Video of the Rhina Espaillat Symposium

Daniella Gitlin and the other wonderful volunteers at Word Up Bookshop in New York have made available videos of the Rhina Espaillat Symposium which took place in October. It was a memorable day. People came from as far away as Los Angeles to show their admiration and affection for Rhina, and she, of course, reflected all that loving energy right back on us. I’ve been comparing her to a mirror ball when I talk about what happened that day.

So much happened that day. These videos are studded with gems. Leslie Monsour borrowed John Tavano’s guitar to sing —beautifully— a song she’d composed using one of Rhina’s Spanish poems as lyrics. Harvard Professor Lorgia García Peña revealed that, ever since hearing Rhina read at Dartmouth over ten years ago,  she has carried Rhina’s poems with her as a daily source of inspiration. Paula Dietz of The Hudson Review celebrated her friendship with Rhina. The young scholar Dan-el Padilla Peralta delivered a riveting essay. Juan Matos read his poetry with a passion that moved even the Spanish-challenged, like myself. Nancy Kang and Silvio Torres-Saillant, authors of the first full-length study of Rhina’s life and work, presented new papers. It’s impossible to list all the treasures to be found in this trove. It’s worth coming back to, whenever you want to be reminded what literary community looks and feels like. Here’s a link to the links: Rhina Espaillat Symposium

The Diminished Prophets visit Bunker Hill

Rhina Espaillat, John Tavano and I have added two other terrific musicians to our melopoeia ensemble, Roger Kimball and Kate Sullivan. We’re calling ourselves The Diminished Prophets. Our second performance as a group will be on Thursday, April 11, at the Charlestown Campus of Bunker Hill Community College. The program begins at 1 PM

Une chanteuse Parisian

John Tavano and I were thrilled to hear Parisian singer Anne Marie Codur and pianist Jill Borenstein perform our song, “La Girafe” at the Boston National Poetry Month Concert last night. It was a wonderful evening all around: Sufi poetry read to the accompaniment of the Turkish bowed tambour, Derek Walcott’s poetry paired with the mesmerizing sound of steel pans —even a Japanese pop song!

“The Guitar Maker”

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to read my poem “The Guitar Maker” at a special event to be held in Newburyport on Oct. 19. The Custom House Maritime Museum and WBUR are proud to sponsor this rare evening with Master Luthier Steve Klein, the man who built guitars for Joni Mitchell, Steve Miller, Sting, Stanley Clarke, and many others. Please join WBUR’s Jack Lepiarz for a reception, an exhibit of rare instruments, and a fascinating lecture on the art and science of modern lutherie. The beauty of these unique instruments will be brought to life with performances by Brendan Burns and John Tavano.

Our french songs on WMBR!

Tune in to “French Toast” on WMBR early on a Wednesday morning and you are likely to hear one of the chansons that John Tavano and I wrote for our recently released CD, The Subtle Thread. Huge thanks to Brian Thompson, professor of french emeritus at UMass Boston and one of the hosts of this long-running program. Listen live at 88.1 FM archived on


The Subtle Thread CD

I’ve been talking about this project for so long that it became an embarrassment, but I’m proud to announce that The Subtle Thread, a CD of nine original songs written by classical/flamenco guitarist John Tavano and myself, is finally in production, and will be available in stores and online before Christmas! John and I began writing “La Girafe,” the first song on the album, way back in October, 2010! John writes melody like no one else can; sweet vocalist Ann Harter sings in two languages for us (four of the nine songs are written in French); and I sing with her on a couple of tracks. We gathered some of the finest musicians around to help us record the songs, including Chris Plante, formerly of The Brew, and Albert Lamar, a member of The Mississippi Symphony for 15 years, who has performed in orchestras for Ray Charles, The Chieftains and Doc Severinson. I cannot leave out Alex Sandman, whose bass work is a showpiece in itself. Chris Plante did the mixing; sonic genius Jeff Lipton of Peerless Mastering did the mastering; and my sister Elise Nicol, an artist of national renown, supplied the cover art. This thing has been a long time coming, but it’s quite a thing! Can you guess that I’m excited?

Please see my Music page for more details (and a sneak peek at the album cover).