A flyer announcing the Dec. 2 talk.

Virtual book talk brings feel of a poetry slam

At a recent virtual book talk held over Zoom, Colombian-American poet Carlos Andrés Gómez called his debut full-length book of poetry, Fractures “very New York.” Several of the more than 30 attendees watching the free event hosted by mobile bookstore Bronx Bound Books joined from as far as Florida and California. 

Gómez was joined by Dominican American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo and lifelong Bronx resident, writer and performer, Sydney Valerio, as moderator. The evening event had the feel of a poetry slam. Attendees nodded along and snapped their praise—interspersed with conversation on the writing process and technique, and audience questions. 

Fractures, which won the 2020 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, explores themes of race, sexuality, gender and violence. Gómez recited several poems from the book, including “Last Sundays at Bootlegger,” a poem on being 15 at a dance party, and “Morning Rikers Island,” on youth incarcerated there. 

Acevedo recited two pieces, including “Self-Portrait of Eve as Cardi B.”

 “Yea, I ate it. Cuz, f** it, I was hungry,” she recited from the poem. “Why the fuck would an untamed thing like me ever crave a shepherd, ever crave an Eden, when all she ever needed was the wild of my own wool?”

Acevedo described the Bronx as a place with its own language, code, dress and movement.

“There are messages for the people who know,” She said, “I try to plant these nice little nuggets of love, right, that if you get it, you get it.” 

John Chance Acevedo, who grew up in the Bronx, is now a teacher and poet in Miami. He joined to support his fellow poets and friends, and because he wants children from the borough to see themselves represented in poetry and literature and realize they can do it too. 

“These events, specifically, cater to the diaspora of people who look like us,” he said. “It’s a whole different culture. It’s a whole different tongue we’re listening to.”

Representation was also important to Maria Cruse. She doesn’t have ties in the Bronx but had seen Acevedo and Gómez perform before and felt connected to their work as a Latina. She watched the event from California. 

“I’m often pleasantly surprised to find readers, with experiences very different from my own, who encounter my work and feel deeply connected to it,” said Gómez in an email following the event. “Paradoxically, I find that the more I write grounded by my personal experience, the more people my work touches.” 

The author talk was only the second ever hosted by Bronx Bound Books, which was founded by Latanya DeVaughn in 2019 to bring books to readers across the Bronx, including to the Mott Haven farm stand and St. Mary’s Park. 

Because of COVID-19, Bronx Bound Books pivoted to online events as a way to keep bringing literature to the Bronx. It has hosted more than 30 online events this year, including live readings and open mics nights. Find more of their events on their Facebook page.