Toni Morrison in conversation at the Harlem Arts Salon Feb 24th

We are super excited to present Nobel Laureate, novelist, and grande dame of American letters, Toni Toni-MorrisonMorrison, on Sunday, February 24th from 2:00 to 5:30pm at the Harlem Arts Salon. Surely, it’s got to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Already guests from as far away as Tokyo, Montreal, Oklahoma and California have secured their places at this historic event. You should do the same. Guests will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis, and seating is very limited!

Ms. Morrison will be in conversation with pre-eminent African-American poet, writer, MacArthur Genius Award recipient, and our favorite iconoclast, Ishmael Reed. Meanwhile, poet and Miles Davis biographer, Quincy Troupe, our partner in all things cultural and newly refreshed after completing  Earl the Pearl: My Story with ex-New York Knicks phenom, Earl Monroe, promises to keep the conversation flowing as moderator. Mildred Howard, renown for her sculptural installations and mixed media assemblages (and one of the most inspired cooks to ever sling some pots) is preparing  sumptuous somethings to munch on, as she did for the Earl Lovelace salon. That food that day was out of this world! I’ve yet to come close, never mind master, her phenomenal bread pudding! (You can find her recipe on our  April 2012 blog entry.)

We have reached full capacity, folks! If you’d like to be on a Stand-by list, send us an email to

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Earl Lovelace in Harlem

The conversation that Sunday afternoon in March between Earl Lovelace and Elizabeth Nunez at the Harlem Arts Salon was sizzling, as they practically agreed on nothing which heightened the afternoon with dazzling energy. Nunez, a critically acclaimed novelist herself, as well as a Trini-ex-pat, peppered our guest with commentary befitting her academic station as professor of English at Hunter College. He counter-punched with lyrical passages from his newest novel, IS JUST A MOVIE. It was rich.

(l-r) Quincy, Margaret, Earl Lovelace, Mildred Howard, Elizabeth Nunez

(l-r) Quincy, Margaret, Earl Lovelace, Mildred Howard, Elizabeth Nunez

You don’t have to take my word for it, ask Anthony Arnove, our co-sponsor at Haymarket Books and publisher of the book. Anthony was there and brought along another eyewitness, Vanity Fair columnist Anderson Tepper, who wrote a delicious review in the Paris Review. Or just watch the video!

The food was slammin’ too. Mildred Howard designed and prepared a sumptuous menu with a sassy Mexican flavor and the freshest of fresh ingredients (even the garlic!) imported from California . We served a five-orange citrus salad with jalapeno-stuffed olives, handmade beef, chicken, cheese corn, vegetarian tamales, black beans over brown rice, red cabbage slaw with jicama, a tomato, cilantro piccadillo. To top it off, she made the most divine bread pudding out of leftover baguettes! Tomcat Bakery  makes the best baguettes, if you ask me.

Mildred Howard’s Bread Pudding with coconut

2-3 day old baguettees

1½ cups of shredded coconut

3-4 + cups of milk (can also substitute one of the cups of milk with cream and milk or buttermilk)

4-5 eggs whipped

2 cups of packed brown sugar

1½ cups of butter

2 Tbsp vanilla flavoring

3-4 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

Juice from 3 lemons

1 shot cognac, whiskey or dark rum(optional)

Crumble baguettes and cover with one half of the milk.  If the bread is extremely hard, toss in water to soften the bread. Do not let the bread sit in the water. Pour off the water and cover with milk. Cover bowl with plastic wrap to maintain moisture. From time to time, break up bread with a fork or spoon making sure there are no huge pieces of bread. The bread should have a very soggy feel. Add more milk if necessary.

In a separate bowl whip eggs and remainder of milk, 1-2 cups. Melt 1 cube of butter and add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut to milk and eggs. Stir and mix all of the ingredients with the soaked bread. Place in a buttered baking dish. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at about 350° for 30-40 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and pour the following mixture over the bread pudding.

In a separate pot add ½ cup of butter, ½ to ¾ cups of sugar and lemon juice in a pan; cook all ingredients until melted and slightly syrupy. (You can also add a little cognac, whisky, or dark rum). Pour over top of the bread pudding and leave in oven for an extra couple of minutes. Let set for about ten minutes before serving.

Note: I vary bread pudding depending on the kind of bread that I have left over. Sometimes I use biscuits, croissants, pound cake, sandwich bread or a combination. You can add pecans, currants, yellow raisins, or whatever you taste maybe. I’ve also replaced part of the milk with coconut milk in addition to the coconut. The important trick is that you want the bread pudding not to be too heavy. Whipping the eggs helps to prevent that from happening.

As the saying goes, “A good time was had by all!”

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Feeding the hand

Oh, how lucky we feel at the Harlem Arts Salon to have the inimitable Mildred Howard as our guest chef at our Sunday, March 25th salon featuring Trinidadian novelists, Earl Lovelace and Elizabeth Nunez.

