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A Rich Season of Literary Events is Ahead

Gearing Up For 2013-14 BABEL Series

Clockwise from top left, Richard Blanco, Amy Tan, Suzan-Lori Parks, Abraham Verghese.

Recently, at the Elmwood Festival of the Arts, I was struck by how many people came up to the Just Buffalo Literary Center tent to talk about which BABEL authors they had been reading over the summer. A smaller but no less significant percentage of passersby confessed that they had always wanted to come but somehow never quite managed it. It’s not surprising that word-of-mouth has spread far and wide. An impressive audience for a literary event in a city like New York or Seattle would be, say, 300 people. The audiences for BABEL, however, nudge closer to 1,000 for each event, with a luminary such as Salman Rushdie filling every seat in the house at Kleinhans. Whether you’re a diehard devotee or a newcomer to BABEL, this is the season you won’t want to miss.

Kicking off our 7th BABEL season on October 22, Just Buffalo will welcome Richard Blanco, the 2013 Inaugural Poet. The son of Cuban exiles, raised in America, Blanco’s award-winning book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, with its poems about the coming together of disparate voices, epitomizes the BABEL series—the name of which harkens back to the Tower of Babel and the need for people to come together to understand each other across language barriers or cultural differences.

On November 22, we will welcome Asian-American icon Amy Tan, the best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club. Tan has a much-awaited book coming out in November, so she will be the hot ticket in the publishing world at the moment of her BABEL appearance.

In 2014, Just Buffalo will bring Suzan-Lori Parks on March 11. Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Parks is one of the most exciting and acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. The first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog, Parks also received a Tony for her adaptation of Porgy & Bess, which will be opening at Shea’s that same week.

Finally, on April 8, the BABEL season will conclude with Abraham Verghese, doctor and three-time New York Times best-selling author. A leader in the field of humanistic medicine and a proponent of patient rights, Verghese’s writing comes directly from his early experiences working with AIDS patients to his advocacy for empathetic healing. His novel, Cutting for Stone, set in the Ethiopia of his childhood, is a tale of medicine and miracles focused on love and loss that is every bit as captivating as Verghese himself.

In addition to the author presentations which include Q&A from the audience and book signings, Just Buffalo also organizes an impressive array of events which include BABEL at Betty’s, book discussions over wine and refreshments; BABEL at the Movies, featuring film adaptations of selected books or documentaries relevant to particular sociopolitical themes; and BABEL in the Schools, which provides high school and college students the opportunity to meet the authors in an intimate setting.

BABEL is so much more than a speaker series. Don’t wait to join this ongoing celebration of reading and commitment to talking about global issues that impact us at the most local level. To purchase tickets or to find out more information, visit

- Barbara Cole

100,000 Poets & Artists For Change

Just Buffalo Literary Center will present 100,000 Poets & Artists for Change as part of the global event occurring on Saturday, September 28. This all-day event will take place at Silo City (92 Childs Street along Buffalo’s riverfront), 11am-9pm. The goal is to place Buffalo’s literary arts scene on the map with writers and artists from around the world who are organizing readings, demonstrations, and art events on this one day to promote social, environmental, and political change.

This will be the second time that Western New York joins this global initiative. Two years ago, David Landrey, professor emeritus at Buffalo State College, headed an all-day campus event. This year’s organizers targeted Silo City as the venue of choice. Those massive grain elevators rising out of Buffalo’s rust belt horizon seemed the perfect backdrop to the event’s theme of change.

Once thought of as ghostly reminders of Buffalo’s glory days of yore, the recent resurgence of activity at Silo City—from Silo City Rocks and City of Night to Torn Space Theatre’s Motion Picture—reveal new energy and hope for a revitalized riverfront. What could be more fitting for the theme of change than these monolithic symbols of Buffalo’s proud past and promising future? Readers will take the stage inside these cavernous spaces, complete with spilled grain still strewn along the floors, their voices rising from within to celebrate those changes that have happened already and to speak out for change still to come.

Thus far, an impressive roster of local writers have signed on to perform their own writing or someone else’s as it relates to the theme; but there’s still room for more. Poets who are interested in participating can simply go online to Just Buffalo’s website ( before September 15. The final schedule of readers will be released on the JBLC website after September 23.

To commemorate this historic gathering of local talent, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System and the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo are inviting all participants to bring copies of their books to donate to both collections, ensuring that works by local writers will be available to the wider public long after this single-day event is over.

In addition, Just Buffalo has teamed up with Squeaky Wheel to curate an exhibition of videos and photos inspired by the theme of change. Vine and Instagram submissions—tagged #100tpcBuffalo—which illustrate ideas of change, transformation, peace, and sustainability will be displayed in installations throughout the event. And that’s only the beginning. There will be multiple musical acts including Ahavaraba, Goat of Arms, Pine Fever, and Dan Harper with the Magic Show; Talking Leaves Books and local presses will be selling books and printed matter; Lloyd will be slinging tacos and Amy’s food truck will be doling out their vegetarian-friendly fare and more. Finally, UB Art Galleries visiting artist Kamau Patton’s culminating performance, Float My Resident, is scheduled to drift past Silo City at the end of the evening.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

- Barbara Cole

Carson Feero, "Reclaiming Buffalo, 2013."

