Crossings: Words and Music — Who’s Who

Rika Lesser, poet, translator, essayist, and educator, is the author most recently of Questions of Love: New & Selected Poems and a revised edition of Etruscan Things. She has translated fifteen collections of poetry or fiction for readers of all ages, primarily from Swedish and German, including works by Göran Sonnevi, Gunnar Ekelöf, and Claes Andersson from Swedish, and Rafik Schami, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Hermann Hesse from German as well as Kiki Dimoula from Greek, her first translation in that language. Her honors include the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, an Ingram- Merrill Foundation Award in Poetry, The Landon Poetry Translation Prize, a Fulbright Commission fellowship, two NEA Translation Grants (2001 and 2013), and two Translation Prizes from the Swedish Academy.

Kiki Dimoula is a member of the Academy of Athens. She has been awarded the Greek State Prize twice, the Grand State Prize, the Ouranis Prize, and the Aristeion of Letters (given by the Academy of Athens), as well as the European Prize for Literature. Her poetry has been translated into English, French, Danish, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages. Rika Lesser’s translation with Cecile Inglessis Margellos of The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems comes out as a Margellos World Republic of Letters Book from Yale University Press on November 13, 2012.


Aaron Jay Kernis, winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has taught composition at the Yale School of Music since 2003. Among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation, his music is featured prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs worldwide and he has been commissioned by many of America‘s foremost performing artists. He was invited to join the American Academy of Arts and Letters as a member in 2011 and is the most recent winner of the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University.

Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti (1876-1944) was an Italian poet and the founder of the Futurist movement.  He is best known as the author of the Futurist Manifesto (1909), which was published in French on the front page of the most prestigious French daily newspaper, Le Figaro. Marinetti believed that violence was a means of producing an aesthetic effect, as well as inherent to life itself. Consequently, Futurism had both anarchist and Fascist elements.First published in 1932, The Futurist Cookbook is a collection of essays, exhortations, scenarios, and recipes for food of the future which related the artistic movement of Futurism to food and challenged the conventions of nineteenth-century Italian fare.

Asta Hansen has worked in film, television and theatre on both coasts and abroad. Recent highlights are the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, John Jesurun’s Stopped Bridge of Dreams at La Mama and in his webisode Shadowland, and lead role in Spotless which was selected for the Poppy Jasper Film Festival in Northern California.

Violinist Nurit Pacht has enjoyed a career as a chamber musician performing in festivals worldwide. As a recitalist and in concerto appearances, she has performed in venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, Moscow’s Great Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, The People’s Hall of China in Beijing and, at the invitation of Christoph Eschenbach, at Ravinia’s Rising Stars Series. Chosen by director Robert Wilson to be the featured musician in his multi-media piece “Relative Light” featuring solo violin works by John Cage and J.S. Bach, Ms. Pacht is equally at home in both standard and contemporary repertoire. Her passion for new music has culminated in world premiers and commissions from composers including Michael Hersch, Noam Sheriff and Annie Gosfield. She has performed in duo recitals with Philip Glass playing the composer’s works for violin and piano.

Cellist David Bakamjian performs regularly as a recitalist, chamber player, and recording artist. He  has soloed with numerous orchestras on both baroque and modern cello, and has served as principal cellist for many others. With the Casa Verde Trio, Mr. Bakamjian completed six critically acclaimed national tours as well as a month-long tour of China. On baroque cello, he performs with Brooklyn Baroque, the American Classical Orchestra, Early Music New York, Concert Royal, and the Long Island Baroque Ensemble. He co-wrote and is featured in “Evocations of Armenia,” a program for solo cello and spoken word that was specially conceived for the MET museum. His CD of Boismortier cello sonatas was released last year.

Pianist Evelyne Luest is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician and has performed and toured in Europe, South America, Asia and the USA. She has won several competitions including the Artists International Competition in New York as soloist as well as many awards with her ensemble, Contrasts Quartet. Ms. Luest has performed as soloist at Carnegie Hall, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Italy and on the St. Paul Sunday National Radio Show. Her many collaborations include such noted musicians as cellist Truls Mork and flutist Emmanuel Pahud. Recent performances include festivals and concert venues in Norway, France, Japan, Spain, Albuquerque, and Detroit. Her long list of premieres includes compositions by Ned Rorem, Joan Tower and Aaron Jay Kernis. Ms. Luest studied with Gilbert Kalish at SUNY/Stony Brook, where she received an M.M. and D.M.A. in piano performance.


