Last night, my husband and daughter, along with our friend, Greg, met me after work at Tania’s restaurant in East Chicago, Indiana. They brought the bright red “You are Special Today” plate for me, which is a dinner plate given to the family by my mother-in-law, Wanda, who owned such a plate while my husband and his siblings were growing up. I chose the restaurant (delicious Puerto Rican food, by the way!), and after we sat down, Mike presented me with a card made out to the “Bold Poet” and a gift. It was a copy of Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat’s book, Create Dangerously, which worked both literally and symbolically, because it was reading her story collection, Krik? Krak!, that led to the reason why I was special yesterday in the first place!
You see, yesterday my first full-length poetry collection, Weight of Silence (Wordpool Press) was released, and I was (am, actually) very excited! Recently, my poet-friend, Quraysh Ali Lansana, referred to the work as an “important labor of love,” which seemed apt.
Cliff’s Notes version? Danticat’s writing put Haiti on my radar as more than a blip in the Caribbean and has subsequently led to two trips to the island thus far, considerable learning, the forming of friendships and even an unofficial new family member, and 111-pages of poetry on women’s issues, the tragic history, current sociopolitical situation, and natural disasters experienced by Haiti’s resilient people.
The words found traction at Wordpool Press, a small press run out of Bloomington, Indiana, by editor Colleen Wells, who adopted her daughter, Gaelle, from Haiti, shortly after the horrific January 2010 earthquake in capital city, Port-au-Prince. Due to her empathy, 100 percent of not only poet profits but also Press profits made from Weight of Silence sales, will be donated to Haitian Connection! This invaluable not-for-profit organization helps to shelter, educate, care for the psychological and physical wellbeing, and feed Haitians, with a special emphasis on women and children. Naturally, I am thrilled by the perfect fit of work and publisher!
Even though I lamented that the collection wasn’t ready for release when Hurricane Matthew devastated the southwest portion of Haiti in October 2016, I am thrilled that it was launched yesterday. Since the disaster, the country has experienced double-digit inflation, an oil crisis, and increased political unrest, to the extent that people living in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere are in the worst straits that they have experienced in over two decades.
If you are in the Chicagoland area, I hope to see you at one of my upcoming launch parties or readings! (See Upcoming Events.) If not, I hope that you will consider purchasing a copy from Amazon. While it would be counterproductive for me to actually send purchasers “You are Special Today” plates, please know that I would certain feel the sentiment!
Thanks for reading!