A good friend of mine and I got together for dinner one night this past summer, just because. Where we usually see each other at something more event-oriented, this time we were both in the same area on the same evening, with no attachments along with us. Afterward, he emailed me that it had been fun being able to be "all geeky about books" for an hour or so without boring the living fecal matter out of anybody. I knew exactly what he meant. Chances are, if you spend any time at all at this site, you're pretty passionate about books. It's one of the things that drew me to this online community - I could get excited about the latest non-best-seller, or the National Book Awards, or a poetry reading, and I wouldn't encounter glazed over eyes, repeating nods of the head for no reason, or outright running and screaming. As nice as it is to find people who don't have those traits online, it is even more fun to find people you can hang out with in person who don't.
Last week I received an email from Vievee Francis, a Detroit-based poet I had met earlier this year, albeit briefly, inviting me to come out to meet her for coffee. I was able to do so Tuesday of this week for it was as close to a pure hour and a half of being "all geeky about books" as I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
Vievee is the author of Blue-Tail Fly, a collection of poetry published earlier this year by Wayne State University Press. It's a fantastic collection of poems, and is included in the recent Debut Poetry Collection issue of Poets & Writers. Beyond that fact, the woman is a an absolute joy to spend time with. I'm sure we appeared to the other three or four people in the coffeeshop we met in, to be quite comical, getting more and more excited as our conversation moved forward and it became obvious that our reading tastes were pretty well aligned.
One of the reasons I think that Vievee contacted me, is that she remembered reading at CAID this summer and our very brief discussion there, and the fact that since then, I've probably atteneded and posted about (as well as emailed re-caps around the SE Michigan area) six or seven poetry readings, supporting local authors, since then. While a great deal of our discussion was at a rapidly elevating volume as common books or authors read were mentioned on both ends, a good half of our talk was about the lack of support for local authors, specifically - but not solely - African-American poets, in the Detroit area. She noted that she has gone all the way to Boston to read from Blue-Tail Fly, and stood in front of a crowd upwards of 100 people, but if she gets in front of a podium here, in her town of residence, double figures is nice to see. That's a little beyond ridiculous.
Not wanting to have to leave the area to find a better sense of community, Vievee and her husband, Matthew Olzmann, have put together the Snowbound Reading Series. Once per month, they will host three or four poets at The Scarab Club, a historical building in the Detroit area, located right behind the Detroit Institute of Arts. They have a nice little lounge on their second floor with a fireplace that makes an ideal location for readings. While both will read from their own work, Vievee will also serve the series as a host, along with local Detroit Free Press columnist, Desiree Cooper. They are set up through February, four nights of readings.
Besides being excited about being able to see Vievee read again, recent reading favorite, Robert Fanning, will read in January with Tommye Blount and Scheherazade Parrish. Other readers will include D. Blair, Kawita Kandpal (whose collection, Folding a River, will come out on Marick Press in the spring 2007, and who I met briefly at Robert Fanning's Bookbeat reading), and Tyehimba Jess, author of Leadbelly, and recent Whiting Award winner.
Vievee suggested a few times that Tyehimba Jess was a must read and somebody who is going to win the Pulitzer some day. But, in her opinion, nobody here even knows who he is. One thing for sure, she was right about him being a must read. I picked Leadbelly up on my home from Hamtramck Tuesday and have read it twice since then.
You will hearing more about this reading series from me here in the future. And if she had nearly as great a time as I did, you'll hear about more about me getting "all geeky about books" with Vievee Francis as time moves forward as well.