Event Announcement: Crossings–Words and Music, Friday, November 2nd at 7:30 pm

Sunday Best Reading Series in partnership with Sunday Concerts in the Lounge present Crossings: an Evening of Words and Music. On November 2nd at 7:30 in The Lounge @ HVG, Rika Lesser, poet, will read from her translation of The Brazen Plagiarist by Kiki Dimoula. Composer Aaron Jay Kernis‘s “The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine,” based on Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook, will be performed by Asta Hansen Nelson, narration; Evelyne Luest, piano; Nurit Pacht, violin; and David Bekamjian, cello.  The suggestion donation of $10 includes a reception with free snacks and a cash bar.

The Lounge is at Pinehurst Avenue and 183rd St., in Northern Manhattan. Take the A train to 181st Street.

                   Event Announcement:                   Delicious New Fiction, February 5 at 4PM

January has brought snow and biting cold to New York City. As winter settles in for the long haul, keep yourself warm by indulging your literary appetite. Please join the Sunday Best Reading Series on Sunday, February 5, for a hearty meal of delicious new fiction. Scheduled readers include prose writers Jonathan Baumbach, Janice Eidus, and Douglas Light. As always, the reading will take place at 4PM in The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Avenue (at West 183rd Street). Suggested admission is $7 and covers the reading itself, as well as the after-reception, where audience members can enjoy free refreshments and mingle with the writers.  Please read on for more information about the writers who will be reading their work on February 5.



Jonathan Baumbach

“In all of Jonathan Baumbach’s fiction, there is a wonderful balance of ease and authority, subtlety and surprise, wisdom and playfulness…one of my favorite writers.” —Robert Coover

Jonathan Baumbach is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including Dreams of Molly; YOU; On The Way To My Father’s Funeral: New and Selected Stories; B, a novel; D-Tours; Separate Hours; Chez Charlotte and Emily; The Life and Times of Major Fiction; Reruns; Babble and A Man to Conjure With. His stories have appeared in Esquire, American Review, Tri Quarterly, Partisan Review, Zoetrope, Antaeus, Iowa Review, Open City and Boulevard magazines. His fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Byrnes Book of Great Pool Stories, All Our Secrets Are the Same, O.Henry Prize Stories, Full Court: a Literary Anthology of Basketball, The Best of TriQuarterly, and On The Couch: Great American Stories about Therapy. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. In 1973 (with Peter Spielberg) he invented the Fiction Collective, the first fiction writers cooperative in America, reinvented in 1988 as FC2. He is the author of The Landscape of Nightmare: Studies in Contemporary American Fiction, has been the Film Critic for Partisan Review and is the two time Chairman of the National Society of Film Critics.



Janice Eidus

“Nobody writes about Jewish cultural life quite as funnily and piercingly as Janice Eidus”  —Mindy Lewis, editor, Dirt: The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House

Novelist, short story writer, and essayist Janice Eidus has twice won the O. Henry Prize for her short stories, as well as a Pushcart Prize, a Redbook Prize, and numerous other awards. Her 2008 novel, The War of the Rosens, won an Independent Publishers Award in Religion and was nominated for the Sophie Brody Medal, an award for the most distinguished contribution to Jewish Literature for Adults. Janice’s other books include the short story collections The Celibacy Club and Vito Loves Geraldine and the novels Urban Bliss and Faithful Rebecca. Her work appears in such magazines as Tikkun and Jewish Currents and such anthologies as Promised Lands: New Jewish American Fiction; On Longing and Belonging; The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories; Neurotica: Jewish Writers on Sex; and Scribblers on the Roof: Contemporary Jewish Fiction. She’s the Fiction Editor at Shaking, the print and online journal, and has been a guest speaker and teacher throughout the U.S., Europe, and Central America.



Douglas Light

“Gems of stories, slyly, skillfully interrelated and captivating in their economy, truth, and acid wisdomFrederic Tuten, author of Tintin in the New World

Douglas Lights new story collection, Girls in Trouble, won the 2010 AWP Grace Paley Prize. His first novel, East Fifth Bliss, won the ‘Popular Fiction’ section of the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association and was made into a film starring Michael C. Hall, Peter Fonda, and Lucy Liu. Light co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Knowles. Light’s second novel, Where Night Stops, received a 2010 NoMAA Grant. His fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and has appeared in the 2003 Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology and in Narrative, Guernica, Alaska Quarterly Review, Failbetter, and other magazines. He was a finalist for the 2002 James Jones First Novel Fellowship and for the 2010 Indiana Emerging Author Award.

