The Spotlight: Lorraine Currelley

Hey! I know it’s been a while – just going through the ups and downs of quarantine life. But, I’m glad to be back with an interview with Lorraine Currelley, who I first met a few years back at a writing workshop and got to know during my time on the Bronx Book Fair planning committee. Lorraine was recently named the National Beat Poetry Foundation Bronx Beat Poet Laureate New York State.

What are some of the responsibilities of the National Beat Poetry Foundation Bronx Beat Poet Laureate New York State?

I’m still trying to navigate this new role and what it means for me. I believe it’s up to the individual laureate to define what that role is. My role is an extension of who I am and what I continue to do as a writer, artist and individual.

It’s advocating for poetry, reading, literacy and the arts. It means representing my Bronx borough, shining a spotlight on the
wonderful things happening in my community as well as it’s residents, my neighbors.


I’m excited to be working with my community to advocate for needed opportunity and services. It’s the joy of collaborating with individuals as well as cultural, educational and social organizations via the Bronx Book Fair and Poets Network & Exchange. Two of the most innovative organizations in the Bronx and New York City.

For those who may be unfamiliar with your writing, how would you describe it?

I’m a multi-genre writer. I write and enjoy exploring different writing topics and styles. They include fiction, non-fiction, and of course poetry. I’m especially fond of narrative poetry. My writing topics include but are not limited to mental health, children literature, African and African American history, culture and family life, ageism, racism and gerontology. I inherited a love of learning, writing and literature from my mother Annie Daniels Currelley.

Who are some of your favorite writers? 

Some of the writers named entered my life at specific periods and unexpectedly. Their work resonated spiritually, philosophically, or emotionally. There was a connection. It’s not necessarily their entire body of work. It could have been a poem, a story, or a specific book. They are Jesmyn Ward, Sonia Sanchez, Carmen D. Lucca, Nikki Giovanni, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X Kende, J. California Cooper, Roxanne Gay, Rita Dove, Isabel Allende, Edward Currelley, Gary Johnston, Claudia Rankine, Paula Giddings and Tracey K. Smith. There are also so many unsung writers.

Tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on.


I’m happily completing my manuscripts for publication. I’m also participating in Climbing The Walls Multi Media Exhibit.

Climbing the Walls is a collaborative project between Studio Theater in Exile and Hudson Valley MOCA that asked for artists across genres to contribute, visual art, music, monologues, and poetry, that explore the ways we are experiencing life now and how we imagine the future. Climbing the Walls was conceived from a desire to create in a time of disorientation and disconnection. We conceived of the project as a way to connect and explore a shift in the moment, ultimately looking both at COVID-19 and the protests. As more and more people decided to participate, across all genres, we realized how lucky we were to be in an artistic community that came together to communicate, to teach, to learn, and to create.

I had the great joy to contribute to COVID-19 and to conceive and guest curate a Junteenth exhibit “Freedom A Failed Promise.” at the invitation of  Artistic Director/Dramaturge Studio Theater in Exile, Mara Mills. I am very pleased with the result. It’s an important exhibit. Climbing The Walls is innovative and wonderfully creative and exciting ( online.) Participating artists are phenonmenal. It opened on June 13th, 2020 and viewers will have an opportunity to experience it until September 13th, 2020.

CLIMBING THE WALLS MULTI MEDIA EXHIBIT JUNE 13-SEPTEMBER 13
On www.studiotheaterinexile.com/climbing-the-walls
and www.HudsonValleyMOCA.org

My Novella is Now Available!

A couple months back, I hinted at some cool news I’d announce soon and now is that time! My novella, Cooties & Other Kindergarten Quandaries is now available in Running Wild Press’ Novella Anthology, Vol. 3, Book 3.

Despite the title and the fact that the four protagonists are in kindergarten, this is not a children’s book. Unless your kid likes satire and and political humor thrown in every so often.

It’s an episodic novella, consisting of 11 chapters, each tackling another obstacle – the boogeyman, an evil substitute teacher, tattletales, etc.

This novella was about five years in the making. I wrote the very first chapter back in 2010 when I was a senior at Baruch for one of my assignments. I didn’t do much with it afterward, maybe sent it out to a few lit mags, but it wasn’t until 2014 when I picked it back up and continued the characters’ misadventures trying to navigate kindergarten as these super geniuses. It was just a lot of fun to write, to be honest.

Novellas are kind of a weird in between genre, so I was really glad it found a home at Running Wild Press, an independent press based in California. Cooties… shares the pages with about eight other talented authors, and I’m excited to be able to share this news with you finally.

