Event Recap: Crossing the Atlantic

In the United States, April 15 usually means tax day. (Perhaps T.S. Eliot had a point when he wrote that April is the cruelest month!) But this year, on April 15, the Sunday Best Reading Series took some of the pain out of tax day with “Crossing the Atlantic: Poets British and American.”  The afternoon’s program featured writers with ties to both sides of the pond: Anne-Marie Fyfe, a poet born in Northern Ireland who now lives and works in London; American poet Chris Hansen-Nelson, a long-time resident of Washington Heights; and poet Cheryl Moskowitz, who was born in Chicago but has lived in the UK since she was 11 years old.  Read on for a recap of the reading with links to more photos and an audio of the event, which was broadcast on WHFR (Washington Heights Free Radio) on April 18.

From left to right: Anne-Marie Fyfe, Cheryl Moskowitz, and Chris Hansen-Nelson

Anne-Marie Fyfe kicked off the afternoon’s event with a series of poems on the theme of travel.  With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic just past, Anne-Marie began with the story of her grandfather, one of the builders of the legendary ocean liner, who avoided joining in the ship’s doomed maiden voyage by eloping with her grandmother. Although her grandfather seemingly cheated fate, he and Anne-Marie’s grandmother nevertheless both died young.  Anne-Marie began her set with a poem that attempts to redress the tragedy of her grandparents by allowing them both to grow old.  The work she read repeatedly returned to the narrative device of the journey, telling of train trips across America and airplane flights on September 11.

Poet Anne-Marie Fyfe

Northern Manhattan’s own Chris Hansen-Nelson presented a selection of new work that represents an experiment in narrative poetry. These poems were all written in the persona of Jim Casy, the preacher Casy from The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s landmark American realist novel about poverty and the struggle to survive in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.

Writer Chris Hansen-Nelson

Poet Cheryl Moskowitz closed the afternoon’s program with readings from her most recent book The Girl is Smiling, which takes the past seven years of Cheryl’s life as its primary material. Cheryl explained that much of the poetry deals with the definition of things and with the nature of absence and presence. One of the poems Cheryl read, “The Visit,” deals with her recent reunion with her father who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. For many years, her father was an “absent presence” in her life, and now she is getting to know him just as he is in the process of forgetting who he is.

Poet Cheryl Moskowitz

At the close of the event, Sunday Best curator gave special thanks to our poetry consultant Martin Mitchell, who was instrumental in getting both Anne-Marie and Cheryl on the afternoon’s program.

Sunday Best poetry consultant Martin Mitchell at the after-reception

Following the event, the artists and the audience members enjoyed drinks and snacks at our traditional after-reception.

Poet Anne-Marie Fyfe talking to an audience member at the after-reception

As always, the Sunday Best Reading Series thanks the efforts of its volunteers, whose efforts and dedication are crucial to the series’ success.

Sunday Best comptroller and bartender Peter Martin.

This event was recorded for WHFR, Northern Manhattan’s own internet radio station. You can access the audio here. Podcasts of previous Sunday Best events are available on our program page on WHFR’s site.

For more photographs from this event, please visit Sunday Best’s Flickr page, which is accessible at this link or by clicking on the photos displayed in the sidebar to this blog.

Event Recap: Festival of the Word

Last March, the Sunday Best Reading Series hosted a day-long Festival of the Word at Hudson View Gardens in Northern Manhattan.  The program kicked off at 2PM with a children’s theater workshop focusing on social justice and stories about living in Washington Heights presented by Mino Lora and Veronica Liu for the People’s Theatre Project.  Proceeds from the gate admission for Festival of the Word went to the Voices program of the People’s Theatre Project, an after-school project for local teens aged 13 through 16.

Mino Lora, Director of the People’s Theatre Project.

Following the workshop, audience members gathered in The Lounge to hear readings by three literary artists who received 2012 NoMAA Individual Artist Grants to support their work.

Poet Lola Koundakjian, curator and producer of the Armenian Poetry Project.

