Event Recap: Sunday Best Shows its Love for the Planet

On February 13, 2011, a dedicated and accomplished group of poets, fiction writers, and environmental and community activists gathered in The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens to share their work, their insights, and their concerns about the future of our natural resources.  The afternoon’s program began with a panel presentation and discussion, which brought together a policy analyst, a landscape architect, a local gardening guru, and an environmental activist/poet in an exploration of ways in which gardens can become integral and integrative elements of our communities.

Tom Waters

Tom Waters, an expert in housing policy, talked about community gardens in the Melrose section of the Bronx and how they enable ordinary people to influence development in beneficial ways.  Waters’s slide show presentation showcased a variety of gardens and garden houses through which Puerto Rican communities and immigrant populations in this area of the city recall and reinforce the traditions of their places of origin.

Poet Wendy Babiak discussed the concept of permaculture, the planning and designing of communities based on sustainable land use and ecological relationships. Babiak traveled to Manhattan to participate in the panel all the way from Ithaca, New York, where she was one of a group of activists to found a community permaculture garden.

Lois Ann Lawless

Lois Ann Lawless, a longtime resident of Northern Manhattan, talked about her experiences reviving the beautiful garden at Our Savior’s Atonement Church on Bennett Avenue in Washington Heights and working with neighbors to preserve it as a space for community gathering and celebration.

Dorrie Rosen, a registered landscape architect and Plant Information Specialist at the New York Botanical Garden, offered audience members a lovely slide show presentation of her favorite winter flowers.  She accompanied the images with recitations of her own haikus that expressed her emotional connection to these plants and conveyed their evocative power and transformative potential.

Dorrie Rosen

After a brief intermission, the afternoon’s festivities continued with a series of five-minute cameo performances by four local writers.

Marlon Danilewitz

The first of the four readers was Marlon Danilewitz, a native of South Africa and a senior at Yeshiva University in Washington Heights.  Danilewitz answered a recent call by the Sunday Best Reading Series for poetry submissions from eco-poets.  His poems have been published in Poetica Magazine and Something Rich and Something Strange.

Gordon Gilbert

Danilewitz was followed by Sunday Best staff member Gordon Gilbert.  Gilbert is a poet and songwriter and a member of the Activist Poets Roundtable.  His set included a brilliant poem written in homage to and in the voice of fellow nature poet Robert Frost.

Peter Martin wears many hats behind the scenes of the Sunday Best Reading Series, serving as event manager, comptroller, and bartender.  But he is also an accomplished poet whose expressive readings of his work engrossed audience members.

Peter Martin

The final cameo of the afternoon was delivered by director and playwright Melissa Fendell Moschitto, the Founding Artistic Director of the theater company The Anthropologists.  The Anthropologists are currently developing Another Place, a play about living in the age of climate change.

Melissa Moschitto of the Anthropologists

As if these engaging and thought-provoking performances were not enough, the audience was also treated to readings by the afternoon’s featured literary artists, Wendy Babiak and Vivian Demuth.

Doing double-duty as a panelist and reader, Wendy Babiak offered selections from her first, highly praised volume of poetry Conspiracy of Leaves, touching upon themes that ranged from contemporary politics to feminism to spirituality.  Babiak’s dynamic delivery of poems such as “Time Contemplating Suicide” and “a posteriori,” as well as excerpts from her collection’s title poem, evoked perspectives at once personal and sweeping, intimate and historical.

Wendy Babiak

Vivian Demuth had the honor of closing out the program.  Her readings from her novel The Eyes of the Forest and her poetry collection Breathing Nose Mountain conjured nature in both its primal and its magical forms.  Demuth’s work reveals a profound relationship with the natural world, one which Sunday Best attendees were privileged to share on an afternoon that was devoted to sending valentines to the earth.

Vivian Demuth

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