Yes, I was chosen to be Alameda’s Poet Laureate in a ceremony at City Hall on September 16. On television and before a full chamber, I read a poem about Alameda, called “Home at the Edge of the World,” the title a nod to one of my mentors, Michael Cunningham (The Hours), and the content a personal and historical journey through Alameda. The poem will be published in the October issue of Alameda Magazine. You can also hear me read it here on Voqel.
And with the change of seasons, my calendar is full. I spent September attending as many open mics and writing workshops as possible. I read several days at the Alameda Free Library’s Banned Books Week reading marathon. I read aloud from Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Giver, and The Handmaid’s Tale. That week, I also led the library’s open mic night with a selection of banned poetry, reading from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” Shel Silverstein’s “If You Have to Dry the Dishes,” and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” It was a challenging selection of works, with banned-book objections such as obscenity, cursing, sexual content, homoeroticism, racism, satanism and “encouraging children to misbehave.” I would imagine this is the first time the library has had the words “cock” and “asshole” read aloud at a gathering. But I could be wrong.
In any case, the deed was done, and I wasn’t banned. In fact, it went over well and I think people thought a little harder about what banning books means.
In case you’re curious, here is a list of the top 10 most banned books of all time.
Next year, consider participating in your library’s banned books “celebration,” if you can. It gave me a lot to think about, and I’m grateful to have the freedom to choose what I read.