Monday, February 07, 2011

Five Books that Mo will probably use in Philosoraptors' Cafe Trivia Night, Special Speller Birthday Edition, Thursday, February 10th, 2011 at 7pm

These books offer just a taste of the topics that will be featured at trivia night. Study up!

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (Random House, $28.95)
This book is an obvious pick for Philosoraptor Trivia questions. Firstly, it is pretty funny. Secondly, even though Bryson was born in the U.S. he's clearly British now and the Spellers are half-British. Thirdly, this Indie Bestseller reveals the secret absurdity of quotidian household objects.

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien (Charlesbridge Publishing $24.95)
This is a kid's book that talks about activists who've used nonviolence to effect change. Most of them you've heard of before, but you probably didn't get the real story. In particular, trivia will focus on some famous civil rights activists in honor of Black History Month. You can expect more black history questions from other sources, possibly that Mo has previously listed as Staff Picks.

Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, edited by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin, $17.00)
These poems are good. You can try to figure out how I will make them into trivia.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire (Random House, $19.95 for paperback or $29.95 for hardcover)
I don't often recommend buying in hardcover, but for this book you really should. The copy my family has is fifty-years-old, well-loved, and probably would not have survived had it been a paperback. The illustrations are beautiful. The trivia will likely be related to Valentine's Day.

Wicked Philadelphia: Sin in the City of Brotherly Love by Thomas Keels (The History Press, $19.99)
This book has made appearances at trivia nights before. We always love local history.

February 2011, Mo Speller

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Poetic Profile: Saida Agostini

1.)How would you describe your poetry?

It’s like me, an intensely goofy, emotional and loving thick brown woman with big hair, tons of flaws and a huge heart (I know that sounds like a country song, but its true).


I never knew what it took to die
if no one closes your lids, your
eyes are scotch taped closed
if your mouth is left open, someone
will come and break your jaw put
your body back together so that
your family can come and see something
they know. the white hot violence it
takes to break your body into something
familiar hide the bed sores hide the shit
anything to pretend the work of dying
never existed shuffled off into a patchwork
of bodies twisted broken and turned into
the humans we wanted them to be. maybe
that’s why no one says much
when bodies of trans women are found
carved all over dark cities chopped into
arms legs and limbs that can’t be made
whole or familiar, but instead strange
leaving only teeth to identify whole
lives by, picking out fillings and extractions
to separate their blood from others
how did they say goodbye? what is
left to bring back home to a cemetery
or resting place—who can close their eyes
hold the body and remember what is familiar
in battle

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

It’s how I stay sane, and remember to breathe. I have gone without writing for a year, and I would never do it again. Working within lgbt and homeless populations, I live with a lot of naked strength, grief, hope, and brutality. Poetry has become a way for me to find what is human, what connects me with everyone else, and remember how to hold on to the world that I dream of. I think poetry has always been a healing force for me, and one that I use in my political and therapeutic work.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

The top list would be Jan Beatty, Yusef Komunyakaa, Joy Harjo, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Kalisha Buchanon, Sapphire,William Shakespeare (so clich├ęd I know), and Wanda Coleman.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

I love Philly! I think that the community is incredibly supportive of the arts, especially in honoring voices of folks not typically heard within the mainstream. In September 2010, I co-produced a queer gender variant production of For Colored Girls, which was sold out, I was overwhelmed by the support and excitement of the community, not only for the production, but the cause itself (the majority of the proceeds went to fund scholarships for LGBT youth). Last year, I was awarded an Arts and Change Grant from the Leeway Foundation, which I am using to develop a therapeutic group grounded in the arts. The energetic reception I have received from community organizations and other artists is deeply affirming of the reality that Philadelphia is committed to utilizing art as a means of social change. (also I really love cheese steaks, and the iced tea that you can get from the Chinese restaurants).

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

So I just finished re-reading The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, a re-telling of old Black folktales. It is one of the most beautiful and magical books I remember from my childhood.

M. Saida Agostini is a Black queer love centered poet, social worker and activist. A featured performer at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Philly Queer Lit Festival, More than Words and GenderCrash, her work bridges worlds all at once joyfully erotic, raw and unapologetically present. Wild Witness, her first chapbook was released in 2007, and will release her second chapbook Hunger in