Other Literary Events: TODAY, Sunday, 11/20, at 2pm; UPTOWN NARRATIVES at WORD UP BOOKS

If you are in northern Manhattan today, please consider stopping by Word Up (4157 Broadway, at West 176th Street) at 2PM to hear Uptown Narratives,  a program of memoir and personal essay featuring some current and former Sunday Best Reading Series volunteers.  Among the readers will be Bonnie Walker, Sunday Best Reading Series photographer and blogger; Rita Calderon, Food Committee Member; and Risa Hirsch Ehrlich, front desk staff and all-around volunteer-extraordinaire.  All three have also read at the Sunday Best Reading Series.  The fourth reader on today’s program is Liam Drew, a new resident of Washington Heights whose work recently appeared in The Guardian. Please come welcome Liam to the neighborhood!

Read on for program details.

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UPTOWN NARRATIVES

Readings of Memoir and Personal Narrative

By Writers from Washington Heights and Inwood

Sunday, November 20 at 2PM

Word Up: Community Bookstore

4157 Broadway (at West 176th Street)

Rita Calderon

Rita L. Calderon is a long-time Washington Heights resident and a psychotherapist. Her non-fiction work has appeared in several newspapers, including The Philadelphia Daily News and The New York Times. She has read her work at Above the Bridge Writers Café and the Sunday Best Reading Series.

Liam Drew

Liam Drew is a neuroscientist. In addition to writing memoir, he writes pieces that demystify science for the layperson. He was recently published in The Guardian.

Risa Hirsch Ehrlich

Risa Hirsch Ehrlich, who is primarily a visual artist, has been writing memoir for the past several years. She finds memoir to be a safe way to visit the past with the present adult conducting the vulnerable younger self backwards.

Bonnie Walker

Bonnie Walker is a writer and photographer, as well as an attorney. She is currently working on a book-length memoir.

Other Literary Events: Sunday Best Curator Patricia Eakins Reads in the Catskills, August 7, 7:30pm

Patricia Eakins, curator of the Sunday Best Reading Series, will be reading from her work alongside novelist Rilla Askew in Liberty, New York on August 7 at 7:30 p.m.  Eakins and Askew will be performing as part of the First Hearings Series held at the Liberty Free Theatre.  Admission is free.  The Liberty Free Theatre is located at 109 South Main Street in Liberty, New York.  For reservations and more information, call 845-292-3788.

 

Patricia Eakins, May 2011.

 

Patricia Eakins is the author of The Hungry Girl and Other Stories and The Marvelous Adventures of Pierre Baptiste (a novel) which won the NYU Press Prize for Fiction and the Capricorn Fiction Award of the Writer’s Voice. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Parnassus, Conjunctions, Fiction International and The Paris Review, which awarded her the Aga Khan Prize.  Eakins is working on a novel and a collection of stories.

 

Rilla Askew received a 2009 Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  She’s the author of three novels and a book of stories, including an award-winning novel about the Tulsa Race Riot, Fire in Beulah. Her first novel,The Mercy Seat, was a finalist for the Pen-Faulkner Award. Her plays, short fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of venues, including Prize Stories: The O.Henry Awards, World Literature Today, Nimrod International Journal of Poetry and Prose.

Community Happenings: Word Up Opening Postponed to Friday, June 17!

Please help us spread the word.  Due to unfortunate and uncontrollable circumstances, the opening of the community pop-up bookshop Word Up has been postponed from tonight, Tuesday, June 14, to Friday, June 17.   Outside of this change in opening date, shop dates and hours remain as previously announced.  Word Up will open at 4PM on Friday, June 17, with opening night “festivities” beginning at 6PM.  Veronica Liu apologizes for any inconvenience.  If you have questions or concerns about the schedule change or are interested in selling your books or holding an event or workshop at the shop, please contact Veronica at fartoocanadian@gmail.com.

Other Literary Events: Uptown Voices:NoMAA Literary Grantees, Tuesday, June 14 at 6:30 pm

The Sunday Best Reading Series is currently on season hiatus until September 2011.  But opportunities to hear and support literary artists in Northern Manhattan still abound this summer.  On Tuesday, June 14, Sunday Best curator Patricia Eakins will emcee “Uptown Voices: NoMAA Literary Grantees,” a literary reading featuring recipients of NoMAA Literary Grants for 2011.  Among the writers sharing their work will be Will MacAdams, Christine Toy Johnson, and Lola Koundakjian, all of whom took part in the Sunday Best NoMAA Benefit held in March.  Joining them will be Danielle Lazarin (who was originally slated to read for the Sunday Best Reading Series in March but was forced to withdraw due to early labor), Dina Piera Di Donato Salazar, and Amir Parsa.

