As a teaser for next Saturday's City Lit Festival (Central Pratt Library Saturday April 19th), a poem by Baltimore's own Wei Yafeng -- aka 'Afaa' Michael Weaver ("Perhaps the only established African American poet who speaks, writes, and reads Chinese" according to Poets & Writers magazine, which featured him on its cover at the end of 2007). Baltimore City is proclaiming April 19th "Afaa Michael Weaver Day" in honor of him and his new book, The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005.
My Father's Geography
I was parading the Côte d'Azur,
hopping the short trains from Nice to Cannes,
following the maze of streets in Monte Carlo
to the hill that overlooks the ville.
A woman fed me pâté in the afternoon,
calling from her stall to offer me more.
At breakfast I talked in French with an old man
about what he loved about America--the Kennedys.
On the beaches I walked and watched
topless women sunbathe and swim,
loving both home and being so far from it.
At a phone looking to Africa over the Mediterranean,
I called my father, and, missing me, he said,
"You almost home boy. Go on cross that sea!"
From My Father's Geography (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992)
Weaver's personal story is amazing, and I admire both his work, and how he is a walking, breathing 'symbol of growth' -- not many black men who start in East Baltimore end up as professors and students of Chinese.
Weaver on Black Male Poetics
Listen to an audio clip of him reading "Theme For Intermediate Chinese", from the Academy of American Poets website
Even in the short time I've known him, his constant desire to learn and improve has been truly inspirational. I am not ashamed to say he's someone I look up to (figuratively and literally:). I'm looking forward to seeing him again, and to all the other writers -- Dr. Ben Carson, Dan Fesperman, Laura Lippman, Manil Suri, and children's book author Carole Boston Weatherford among them -- literary journals and just plain olf fans of reading who will be joining us on the 19th. Hope to see you there!