Miami Book Fair International: A Recap

Bob Graham and Geoffrey PhilpThe twenty-fifth anniversary of the Miami Book Fair International ended last night and besides the enormous pride of having been invited to read a few times and to meet authors and personalities whom I admire, the overwhelming emotion is gratitude for having been a part of this journey with so many of my friends and their families who have grown up with the fair.

Saturday

Okay, so I didn't make it to all the writers that I wanted to see, but the ones that I saw were remarkable.

I started off the morning with Jeffrey Renard Allen, Nina Revoyr, Preston Allen, and Brenda Flanagan. Then, I slipped out during the Q&A to listen to the Trinidad massives: Lisa Allen-Agostini, Elizabeth Nunez, and Willie Chen, who I had longed to meet after reading Chutney Power. Mr. Chen lived up to the humorous persona of his stories, and although his short story in Trinidad Noir was unlike many of his other tales, he managed to inject some comedy into the reading: "I'll skip over to the salient parts because the book fair people are so gracious, they have prepared some good food for us. And I don't know about you, but I prefer to eat than to eat." And I wanted to say, "No, Mr. Chen, no. Read. Read."

After a brief meet-up with Sharon Millar of My Chutney Mind, I introduced Dennis O' Driscoll, whose droll sense of humor emerged between poems for Robert Haas and Csezlaw Milosz. Next, came Cyril Dabydeen, who read from Drums of my Flesh and paid homage to his three identities: Guyanese, Indian, and Canadian. Sindiwe Magona followed with her harrowing tale in Beauty's Gift, the story of four women who lose their best friend prematurely to AIDS.

By the time I caught a late lunch, I met up with Lisa Allen-Agostini and we managed to chat away most of the evening--talking shop and gossip before promising to meet her at the author party later that night.

Sunday

I didn't make it to the author party (sheer exhaustion), but I went to the reading by Brian Antoni and Steven Gaines--two avid chroniclers of South Beach excess.

Next I was off to hear Lili Bita and Peter Hargitai, my former teacher at UM, and then, to Richard Blanco and Michael Hettich, who read selections from Tigertail: A South Florida Poetry Annual, Brazil issue.

I barely had enough time to catch my breath or a brief snack before running off to Junot Diaz, Amitav Ghosh, and Austin C. Clarke--three writers described by Miami Herald critic, Ariel Gonzalez, as "uniquely qualified to explore themes of displacement and oppression."

I decided to buy their books online rather than wait in the line and went over to listen to Elisa Albo and Vicki Hendricks, and ended the evening with the poetry of Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Ricardo's poetry was the perfect ending for the days of mental excitement and gave me the time to reflect as I was lulled into the majesty of his imagery and the beautiful art that accompanied his presentation.

If the next year's program promises to be anything like this year's, then I can hardly wait for the twenty-sixth anniversary.

***

For more photos of the Miami Book Fair International, please follow this link:
Miami Book Fair International, 2008.

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