The reading will start at 6:30 in The Cornerstone Center at 178 Bennett Avenue (nearest cross street is West 189th).  A reception will be held afterward to honor the writers. This event is part of the annual Uptown Arts Stroll, and admission is free!

The Sunday Best NoMAA Benefit, March 6, 2011. From left to right: Patricia 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). Photo taken by Susan Sermoneta.

Community Happenings: Word Up: A Bookstore “Pops Up” In Northern Manhattan

June is here, and that means it is time for the annual Uptown Arts Stroll.  This year, the multi-talented Veronica Liu is making sure we remember that the “Arts” include the literary, as well as the visual and performing, arts. Veronica is the mastermind behind “Word Up,” a pop-up bookstore where uptown writers and artists will sell their books and other work on consignment and give performances and workshops open to the community.

Word Up will be open for one month, beginning Tuesday, June 14, at 4157 Broadway (at 175th Street).  Shop hours will be 4PM to 9PM on weekdays and noon to 4PM on weekends, with some scheduling variations to accommodate special events. To get information on selling your books, zines, and other goodies through consignment or on hosting a performance, event, or workshop, contact Veronica at fartoocanadian@gmail.com or info@fractiouspress.com.

Word Up is sponsored by NoMAA and Vantage Residential and coordinated by Fractious Press and Seven Stories Institute. Veronica is publisher of Fractious Press and Managing Editor of Seven Stories Press, which is affiliated with Seven Stories Institute.  She is also one of the creative forces behind Washington Heights Free Radio, which broadcasts the audio from events held by the Sunday Best Reading Series.  Read more about Veronica and Word Up at Karen the Small Press Librarian and Shelf Awareness.

The industrious and illustrious Veronica Liu (Word Up). Photo by Susan Sermoneta.

Radio Broadcast: TONIGHT:Washington Heights Free Radio Broadcasts “The Persistence of Dreams”

If you missed the  Sunday Best event “The Persistence of Dreams” this past Sunday, May 1–or if you simply want to hear it again, then tune in to Washington Heights Free Radio (WHFR) tonight, Wednesday, May 4, at 8PM.   Thanks to Veronica Liu of WHFR and intrepid Sunday Best sound technicians Sig Rosen and Theo Rosen, Sunday Best events are now being recorded for posterity! WHFR live streams the audio of each event, usually from 8PM to 9PM on the Wednesday evening immediately following the event.  An mp3 file of the audio is then posted to Sunday Best’s program page on WHFR’s site, so that you can listen to the show if you are away from your computer during the Wednesday evening live-stream or simply want to catch it again.

The audio of the Sunday Best NoMAA benefit held on March 6 and Words and Music Once Again held on April 3 are already available on the Sunday Best program page.  Tune in tonight to hear the great performances that Elisabeth Frost, Elaine Terranova, and Carol Wallace delivered last Sunday for “The Persistence of Dreams.”

Sig Rosen and Theo Rosen, sound technicians for the Sunday Best Reading Series

Community Happenings: Art in the Catskills: The Wildcat Fellowship Program

Sunday Best curator Patricia Eakins and event producer Peter Martin sponsor The Wildcat Fellowship Program, which awards a residency in the Catskill Mountains to one or more gifted emerging artists each year.  The program gives urban artists a chance to experience art-making in a rural mountain setting of peace and beauty.  This year, Patricia and Peter partnered with the Roundout & Neversink Stream Management Program of the Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District in order to select a fellowship recipient or recipients whose project would highlight the beauty and history of the Neversink River which runs from the Catskills to the Delaware River.

Readers of this blog may remember that, back in January, we posted a call for artists’ proposals for The Wildcat Fellowship Program.  A distinguished jury of artists and historians recently selected the innovative duo of Ellie Irons and Dan Phiffer as the Wildcat Fellows  for Summer 2011.  Ellie and Dan’s project, “Neversink Transmissions, will combine environmental sculpture with digital media to create “complementary transmission and receiving structures from which the audience can access locally generated knowledge about the Neversink River and surrounding watershed.”   Interviews with residents of the Neversink area will provide the source material for digital and radio transmissions which will serve not only as a local oral history but also highlight issues related to watershed management and rural communities.

Neversink Transmissions

Patricia will be documenting the progress of “Neversink Transmissions” throughout the spring and summer on a blog dedicated to The Wildcat Fellowship Program. Please check out Patricia’s blog to learn more about the artists and their proposal and to read about their efforts as they work to bring “Neversink Transmissions” to fruition.

