Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fort Greene Park Summer Litfest

Today was the Fort Greene Park Summer Lit Festival. For five years this event has been attracting some top caliber writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Sonia Sanchez, Jennifer Egan, and Chris Abani. But, the neighborhood has always had its share of great scribblers. Ever heard of Walt Whitman and Richard Wright?

Indeed, it’s a historic site and the event is performed on stage behind the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a reminder of the 11,000 men who died like dogs aboard the British prison ships during the Revolutionary War. The beautiful throng of gingko trees let your thoughts drift away from the solemn monument.

Colson Whitehead was this year’s featured writer and read from his newly published novel “Sag Harbor”. Although he’s a lively reader and many attendees stayed to hear him wrap-up the day, the star of the event is clearly the elementary school kids who have been taking writing workshops all summer— in the park. The baton passed to the new generation of poets and story-tellers. They shared their poems and prose with an eager audience, the kids divided into age categories. The youngest voices had first ups and the teens got last licks.

Picnic blankets trumped folding chairs. This was a laidback crowd demanding top-notch lit. A limited edition Dennis Lehane autographed “Boston Noir” was available for collectors.

Malika, a local poet, has attended four out of the last five events. She wouldn’t tell me which year she missed or why, but she had her journal tucked to her hip. I asked her if she enjoyed Sapphire’s past reading. She nodded. Ah, so Malika had attended the event in ’06. She was on to me at that point and left me to check out the chapbooks by the table.

Rumor had it a few blocks away from the festivities were Japanese Rastafarians. I’d been given the tipoff by a reliable source, a buddy of mine Tom— resident, expert on all things Japanese, and sometimes Rastafarian. And the beat goes on.

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