Daniella Gitlin and the other wonderful volunteers at Word Up Bookshop in New York have made available videos of the Rhina Espaillat Symposiumwhich 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
Passages, our new CD,was released on October 1! Hard to believe that it has been nine years since our we made our first recording of melopoeia,, the art that so delighted Rhina Espaillat when she heard it as a child in the Dominican Republic. Rhina’s earliest memories include the pleasurable one of hearing poetry recited in her home to the sound of guitars and the piano. Her grandmother, herself a poet, would invite other poets and musicians to the house for recitals. Though as a child she could not understand what was being said, she understood immediately an essential thing about how it was said: music came from the spoken words as well as from the instruments. “These people were having fun!” she remembers.
We’re still having an awful lot of fun putting together programs of melopoeia and performing them for appreciative audiences, though I’m afraid many of our best performances take place around Rhina’s kitchen table. It must be the sherry!
In this most recent program we explore various kinds of journeys, or passages: the very different sea-voyages of conquistadors and exiles; the swift travel of atomic particles; a seemingly inconsequential walk from the work-place to the bus; and finally, the passage of time and the final border-crossing that lies ahead of us all.
Classical/flamenco guitarist John Tavano has never sounded better!
Thanks to Alan Bull for letting us use his painting for the cover, to my sister Elise Nicol for doing the graphic design, and to the wonderful poet Alicia Stallings, and the great Richard Wilbur, whose poems we’ve borrowed to add to the mix.
You can view track listings and listen to samples at CDBaby.
Over the past two decades, The West Chester Poetry Conference has played a central role in shaping American poetry. You’ll get a hint of why the conference has been a game-changer for so many people when you watch this video.
Here’s a poem that I honestly considered overwrought when Rhina brought it to The Powow River Poetry Workshop many months ago, because who then could have believed that Donald Trump’s campaign would ever gain any traction? The poem sounds a lot wiser now. Thanks to Micah Mattix, editor of Prufrock, for sending out this link to “After the Rally” by Rhina Espaillat, originally published in The Hudson Review.
Never miss a chance to listen to what Rhina has to say. Here she is in conversation with Meghan Chakrabarti of WBUR, talking about translating Robert Frost’s poems into Spanish. You can also listen to her read two of her poems, the wonderful villanelle, “Guidelines,” and perhaps her most anthologized poem, “Bilingual/Bilingue.” (You’ll see a lovely photograph of Rhina, too!)