Lola Koundakjian read poems from her newly published collection The Accidental Observer and also shared new work with audience members.  Lola received a 2011 NoMAA grant to help fund The Accidental Observer and received her second consecutive NoMAA grant this year. As curator and producer of the Armenian Poetry Project, Lola is not only busy with her own work but also dedicates herself to promoting the work of Armenian poets and exposing it to new and eager readers.

Veronica Liu, founder of Word Up Community Bookshop.

Veronica Liu, a local legend for her stewardship of both Washington Heights Free Radio and Word Up Community Bookshop,  talked to audience members about the literary journal for which she received funding from NoMAA this year. She shared her hopes the journal will become a community document for Northern Manhattan. She also revealed that the idea for  Word Up emerged at last year’s NoMAA grantee reading during the after-reception as she chatted with NoMAA director Sandra Garcia Betancourt.  The piece Veronica read was an ironic self-history that was at once a postmodern detective story and a reflection on the narcissism of youth; using a variety of texts and online archives to reconstruct the past, the narrator, on the verge of turning thirty, tried to figure out exactly what she did on her birthdays during her twenties.

Spanish writer Paquita Suarez-Coalla writes stories in her native language Asturian as well as in English. Her stories in Asturian reflect the interests and experiences of the Asturian people, who comprise one of Spain’s rich cultural and linguistic minorities.  Paquita read one of her stories which has been translated from her native Asturian into English as well as a story in Spanish about discrimination her sister experienced in school in the 1970s.

Spanish/Asturian writer Paquita Suarez-Coalla.

As always, the audio for this event has been archived at the Sunday Best Reading Series program page on the WHFR website for those who were unable to attend the event or who simply want to listen to it again in its entirety. Additional photos from this event are available on the Sunday Best Reading Series Flickr page.

Remember the Sunday Best Reading Series returns on Sunday, September 9 with readings by poets published by the celebrated Irish press, Salman Poetry.

Event Recap: Delicious New Fiction

The Sunday Best Reading Series just hosted another great event this afternoon: Crossing the Atlantic, a program of British and American poets. We’re looking forward to one more event this season, Performance Poetry with Joel Allegretti, Sheila Maldonado, and Jane LeCroy, scheduled for Sunday, May 6. Please keep an eye on the blog for the event announcement, which will include more details about the program. In the meantime, we’re posting this recap, with photos and audio link, of  Delicious New Fiction, which took place on February 5.

On February 5, the Sunday Best Reading Series went head to head with the Super Bowl, and, in a demonstration of the power of poetry, still managed to draw a full house. Thank you to our readers and our loyal audience!

Even this dog enjoyed Delicious New Fiction!

Novelist, screenwriter, and Hudson View Gardens resident Douglas Light read from his story collection Girls in Trouble, which won the 2010 AWP Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Light’s novel East Fifth Bliss was recently brought to the silver screen as the film The Trouble With Bliss, directed by Michael Knowles and starring Michael C. Hall and Lucy Liu.

Novelist and short-story writer Douglas Light.

Janice Eidus entertained the audience with her short story “A Bisel This, a Bisel That,” which was anthologized in Promised Lands: New Jewish American Fiction on Longing and Belonging. “A Bisel This, a Bisel That” is the story of Myron Gerstler, a book editor who works for The Promised Text, a soon-to-close independent Jewish newspaper housed in a “low-rent indie news building” in midtown Manhattan.

Novelist and short-story writer Janice Eidus.

Jonathan Baumbach closed out the program, reading from his latest book Dreams of Molly. Baumbach explained that Dreams of  Molly is in a sense a kind of sequel to his earlier work Reruns, which consisted of 34 invented dreams.

Novelist Jonathan Baumbach.

For those who missed Delicious New Fiction, the audio of the event has been archived on the Sunday Best Reading Series Program Page on the WHFR (Washington Heights Free Radio) web site.  Additional photos from the event are available on the Sunday Best Flickr stream, accessible via link in the sidebar of this blog.

New Sunday Best volunteer and writer Dianne Garville.

As always, the Sunday Best Reading Series wants to thank its dedicated crew of volunteers. Without them, Sunday Best events such asDelicious New Fiction would not be possible.

Peter Martin, Sunday Best bartender and comptroller.

