Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 55 (Nancy Morejon & Milton Rogovin)

Morejon, Nancy
Rogovin, Milton
With Eyes and Soul: Images of Cuba

Given to me by the publisher, Dennis Maloney.

When I was in Cuba in 2001 for a poetry conference, Cuban poets from several generations gave group readings that were organized by groups roughly according to their age. One day a group of twenty somethings read. The next, thirty-somethings, and so on, until they had more or less covered everyone.

Nancy Morejon is one of the better known Cuban poets on and off the island and she was scheduled to read with her group on the third day of the conference. From the minute we got there, the place was abuzz with talk that she had fallen ill and would not make the reading. The rumors turned out to be true and we didn't get to meet her or to see her. Alas.

Milton Rogovin just passed away a few weeks ago. If you don't know about him, I'd suggest googling his NY Times obit. He was a Buffalo-based documentary photographer whose subjects were primarily working people. He'd started out as an optometrist, but his membership in the communist party got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era and wrecked his business. He then took up photography full-time. The rest is history, as they say.

I met him a couple of times. When I first started working at Just Buffalo, he participated in a panel discussion for an event we put on. I drove him home afterwards and his wife, Annie, invited Lori and I to come visit them a week or so later.

I remember Milton being very friendly, but also quiet, while Annie was quite outgoing. She had tons of questions for us, although the first one was, Do you believe in God? She followed this up by saying, We don't, but we raised our children Jewish so they'd have a tradition.

We then had a long discussion about religion and politics and poetry and photography and so on, all of it very personal. It was a memorable evening. I think Annie died not too long after that and I never had the chance to talk to Milton again. He gave me an autographed copy of his book, "Triptychs," which I still have on the shelf.

from With Eyes and Soul

Un patio en la Habana

A Gerardo Fulleda León

Un patio en la Habana,
como pedía Machado,
es caro a la memoria.
Sin altos muros,
sin esa lumbre intrépida
del arcoiris,
sin la flor andaluza
que tanto abuela reclamaba
en los búcaros.

Un patio en la Habana
conserva huesos de los muertos
porque ellos so anchos tesoros,
viejas semillas de labrador.

Un patio, ay, de donde sale
tanta estrella.

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