Mildred will try anything. That is, anything that involves stretching the limits of the imagination. She’s GOT to be the hardest working woman in the art business. She should be awarded a MacArthur Genius Award for her prodigious output of installations, paintings, glass houses, mixed media sculptures, and prints.

So it’s not surprising this super duper artist extends her creative energies towards food, preparation and presentation receiving equal attention. Among her long list of chef credits is her stint as interim executive chef at Alice Waters’ (founder of the five-star restaurant, Chez Panisse) Edible Schoolyard.

Come Sunday. The food’s going to be yum yum. Mildred’s shipping the sweetest, ripest California oranges for a mouth-watering orange & olive salad. She tells me she’s sending five different varieties! AND a box of Haas avocados that I remember as wonderfully mellow, rich and creamy for guacamole. There’ll be black bean chili and home-made vegetarian tamales.

Our relationship with Mildred goes way back to our days in lovely La Jolla, sunny San Diego. Hers was among the most successful exhibitions mounted at Porter Troupe Gallery. Howard, who lives in Berkeley, California, probably has more site-specific, public art sculptures in San Francisco than any other living artist! (at least I can’t think of any other). Mildred Howard will join in a panel on Friday night, March 23, at the NYU Black Renaissance Noire magazine release party, where she’ll give a slide presentation about her works. In case you didn’t know, Quincy Troupe is BRN’s editor.

As for trying anything, here are a few of Howard’s recent projects:

Photo courtesy Mildred Howard

Her solo exhibition Parenthetically, It’s Only a Figure of Speech, consists of fifty-two oversized red and black glass punctuation marks that spanned five walls at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA. Parenthetically Speaking: It’s Only a Figure of Speech is is a new collection of work by Mildred Howard comprising more than 40 glass punctuation marks, proofreading symbols and musical notes inspired by At the End, a poem by Quincy Troupe. Both the poem and the exhibition reference punctuation as a metaphor for the passage of time.

Howard’s Blackbird in a Red Sky (a.k.a. Fall of the Blood House) was one of the outdoor art installations displayed on the Mezzanine Plaza at the Museum of Glass inaugural opening in 2002. The piece consisted of a house made of red glass panes set alongside dozens of red glass apples floating in the reflecting pool.

Image credits: Mildred Howard (American, born 1945), Punctucation Marks (Exclamation Point, Curly Brackets, Semicolon), 2011. Blown glass, 36 x 16 x 10, 30 x 10 x 7 and 12 x 7 x5 inches, courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA. Photos by Duncan Price.

In 2011 she completed and installed three large works and is in the process of completing four major public art works. At the Palo Alto City Hall, she has installed a phenomenal piece called Clear Story, inspired by the architect Joseph Eichler and comprised of 97,000 bottles in varying in sizes. About 94,000 of them range in sizes from 3/4 inch to one inch. Imagine counting all them bottles! It’ll be there through May 2012.

Clear Story

Clear Story. Courtesy Mildred Howard

The House that Cannot Be in Color But Its Own, 2011 is a permanent piece at the Sacramento International Airport. The title for the piece came from one of Mary Jo Bang‘s poems. The house is made of purple glass and fragments of mirrored glass that reflects the scaled up parts of bits of personal letters written during the California Gold Rush days.

The House that Will Not Pass for Any Color than It\’s Own, 2011. Courtesy the artist.

By 2014 three other major public art works will be mounted at the San Francisco General Hospital, two 12’ x 40’ faceted Corten steel pieces at the Richmond Bay Area Rapid Transit where a poem by Ishmael Reed will weave in and out of the structure and a 16’x16’ empty Rococo Frame (I think this is my favorite piece, at least today it is!) will sit atop of Hunters Point Hill in San Francisco.

Mildred Howard Roccoco frame

Roccoco Frame. Courtesy Mildred Howard

Finally, Howard has twenty two-dimensional works completed in February 2012 at Sharks Ink in Lyons, Colorado, that will be featured at the 2012 Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (April 28-29) that travels to New York and later to the San Francisco Art Fair. This is the description on the BMA website “For one weekend every two years, more than 20 presses, printers, and dealers convene in Baltimore for this exciting two-day event. Spend an afternoon in the company of remarkable prints and people buying limited editions, drawings, multi-part portfolios, single prints, and photographs.”

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What a show!

Michael Marshall Monoprints opened at Skoto Gallery on Thursday, March 1st, and remains on view through March 31st. What Marshall does with monoprints is at once magical and highly technical, producing texture, colors on colors, optical illusions fashioning new tonalities of blues and fire-engine reds juxtaposed against a verdant greens. His embossing, stitching effects are simply amazing. The energy at the opening was warm and effusive among the various friends, former classmates, and collectors who attended the debut of this soon-to-be-known, highly accomplished artist out of Hawaii. His works, exquisite gems, shone with magical color and rhythmic, musical notes at once bluesy American with classical European technique. The in and out and around movement, the cut-outs peek-a-boo overlapping, masking and unmasking of forms, evoke African sculpture, Japanese zen-like landscape, village scenes, cathedrals is a journey, an exploration requiring profound concentration to produce such immaculate lines and evocative forms.

