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Brooklyn Book Festival

September 18, 2016

My day began unspeakably early, because the good people at the Brooklyn Public Library found my kryptonite: A yoga session in the Brooklyn library, interwoven with a live poetry reading, by live, actual poets. One of whom was Yusef Komunyakaa. 

I admit, when I first heard about the event, I was dubious of the start time: 8:30 AM sharp, including allowing time for the subway to misbehave in its wily weekend ways.

I am really, really glad I went.

For a number of reasons: It’s an important reminder to me to get out and do yoga classes more often. Left to my own devices, unrolling my yoga mat and following along with a video is straightforward enough, plenty convenient. But if I don’t change it up with a few classes now and again, “Ommm” can slide into “Meh.” Both in frequency and intensity

This morning, beginning the yoga practice with a group “Ommmm” was really cool. Because the vaulted ceilings and marble of the baroque looking library event room really caught the sound and gave it a lovely reverb that gave me goosebumps. The acoustics also had a particularly lovely effect on Mr. Komunyakaa’s poetry reading. He has a magnificent voice.

The way the yoga and poetry interacted was that the yoga instructor did most of the talking, cueing us through various poses and some repetitions of sequences. Poems came into play in poses that were less movement-intensive. During the flow of the cat/cow spine pose, Cynthia Cruz read a poem that had animal imagery, and a very children’s book feel to it. We heard a poem about trees from Yusuf Komunyakaaa during the balance of the tree pose. Just to name a couple of examples.

The combination really worked for me. I enjoyed the way the imagery and metaphor of the selected poems played off the names and the imagery of yoga poses. Giving my mind poetry to chew on helped me stay focused on the yoga, oddly enough, instead of what often happens at home, where I fling myself around on the mat, thinking mostly about due dates and deadlines and dinner and how much I just don’t wanna. It was a little hard to fully listen to each line and poem (because I was thinking about left and right foot, creaky muscles and not falling over) but dipping in and out made for a very nice experience of being between the two. I felt like I got fully and properly relaxed from yoga for the first time in ages.

After I staggered out into the sunshine, having purchased a volume of Mr. Komunyakaa’s poetry (lovely resonant voice sold separately, alas), I realized that the notion of making it to a 10 AM Daniel José Older reading and/or a nifty presentation about history education was definitely not going to happen because I was too zenfully discombobulated to navigate around the various arms of the festival without grabbing a bite (waffles with peanut butter and bacon). So I did that, poked around the various booths, and re-entered the event fray later at the periphery of a panel on culinary writing and the tail end of one about the future of libraries. Then I settled in at the Brooklyn Historical Society library, for a panel on writing and thinking about New York city, followed by more poetry from past and present poets laureate. (Easier to listen to poetry while not teetering and stretching.)

The last panel I attended for the day was a panel on Imaginary Worlds, and female-driven science fiction. I was intrigued because I’ve heard of N.K. Jemison but not read her work. The other two panelists, Robert Jackson Bennett and Sarah Beth Durst are completely unfamiliar, but after hearing excerpts and their talk about worldbuilding, I’m definitely curious to start reading.

Sasha and Jaye found me at that panel, so as my book fest day wound down, I had good company to catch up and browse the book stalls with, before heading off to meet up with other folks for church, grilled cheese and beer. Thanks to Sasha for putting illustrator Bryan Collier on my radar. I think I’d seen a couple of books, but hadn’t fully appreciated his lovely work until today.

A very good, bookish day, if long. I bought just a small handful of books (poetry, no surprise). I need to make both poetry and yoga more consistent and constant parts o fmy routine.

Even if I’d figured out a way to be strategic about which panels I attended, there would have been no way to do it all. Too many events were happening concurrently that I wished I could be in three or four places at once. I kept the program, and I kept a list of books that caught my attention… I foresee a lot of library holds, and possibly a fairly huge bookstore order in my near future.

 

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