On February 22nd, I went to the Lambda Upsilon Lambda event called “Noche Dorada.” It was mostly just an excuse to eat really good Spanish food– sweet platanos and arroz con pollo and creamy, amazing flan. The best part is that you get to eat the food while listening to intelligent speakers (this year: Dr. Thomas Colbert talked about growing up as a black man and his passion for education). My absolute favorite part of the night was, of course, the poetry reading. Brave New Voices’ poets Janine Simon, Mahogany Browne. A video of the performance can be found here.
The first poet, Janine Simon, read poems about coming of age and social activism– heavy subjects, beautifully handled. Her first poem, titled “September,” was a rhythmic tribute to the feelings she had as a girl on September 11, 2001. She wove rhymes in and out of the poem with grace, and her use of profanity fit exceedingly well. I loved the wordplay she used, taking slang and giving it literary importance. “‘Cept… ‘cept… Sep…tember,” she said.
Her next poem, “Alive,” was about growing up and finding a job in the pathetic market that we see today. Her pauses between lines were so deliberate that I got the sense that I was reading the poem and seeing the line breaks. Very cool. The last poem, “Growing Up,” spoke about the camaraderie of our generation and used a lot of puns. It got to be a little too much after a point, but it was enjoyable. My favorite thing about her reading, besides her really great use of slang and the word “fuck,” was how her accent (from Harlem in Manhattan) worked with her poetry. Her poems would probably still sound great if I read them in my head, but I think you need the effect of her energy on her words.
(The link to her YouTube channel can be found here.)
The other poet I want to talk about is Mahogany L. Browne. She, like Janine, was loud, but her big frame and even bigger attitude were just fabulous. She read from her book, #Dear Twitter: Love Letters Hashed Out Online in 140 Characters or Less. Her big voice took over the room, and people were laughing and snapping and whooping as she told people she was “black as hell and woman as hell, too.”
A few excerpts:
“#dear Self: this is the big one. Practice breathing. Leave your hands to floating – don’t thrash, even when the small fish get in the way.”
“#dear self: everyone got a spine – but not all of them got the know-how for heart-holding.”
“#dear right: you dead wrong.”
The poetry reading wasn’t something I would have sought out for myself, but it was loud and raw and funny and moving. I know as I give you the links to these poems that they won’t be as powerful as the spoken versions– even the video can’t capture the energy in the room and the passion in these brave new voices.