Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Back From Calabash

Arrived back to a balmy Western Mass yesterday. I had a very good time at the Calabash Literary Festival. It was a wild trip to have this thing dropped in my lap one morning and then to watch it actually happen. It wasn't an event I could've imagined ahead of time. It happened at Treasure Beach, a fairly out of the way, sleepy-seeming area of Jamaica. But they packed people in like crazy over the weekend. The first night as I watched them set up thousands of chairs in the main pavilion I couldn't imagine who was going to fill them all. But the folks came. Locals, Jamaican's from across the island, young people, tourists: all mixed together. A lot of them came for the music and dancing that kicked off every night, but many of the readings had a couple thousand people in attendance. It was definitely the largest live audience I've ever read to before. I was up there with Elizabeth Nunez and MG Vassanji, a humbling experience. But they were nice to me.

Performances of particular note... Sonia Sanchez was amazing. Her reading was so emotionally, revealing, funny and sad all at once. She has a real power to touch places most people probably don't want touched, but she does it with enough compassion that she's hard to refuse. She read with Martin Espada, who was also great, far-ranging in his poetry and strong of rhythm and cadence and Puerto Rican character.

The actor Delroy Lindo (Clockers, Domino, Get Shorty, Malcolm X, etc) read a rather long story by Colin Channer. It went on for about an hour and a half, but Delroy's reading was so engaging that I barely noticed the passing time. He read the entire thing with a Jamaican accent which sounded perfect to my ears and seemed to work for the audience too.

There was decidely a lot of just hanging out time, eating and drinking, sweating. Lots of sweating. Had a good time just meeting and talking to people also. Diana Evans, Marlon James, Lolita Hernandez and Geoff Dyer come to mind.

Anyway, got back to the family and very happy about it. Also just got the first chunk of copyedited manuscript back from my editor, Gerry Howard. So there's work to be done. I'm at it.



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