Screen Shot 2019-12-09 at 5.24.40 PM

You can purchase Book 3 from Powells, Mysterious Galaxy, Indiebound, or Amazon. (Please support independent bookstores!)

If you’d like to keep up with my writing life and endeavors, check out my author site here.

 

Taste of the Bronx at The Bronx Museum of Art – Sat. Oct. 26

This month’s Taste of the Bronx pop-up market will be held at the Bronx Museum of Art this Saturday from 1-6 pm. Over 25 Bronx-based vendors will be their selling apparel, jewelry, food, and more. They’ll also be launching the fall edition of Taste of the Bronx quarterly subscription box which features specially selected items from Bronx businesses.

Visitors will also get a chance to check out two new exhibits at the museum, Henry
Chalfant: Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987 and The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop.

Remember that admission to both the museum and market is free!

Gracie Book Club Comes to the Bronx Museum of Art – Wed. Oct. 23

As you may know, some of First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray’s projects have been her mental health awareness campaign and the creation of the city-wide Gracie Book Club in conjunction with the Gracie Mansion Conservancy.  Reading to Thrive—Great Books Exploring Mental Health melds the two together. This month’s pick is I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez. A discussion will be held at the Bronx Museum of  the Arts on Wednesday, October 23. Doors open at 5:30 pm and the event is from 6pm – 7pm. Tickets are free, you can reserve them here.

GBC_FB-T_PMD

Have you heard of rock hunting? This fun new trend has recently hit the Bronx. Keep reading to learn more!

With rock hunting becoming a trend in towns across the country, a group of Bronxites decided to get in on the fun. They created #TheBronxRocks on Facebook, where they post photos of painted rocks and give clues as to where they hid them. The bottom of the rocks tell finders how to join the group on Facebook, and are encouraged to rehide the rock. So far the group is up to over 250 members.
Recently, local astronomer and teacher Joseph Martinez, aka Jupiter Joe, decided to get in on the fun and recreate the solar system to hide in the Bronx. Participants can use the GPS coordinates provided to locate the rocks. There are even prizes for those who find the rock– like a pair of Solar Eclipse Glasses for theupcoming Eclipse on Aug 21st!
The purpose of the rock hunting group is to encourage families to unplug, explore their borough, and meet members of the community. There will also be chances for members of the community to paint their rockstogether every Friday from 6 to 8 in Virginia Park, as part of Game Night- hosted by artist Lovie Pignata.
To learn more about Jupiter Joe’s solar system rock hunt, visit www.jupiterjoesastronomy.org
To join #TheBronxRocks rock hunting group, head over to Facebook.
Maybe I’ll hide some #thebronxrocks rocks out here in Prague and see what happens!

Bronx SummerStage Schedule

I think one of the main reasons I look forward to summer in NYC is to take advantage of all of the awesome free things going on throughout the city. Case and point: SummerStage concerts! Check out the July 27-30 schedule below!

Thursday, July 27th from 7PM –9PM – Made in the Bronx presented by BAAD!

  • Modern, folk, flamenco and house dance from Bronx artists. Dance workshop 7pm for all ages and levels with Sekou McMiller, popular New York-based dancer and choreographer heating up the stage with his Contemporary Latin Fusion class that he has taught to students around the world.

Friday July 28th from 7PM – 9PM – La India

  • Legendary South Bronx Princess of Salsa, is a Puerto Rican singer and songwriter of salsa and house music. There will also be a all ages and levels salsa workshop at 6PM in St Mary’s Park / performance at 7PM

Saturday July 29th from 5PM – 7PM – Frankie Negrón

  • Salsa’s next definitive voice effortlessly blends tradition with pop, rock and reggaetón. There will also be percussion and dance workshops at 4PM in St Mary’s Park / performance at 5PM

Sunday, July 30th from 5PM –7PM – Lisa Lisa

  • 80s superstar who brought freestyle to the mainstream with hits like I Wonder if I Take You Home. 

Reading Juliet Takes a Breath

At this year’s Bronx Book Fair, I had the pleasure of meeting the awesome people of Riverdale Avenue Books, based in Riverdale (duh!) They were gracious enough to let me pick one of their books to read, and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera was the one that stood out to me.

I recently wrote about The Education of Margot Sanchez and how amazing the cover is, and Juliet Takes a Breath is a book with another eye-catching cover and after reading the blurb on the back, I knew it was the one.

