Monday, November 22, 2010

Miami Book Fair 2010

I have been to many poetry readings, but none took the kind of effort to get to that yesterday's reading did (and that includes readings in other cities that have required an airplane trip!). Of course, there was the always-present road congestion on I 95, but one expects that. I've only travelled once or twice on that Interstate in Miami-Dade county where traffic didn't come to a halt and crawl along for miles. Then there was the driving around and looking for parking and finally finding a far-away lot that had a decent price. Then there was the walk to campus.

Here's a shot of the Miami-Dade College campus, with the concrete structures so common to community colleges built in the 60's. Once there, I had to pay admission; I thought I only had to pay admission if I wanted to go to the street fair, and I inwardly fumed for a few minutes before I said to myself, "Come on--you can shell out $8 for a book fair!" And so I did.

Once I found the right building, I still had a quest. There were throngs of people waiting in various lines, and at first I thought I had goofed by thinking everything was free and all I had to do was show up. But I decided to go to the room first, and if I needed to wait in line, I'd go back. So, I hiked and hiked around the mazelike hallways, wondering if I was going the right way. From a far distance, I saw a person who looked like January O'Neil, so I decided to head that direction. And finally, I found the room and discovered that all those lines were for the events that required a paid ticket, like for Patti Smith, a poet of sorts, but more famous for being the godmother of punk and one of this year's National Book Award winners.

I'm happy to say that the reading was well worth the effort. Above you can see all the poets, although I didn't get individual shots of them all. This was my first attempt at taking pictures during a reading, and I can't always see what I've got until I get home and see the computer screen. From left to right above: Kevin Pilkington, Susan Rich, Mark Statman, and January O'Neil.

A blurry photo of Susan Rich above. I have read about readings where she brought violet scented chocolates to the audience, but alas, this was not one of those readings.

Mark Statman read third, and he chose some poems that were in response to poems that had been read by the other poets, a gutsy move, I thought, since it wasn't planned in advance. I wasn't familiar with his work before, but I really enjoyed it.

Here's a photo of January O'Neil reading her poems, which are as delightful in spoken form as on the page.
In fact, all of the poets read beautifully, and all of the poems engaged me--many delighted me. It was the kind of afternoon that enriches and nourishes on many levels. When I was young, I thought that every day of grown up life would be just like that. Now that I'm older, it takes some effort to make sure that I have a few of those days here and there, spread out amongst the daily tedium of other tasks.

I had worried a bit about the hike back to the distant parking lot, but happily, there were still plenty of non-threatening people on the streets, along with the mentally ill and downtrodden. The streets of Miami remind me a bit of New York City, without all the tall buildings. There are grates in the sidewalk, but why down here? We don't have subways. There are all sorts of businesses, like discount nail coloring salons and strange shoe stores, along with all the bright chains. The architecture is an interesting mesh of modern and Latin country inspired, and I thought the shot above captured that.
I made it back to my car with no problem, hopped back on the Interstate, and drove home under gloomy skies to an evening meal of home-cooked hamburgers, red wine, and poetry afterglow.