I really enjoyed Aldo Leopoldo Pando Girard’s poetry reading at Literati. He was charismatic and well-spoken, and the audience was very supportive. The reading itself was very interactive: people responded through snaps, claps, and cheers.
Girard read from his book Self Portraits, Mixed Media, published by Red Beard Press. His poetry was vulnerable, political, and skillfully crafted. The poems were often conversational and contained clever linguistic surprises. Some of the themes in his poetry included seasons, college, sadness, identity, race, bilingualism (specifically Spanish and English), queerness, the cosmos, and politics. Girard seemed very comfortable in front of a crowd. His background in slam poetry was evident when he came alive with gestures and facial expressions, and how he manipulated sounds and rhythms in some of his poems. It was a delight to see the performance side of his work.
Some of my favorite lines I heard him read:
“My whole body is woven with stories”
“Fall up into the stars”
“My ribs are an earthquake”
His reading was followed by a Q & A and book signing. During the Q & A, he talked about his role as the 2018-2019 Ann Arbor Youth Poet Laureate, a position I was not familiar with. As a Youth Poet Laureate, he is conducting a social justice project, mentoring teens at the Neutral Zone, leading workshops on poetry performance and editing, and educating people about the diversity and power of poetry. He is also putting together a chapbook featuring works by youths of color in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. The chapbook will be released at the end of May.
During the Q & A, Girard also talked about his creative process as well as the differences between spoken word and page poetry. He usually determines whether a piece is meant to be spoken or not during his editing process. For his spoken pieces, he utilizes double meanings and wordplay, and he edits them so they can be easily understood when read aloud. Whereas for page poetry, he allows the poems to have more complicated meanings, which may only be deciphered through closer readings.
For poets who are just starting out, he recommends reading a lot because the field of poetry is diverse. Referencing other people’s work can expose you to unique ideas on what is defined as “poetry” and what “poetry” can do. He also says that “editing is most of writing” and that it is crucial to find a community through which you can receive feedback about your work.
You can purchase his book of poetry, Self Portraits, Mixed Media, as well as I Name This Body Mine (which features some of his work) both at Literati for $12. Also, be sure to read the reviews on the backs of the books, several famous writers have great things to say about Girard’s work.
Upcoming Events featuring Aldo Leopoldo Pando Girard:
- Ann Arbor Youth Laureate Commencement Performance: https://aadl.org/node/388703
- Downtown Library
- 5/23/19, 7-8:30 pm
- Poetry Workshops: Mondays 4:30-6pm @ the Neutral Zone