Event Recap: 9/11 Memoir Festival

The Sunday Best Reading Series is gearing up for next month’s event, a program of fiction featuring Jonathan Baumbach, Janice Eidus, and Douglas Light. In the meantime, we offer you this recap (with photographs) of Writing from Life, the program of memoir that Sunday Best hosted on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. For those of you who missed the event, audio of the readings is available on the Sunday Best Reading Series program page on the WHFR (Washington Heights Free Radio) web site.

Risa Ehrlich, memoirist and visual artist.

The program opened with readings by local memoirists Risa Hirsch Ehrlich and Bonnie Walker. Risa Ehrlich, who is a visual artist as well as a memoirist, read a piece about teenaged yearnings for glamor and the hunt for the perfect prom dress.  Bonnie Walker, the official photographer for the Sunday Best Reading Series, read a short excerpt from her memoir-in-progress and a personal essay about a woman who took her own life in a New York City subway station.

Riss Hirsch Ehrlich (left) and Bonnie Walker

Next up was Dean Kostos, author of several books of poetry, including the forthcomiing Rivering (2012), who read an excerpt from his memoir provisionally titled The Boy Who Listened to Paintings. Dean’s reading dealt with his experiences as a teenager committed to a mental institution.

Dean Kostos, poet and memoirist

Novelist and memoirist Phyllis Raphael closed the afternoon’s program with a series of readings both humorous and poignant. Phyllis started off with a story of a first-date misadventure, an accidental locking of her car keys in her car. Fortunately, her date, a psychoanalyst, turned out to be the kind of guy who always carries a duplicate key set (and she ended up marrying him).  Her other readings touched on Buddhist monks in Scotland and competitive sadism in academia.

Phyllis Raphael, novelist and memoirist.

The event was followed, as usual, by a reception during which audience members mingled with the writers. All present agreed that the event represented the Sunday Best Reading Series at its finest. Special thanks to Veronica Liu, who filled in for Sig and Theo Rosen as sound tech for this event, and to Peter Martin, who fulfilled treasurer and bartending duties.

Veronica Liu, WHFR

Please see the Sunday Best Flickr stream, accessible in the blog sidebar, for additional photographs from this event. Stay tuned for a recap of our event Openings to Light, which was held on December 4, 2011, as we gear up for our next reading set to take place in The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens on February 5. Thanks again to all who attended and all who support the series.

Writers and audeince members mingle at the after-reception.

Event Recap: New Books and Persistent Dreams

The Persistence of Dreams

May 1, 2011

The Sunday Best Reading Series closed its Winter/Spring 2011 season on May 1 with “The Persistence of Dreams,” a celebration of new books and literary dreams.  Readers included Northern Manhattan residents Elisabeth Frost and Carol Wallace, as well as the highly regarded poet Elaine Terranova.  As emcee Patricia Eakins noted, it has become a spring  tradition for the Sunday Best Reading Series to showcase new books and acknowledge “intrepid publishers of literary books.”  All three writers featured in the afternoon’s program read recently published work.  If you missed the reading, you can listen to the entire event on the Sunday Best Reading Series Program page at Washington Heights Free Radio (www.whfr.org).

Elisabeth Frost

Elisabeth Frost kicked off “The Persistence of Dreams,” reading poetry and prose poems from All of Us, her first full-length poetry collection, published by White Pine Press as part of its Marie Alexander series. Frost read poems inspired by the sayings enclosed in fortune cookies, as well as prose poetry that exposed manipulative family dynamics and touched upon themes related illness and caretaking.  Her poetry was moving and thought-provoking but also included splashes of humor in pieces that recalled a discussion of sexual fetishes at an artist’s colony and a dream in which the poet tells Derek Bok, president of Harvard University, exactly what she thinks of him.

Elaine Terranova

Elaine Terranova traveled from Philadelphia to participate in The Persistence of Dreams.  She read work from her newly published chapbook Elegiac: Footnotes to Rilke’s Duino Elegies, issued by Cervena Barva Press.  These poems place Terranova in direct conversation and dialogue with Rilke and have been described by author Kevin Prufer as “beautiful, impressionistic poems distinguished especially for their shifting, subtle intelligence and their emotional force.”

