The launch of Radha Says, the first book published by Drunken Boat Books, wildly exceeded expectation. On the evening of Friday, January 22, the event, which was open to the public, took place on the thirteenth floor of the National Press Club Building in the First Amendment Lounge. The author of this blog post is a new intern, and after getting lost navigating the streets of Washington DC, eventually I showed up at the event thinking that I had missed the beginning. But due to high sales being conducted by Lead Editors Ravi Shankar and Leslie McGrath at the First Amendment entrance, I arrived just in time to do some mingling and even conduct some very intern-style gophering for Ravi.
After an introduction by Ravi, the launch officially kicked off with a prayer led by the Reverend Dr. Denise King-Miller. In addition to her post as Professor at the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, she is an AME Ordinated minister.
Those close to Vazirani read selections from Radha Says, but the most affecting segment of the evening was from Heea, Reetika’s mother, who channeled her daughter’s memory with a heartfelt speech that acknowledged and thanked friends and family. The result was a significant reminder that, beyond the publication of Radha Says, Reetika’s essence not only lives on, but was also actively in attendance at her book launch.
After the launch, guests were treated to a sumptuous reception augmented by fine wine, cheese, and a savory rice and beans entree.
While the general consensus was that Reetika would have loved the launch, you also couldn’t deny that the convivial nature between friends, colleagues, and even newcomers such as myself resolutely evoked her presence. Our heartfelt gratitude to the evening’s speakers, as well as the staff of the National Press Club.
You can see more photos from the event here.
Photos by Joe Ramelo, DB Social Media Assistant. Text by Joe Ramelo with Sarah Clark, DB Assistant Managing Editor.
“The crisis is the moment of judgment that suspends all other judgments. In the crisis, imperceptibly quick and interminably long timespans are fused together. In the language of physics, the crisis is the strong force, the recovery the weak force.” ~Paul Stephens
When you are intimidated by poetry, meanings in the work become confabulations. Even in a favorite piece, the sense of respect that you develop for the piece, the poet, or perhaps both, is at once overshadowed by fear of unknowing. Readers who are new to poetry will find some comfort in Reetika Vazirani’s frequent use of the caesura. These pauses within verse are part of an overall poetic agenda, but for the casual reader, they are notes of relief; in sheet music, they would be rests. In the case of Vazirani, the agenda might be to introduce a contrasting thought. For the rest of us, the caesura is a chance to take stock, and then move on.
Like the other pieces in Radha Says, ‘Birthday’ begins with an idea, espoused in the title, and gradually evolves. In between “wholeness in me” and “doors opening”, a journey has taken place both literal — a hall, a stock room, and modes of transportation — and symbolic — the past connecting into the present, as “in the house on Tubman Street”, with a looming uncertain future. ‘Birthday’ is also a construct of observation: Washingtonians (the poet was a local) will identify with ‘doors opening’, which in itself marks the end of a journey as well as passage into a new beginning. The poet is our guide, and those of us who are casual readers would do well to savor the breaks in verse, take stock, and then resume behind her lead. Reetika Vazirani passed away in 2003, but she continues reciting in the moment of silence.
By Joe Ramelo, DB Social Media Assistant. Check out the Radha Says book launch event this Friday the 22nd. See the Upcoming Events sidebar for more details.
“I like ridiculous rhyme. I like puns. I like extremely obvious rhymes and extremely cunning, sneaky, impossible or grotesque rhymes. They are all good to me.”
Drunken Boat is looking for short shorts, very short or flash fiction pieces that meditate on the often paradoxical relationship between freedom and belonging. Writers might, for example, consider how consumer culture, dislocation or displacement, migration, interpersonal relationships, familial pulls, cultural and ethnic identification limits or expands ones notions of belonging and home. Folio will be included in Drunken Boat #12. To submit, please go to our submissions page Questions? editor @ drunkenboat dot com. Maximum: 1000 words. Deadline: May 15, 2010.