Wednesday, March 22, 2006

CPCC Literary Festival

Over the years I have tried to take at least one day off and attend an event or two at the CPCC literary festival. I haven't made it every year but I went when I could. I went twice today. I went at 11 am to see Jimmy Santiago Baca speak about life and writing. I went home for a couple of hours, read, took a nap and went back at 7:30 pm to see Baca read some of his work. I've been dying to see Baca read for over ten years now and this is the first time, that I know of, that he has appeared in this area. He mentioned today that he lived in the Greensboro area for four years but I don't know when that was. I hope it wasn't during the time I've been waiting to see him in person. If that is the case then I am a knucklehead.

Seeing Jimmy Baca in person was as wonderful as I knew it would be. I have never seen a better reader. Tonight, when he read one of his poems or a section from his memoir, everything else left my mind and only his words were there. It was a stunning performance. His writing is spiritual and earthy and he spends large amounts of his personal time interacting and helping others. It was an honor to be in his presence and now I have a prized possession, a signed copy of his recent book of poetry.

For some reason before his evening appearance the festival organizers awarded three achievement prizes to local writers and publishers. All the awards were deserving and each person earned their recognition but I felt really uncomfortable watching Mr. Baca squirm in his chair onstage during the half hour plus time it took to recognize these local literary figures. During his morning talk Baca mentioned he had hurt his back taking water and food to Mexican refugees in New Mexico and, judging from his posture in his chair, he was in pain or at least uncomfortable. I would think a seperate ceremony devoted to these awards would have been more equitable to all parties. Including audience members like me who were there to see Baca.

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