Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tyehimba Jess, Quincy Troupe and E. Ethelbert Miller

Oh, what a treat last night at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. hearing Tyehimba Jess and Quincy Troupe read their poetry, accompanied by a harmonica player and bassist, respectively, and also E. Ethelbert Miller's superb introduction. This was just what the doctor ordered for an unusually gloomy Washington spring.

Tyehimba Jess is a home boy, that is not only did he grow up in Detroit, but we discovered that we grew up around the corner from each other. So it was really nice to connect with Jess and talk about Detroit, the poetry scene, and how the demographics in our neighborhood have shifted.

Quincy Troupe was Quincy: he gave "a concert," not a reading. But, at one point during his concert he actually transported me back to Spain, causing me to rethink my plans for my trip to Europe this summer. I really love Spain, although my son hated it. My introduction to Spain is quite different than my son's. I studied the language from elementary school through graduate school, and actually was fluent in Spanish upon graduating high school. As I memorized in middle school Spanish class, "La universidad de Salamanca es la mas antiqua de Espana," I could only dream of seeing the university one day. Or when I read Cervantes in Spanish in high school and finally went to Spain and saw the monument to Cervantes, I almost collapsed in tears. In graduate school, I fell in love with reading Octavia Paz in Spanish, something was getting lost in translation, and I am happy that I read Paz in his mother tongue.

However, my son's Spanish classes have always been overcrowded and not taught my teachers who were terribly enthusiastic about either the language or teaching. So my hat's off to Dr. Damien (foreign language teacher at Cass Tech) and Ms. Fernandez (Spanish teacher at Bow and Coffey elementary schools) for creating my love for not only the Spanish language but all languages.

But back to Quincy Troupe, he took me to Spain, and after the reading he introduced me to his friend whose home in Spain facilitated Troupe's beautiful poem. And, of course, Troupe couldn't help but give tribute to Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain," which is one of my favorite Miles's CDs.

Ethelbert, Ethelbert. Mr. Miller is one of my colleagues, and I'm always popping in on him and occupying his time. Hours before he introduced Jess and Troupe, I had popped in to his office, sat down, bantered back and forth with him, and occupied his time, oblivious to the fact that somehow and at sometime he had composed an introduction for both poets that was a poem in its own right. Touchee to you Ethelbert. Next time I'll be a little more respectful of your time.

If you are in Washington DC on April 14, 2008, please stop by the Founder's Library, Browsing Room, at Howard University, at 4:00 p.m. to hear Houston Baker speak about his newest book, "Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era." And I promise not to bother Ethelbert on Monday so that he can prepare, what I know will be, an extraordinary introduction for Baker.

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