Community Happenings: Book Drive for the Memory Center at Riverstone Senior Life Services

Riverstone Senior Life Services is a non-profit agency serving older adults who live in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.  Riverstone’s Memory Center provides support through a variety of therapeutic, social, and recreational activities to elders with memory loss.

Peter Martin, event manager for Sunday Best and a social worker, is a member of Riverstone’s board of directors, and the Sunday Best Reading Series is currently collecting books for the library in the Memory Center.  If you have books that you would like to donate, please give them to Peter Martin or Patricia Eakins at the NoMaa Benefit scheduled for Sunday, March 6, or at any other Sunday Best event.   Also, let Peter know if you would like to visit the Memory Center.  If you cannot attend a Sunday Best event in the near future, but you would still like to donate books, please leave a comment in response to this entry or contact Patricia Eakins at fabulara@earthlink.net.

Books in the Memory Center library will be read and shared both with older persons in the early stages of memory loss and their caretakers, so please keep both groups in mind when collecting volumes for donation. Suitable books include books of poetry and fiction that are not overly difficult for persons with Alzheimer’s,  books about Alzheimer’s for caregivers of older adults, and “coffee table” books with good pictures.  Art books, particularly books about particular art forms, such as origami, would be particularly welcome.

For caregivers, the Center is hoping to collect a number of “comfort books,” books that one would enjoy reading or leafing through on a stressful day when difficult tasks seem impossible to undertake–the kind of books one would curl up while eating mac and cheese!  For older adults, books that serve in some way to elicit memories would be of particular value; these books could include books of photographs of historical events or neighborhoods or books of easy writing exercises and journal prompts.  In short, any books that entertain, comfort, amuse, provide useful information, or evoke memory and reflection would be welcomed with sincere appreciation.

Grand Opening of Riverstone Memory Center (photo courtesy of Riverstone Senior Life Services)

In Memoriam: Phil Miller–A Tribute

With deep sadness, we report that Phil Miller, an exceptional poet and a generous teacher and mentor, passed away on Monday, February 14, at his home in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, with his wife Nancy and his family by his side.  In November 2008, Phil shared his unique poetic vision with Sunday Best audience members, reading his work as part of the program Powers of Disturbance. Phil authored several collections of poetry, edited the literary magazine The Same, and taught writing and literature at Kansas City Kansas Community College for more than 25 years.  These are but a sampling of his accomplishments.

 

Phil Miller, April 2010

It was Phil’s ability to see into and to illuminate what was haunting, unexpected, and uncanny in the normal and the mundane that set him apart. In an introduction to Phil’s book The Casablanca Fan, Sunday Best poetry consultant Martin Mitchell described the experience of reading Phil’s poetry as follows:

Sometimes, reading the poetry of Philip Miller is like viewing the etchings of M.C. Escher.  You can’t just look, or read; you’re drawn in.  As you peruse the surface, the poem is likely to lure you into its world, its own take on reality — so convincing as to offer plausible alternative scenarios for day-to-day events.

As Mitchell has observed, Phil was a visionary, and those visions come to life in poems that spring from “his incisive, illuminating comprehension of everyday occurrences and people.”

Phil Miller, April 2010

Phil had been ill for quite awhile, and his friends and colleagues knew how sick he was.  But news such as this is somehow always unexpected.  Instead of contemplating inevitable ends, we hope for remissions and miracles.  We tell ourselves that we know what is coming, all the while seeking shelter in our conviction that it will not come today.  When it comes, if it comes at all, it won’t come until tomorrow, that mythical tomorrow that marks the horizon of our future.  Despite what reason tells us, we are never quite prepared for the loss of someone like Phil Miller, who not only created remarkable poetry of his own but also supported and encouraged others in their endeavors to write and read and understand it.

Phil wrote frequently of ghosts and of himself as a ghost, a haunting observer.  In “Shadowing,” a poem that appears in The Casablanca Fan, the narrator declares, “I’m invisible to you as a ghost.”  In “Translucent,” from the same volume, he calls himself “a ghost with no future/ and a shady past.”  It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of the impact that Phil had on his colleagues and his friends.  Inevitably, his presence will linger in the imprints and the impressions he has left behind.  But there is little doubt that those who knew and loved Phil will find more pleasure and comfort than sadness in being haunted by such a benevolent poetic spirit.

Phil Miller, November 2009

A personal note:  The writer of this blog entry was only peripherally acquainted with Phil Miller.  I knew him primarily through his poetry and his poetry readings, both of which I have enjoyed immensely, and through my observations of how much others, who knew him far better than I, valued and admired him both as a poet and a human being. But I did have a handful of short conversations with him, and I regret that I will not be able to have more.