Carol Wallace

In her introductory remarks, Carol Wallace spoke directly to the afternoon’s theme of dreams, declaring: “It is a persistent dream that puts me in front of you today.”  Wallace recalled a childhood surrounded by typewriters with a father who works as a sports writer.  After writing numerous “ephemeral” books, Wallace returned to school in 2003 to earn a Master’s degree in art history.  Her studies and her research at Columbia provided the inspiration and material for Leaving Van Gogh, her first novel which is receiving acclaim from reviewers and readers alike. Told from the point of view of Van Gogh’s doctor, Paul Gachet, Leaving Van Gogh imagines Gachet’s complicated relationship with his troubled but transcendently gifted patient.

Carol Wallace, Elaine Terranova, and Patricia Eakins at the after-reception

Following the readings, the writers and audience members mingled, enjoying wines provided by Vines on Pine along with other refreshments. All involved with the Sunday Best Reading Series looked forward to the summer break, which, like all breaks, was refreshing but brief.

Elisabeth Frost talks with an audience member at the after-reception

The Sunday Best Reading Series thanks everyone who made the Winter/Spring 2011 season a success, including the performers and the audience members.  And a special thank you to those who staff the Sunday Best events and work behind the scenes: the success of each event rests upon the efforts and dedication of these trustworthy volunteers.

Sound technician Sig Rosen and event manager Peter Martin

A special shout-out to volunteer Joan Greenbaum who staffed the front desk and provided support for “The Persistence of Dreams” despite recent surgery which required her to use wheelchair and crutches.  That’s dedication!

Joan Greenbaum with fellow volunteers Gordon Gilbert and Peter Martin

The series returns on Sunday, September 11 with a program of memoir.  We hope you will join us for our first program of the 2011-2012 season.

Event Recap: Political Satire, Planned Improvisations, and Poetic Meditations

Words and Music Once Again, April 3, 2011

This spring, the Sunday Best Reading Series expanded its artistic horizons, widening its focus to include musical expression as well as spoken word.  The result was “Words and Music Once Again,” a program that combined the literary and the musical in performances ranging from the poignant to the raucously humorous. For those who missed the show on April 3, the audio from this event is available on the Washington Heights Free Radio website.  Read on for a brief recap with photos from the event.

The program opened with a tribute to poet Phil Miller.  Phil, who passed away on Valentine’s Day 2011, wrote poetry that delineated the internal emotional landscape of the everyday human condition. He was a beloved literary figure, not only in New York City but also far beyond its borders.

Poet Patricia Brody and Charles Ramsey of Duo Fortuna plan the tribute to Phil Miller.

The tribute began with the ringing of a Tibetan prayer bell. Poet Patricia Brody, a friend and colleague of Phil Miller, then read a selection of his work while accompanied by classical-experimental ensemble Duo Fortuna. The poems Patricia chose for the tribute, most notably Phil’s moving villanelle “Hello and Goodbye,” were particularly well-suited for a musical setting.  In addition to “Hello and Goodbye,” Patricia also read “Crooked” and “Like a Tree.”  Patricia read Phil’s poems in a clear, authoritative voice that conveyed the depth of meaning and feeling intrinsic to his writing.  Phil would have been proud of her.

Patricia Brody read poetry by Philip Miller as part of a tribute to the late poet.

The tribute closed with Sunday Best curator Patricia Eakins ringing the Tibetan prayer bell six times in quick succession and then seven times.  The chimes of the bell represented the years in the life of Phil Miller, who died at age 67.

Following the tribute, Duo Fortuna performed a set of four of their own original songs.  Duo Fortuna is an experimental and improvisational musical performance group that consists of pianist Leslie Purcell Upchurch and guitarist Charles Ramsey, both classically trained musicians.

Pianist Leslie Purcell Upchurch of Duo Fortuna.