Event Reminder: NoMaa Benefit, Sunday, March 6th, 4PM

Don’t forget to join the Sunday Best Reading Series this Sunday, March 6th, at 4PM for a literary showcase of NoMaa (the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance) grantees.  All four featured readers are recipients of NoMaa literary grants for 2011.  Proceeds from this event will benefit NoMaa, which provides invaluable support, networking, and educational services to artists who live in Washington Heights and Inwood.

Christine Toy Johnson

Lola Koundakjian

Danielle Lazarin

Will MacAdams

For more information about the event and bios of the readers, please see our previously posted event announcement.

Event Announcement: Valentines to Earth: More Info!

Everyone involved with the Sunday Best Reading Series is getting excited about our upcoming Valentines to Earth event, slated for Sunday, February 13, at 4:00 p.m in The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens.   Not only will we be enjoying first-rate literary performances by writers/activists Wendy Babiak and Vivian Demuth, but we will also hear the work of a group of accomplished writers from Northern Manhattan.  And as an additional bonus, we will have the opportunity to benefit from the collective wisdom of a panel of community gardening experts at a special pre-event discussion that will take place at 2:00 p.m.

You will find more information about Wendy (who will be doing double duty as a panelist during the community gardening event) and Vivian in our event announcement for Valentines to Earth.  Please read on to learn more about the local writers and panelists who will also be contributing their time and effort to this highly anticipated event.  We hope you will join us on February 13 for this special literary tribute to our environment.

Local Writer Bios

Born in South Africa, Marlon Danilewitz presently resides in Northern Manhattan, where he is in his final semester of college at Yeshiva University. His poetry has appeared in Poetica Magazine and Something Rich and Something Strange. In his spare time, Marlon works as a yoga instructor and competes in triathlons.

Gordon Gilbert is a poet and songwriter. A member of the Activist Poets Roundtable, Gordon has helped to organize and has read at several Brecht Forum events, which focus on peace and social justice. Gordon has also collaborated with a Peruvian photographer/filmmaker, doing English translations for two books and a documentary. Occasionally, he hosts poetry events at the Yippie Museum Cafe; he will be hosting a celebration of Allen Ginsberg there on February 28.

Peter Martin writes poetry and songs.  He facilitates art and performance events.  He also teaches social work at Fordham and volunteers with non-profits, starting and growing social intervention programs.

Melissa Fendell Moschitto is the Founding Artistic Director of  The Anthropologists. With the company, she is developing Another Place, a play about living in the age of climate change. She’s currently directing a new solo show Daddy’s Black & Jewish by performance artist Lian Amaris which premieres at Nuyorican Poets Cafe February 23-26.  Directing credits with The Anthropologists: For the Love Of… (The Flamboyan/CSV), Give Us Bread (Milagro Theatre/CSV), Falling (4th Street Theatre/Flux Theatre Ensemble), The Columbus Project (KNF/Directors Company) and Potatoes! (One Million Forgotten Moments).  As a playwright, her full-length play When Santo Domingo Isn’t Enough won Best Play at the 2006 Downtown Urban Theater Festival and was a Top Ten Finalist in Repertorio Espanol’s 2006 Nuestras Voces National Playwriting Competition.  She holds a B.A. in Theater from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has studied with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies, Pilobolus Dance Theater, Tina Landau, Ping Chong, and SITI Company.

Community Gardening Panelist Bios

Wendy Babiak is the founder of a community permaculture garden in Ithaca, New York.

Lois Ann Lawless is a local neighbor in Northern Manhattan, working with others to develop and maintain welcoming space in the garden of Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church on Bennett Avenue in Washington Heights.

Dorrie Rosen is educated in both horticulture and landscape architecture.  She is familiar with indoor/tropical houseplants, as well as native and introduced ornamental trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, their botanical names, identification, and growing requirements. As a registered landscape architect, she has extensive field experience in design and construction and has worked on wetland restoration, landscape preservation, flower garden design, urban tree planting, and Xeriscape landscape techniques. For the past thirteen years Dorrie has served as Plant Information Specialist at The New York Botanical Garden.

Tom Waters is a policy analyst at the Community Service Society and a political science student at the CUNY Graduate Center. He was previously a community organizer in New York City and Knoxville, Tennessee and a community broadcaster in Madison, Wisconsin.  He lives in Marble Hill.

SUNDAY BEST RETURNS! New Season Begins January 2011

Here’s some great news for writers and aficionados of the literary arts in Northern Manhattan and beyond.  After a hiatus of several months, the Sunday Best Reading Series is returning to Washington Heights with a season that will serve up a melange of the excellent fiction, creative nonfiction, dramatic writing, and poetry that audiences have come to expect from our events–with generous quantities of music, gardening, and environmental awareness added in for extra flavor.

