Reading from “Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart”
KPFA.org Benefit October 18, 2018
I am honored to present Alice Walker’s KPFA benefit reading held at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley for Literary Dialogs with Nina Serrano in a three episode video series. This first episode (48 minutes) includes Alice Walker’s talk and reading. It also presents Kathryn Horsley’s introduction of me and my introduction of Alice Walker. The second episode (16 minutes) includes my poetry reading which followed Alice Walker’s reading. And the third concluding episode (26 minutes) covers our conversation and audience feedback.
I was excited from the day Bob Baldock invited me to host Alice Walker reading from her new book of poems, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart (2018, Simon and Schuster, Bilingual Edition) at a live KPFA benefit to be held at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley on October 18, 2018. When I actually read the book, I went from excited to thrilled. It spoke to all the arrows in my own heart just recently recovered from heart valve replacement surgery.
Alice Walker Event for KPFA
Bob said it would be a simple format. I am introduced, I introduce Alice Walker, she reads from her new book of poems, for a half hour and I read my own poems for 10 minutes. This would be followed by the two of us speaking together. Yes, I could do that, though I blanched at the idea of my local poet poems by her world famous poems. But then, I realized they are both poems from our wounded though still beating activist hearts. Yes, I could do that.
Then, I went from from thrilled to scared. How could I possibly write about Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart poems when they already said everything that needed saying? As I reread the poems, I began deeply hearing Alice Walker’s voice. Her Buddhist admonition, to breathe. Yeah, I could do that. I’d been doing it for 84 years, easy. Just in and out.
I stopped striving for the perfect analysis of Alice’s work and life and began remembering the impact she first had on me so many years ago in the 1980’s. That’s when the words for the introduction jumped out of me with the recalled images and flow of events in that earlier, younger time when women, people of color and national liberation struggles were being woke. Back to when there was this bold, young Black woman writer taking all the heat for speaking up. I reheard the angry opinions of local and national black male writers challenging her right to call out violence towards women in the Black community, calling it “divisive.”
Then, I remembered our fleeting meeting on the stage of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1983 defending the newly victorious Nicaraguan revolution. Now preparing the introductory words for the 2018 event, the words flowed easily. The story I told was not how Alice Walker impacted the whole literary world but just simply me. The night of the reading, Alice Walker sailed on to the stage enthusiastically welcomed by the warm generous, open hearted KPFA listener audience. She’d just deplaned that evening from a demanding book tour. But as she greeted the audience, her spontaneous thoughts flowed from her heart and led quite naturally to reading from her amazing book, Taking The Arrows Out Of The Heart.
I invite you to subscribe to my blog to receive a notice next month and the month after about upcoming episodes two and three of Alice Walker’s October 18th, 2018 presentation in Berkeley, California.
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