Duo Fortuna performs “planned improvisations.” While the group has a repertoire, each piece in that repertoire is based upon a specific musical idea or prompt rather than upon a predetermined, set-in-stone arrangement. In performance, Upchurch and Ramsey improvise around that musical idea. Thus, while each of their compositions has its own recognizable identity, no two performances of the piece are ever the same.  The result is thought-provoking music with a meditative quality that impresses the listener as being at once completely spontaneous and motivated by an internal purpose and pattern.

Guitarist Charles Ramsey of Duo Fortuna.

After a brief intermission following Duo Fortuna’s set, the stand-up poetry duo Mik and Gilles took the stage. Poet and performance artist Mikhail Horowitz is the author of three books, two collections of poetry (The Opus of Everything in Nothing Flat and Rafting Into the Afterlife) and a “collage/caption opus” (Big League Poets). The Blues of the Birth, a collection of his jazz fable performances, has been issued on CD.  His partner-in-crime, guitarist Gilles Malkine, performed as a member of Tim Hardin’s band at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and at Carnegie Hall. Malkine has recorded with Hardin and others, plays the bass and the fiddle as well as the guitar, and is a composer in his own right.  He also presents a series of “women in history” profiles on the public radio show 51% The Women’s Perspective.   Together, Horowitz and Malkine have been serving their special concoction of literary spoofs and fold-song parodies, with a heavy helping of political satire, to audiences in the Catskills and beyond since 1989.

Mikhail Horowitz of the stand-up poetry duo Mik and Gilles.

Mik and Gilles have been called the “thinking man’s comics.” On April 3, they presented their trademark blend of outrageous but thought-provoking humor and incisive political commentary to Sunday Best Reading Series attendees. They sang of that Brigadoon-like oasis in the political wasteland, the big Vermont-y Mountain. In their updated rendition of “The Riddle Song,” they posed the eternally puzzling question “How can there be a congressman with no lyin’?” For their closing number, they presented a condensed, hip-hop version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy (this version has a brief sequel that takes place on Wall Street–the villains are “Gollum Sachs”).

Gilles Malkine of Mik and Gilles.

Following the program, audience members mingled and had a chance to meet and talk to the performers. Wines were again provided by Vines on Pine.

Wines for the Sunday Best after-reception were provided by Vines on Pine.

Gilles Malkine talks with Sunday Best volunteer Risa Hirsch Ehrlich at the Sunday Best after-reception.

In closing, the Sunday Best Reading Series would like to thank poet Nicholas Johnson, editor of BigCityLit and a friend of Phil Miller, who helped plan the tribute to Phil that opened the afternoon’s program.  Nick was originally slated to perform in the tribute alongside Patricia Brody but could not because of a foot ailment.  However, he gallantly attended the event, with his crutches in tow.

Poet Nick Johnson, editor of BigCityLit.

We would also like to acknowledge Nancy Eldredge, wife of Phil Miller, who drove all the way to New York City from Union, Pennsylvania to attend this event.  Those involved with the reading series were touched and honored by her presence.

Poet Patricia Brody (left) and Nancy Eldredge, wife of Phil Miller.

Again, please check out the Sunday Best Reading Series program page on the Washington Heights Free Radio web site for the audio of this event.  To see more photos from this event, please visit the Sunday Best Reading Series Flickr page. And be sure to check out our page on Facebook.

Event Recap: NoMAA Benefit: Sunday Best Supports the Arts in Northern Manhattan

An important part of the mission of the Sunday Best Reading Series entails supporting talented emerging literary artists by providing a forum through which they can share their work with the larger community.  This aspect of Sunday Best’s charge came to the fore on March 6th when the series hosted a benefit for the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA).  NoMAA, ably helmed by executive director Sandra Garcia-Betancourt with the assistance of program director Diana Caba, is a non-profit arts service organization that cultivates, supports, and promotes the works of artists and arts organizations who live in Manhattan north of 155th Street.

Among the programs and services that NoMAA provides to the Northern Manhattan arts community is a Regrant Program funded by JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation. NoMAA grants are awarded to artists and arts organizations in Washington Heights and Inwood who submit proposals for specific individual or collaborative projects.  On March 6th, Sunday Best proudly featured performances by three local literary artists who received individual NoMAA grants for 2011: Will MacAdams, Christine Toy Johnson, and Lola Koundakjian.