Celebrating the Imagination

Walking through the current exhibition in the Market Arcade, you might not realize that the artworks hanging on the walls have been created by elementary- and high-school children. The quality of the photographs, the poignancy of the poems, and the style of presentation all suggest a level of talent that one might expect from professional artists. And, yet, upon closer inspection, you notice that these artworks are the creation of fourth through 12th graders who participated in Writing With Light, the joint education program of Just Buffalo Literary Center and CEPA Gallery.

Since its inception in 2005, Writing With Light programs have been providing Buffalo youth opportunities to share their creativity through the marriage of creative writing and photography. To celebrate the student work generated from the past year’s Writing With Light programs, Just Buffalo Literary Center and CEPA Gallery are hosting a student exhibition at the Market Arcade, August 23-September 12.

Kaleb Thompson, a fourth-grader from Highgate Heights who participated in a Writing With Light program last year, reflects that the “best part is when you get to express your true feelings on a piece of paper.” The programs give students the chance to discover and respond to their surroundings, an outlet so vital to growing and connecting with the world at large.

“What’s behind those windows?”/Nobody knows./They’re boarded up/like closed eyes./A building waiting/to be/colorized,” writes Carson Feero, a seventh-grader, whose work is currently on display in the exhibit. Carson participated in Reclaiming Buffalo, a Writing With Light afterschool program where students photograph buildings in their neighborhood that they wish to “reclaim.” The students then transform their photograph using Photoshop and then write an accompanying poem or prose piece that captures their vision with words.

The Writing With Light Exhibit is filled with artworks that reveal the many worlds of Buffalo from the eyes and hearts of its youth. “It was amazing to see the enthusiasm, focus, determination, and academic growth in my students as a result of Writing With Light,” says Ms. Buono, a fourth-grade bilingual teacher at PS 3 D’Youville Porter Campus School. The exhibit demonstrates what community, friendship, and family means to these young artists. The works are provocative, innovative, and they will leave you teeming with inspiration.

The Writing With Light Exhibit is currently on display at CEPA Gallery in the Market Arcade. The closing reception will be held on Thursday, September 12, 5:30-7:30pm. Admission is free and open to the public.

Check out more Writing With Light student work online at

- Noah Falck

Kathleen Betsko Yale

Wordflight Reading Series Moves to Pausa

The Wordflight Reading Series, sponsored by Just Buffalo Literary Center, is moving to Pausa Art House in Allentown beginning this fall, after six years at the Crane Branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library on Elmwood Avenue. Pausa Art House, which is located at 19 Wadsworth Street just north of Allen, is an elegant performance space where the audience can listen seated at tables while sipping beverages and nibbling comestibles available from Pausa’s menu.

Opening the season will be poet Ann Goldsmith and actor/playwright/poet Kathleen Betsko Yale on September 9 at 7:30pm. Ann Goldsmith is the author of a full-length book of poetry, The Spaces Between Us (Outrider Poetry Project, 2010), and No One Is the Same Again, a prize-winning book of poems published by the Quarterly Review of Literature. A graduate of Smith College, Goldsmith holds an M.A. from the University of Denver and a Ph.D. from UB, where she taught for 10 years. Highlights of her poetry career include winning the St. Louis Poetry Center’s Best Poem Contest in 2002; placing as runner-up in the 1996 Orillia International Poetry Festival and two-time finalist in the “Discovery”/The Nation national poetry competition; and serving as poet-in-residence for two years at the Chautauqua Institution’s summer writing program.

Kathleen Betsko Yale is an actor, award-winning playwright, and poet, who was born in Coventry, England. She is co-author (with Rachel Koenig) of Interviews With Contemporary Women Playwrights (William Morrow & Co., 1987), and participates in the Women of the Crooked Circle poets’ collective (founded by Jimmie Margaret Gilliam). Betsko Yale’s work has been performed at the Belgrade Theatre in England, Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and New York Shakespeare Festival. Betsko Yale adapted her play Johnny Bull to an ABC-TV Movie of the Week starring Kathy Bates, Colleen Dewhurst, Jason Robards, and Peter McNicol. She has performed on Broadway and off-Broadway, in regional theatre and national road tours, and locally at Irish Classical Theatre.

The fall season will continue with a dynamic lineup, which includes:

October 14: Michael Basinski, poet, performance artist, and curator of UB’s Poetry Collection, and Annette Daniels Taylor, actor, playwright and poet.

November 11: Jimmie Margaret Gilliam and Olga Karman—both poets, memoirists, and professors emeritae.

December 9: Barbara Cole, artistic director of Just Buffalo, and poet Kristi Meal, owner of Rust Belt Books.

Each reading also includes slots for open readers.

The doors will open at 6:30pm for each event with readings starting at 7:30pm. Admission will be $5 for a voucher which can be used towards purchase of food and/or drinks before the event begins. Pausa Art House offers wine, beer, coffee, soft drinks, and a small menu of freshly prepared food items.

For more information, call 697-9069 or visit

- Ryki Zuckerman

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