The Divine Ms. Alicia’s Divinity School

by Danielle Champiet-Coronado

 

Book lovers were treated to a double-pleasure this past April 24th at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Vancouver, WA. The first was a reading of a children’s book accompanied by the largest xylophones I have ever seen. The second was the divine Ms. Alicia Jo Rabins reading selections from her book, Divinity School.

In true rockstar fashion, Ms. Rabins gave an electrifying performance. Rockstar is apropos since she was the lead violinist for a New York punk band, Golem, and now sings and plays with her husband in her original creation, Girls In Trouble. Her soulful voice and electrifying performances have taken her around the world. A native Oregonian, Ms. Rabins grew up in Baltimore, MD and moved to New York at 17 for college. After graduation, she lived in Jerusalem, Western Massachusetts and Brooklyn for a time before returning to Portland, OR. She holds two advanced degrees; a MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College and a MA in Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies from Jewish Theological Seminary. Impressed yet? We’re just getting started.

Alicia Jo Rabins can also be found on IMDB for musical contributions to documentaries. She has a new one that was recently completed titled Chavruta: A Drummer’s Bat Mitzvah by Portland-based filmmaker, Jodi Darby. “Chavruta follows drummer/ecologist, Lisa Schonberg, and musician/Torah teacher, Alicia Jo Rabins, as they trade lessons and prep for Ms. Schonberg’s adult bat mitzvah by exploring Sumerian Goddesses, the history of women’s drumming in the ancient near East, female spiritual leadership, ecology and Torah.”

Ms. Rabins is a real life Torah teacher in addition to wife/mother/musician/award-winning poet/columnist. I might have missed an item or two as her list of accomplishments is as long as it is impressive. Her chapbook, The Girl Who Wants To Be A Landscape, was selected by Mary Oliver for the 1995 Artscape Poetry Prize when Ms. Rabins was 18. Divinity School, her first poetry book, won the 2015 APR/Honickman First Book Prize and was a finalist in the Oregon Book Award contest. She has a new collection, Fruit Geode, due out this fall and is working on a spiritual memoir.

In person, Ms. Rabins is open, vivacious and spicy, instantly connecting with her audience on a personal level as she dynamically recites her prose. Her face is alight with a huge, gorgeous smile and dramatic green streaks highlighting her long, black hair, mirroring her prismatic personality. Each poem she shared was accompanied by light-hearted jokes and personal stories of what inspired their creation. Her performance every bit as energetic as in her music video, even the xylophones across the room were no match for an Alicia Jo Rabins reading. Afterward she graciously took questions about her poetry and stayed to sign books.

I had the opportunity to read Divinity School prior to Ms. Rabins’ reading. It’s truly an incredible and extensive collection that combines some of her loves; ancient goddesses, spirituality, food, herbs, nature, love and life. Her approach, best described as Earth mother/sage vixen, is sensual, profound, passionate, vibrant and complex. The same attributes which adorn Ms. Rabins. I couldn’t help but absorb every word of Divinity School’s literary alchemy. Provocative prose like ‘The Story Of Noah’ contrasting with the very sensual ‘How You Came To Be’ and ‘Between The Tongue And The Warm Salt.’ Laced in between are the sage wisdoms of a couple of ‘How To’ poems and ‘Too Late’ which I found especially empowering. With the turn of the page the tide shifts and sweeps you along to the more romantic waters of ‘Atitlan.’ It’s no surprise that Divinity School has garnered such high praise and enthusiastic reviews.

Open Mic Poets

The Last Tuesdays poetry group was additionally honored by a visit from esteemed Clark County Arts Commissioner, LaRae Zawodny. Always a delight, Ms. Zawodny lavished praise on the groups’ accomplishments and dedication to art awareness and the promotion of poetry. In addition to attracting some of the most incredible poets in the arts community, we are also blessed with very talented open mic poets and the gift of watching their art evolve each month is surreal. The Barnes and Noble bookstore where we meet is an excellent host for authors and poets, provides great resources and support for indie writers and is instrumental in the promotion of art and literature in Vancouver. Ms. Zawodny also announced that Clark County is still looking for a Poet Laureate and highlighted what the position entailed as well as the qualifications. The deadline for applying is May 18th, 2018 and applications are available online: Clark County Poet Laureate.

Join us on May 29th at 7pm as we enjoy two features; the avant garde stylings of Ed Skoog and his latest collection, Run The Red Lights AND John Brehm, Andrea Hollander and M to talk about Rattle magazine. Last Tuesdays poetry group is co-hosted by David Hill, Cathie Padgett and myself at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Vancouver, WA. All are welcome to attend this community event and, if they wish, read a family-friendly poem or two during our open mic sessions.

All of the books featured at these events are available for purchase either in the store or on-line:

Divinity School by Alicia Jo Rabins

Veils, Halos and Shackles by Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay

Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy

No Acute Distress by Jennifer Richter

The Business by Stephanie Lenox

Hopkins (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poet)

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