From left to right: Patrizia Eakins (Sunday Best curator); Christine Toy Johnson (NoMAA grantee); Sandra Garcia-Betancourt (Executive Director, NoMAA); Will MacAdams (NoMAA grantee); Lola Koundakjian (NoMAA grantee); Diana Caba (Program Director, NoMAA). Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

A portion of the contributions taken at the door went to benefit NoMAA and its efforts to strengthen Northern Manhattan’s arts community. Sunday Best sees itself as a vital and supportive participant in and beneficiary of that community.  This event served as an emphatic reminder of the importance of interconnectedness and community to artistic endeavor.

The first of the afternoon’s readers was Will MacAdams, whose writing springs from the intersection of theater and everyday life. MacAdams read excerpts from his performance poem Water and Stone, which was created as part of a four-play cycle based on interviews with residents of Warwick, New York, an arts and farming community located 55 miles north of New York City.  Drawn to a farming community for reasons related to “finding roots,” MacAdams  spent a year volunteering at a farmer’s market in Warwick and began work on Water and Stone at the end of that year.

Will MacAdams. Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

Warwick was originally settled at the turn of the twentieth century by Polish immigrants who found it boasted some of the most fertile soil in North America.  In the years following World War II, waves of farm workers emigrated to the area, first from Puerto Rico and Jamaica and, more recently, from Mexico.  Water and Stone explores the stories that emerge from the experiences of those who came to Warwick during these two waves of emigration and from the land that connects them.  Through MacAdams’ honest, open voice, Sunday Best audience members heard the stories of an amazingly varied cast of characters from the farming community, including Beverly, a school teacher originally from Philadelphia, who marvels as a long line of cows, taking its time crossing the road, brings traffic to a complete standstill; Cheryl, a farmer and descendant of Polish immigrants who recounts her struggle against tomato blight; Everett, who recalls his parents’ sale of topsoil in the late 1950s which resulted in the stripping of 15 to 20 acres of his family’s land; and the lettuce worker who finds connection between Warwick and his land of origin when he realizes that both he and his family back home can look up and see the same stars in the night sky.

Dealing with cultural connections of a different sort, Christine Toy Johnson read a short theatrical piece that touched upon the role of food  and tradition in defining and practicing cultural identity.  Four of Toy Johnson’s full-length plays, as well as a documentary that she created with her husband about the first person of color to be drafted into the precursor organization to the NBA, were recently inducted into the Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection of the Library of Congress.  At the same time, the Library of Congress requested that Toy Johnson write a short theatrical piece on  the theme of “Confronting My Ancestor,” to be performed at the first Asian American Playwriting Conference which will take place later this year in Washington, D.C.

The result is Do These Jeans Make Me Look Fat?, an entertaining dialogue between the narrator and Linda, a neighborhood fixture and proprietor of the No. 1 Chinese restaurant on 181st Street in Washington Heights.  In an effort to avoid an obligatory visit to her mother’s house for Chinese New Year and the irresistible gustatory overload that such a visit entails, the narrator seeks comfort in her favorite local Chinese take-out place.  Inevitably,  however, she finds herself reminiscing with Linda about her ancestors, her childhood at the dinner table, and her family’s reliance on food to preserve their Chinese roots even as they strove to assimilate into American culture. Anyone who has ever stopped in at No.1 for a late-night order of pork lo mein will immediately recognize the character of Linda, and anyone who has ever straddled an uncomfortable cultural divide will sympathize with the narrator’s ambivalence.

Christine Toy Johnson. Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

The program closed with the poetry of Lola Koundakjian. Koundakjian’s first collection of poems includes works written in both Armenian and English and translated into Spanish.  This afternoon, she read poems full of sensuous joy that touched upon themes relating to love, sex, music, and food.  However, Koundakjian noted that she had recently discovered a “political side” to herself; in that vein, she read two more somber “political” poems, one about her travels through Hiroshima and another about the friendship between a Palestinian girl and an Israeli boy who meet in the hospital ward where they are treated for wounds sustained as a result of the ongoing violence in the Middle East.  Koundakjian noted that much of her work is autobiographical but added, with a touch of humor, that “poets like to elaborate.”

