I had the good fortune tonight of hearing Yusef Komunyakaa, Hermine Pinson, and (who made the biggest impression on me) Aracelis Girmay. See the links at Triptych for information on these poets.
With regard to Girmay, I find myself in something of a spot, since she subscribes to an anti-Israeli orthodoxy ("apartheid" was a word she mentioned, in an introduction to a poem albeit not in a poem itself). She assumed that her audience was of the same belief, while I was squirming in my chair, distinctly uncomfortable and wondering if I should have taken off my yarmulke. But for her poetry! which busts every barrel hoop - I have to place my reservations with some poems over on one side, and my unfeigned joy with others at the center. Plus she was just so nice when she signed for me her new book, Teeth. You should buy it like I did. (She's a Watson fellow too, like I was; she sweetly signed her book: "Thank you for taking these into your home / to you, fellow traveler.")
A poem of hers:
FOR ESTEFANI LORA, THIRD GRADE, WHO MADE ME A CARD
for Estefani Lora, PS 132, Washington Heights
Elephant on an orange line, underneath a yellow circle
6 green, vertical lines, with color all from the top
The first time I peel back the 5 squares of Scotch tape,
unfold the crooked-crease fold of art class paper,
I am in my living room.
It is June.
Inside of the card, there is one long word, & then
Loisfoeribari: The scientific, Latinate way of saying hibiscus.
Loisforeribari: A direction, as in: Are you going
North? South? East? West? Loisfoeribari?
I try, over & over, to read the word out loud.
What is this word?
I imagine using it in sentences like,
“Man, I have to go back to the house,
I forgot my Loisfoeribari.”
“There’s nothing better than rain, hot rain,
open windows with music, & a tall glass
“How are we getting to Pittsburgh?
Should we drive or take the Loisfoeribari?”
I have lived 4 minutes with this word not knowing
what it means.
It is the end of the year. I consider writing my student,
Estefani Lora, a letter that goes:
To The BRILLIANT Estefani Lora!
Hola, querida, I hope that you are well. I’ve just opened the card that you made me, and it is beautiful. I really love the way you filled the sky with birds. I believe that you are chula, chulita, and super fly! Yes, the card is beautiful. I only have one question for you. What does the word ‘Loisfoeribari’ mean?
I try the word again.
I try the word in Spanish.
& then, slowly,
Lo is fo e ri bari
Lo is fo eribari
love is for everybody
love is for every every body love
love love everybody love
everybody love love
is love everybody
everybody is love
love love for love
for love is everybody
love is forevery
love is forevery body
love love love for body
love body body is love
love is body every body is love
is every love
for every love is love
for love everybody love love
love love for everybody