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Reading With Jehanne Dubrow & Richard Blanco

On March 29, I had the opportunity to take in some contemporary poetry from two exceptional poets, Jehanne Dubrow and Richard Blanco, at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. Part of the draw for me was to put a face, poetry, and personality of Jehanne Dubrow to the emails we exchanged as part of her 32 Poems Blog interview.

Sunil Freeman, The Writer’s Center’s Assistant Director, introduced the poet, and shed light on Jehanne Dubrow’s well-traveled life and her studies regarding the Holocaust.

Jehanne Dubrow read first and read from her latest book, The Hardship Point, which I picked up at the reading and Jehanne graciously signed for me.

The first section of The Hardship Point explains her personal myth, a retelling of what it means to be Jewish. The poems read from this section included “The Diplomat’s Daughter,” “In Vincenza,” and “Bargaining With the Wolf.” (I assume if I get the titles wrong, someone will tell me–LOL) “The Diplomat’s Daughter” goes over the good and bad of being a diplomat brat as Jehanne calls it. “In Vincenza” described a feeling of homelessness and always feeling like a visitor. “Bargaining with the Wolf” revisits childhood fears.

The second portion of the book examines Poland from a post-Holocaust point of view. Jehanne discussed how she is obsessed with sonnets, and some of them are in a Hackeresque style. “Isaac’s Synagogue” provides readers with a different view of Auschwitz as an adult compared to her childhood view of the infamous location. The most poignant of the poems in this section for me was “Souvenier,” which describes these figurines sold in Poland and how they depict the worst stereotypes of Jews, like weighing gold on a scale.

The final portion of her book deals with reconciling her views of Poland, and she attempted to write about her time in Nebraska, only to discover the poem was actually about Poland.

Finally, she read some of her latest poems from her forthcoming third book, Stateside, which examines what it means to be a military wife. Some of these poems have the best titles: “Nonessential Equipment,” “Against War Movies,” “Swimtest,” and “Navy Housing.”

Richard Blanco, who for a long time denied his Cuban heritage, renaming himself Richard, discussed his poems and his efforts to reconcile the ethnic disconnect he felt between his heritage and his American life. Sprinkled with humor throughout his explanations of each poem, audience members surely could see the nuggets of truth behind his quips about that struggle. Blanco is well published and some of his work appears in the Bread Loaf Anthology. He read from his first book, City of One Hundred Fires, and described himself as a reluctant Cuban. I picked up this book at the reading as well, and had Blanco sign it for me.

The first poem he read talked about his need to change his name to Richard, and one of my favorite lines was about how he wanted to wear a pinky ring like Richard Dawson and become all-American. “Mango 61” explored the Cuban equivalent to numerology, while “Mother Picking Produce” highlighted his epiphany as a youngster that his mother was human and made mistakes, but did the best she could.

I only have one word to describe “Shaving”: WOW. A fantastic poem from a son to a father. “Havanasis” is an interesting retelling of the creation story in Genesis where God creates Cuba out of chaos and the conga beat begins in the background.

The next book Blanco read from begins with a variety of travel poems and narrators looking for home. Other poems in this book examine the links between memories and places. His poems provide a great look at the struggles of immigrants entering the United States and reconciling their cultural heritage with their new culture.


I wish I had “live” pictures to show you of Jehanne Dubrow and Richard Blanco reading, but the battery on the camera died and it just didn’t happen. My hubby did get the nifty shot of the podium and of Sunil Freeman introducing Jehanne, but none of the poets reading.


The hubby did get a chance to take one shot with my camera phone of the old typewriters in the room, so I thought I would share that with you as well.

The Sound of Words

THE SOUND OF WORDS: A SCHEME TO ROCK THE WRITER’S CENTER

Featuring The Caribbean and 32 Poems Magazine
DATE: Friday, May 9
TIME: 8 PM
COSTS: Nothing
LOCATION: The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD

Sponsored by 32 Poems

Come join in the fun this Friday!

2008 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Slam


Every Bethesda Literary Festival my husband and I attend the Poetry Slam, where the bravest poets get up, recite poems, and allow audience members to judge their work. The above photo shows you the top three in the poetry slam.

