California Dreaming: A report back from the Los Angeles Times Book Festival (2)
The first day of the Festival started beautifully for me: I had breakfast with two of my favorite Chamorro activists, Tony and Yvonne Prieto. They were heading to Sacramento for an emergency budget meeting on state funds for those with mental and physical challenges. We talked about...
advocacy and literature. My beautiful date for the weekend, Hawaiian poet Brandy Nalani McDougall, shared with us about the Hawaiian writer Matthew Kaopio. Kaopio is a "mouth-brush artist and writer" who began his career after a tragic 1994 driving accident left him a quadriplegic. In 2005, his novel Written in the Sky (about a homeless boy in Hawaii) was published by Mutual Publishing, one of the major presses in Hawai'i. An inspiring story. Here's a pic of me, Tony, and Yvonne:
After breakfast, I was a speaker on the panel "The Poet's Responsibility: Poetic Tradition, Social Values, and Contemporary Culture," with Amy Gerstler, Henri Cole, Ed Roberson, and Carol Muske-Dukes. I was betting there would only be about 10 people there, but there were almost 70 audience members! IMHO I thought our panel kicked ass--very diverse opinions, backgrounds, and experiences--but all deeply embedded in the idea that poetry can assert social values in contemporary culture. They are posting the entire panel on YouTube, so maybe I'll link to that when it happens.
After a quick lunch in the Town & Gown Author's Green Room, I went to the Poetry Stage to hear Ed Roberson read. Transfixed and transformed is how I felt, sitting there, listening for the first time to one of my literary heroes. I began to feel nervous because I was slated to read right after Ed! Have you bought his new book yet, To See the Earth Before the End of the World. It's no doubt one of the best books of 2010. Here's Ed reading:
And then something crazy happened. You see, each poet who read at the Poetry Stage was supposed to immediately go to the book signing area after their set. However, Ed announced that he was going to stay because he wanted to hear me read, and that we would go to the book signing area together! All his fans, already standing up to go get Ed's autograph, sat their butts back in the grass.
I had to hold back my tears (while reading my SPAM poem) because I was so touched by Ed's gesture. I would never have imagined that someone of his stature (with all his books and prizes and accolades) could be so kind to an up-and-coming-trouble-maker like myself. I will never forget this, Ed, if you are reading this: Saina Ma'ase, Thank You. If/when I am as famous, accomplished, respected, and stylish as you, I will take it as my responsibility (or kuleana, as my Hawaiian friends say) to treat the next generation of writers with the same kind of respect, support, and graciousness as you showed me.
[special thanks to Small World Books of Venice, CA for having my book on sale at the Festival]