First, let’s clear our throats.
That was Willie Perdomo at last week’s Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival. (I took all of these videos with my sweetie’s new Flip camera, so please forgive the jiggles and wiggles ??? I fear I don’t have a promising career as a filmmaker!)
Every summer for the past six years, the NY Writers Coalition has offered free writing workshops for 7-18 year-olds in Fort Greene park. The culminating festival brings the young writers together with established authors ??? often from or somehow connected to Brooklyn ??? to share their work.
Sarah Dobrowolski offered “Hanging Dreams,” her richly-imagined answer to Langston Hughes’ question ??? “What happens to a dream differed?”
And later, Patricia Smith read this stunning long poem, which she dedicated to the young readers at the festival. A gorgeous cascade of lines that spoke to her youthful discovery of the thrill and dire necessity of writing, it reminded me of all the ways that writing saves us.
As M.C. Laurie Cumbo mentioned on Saturday, Fort Greene Park has a rich literary history. Both Richard Wright and Marianne Moore lived nearby and wrote in the park. Walt Whitman was a driving force for the creation of the park.
I think Whitman would have been tickled by Talia Regist’s dreaming in a dream:
I had the honor of working with the 7-9 year olds this summer, and it was a great way to spend beautiful summer Saturday mornings: bringing in exercises that sparked their creativity, writing group poems together, listening to their smart, funny, moving words. Like this story, “The World’s Bravest Wolf,” from Zoe Shears:
And so, last Saturday I was excited and proud to watch them perform along with the rest of the youths and the adult readers.
Zselyke Tarnai reading “Summer.”
This year, the adult readers were Kwame Dawes, Gregory Pardlo, Willie Perdomo, Carl Hancock Rux, Patricia Smith, and Cheryl Boyce Taylor – all published in the anthology So Much Things to Say: 100 Poets from the First Ten Years of the Calabash International Literary Festival, edited by Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer (who DJ-ed the event).
The Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica brings together authors from around the world to read at a three-day literary event. The anthology celebrating its ten-year anniversary recently came out from Akashic Books, a co-sponsor of the Fort Greene Park festival.
I’ll end with Kwame Dawes reading “Black River,” a poem from the anthology by British poet Jackie Kay. Titled after the river that runs by the festival site, this piece seemed to convey the spirit of the Calabash festival, and ??? with the image of the speaker’s son at the helm of the boat, joining the perspectives of youth and adulthood ??? the spirit of Fort Greene Festival too.