There are two rounds to the slam. In the first round, everyone interested in competing signs up at the door. Each poet gets three minutes to read or recite a memorized poem, for every 10 seconds over, they are penalized a half point. The first round consisted of 15 competitors. The second round consists of the top five or six poets from the previous round. Before readers begin, a calibration poet reads their poem to allow the judges to see what kind of work will be read, and the score received should guide the judges in their scoring of other poets during the competition based upon whether their work is better or worse than the calibration poem.

I want to point out a few things about the first round poets before moving onto the final round. The first poet to read was Paul, who I have equated to Abe Lincoln in the past because of his physical appearance. Usually, Paul bores us all to tears and the judges attempt to be nice and ignore his monotonous reading tone and depressing subject matter. This is the first time his poem was entertaining. The poem touched upon the struggles of a writer when dealing with critiques. The writer gets advice to remove a dune-buggy at first, then a trite romantic couple, etc., until there is nothing left to the story, except “I hate you; I hate you all.” Great ending to a poem, and his traditional monotone voice was replaced by a bit of wit and sarcasm.

Another of my favorites from the reading was Chris August, who started off his poem with “I have four words for you: You Are Not Special.” The poem touched upon the sense of entitlement in today’s society and how those who are truly special are those that need wheelchairs, additional attention throughout their lives, and other accommodations.

Curry and Dwayne B. both recited poems about love and hate and disappointment. Chris Wilson also recited a poem about love, love in spite of heartache. “I’m sorry I broke into your apartment and stole your shampoo:” one of Wilson’s lines. It had some great allusions to the Bare Naked Ladies and their “Old Apartment” song, with an obsessed lover twist. It was quite entertaining.

Tokia Carter, since I couldn’t get her first name either time it was announced, was spectacular. Her AmeriTruth Airlines poem with pilot George “crazy” Bush and co-pilot Dick “trigger happy” Chaney and flight attendant Condi Rice was fantastic. It touched upon terrorism, the terror alerts, the “supposed” freedoms of Americans, and politics.

The final poet from the first round that I have to talk about is Rocky. You’d think it was a man, but it was a woman and she took performance poetry to a whole new level. Rather than rant and rave aloud and scream at the audience, like some, she literally acted out the physical tortures–Strung up by her feet, waterboarded, inside a chicken cage, and others–in her poem.

Candy Rain was the poet to clear the palette. Her poem was powerful. It did reset the mood after the lull of coffee and cookies. Free Caribou Coffee is the greatest.

The final round poets were Chris August, Chris Wilson, Ms. Carter, Jedidiah, Dwayne B., and Ben.

Ben and Jedidiah were first and second and couldn’t have contrasted more. Jedidiah’s poem discussed how education was the way to overcome discrimination, while Ben discussed the evolution from Blues to Alternative Rock when a boy discovers a Blues guitar against a tree and how it is like dying every night on stage. Dwayne B sang a bit, a blue song as a love song to his woman. Chris Wilson’s poem this time around was about his students and how he would kill their dreams by crushing them with the inspiration of creative writing. Chris August’s poem discussed how love and luck are not achieved by forwarding an email to friends and waiting; it’s achieved through actions and changes in behavior. Finally, Ms. Carter’s poem reflected on the justice system. She expressed the defense of death upon contact (DOC) due to self-preservation. A man laying his hands on her dies on contact, which makes it self-defense, and it saves taxpayers and the justice system millions because she does not fill out restraining orders and other paperwork; she takes matters into her own hands–so to speak.

Third Place this time around was Chris Wilson; second place was Chris August, and first place was Ms. Carter. One of these days I will have to find out her real name or at least her full name.

The only other tidbit from the Slam that I have for you is my hubby’s wonderful artwork, which garnered a bit of attention from the crowd and Delrica Andrews. He drew a Mickey Mouse for the first round and a strange, pierced poet for the second round. I think it made the judging much more interesting for him.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

Mid-April Poetry and Literary Events

Every year since I can remember after moving to the D.C. area, I have attended the Bethesda Literary Festival. The events range from readings to fun activities for kids. I enjoy learning about the latest creations from local artists and authors and being exposed to new authors and poets. Please feel free to click on the link above for a schedule of this year’s events.