Lola Koundakjian. Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

Danielle Lazarin, another NoMAA grantee who was scheduled to read, could not attend because she went into early labor. (She later gave birth to a healthy baby girl.).  Sunday Best hopes that she will read at a future event. In the meantime, you can find some of Lazarin’s work online, including her story Dinosaurs at Five Chapters, her story Gone at Boston Review, and her interview with novelist Dan Chaon at Fiction Writers Review.

Veronica Liu, Washington Heights Free Radio. Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

Thanks to the efforts of Veronica Liu of  Washington Heights Free Radio (WHFR), the technical wizardry of Sunday Best sound technician Theo Rosen, and equipment provided by Sig Rosen through the Renaissance Chorus Association, this event was recorded and aired on WHFR during its Wednesday night broadcast on March 9. If you missed any part of this event or attended but would like to hear it again, you can download and listen to the audio file on Sunday Best’s program page on the WHFR website.

Theo Rosen, sound technician (left), and Sig Rosen of The Renaissance Chorus Association (right). Photograph by Susan Sermoneta.

A big thank you to Susan Sermoneta who filled in as Sunday Best photographer for this event.  You can see more of Susan’s photography on her website and her Flickr photostream.  Susan’s photos of this event have been uploaded to Sunday Best’s Flickr account, which you can access here and on the sidebar of this blog.

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

Event Recap: Where Words Meet Music: Thanks to All Who Attended!

The Sunday Best Reading Series returned on January 9, 2011, presenting a program of composers and writers whose performances charmed and captivated audience members with dramatic introspection, bittersweet humor, and rousing political commentary.  The program began with baritone Robert Osborne‘s compelling performance of Neil Rolnick’s “Making Light of It,” a song cycle based on the poetry of Philip Levine.  Rolnick accompanied on laptop computer.


Robert Osborne performs Neil Rolnick's "Making Light of It"

Neil Rolnick accompanied baritone Robert Osborne on laptop computer. Rolnick's "Making Light of It" is a song cycle based on the poetry of Philip Levine.

Next, Mary Liz McNamara and Anthony Moore delighted attendees as the title characters in Barbara Blatner’s one-act musical “Betty and Mortie,” the story of  two lovers who find each other during their “golden” years.  Blatner, who accompanied the performers on piano, based the musical in part on the life of her late mother.

Mary Liz McNamara and Anthony Moore performed in Barbara Blatner's "Betty and Mortie."

Barbara Blatner's one-act musical "Betty and Mortie" was inspired by the life of her late mother. Blatner accompanied McNamara and Moore on piano.

Finally, Jerome Kitzke closed out the program with energetic renditions of the poetry of Allen Ginsberg.

Jerome Kitzke paired music with the poetry of Allen Ginsberg to stirring effect.

Audience members had a chance to meet the performers at the after-reception which featured wines provided by Vines on Pine.

After-Reception. Wine provided by Vines on Pine.

This event was a wonderful start to a new Sunday Best season.  Thank you to everyone who attended “Composers and Writers”  on January 9 and welcomed the Sunday Best Reading Series back to the arts community in Northern Manhattan.  As always, special thanks go to the performers who gave so much of themselves–their work, time, energy, and unique visions–to make this event a success.

To see the full album of photos taken at the “Composers and Writers” event, please visit Sunday Best’s Facebook page or Flickr photostream.  And please join us for the next Sunday Best event, Valentines to Earth, on February 13.

Community Happenings: Hudson Heights Gazette Reviews Sunday Best

Melissa F. Moschitto, a writer for the Hudson Heights Gazette, recently reviewed Sunday Best’s recent “Composers and Writers” event, which took place on January 9, 2011.  The Hudson Heights Gazette is a blog that reports on newsworthy events in the Hudson Heights section of Northern Manhattan.  Ms. Moschitto’s review was an entry in “Uptown Culture Clippings,” a recurring feature on the blog devoted to artistic and cultural happenings in Hudson Heights.

Thank you for the mention, Hudson Heights Gazette!

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