Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tribute To Lou--Louis Reyes Rivera

Louis Reyes Rivera teaches a writers workshop at Sistahs Place in Bedford Stuyvesant for at least five years now. The workshops are the first and third Saturday of each month except August. He mixes the technicalities of various genres with discourses in history, politics and culture. The official workshop duration is 12 noon to 4:oo PM but he's known to hold court until 6 PM. Literary form, history, politics and culture for a small charge of $20.00. You can't beat that.

I'm a technology reporter and wasn't sure whether this workshop would be suitable. He assured me that he would include journalism in the mix. Rivera said that learning other literary styles would enhance my journalism. He's right. My column got decidely more witty, which is extremely important to gain and keep the attention of the average newspaper reader. Say "tech", and people cry, "It's over my head."

To give him a proper introduction, Louis Rivera is a poet extraordinaire. He has a radio program, Perspectives, Thursday, 2 PM on WBAI-FM that features jazz cuts, interviews and art talk. He brings on lesser known and world reknowned wordsmiths. He taught and counseled at Pratt Institute for seventeen years. His poetry has been featured in radio commercials. I believe he's published fifteen books and simultaneously works on four additional books. While I say his poems are very long, taking up many pages, they are well crafted. He once recited a poem about a tree that amazed me because revealed the complexity and depth of the tree's existence as if it were human.

He celebrated his 62nd birthday, May 19th --right along with Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X. It was the third Saturday in May and he ran the writers workshop. One regular feted him with red velvet cupcakes, sparkling white wine and imported mineral water. Another sang a jazzy birthday tune to him. He was so humble about the matter.

We closed the workshop around 6:00 PM. Someone pressed him about his nonchalantness about his birthday. He explained that he was not 'a favored one' by his stepmother. She didn't do much celebrating of her stepchildren's lives. He recounted his 11th birthday where this lady didn't like any of his friends. Imagine that, 11 year olds disliked by an adult. That must have had some impact on their impressionable psyches.

Mr. Rivera doesn't see me often at the workshops. I want him to know that I value his time and his craftsmanship. To the other workshop attendees: could we all come close to the 20 spot? He deserves not to see one dollar bills in the basket.

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