The Paterson Poetry Prize

In Paterson, I enjoyed my fifteen (or more) minutes of fame. I’m still feeling the glow of being including in the finalists for the Paterson Poetry Prize. I had the pleasure of meeting three poets with varying and powerful styles, including our winner, 5th Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco of BeyoncĂ© and Anderson Cooper fame, and finalists Aaron Smith and Joseph Millar.

I’ll skip the whiny details about my flights being delayed and then cancelled. Flying into Newark resulted in only a four-hour delay, but the airline gave me a one-hundred dollar voucher, which I’ll use for an upcoming trip to Chicago where La Bloga will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the International Latino/a Studies Conference in July. I guess I’m going to complain a little bit more about my travel time. On the way back my plane was delayed by 12 hours, and then cancelled after midnight with no voucher or hotel stay because the problems was weather related. You win some, you lose some, I kept telling myself, and continued telling myself when I realized I had lost an entire day and a half at the airport in Newark.

Speaking of winning, I sure felt like a winner being included in the Paterson Prize for my book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press). Our winner, Richard Blanco, delighted the audience. Blanco reads poetry like a dancer. His foot and movements are reminiscent of el maestro MartĂ­n Espada.

I enjoy watching poets who read with their entire bodies, offering body, soul, and voice to the listener.

Next, Joseph Millar took the stage and read from Blue Rust (Carnegie Mellon University Press). Millar had a casual delivery that impressed me with his ease at being in front of a packed room, his ease at being a poet, and his ease at being. He’s a cool cat who returned to poetry after two decades of working a variety of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area. And he didn’t miss a beat.

Maria Gillan, Founder and Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic Community College told us ahead of time that Richard would be reading first, but we didn’t know the overall order. I may have been nervous and spacing out during that memo, but recall feeling joyous when she called me up to read at the historic Hamilton Club Building in downtown Paterson. Paterson is a town that could use some maintenance and TLC for its gorgeous building and famous Paterson Falls.

Aaron Smith brought us home and brought down the house with his reading from Appetite (Pitt Poetry Series University of Pittsburgh Press). I already felt as though I knew Aaron Smith because we have a mutual poet friend in New Orleans, Brad Richard, who I had the pleasure of reading with two days before I left for Newark at the Reading Between the Wines Series at Pearl Wine co. Aaron also bought my book and asked me to sign it. In fact, he bought all of our books, a wonderful gesture of poet to poet support and camaraderie.

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