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Is Just a Movie

There’s nothing in the world more fabulous than finding a good book to read. I’m in the midst of reading Earl Lovelace’s newest novel, Is Just a Movie (Haymarket Books, 2011), and it’s all I can do to not roll on the floor in laughter. What a fantastic read! You can meet Mr. Lovelace in person and get a signed copy of this wonderful book at my next salon, on March 25th. He’ll be here talking with novelist, Elizabeth Nunez, author of eight novels, including the critically acclaimed, Boundaries, Anna in Between, and Prospero’s Daughter.

Get your ticket(s), while they last at Harlem Arts Salon.

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Quincy’s Book Party Jan 15 2012

What a day we had on Sunday! Lots & lots of people, great food, great sorrel punch & ginger beer. Sam Murray cooked for me and we served curried chicken, curried goat, oxtails with butter beans, fried sweet plaintains, rice and peas, and sauted kale with a vinaigrette sauce by vegan chef Brenda Been was a gigantic hit!
You know it’s a party when our beloved State Senator Bill Perkins is in da house!

Left: State Senator Bill Perkins; right: Michael Kenny

We loved re-connecting with Donal Fox, the exquisite composer and brilliant pianist whose Peace Out for Improvised Piano and Orchestra we can’t stop listening to. In two words utterly transporting. Feel free to check out what the “newspaper of record,” i.e. The New York Times, had to say about it, if you need independent verification, “Mr. Fox, a composer, pianist and improviser who deftly draws from jazz and classical contemporary traditions, was the soloist in his intense, episodic 15-minute work.” It was especially delightful to meet his lovely wife, Karen, a powerhouse in her own right.

Sunday was so much fun that we’re super-energized and looking forward to our next salon on March 25th with the inimitable novelist, Earl Lovelace for his new book Is Just a Movie from Haymarket Books
< …that is, unless we decide to do something during Black History Month in February. Our friend poet Brenda Connor-Bey, whom we haven’t seen in a long time and were so pleased to have in the audience, wrote to me later,

Brenda Conner-Bey

Margaret: Congratulations on a first-class afternoon presentaion of the Harlem Arts Salon for Quincy’s book, “Errançities.” I apologize for having to leave as early as I did. But this is one of those weekends where we were invited to several affairs. All that being said, I would not have missed Q’s celebration. On that note, his work has expanded in so many wonderful directions; sort of like a sage coming into his own. While browsing through the book before he performed, I was able to read the first two stanzas of the piece on Michael Jackson and I swear that Michael rose up from those words on the page to let me hear his story.

I especially liked his collaboration with Kelvyn Bell. I tried to explain the performance to a group of artists at the open house I attended after leaving you. The words and music were in tandem–not one in front or behind the other; they flowed. Magnificent!

It was a special afternoon; magical and inspiring. I thank you for the acknowledgement of my presence (quite unexpected but appreciated just the same!) and for the well-oiled machine you had working behind the scene. Bravo!

All of this was made possible with the generous contribution and support of publisher Coffee House Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) publishing entity with a superb list of contemporary poets and writers. Thank you Jessica and Tricia, Alan Kornblum and Chris Fishbach and the whole Coffee House staff. Thanks also to Anna Pasztor, who videotaped the event. Our special thanks to guitarist, Kelvyn Bell, poet Allison Hedge Coke and all our wonderful guests who attended!

Kelvyn Bell composed the music on SoundArt: a new tongue the new CD that is a collaboration between Quincy, Kelvyn, Hamiet Bluiett and Ronnie Burrage. Copies available through Quincy Troupe (

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Victor Hernández Cruz

Victor Hernández Cruz moved to New York at the age of five and now divides his time between Morocco, his native Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American poets in 2008, Cruz was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall and Griffin Poetry Prizes. He won the World Heavyweight Championship in Poetry twice and was featured on Bill Moyers’ Peabody Award-winning series, Language of Life. He is also a Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

The poetic narrative of Victor’s work has consistently earned him high praise and is a sensorial journey centered in his immigrant family experiences, his intense exploration of different lands and cultures and how they are inter-connected . Among his body of work are these earlier volumes of include Red Beans, Maraca, The Mountain in the Sea, Bi-Lingual Wholes, and Mainland. You are invited to meet this celebrated poet on November 13 at the Harlem Arts Salon. Bring your friends and family.