One of my favorite events will take place on April 18 at 8PM, The Poetry Slam. While I do not participate in the slam as a performance poet, I enjoy the works of the participants. My poetry is more the run of the mill reading or academic event poetry, rather than performance art. I really enjoy performance works and admire the artists that create them, but I guess I am not wired to create them myself. Probably because of my wallflower status for much of my life. I hope some of you blog readers will be in the area and will join me at this year’s slam. I even picked up a self-published book from one of the poet’s last year. I will have to locate it and post one of the poems in homage to this year’s National Poetry Month-30 ways to celebrate.

I will probably attend the following on Sat. April 19 as well:

11am – Distinguished Novelist

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join New York Times bestselling novelist, Alice Hoffman, as she discusses her newest book, The Third Angel, a novel that examines the lives of three women at different crossroads in their lives, tying their London-centered stories together in devastating retrospect.

12:30pm – The Government & The Media

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Hear from Marvin Kalb, award-winning reporter for CBS and NBC News, former host of Meet the Press, currenthost of The Kalb Report and author of The Media and The War on Terrorism, as he explores the interaction between the government and the media during times of war and national emergency.

1-5pm – 15 th Annual Writer’s Center Small Press Fair

The Writer’s Center

Browse displays of literary journals and other publications by dozens of regional presses and literary organizations. The afternoon will include a used book appraisal, and a creative writing program for young children. For additional information, please visit www.writer.org.

2pm – White House Press Corps

Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Meet Helen Thomas, 47-year member of the White House Press Corps, first woman officer of the National Press Club, first woman president of the White House Correspondents Association and author of Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed The Public, as she speaks about her latest book and her career covering Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush.

7pm – CakeLove

Heineman Myers Contemporary Art

Meet Warren Brown, owner of CakeLove and Love Café, host of Sugar Rush on the Food Network, and author of his first cookbook, Cakelove, as he discusses his entrepreneurial bakery business and how he has achieved success.

8pm – Sidesplitting Standup!
The Barking Dog

Come see DC Improv comedian Matt Kazam, who has appeared on Fox’s “Big Red Couch,” Comedy Central’s “Stand-Up Stand-Up,” VH-1’s “Fools For Love,” TLC’s “Two For Vegas” and The Discovery Channel’s “Lux List.” He has served as the opening act for such notable comedians as Chris Rock, Pauly Shore, Robin Williams and Drew Carey. Ages 21+.

Sunday, April 20, I will likely be attending these:

11am-1pm – Authors’ Reception
Barnes & Noble

You are invited to roam the aisles, chat with authors and have your books signed. Authors include: Ron Orol, Extreme Value Hedging; Melvin Goodman, Failure of Intelligence; Jennifer Allison, Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator;Jon and Beverly Meyerson, After the Glass Slipper; Kay Shaw Nelson, Art of Scottish American Cooking; Suzanne Mintz,A Family Caregiver Speaks Up: It Doesn’t Have to be this Hard; Harrine Freeman , How to Get Out of Debt; Susan Fraser King, Lady Macbeth; Con Lehane, Death at the Old Hotel; Toby Devens, My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet); Howard Eisner, Essentials of Project and Systems Engineering Management; John Dimes, Intracations and E. D. Baker, Wings: A Fairy Tale.

2pm – State of the Unions
Hyatt Regency Bethesda

Join Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist, Philip Dine, for a discussion of his recent book, State of the Unions, to explore what’s happening to American workers and the middle class, labor’s decline, and why a rejuvenated union movement could turn things around.

Many of the Children’s events are on Saturday and Sunday.

Please do not forget to enter the Poetry Book contest this month via the Welcome post, which has all the necessary rules and information.

May Poetry Event Advanced Notice

The Sound of Words: A Scheme to Rock the Writers Center
Featuring: The Caribbean (a rock band) and 32 Poems Magazine (a poetry magazine)
DATE: Friday, May 9
TIME: 8 PM
LOCATION: The Writer’s Center,
4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815

DESCRIPTION

32 Poems Magazine, The Caribbean (an indie rock band), and the Writer’s Center join
together to bring you outstanding poetry from Sandra Beasley and
Bernadette Geyer and songs from The Caribbean

Writer’s Center

32 Poems
32 Poems BLOG

The Caribbean
LISTEN TO THEIR MUSIC