El Florida Room
Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.
Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky. ...
I really like this poem as well as "Looking for the Gulf Motel" which he also read as well as other excerpts from his book For All of Us Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey. I enjoyed listening to his evocative words about the memories of his childhood and what it meant to be an immigrant in America. He ended his poetry reading with his inaugural poem One Today.
As we walked back toward the festival on the Square we passed another poet happily typing on his manual typewriter.
We passed booths with authors and their books and publishing companies with piles of books for sale.
We also passed by people singing, vote registering, offering free Qurans,
and children listening to storytelling or playing with blocks. It was a busy place.
From a distance we saw people queuing at the AJC Pavilion for John Lewis' book signing and we joined them. For my friends overseas who do not know who John Lewis is, he has been a State of Georgia Congressman since 1986 and is 73 years old. He is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. John Lewis is the only person still alive who was with Martin Luther King, Jr. and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington in front of 200,000 persons. Then on March 7, 1965, he led 500 marchers in a peaceful march across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, in support of the Voting Rights Act. John Lewis was gravely injured to the head by Alabama state troopers. During his life he was arrested 40 times and severely beaten several times. Because of his commitment to justice and non violence he has been called "the conscience of the U.S. Congress" by his peers. John Lewis gave the keynote address on Friday evening, August, 30, for the Decatur Book Festival. Tickets were free and gone in an instant. I watched part of his address on my computer but the reception was not very clear.
John Lewis has been awarded 50 honorary degrees from some of the top universities in the US, including Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Duke University and more. A while back, a member of John's staff, Andrew Aydin, was going to a Comic-Con in San Diego - an annual convention of comic book fans. As his colleagues made fun of him he responded that Martin Luther King, Jr. had written a comic book in 1956 on the philosophy of nonviolent resistance. John Lewis had read this book too so Andrew suggested that a new comic book should be written on John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. The graphic or comic style book came out in August and is titled "March: Book One." It is written by John Lewis in collaboration with Andrew Aydin. The graphics were done by best-selling artist Nate Powell. This is the first book of a planned trilogy, published by Top-Shelf Productions, of Marietta, Georgia.
There were many people waiting in line as we arrived but many more came after us. We slowly inched our way toward the tent were Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin and John Lewis were sitting. I kept taking pictures as I slowly walked up to the signing table.
Then it was my turn. First artist Nate Powell signed the book, then Andrew Aydin and finally John Lewis. I talked with him a brief moment - he asked me how long I had lived in Georgia and where, and he got up and shook my hand. Below is page 64 from the book.
March: Book One is number one on the best seller list of the New York Times and the Washington Post under the section Paperback Graphic Books. It has received many good reviews such as "This is superb visual storytelling that establishes a convincing, definitive record of a key eyewitness to significant social change, and that leaves readers demanding the second volume." the School Library Journal. It is suitable from tweens through teens and adult readers. My husband is holding my autographed copy of the book, below.
I'll end our visit to the Decatur Book Festival in my next post, as this is getting too long. More to come ...