I remember one conversation in particular, though I remember more about how I felt during the conversation and the impression that Phil made upon me than I do about anything we discussed.  What I remember most is this: Phil was surrounded by published poets and editors–people in the “literary know.”  Yet, for the short time that our conversation lasted, it was clear that I, a nondescript individual of whom he knew practically nothing, was the most important person in the room to him.

There is in all of us a sense for beauty, an inner eye, that can see the magic, the splendor, the exquisite tragedy that are concealed within the everyday and the routine.  In many, if not most, that sense lies dormant; others, for whom that sense is “turned on,” often find they must switch it off in order to meet the demands of the lives they have constructed for themselves.  But I have the feeling that, in Phil Miller, that sense was wide awake and always dreaming.  His poetry speaks directly to that sense; real poetry–the good stuff–always does.

Phil Miller’s poetry wasn’t just for published poets and erudite scholars (though it was just as much for them as for anyone else).   It wasn’t just for that elite group whose mastery of language sometimes seems to set them apart from those of us mere mortals who admire them and their work.  His poetry was also for gifted poets who write beautiful poetry but struggle to find publishers.  It was for bad poets who scribble earnest stanzas on cocktail napkins.  It was for people who aren’t sure what poetry is in the first place, people who know what poetry is but wish they didn’t, people who don’t like poetry at all or at least don’t think they do.  His poetry was for anyone willing to awaken that dormant sense within, even just a little, and begin to see the world transformed through new eyes.  And his kind words and his generosity left me without a doubt that his poetry was for me, too.

Thank you, Phil.

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To learn more about Phil and what he meant to the literary community, particularly the literary community of Kansas City, please read this tribute to Phil that appeared in the Kansas City Star on February 19.

Phil’s obituary appears below, along with one of his recent poems “Life After Death.”

Philip Winn Miller, teacher, poet, husband and father, age 67, of Mt. Union , Pennsylvania passed peacefully early Monday morning, February 14, at home with his family.

Born in Kansas City , Missouri , May 21, 1943 to Richard M. and Alveretta J. Miller, he received a BA in English and Psychology, and a MA in English from Emporia State University in 1966 where he studied under Keith Denniston.

Miller taught at Kansas City Kansas Community College from 1976 until 2002. While at KCKCC, he coordinated the college’s Basic English program for over 20 years; he served as professor of English and taught creative writing, composition and American literature.

Miller was a longtime resident of Kansas City . He was a founding member of The Writers Place and he co-founded and directed the Riverfront Reading Series. In 2004, he retired to Mt. Union , where he edited The Same magazine, was co-director of the Aughwick Poet and Writers Reading Series and was a board member on the Huntingdon County Arts Council.

Miller’s works appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals. He edited and co-edited numerous publications throughout his career. He had many books of poetry published.

He is survived by his loving wife Nancy, his beloved Scottie-Dachshund Milton, his children, Kevin, Darren & Khris, Meredith & Darick, Alison & Brent and Jaime and his grandchildren, Ryan, Alec, Philip Brooks, Charlie, Nicole, Owen, Hattie, Ella, Rhys, Andrew, Ian and Lily.

Miller gifted his body to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Human Gift Registry . His family will hold a memorial gathering at a later date. The family requests that remembrances be payable to The Philip W. Miller Memorial Scholarship Trust at Clearfield Bank and Trust, 16 West Shirley St, Mount Union, PA 17066,(814) 542-2591. The scholarship will be awarded to future English majors.

The family expresses great appreciation to his many caregivers especially those from the Home Nursing Agency and Hospice of Huntingdon County, PA.

Life after Death

It isn’t so bad, you know,

now that I’ve packed my bags.

I get along on my own,

pay my rent, hold down

a small job, have a friend

or two, at a distance, of course.

Look, there are my shoes

beside my bed, ready for action,

ready to walk whichever direction.

Who knows, this may be it.

(by Philip Miller, from his forthcoming collection, The Ghost of Every Day and Other Poems, to be published by Spartan Press, Kansas City, MO.)

Other Literary Events: Conspiracy of Leaves: Buy Into It Now!

Those of you who attended Sunday Best’s event Valentines to Earth this past weekend were no doubt wowed by the poetry of Wendy Babiak, who traveled all the way from Ithaca to share her work and wisdom with her urban-dwelling admirers.  Unfortunately, Wendy did not have copies of her book with her to sell at the reception following the reading.  We have the remedy for that:  If you like what you heard on Sunday and want to read more of Wendy’s poetry, you can purchase her book Conspiracy of Leaves online through her blog.  And while you are there, take some time to read Wendy’s blog and learn more about her and her work.  Her insights are well worth a protracted stay in the blogosphere!

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