Our Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

As a precaution to help limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and care for our community, Just Buffalo Literary Center has postponed a number of events, and we will follow the guidance of Buffalo Public Schools in terms of Just Buffalo Writing Center programming.

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It may have been Annette Daniel Taylor’s booming voice introducing poets coming up to the mic, it may have been the warm red light shining on Julian Montague’s mural (painted by James Moffit), or it may have been the ephemeral poems from Adam Drury’s POEMATIC 900, but if you walked by Washington St. on October 11th, you definitely witnessed some type of magic that transformed an early fall Thursday. Attendees of Just Buffalo’s Words on the Street Block Party were treated to twelve seemingly different but inextricably connected performances by spoken word poets, musicians, authors, performers, and artists. Taylor, whose unending list of accolades should include Professional Hype-Woman (if it doesn’t already), started off the evening reading from her book, “Dreams on Fire,” recently out from West 44 Books. Set in Buffalo, her novel in verse focuses on a young girl with an incarcerated father. “Good behavior lessens time, not Mama’s tears,” Taylor writes. Following Taylor, we were graced by Richie Willis who shared two poems with the audience about coming out, about having a body, about being a human among other humans. “I did not choose the shape of the constellation that I am,” his voice echoed off the walls and somehow warmed the night around us. Magic. Robin Jordan, Writing Center Coordinator, brought to the stage several Young Writers from the center, names you might not know now but surely you will soon, Jahton, Theo, Hanna, and Angel. These writers aren’t great writers for their ages, they’re just great writers. Addressing issues in their work such as identity, immigration, instability, and the hearts insurmountable ability to heal, these young writers are half reason Mayor Byron Brown designated Washington Street as the literary corridor of Buffalo. Ten Thousand, a member of Buffalo’s Pure Ink Poetry team, delivered another type of magic to the block party by freestyling a poem based on words suggested by the audience. From “puppies,” “obsolete,” “transaction,” and “chicken,” he brought forth a piece about a Grandmother’s love. “Heaven is right here on this plate,” he said. And how right he was. Following Ten Thousand, Curtis Lovell showed us just how many looping harmonies can swirl within one human with songs such as “Tender” and “Bruja.” Lovell’s debut album comes out November 1st, with a show at the 9th Ward. Closing out the night were readings from Laritza Salazar, Julie Valentine, and Dayatra Hassan. Salazar hails from downstate and is currently interning at Just Buffalo. Her magic was found in the line, “a lesson learned from being a childless mother,” which was heard visibly by the audience. Valentine warmed up the chilling night with his blood poems, “sangre para mi” and his joyful descriptions of his Poetry Bus, an on-going project to bring his poems around the country. Lastly, Hassan read her work to us with the voice of a woman who is going to tell you exactly what you need to hear even when you don’t want to hear it. “How it hurts when the truth

Do you have any second parts in your life? Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Points of Departure (see WBFO's coverage here) opened with the above question posed by Bishnu Adhikari. It was question that did not require a response but demanded some thought, much like everything else that morning. In collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services and Just Buffalo’s Words on the Street initiative, immigrants and refugees took the stage to share poems about their experiences in making America and Buffalo a new home. Drawing inspiration from the portals in Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West, three doors stood as the backdrop for the presenters. The doors brought about curious onlookers visiting or exiting the library. The doors did not merely merit a glance, like Adhikari's question, it demanded more: a closer look. One door was inscribed with a collaborative poem written by teens who attend the Just Buffalo Writing Center: Dear new neighbors Welcome to our city Make yourself at home I hope each step you Take upon Buffalo Soil makes a sound like When palms meet in a Handshake. Another door, created by artist Paris Henderson, featured abstract black and white patterns. The last door was plastered with the word “journey” in various languages, the native tongues of those who were encouraged to go up and write it. Soon enough it became clear how much of everything felt like an invitation, or, more pointedly, an open door. Do you have any second parts in your life? Bishnu, a Buffalo resident since 2009, pulled everyone out of the trance of anticipation waiting for something, anything, to let us know things have begun. It was the first brisk morning in months, and attendees were in a type of shock from the cold that doesn’t escape you until something more stimulating takes hold. Bishnu’s opening helped bridge a connection of our relationship with time and place. Initially from Bhutan, Bishnu arrived at many second comings in his own life. They cam in the form of studies that led him to India; an eviction that led him to Nepal; and then as a Buffalonian and translator for Journey’s End. It was the wind, he said, that carried him from place to place. So he spoke to it. Oh beautiful wind in the sky, flying so fast and so high Seeing the grassy meadows, green mountains and hills Sit before rivers and valleys above my birthplace Where I endured my young age And kicked me out of my home Forcing me to leave everything that I loved. Dragging me away from the position. I sobbed. I was so worried and sad. But now I am with real human beings Who are great supporters To start enjoying my life again Oh wind in the sky Please fly there and share my story. Despite the many roles and various homes Bishnu had, he always considered himself to be a writer and lyricist. The Notes app on his phone wis filled with Nepali writing, which he later translates for an English-speaking audience. One thing you notice about Bishnu is his attention to his surroundings. He mentioned Buffalo’s beauty to me twice in our conversation. But he made sure to

An alien abduction, an anthropomorphic squirrel, and a collection of disjointed body parts all walk into a workshop – or rather, come out of it. These were the images that the “Art Comix” workshop conjured on the evening of September 13th in the Just Buffalo Writing Center. The workshop’s students had the option to draw inspiration from a number of selected poems, or create a new one through the lens of what settling for the first time in Buffalo, as someone totally new to the city, would feel like. Some of the poems that sprang from this prompt will be showcased on September 22 at Points of Departure, where refugees and immigrants will be welcome to share their experiences as new members of the community and the fabric of America. Max Weiss, who headed the workshop with help from Writing Center Coordinator, Robin Jordan, offered this caveat: “Take risks, even if they don’t make sense,” Weiss said. For Weiss, the workshop was meant to help students navigate the marrying of visual art and narrative as a form of storytelling, which he believes to be a more intimate form of expression than even his previous craft of songwriting, which took him down to Nashville for a stint as a guitarist after college. “With music you may need an audience whereas in comics, you could collaborate, or you could do everything on your own,” Weiss said. “I’ve been able to have a lot of fun with myself creating independently, and so I left Tennessee and as soon as I got back I found this place.” As Weiss made his rounds of the table where students worked, he carefully eavesdropped on the creative process of his students. Many of them drew directly from the poems they’d written two days prior in response to that same mystifying prompt; how does it feel to be a stranger in your own waking world? Perhaps a sense not too far removed from the lived experiences of most budding young adults, but distant enough to be an alien concept for many native-born American kids. From there, cue an hour of clacking on typewriters, Keith Haring-esque figures sprouting on the page, an analysis of Exodus 34:14, and debates on the best animal characters to ever hit a screen. One student, Cora, meticulously carved an array of circles and narrow ovals, gradually building them into full bodies with arms and faces. In the first fully fleshed-out strip, an anthropomorphic squirrel spills an “Ugh” into a speech bubble. In the strips that follow, the squirrel is approached by her friend, a cat, who is from the neighborhood. The comic was labeled with the temporary title “title.” The naming of her work is usually done gardening style, so to speak. This means she typically starts with a idea that comes to fruition as she tends to her craft, growing into a fully-formed piece with a fitting title. This is a gradual, careful process; she pays especially close attention to the slope of her lines by using her ruler