Fort Lauderdale's Books & Books Gets All Together Now
Friday night, I'm surrounded by the loud hum of people socializing inside Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale. It's a good sign. The last time I came to an event at MOAFL's newly renovated Books & Books boutique, it was a very different scene. But tonight, from the courtyard outside, I see through the wall of glass doors that the museum's plan to become a cultural and social hub is working. A pleasant crowd of intellectual-looking 20- and 30-somethings mills around tables of books and sips wine. True, it's a little odd to have a poetry reading in a lobby. But I get why they did it this way. Even if you didn't know what was going on, such an inviting scene would surely draw you in for a closer inspection.
My friend and I are at the second All Together Now soiree aimed at culturally minded 21- to 39-year-olds, and the faces at these events do become familiar. A tall, lean man in a fedora slips in. There's Renda Writer, and I'm completely unsurprised. My companion notes: "It's a real 'see and be seen' event, isn't it?"
Ebone gets things rolling with a single poem, "How Authentic Am I?"
She is passionate, squinching her eyes shut against the gleam of the polished lobby floor and the expectant gaze of her audience. Her poem quickly finds its footing in the up-and-down rhythm endemic to slam poetry performances. Endemic because it totally works. Up until this moment, I've been looking around suspiciously, waiting for the façade of cultural chic to slip. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the intense way Ebone pumped her arms up and down as she spoke. Maybe it was her words themselves. But suddenly I was feeling hipper than a mop-haired grad student wearing skinny jeans in a Starbucks.
I'm sad that she does only one poem before speeding away from the microphone with barely a nod to her audience. Next up is Emma Trelles, a Cuban-American poet with a much more local flavor.
Her poems are filled with references to places I know. When she mentions Fairchild Gardens, I scramble for my notebook. Then as I'm scribbling, she starts a new poem, this one about working as a journalist and missing out on stuff because you're busy making notes. "My deadline stalks me," she says. Or something like that; I missed some of it.
Ebone and Trellis were both good, but the big hit of the evening was P. Scott Cunningham.
Maybe it's a guy thing, but his poems did not have the sing-song rhythm of the first two. Instead, his sounded more like prose and were really funny. Between the laughter and the clapping, I sloshed a little red wine on the table next to me, narrowly missing the stacks of books. (MOAFL, no worries. I wiped it up with the corner of my shirt. But maybe it's something to consider for next time.)
By the time r -- the ultra-hipster owner of Brew Urban Cafe in Victoria Park -- strums his guitar, the hum of socializing has returned and the poets are mingling among the guests, basking in the glow of their guests-of-honor status.
The venue itself might not be the cozy bastion of musty books I was originally hoping for, but the much-touted cultural scene that the MOAFL/Books & Books was hoping for looks to be materializing.
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