The new season begins on January 9, 2011 with a program of composers and writers that will sample everything from musical theater and electronic music to spoken word performance and the poetry of Philip Levine and Allen Ginsberg.  Please see the list below for dates and preliminary details for the Sunday Best events scheduled for the winter and spring of 2011.  As in the past, all events will take place in The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens (116 Pinehurst Avenue at West 183rd Street) on a Sunday afternoon and will begin at 4:00 p.m.  The suggested donation (which covers the event itself as well as the after-reception and light refreshments) remains $7.

January 9, 2011:

Composers and Writers: Barbara Blatner, Jerome Kitzke, Neil Rolnick

February 13, 2011:

Valentines to Earth: Poet/Activist Wendy Babiak and fiction writer/activist Vivian Demuth with cameos by local writers including Peter Martin, Gordon Gilbert, Melissa Fendell Moschitto of The Anthropologists, and Marlon Danilewitz; this event will be preceded at 2:00 p.m. by a panel on gardening and community featuring Wendy Babiak, Tom Waters, Lois Ann Lawless, and Dorrie Rosen.

March 6, 2011:

NoMAA Grantee Showcase: Readings by literary artist who have received Individual Artist Grants from NoMAA (Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance) for 2011.  We will provide more details on the program for this event after NoMAA announces the award recipients.

April 3, 2011:

Mikhail Horowitz and TBA

May 1, 2011:

New Books: Carol Wallace, Elaine Terranova, Valerie Mejer

Event Announcement: Music, Poetry, and Performance in the Lounge, March 7th at 4PM

Nourishing the Muse

featuring poet, singer, performer

Nicole Peyrafitte

and members of the Sunday Best Food Committee

Nicole Peyrafitte was voted best performance artist of New York State’s Capital Region in 2005. An audience member described a performance as follows: ”A French woman with stylist-spiky red hair balanced a brass chime bowl on her head… while singing a 5,000-year-old Sumerian poem, walked the length of the gallery and back tapping the bowl with a sea shell and a wooden stick. When she returned to the stage, she kept singing, removed the bowl, then stood on her head and while performing various acrobatic leg movements, continued singing the poem until the end…..”

Sunday Best Food Committee:

Rita L. Calderon has lived in the Heights for over two decades.  A psychotherapist with a writing habit, she has studied at the New York Writers Workshop and Gotham Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Philadelphia Daily News, Riverdale Press and elsewhere. Once upon a time, she wrote a food column, but now she just eats and delights in watching others eat heartily, especially at the Sunday Best Reading Series.

Nancy Haiduck received the Jerome Lowell DeJur Award in Creative Writing from The City College of New York, where she earned an MFA in 2009. She received the BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Award in literature from the Bronx Council on the Arts in 2008. Her poetry can be found in anthologies, at online poetry sites such as PrairieHomeCompanion, and in print journals, including the Paterson Literary Review and the upcoming Spring issue of Hanging Loose. Haiduck teaches first-year writing students at City College; she was named Outstanding Teacher in 2007. The poet Marilyn Hacker has praised her for her “keen eye for the less than obvious…discreet empathy for the other.”

Neal Haiduck has performed as a clarinet soloist with orchestras and jazz bands in North America, Europe, and Japan. Recordings include “Montréal Meets New York” and “Modern Jazz,” selections of which can be heard at  Haiduck  has premiered works by William Thomas McKinley, David Peter Heckendorn, Merrill Clarke, and Carmelo Comberiati. He teaches woodwinds at Manhattanville College and at Bergen Community College in New Jersey and has led jazz workshops at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden.  In 2008, Cadence magazine praised Haiduck’s “intense fluency.”

Donald Wilen and his wife Laura moved to Washington Heights about five years ago after living, working and bringing up kids and cats in the Mid -Hudson Valley for twenty-five years. “For the first time in my life,” says Donald, “I don’t have to work 24/7 and can spend time cooking, writing and just having fun in New York City. I love writing memoir pieces and hearing other people’s efforts at our monthly memoir group meetings.” Both Donald and Laura (an educational program designer) have been active in the Spoken Arts Group that sponsors the Sunday Best Reading Series. Laura takes charge of the box-office, and Don not only fusses with food but often serves drinks at the bar with Peter Martin. Don is on the Hudson View Gardens Board of Directors; he runs the Community Affairs committee.

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