Following Bronxite Juliet, an undergrad who, after reading fictional hippie feminist Harlowe Brisbane’s Raging Flower” Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering Your Mind, decides  to move across the country to Portland to intern for her new hero. But not before coming out to her family and leaving them to deal with the news.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is Juliet’s transformation. We see her with a tough exterior that I’m sure many of us who have grown up here will recognize, but she is incredibly vulnerable and unsure of herself, trying to figure out who she is. I also enjoyed Rivera’s use of language. Juliet does not mince words and her personality comes through in the way she mixes her growing knowledge of feminism and intersectionality with the slang she has learned growing up here in the Bronx.

Definitely something to take along with you as you head to Orchard this summer!

 

JulietTakesABreath_1400

 

The Art of TATS CRU Opening This Week at BronxArtSpace

Internationally renowned graffiti artists, TATS CRU, will be the subject of a new exhibit at  BronxArtSpace. It’ll kick off with a block party this Saturday, June 3rd and an artist talk and documentary screening on June 22nd.

From BXNYCreative:

The Art of TATS CRU will show a representation of past projects through photographs and videos produced by Miguel Teck Arteaga. There will be works on canvas by NICER, BIO, and BG183, and a new mural collaboration reproduced as a poster to commemorate the exhibition. “We are looking at a unique rise to art world success. It’s inspirational in that it illustrates that every artist doesn’t need to follow the standard, art school, gallery system, connection-based path,” says co-curator Eileen Walsh.

The Block Party will feature homegrown, Bronx entertainment. DJ Pusha will keep the party going, with additional dance performances by BBoy & Emcee Chief69, and Hip-Hop legend Rokafella’s Full Circle Souljah‘s dance troupe.

Live music performances by up and coming Bronx MINDIE artists Statik Vision, and alternative music group, The Nobodies, and a presentation by spoken word artist and rapper, Safiel Vonay.

The exhibition for this event is sponsored by JCAL Development Group. Neighborhood businesses participating in the block party include ID Studio TheatreZaro’s Bakery, La Grata Italian RestaurantFiltered Coffee, and Bronx Native. We are also happy to have the support of Port Morris Distillery and The Bronx BreweryThe Bronx Children Museum will host creative activities for children and families, and will have their museum on the Go Bus parked on the street outside the gallery. The event is free of charge and all are welcome.

tats cru

Photo Courtesy of BXNYCreative

The Education of Margot Sanchez is the Book I wish I Had Growing Up

The March read for the book club I joined this year, Readers & Shakers, was The Education of Margot Sanchez by Bronx-raised Lilliam Rivera.

The young adult novel follows Bronx teen Margot Sanchez and her quest find herself set against the backdrop of the battle over the gentrification of the South Bronx. When I was a teen, I loved reading romance comedies, but was also (and still am) an absolute nerd for politics and news. There never seemed anything that was somewhere in the middle. I think The Education of Margot Sanchez is a step in the right direction.

The novel takes place over the course of a summer. Margot, whose family lives in Riverdale, but owns two supermarkets in the South Bronx, not far from St. Mary’s, is desperately trying to fit in with the “popular” girls at her affluent prep school. Forced to work in her family’s supermarket for the summer, she spends her time trying to avoid creepers and drama with the cashieristas. One day, she meets Moises, a young community activist trying to prevent developers from coming into the neighborhood to build luxury buildings that are obviously not for any of the locals *swoon.* On top of all of this, she’s also trying to figure out her friendship with her best friend from elementary school, who instead of attending the elite prep school, has gone to an art high school and made a bunch of new friends, causing Margot to feel insecure.

I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore.

With all of the Bronx references and the complexity and endless drama that comes with adolescence, I know that 16 year old Lisa would have really enjoyed this novel. Then again, so did 27 year old Lisa.

I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed and I couldn’t believe it was over so quickly! But, I think the desire to want more from a book in this way isn’t a deal breaker. At the book club, we talked about keeping the audience in mind, which is also important. For a teen, it may not be a big deal or they may not even notice.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot and definitely recommend checking it out and supporting a writer from the Bronx.

Also, the cover is gorgeous!

margot sanchez

 

 

Let’s Show the World that #theBronxReads by Supporting the Lit Bar

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, you’ve heard about Noelle Santos and her mission to bring a  bookstore/ wine bar to the Bronx. With the closure of the Bay Plaza Barnes and Noble, the Bronx’s 1 million+ residents are left without a bookstore, independent or otherwise, which is an egregious sin. Show the world that the Bronx reads by supporting this important cause and if that’s not enough to convince you, check out Noelle’s video below in which she outlines (with an amazing flow) why the Bronx needs the Lit Bar. Donate to the Indiegogo campaign here.