alma volunteered to sell the books, and my job was hopelessly easy because everyone was just so good to each other. I wish it was like that everywhere I went.

It should be noted that between Ara and me, we had 60 copies of the book on hand. They were gone by the end of the night. That's cause for celebration all by itself.

I cannot express enough what joy it was to have all these wonderful Latino poets, Latina poets, poets of color and conscience, updowncharmed and strange poets, in the same room in celebration of a book, a first book, an outstanding book. I was privileged to host it, and I am grateful to all that made it happen, especially Ms. Aracelis Girmay, who makes us all so very happy to be human.

Damn, y'all, what's next? Could an Acentos anthology be far behind? ;-)

I close out with some of our greatest hits for the night, courtesy of Rachel Griffiths. Paz, y'all.

Hey, Mr. DJ! You can get me started...Abena Koomson and Ray Medina

Read a book, read a book, read a #%$&@ book!

Martín Espada: El poeta pronounces.

Roger Bonair-Agard, Samantha Thornhill, Rachel Griffiths.

T.B and R.V. 4 ever! Me yuckin' it up with Tara Betts.

WWDD? Samantha Thornhill asks the Question to Dante Micheaux.

Love, truly for everybody: Acentos poeta Eliel Lucero and the lovely Ms. Alex.

Martín and Ara. Compañero/a Poetas.

The Obligatory Yearbook Shot: Pat Rosal, Ellen Hagan, John Murillo, Simone White, Ross Gay, Dante Michaeux, Aracelis Girmay, Martín Espada, Marcus "Oh Lawd Somebody Done Obscured Mah Head" Jackson, Samantha Thornhill, Ray Medina, Kamilah "At Least You See My Eyes" Moon, Abena Koomson, Rachel Griffiths, and Rich Villar. Most Likely To Succeed: Frickin' ALL OF THEM.

La Lady. Aracelis Girmay radiating warmth and goodness.

Take care, one and all. I love my life.


Francisco Aragón said...

Congratulations, Rich! And Congratulations, Araceli!


Lisa Alvarado said...

Rich -- It looks like one amazing evening! Makes me yearn to visit you, Ms. T, and Acentos even more than I already do...You know that you all are part of an answer to the question 'what is to be done.'

And I gotta get a copy of TEETH!

Raina said...

My love was there even if I was not. Congratulations on an amazing evening, Rich!