Publishers Weekly likened Cruz’s reading chops to

“…. a salsa band leader coaxing and challenging dancers to more and more complex steps, Cruz dares readers with dizzing polyrhythms, polymetric stanzas, backstepping word structures and a sense of improvisation.”

Click Watch Victor reading to see for yourself what they’re talking about.

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Victor Hernández Cruz: In the Shadow of Al-Andalus

On Sunday afternoon, November 13 from 2:00 to 5:00, virtuoso versifier Victor Hernández Cruz will be our special guest at the Harlem Arts Salon. He will be talking with Quincy Troupe about the craft of poetry and all that inspired Cruz’s newest volume of poems, In the Shadow of Al-Andalus. Whether you’re a bibliophile, scholar, corporate suit, aspiring wordsmith or culture junkie, drop in and mix and mingle with like-minded folks for an afternoon of intellectual stimulation, delectable eats, and bright spirits.

Photo © Margaret Porter Troupe

Bring a guest and enjoy an immediate 12% discount, PLUS you’ll also receive your very own autographed copy of this handsome edition. Admission is $20 per person or $35 for two. This event is co-sponsored by Coffee House Press.

Coffee House Press is a Minneapolis-based publisher with an impressive stable of awarding-winning authors and a slew of fantastic books forthcoming this fall and next year, including a new volume of poems by Quincy called Errançities .
Stay tuned for more information on Quincy’s book party which we’ll be hosting on January 15, 2012.

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Fast Food in Harlem

I’ve never considered cooking as a profession, because, as much as I like cooking, I don’t have the passion for it. I like cooking only for special occasions, say when company’s coming or for a special celebration. Then I can really get into it, and when I’m really into it, the thing I like most about cooking is the physicality of preparing it, balancing the creation of an ambiance, and the intensity of timing required to get it right.

In order to enjoy cooking on a regular basis, one needs to get the thrill I get only occasionally, all the time. So I guess you could say I’m a pedestrian cook. I know how to make a succulent dinner now and again, but on those days I’d rather be doing something else, I can make dog food!

Tonight, is an example of a time I don’t feel like cooking. It’s 7:30p already, and I haven’t thought about it. I don’t want to think about it, but I do have to do it.

So what have I got to start with? I’ll use what I can.

1 1/2 chicken breasts
an avocado
one red pepper and one green pepper
some fresh okra
some wheat bulgur
some fresh garlic
some onions, scallions (I hope)
some fresh flat parsley
some quickly rotting Campari baby tomatoes
some baby Confetti potatoes
some quickly aging lemons & lime
almost rotting sweet plantains
olive oil
an assortment of dried spices
dried nuts

And 41 minutes to feed a tight-jawed, finicky husband. What to do?

I pound the chicken breasts and season them with freshly ground black pepper and a seasoned salt (my favorite is Goya’s Adobe). Setting the breasts aside, I quickly chop 1/2 of the green pepper, crushed cloves of garlic, and rinse and chop off the inedible ends of the okra. Sautéeing the garlic, green pepper, and whole okra in about one tablespoon of olive oil, I add a bit (perhaps a teaspoon or two) of dried oregano, dried minced onions, some seasoned salt, freshly ground black pepper, about a tablespoon of curry powder in a tagine (a great cooking utensil, by the way), stir three or so minutes until the okra has softened but still not mushy and set it aside. Then go back to take care of the chicken breasts.

Sautéeing the garlic cloves in about 2 tablespoons of butter, I add the breasts. By now the sauté pan is quite hot, so hot in fact that it has turned the butter brown. The breasts cook quickly and require frequent turning. To add more flavor, I put in some sprigs of fresh tarragon and pour fresh lemon juice (of one lemon). Not having any white wine, I go with a splash of dark rum. This released the sugar cane in the rum and smelled really good, although the liquids it makes the sauce too watery.

Hmmmmm. Now the breasts are going to be overcooked. I should’ve taken them out and set them aside, while this liquid sauce reduces itself. Oh, well, next time….

So now, I have my side dish of curry okra, and I have my entree of chicken breasts, what am I going to do for the starch, since my time has been quickly eaten up?!

I go for the potatoes instead of the bulgur, because I’m not sure how long it’ll take to cook, or of the taste of plain bulgur, or how it’ll taste with the sauce, or if it’ll be okay color-wise, since everything’s looking kind of brown already. I’m thinking the potatoes are a better bet. I wrap them in Saran wrap and nuke them. The potatoes are so small,and they take maybe 4 minutes (probably more like 3 minutes) to cook.

While the potatoes are being nuked, I make an avocado salad, slicing the avocado into eighths, adding some sliced onions, quartered Campari tomatoes, a dash of salt salt and my homemade dressing of rice vinegar and olive oil.

I go back to the okra dish and add one half of a white onion, sliced lengthwise, and some of the Campari tomatoes, and let them cook about 2 minutes. The microwaved potatoes actually come out perfectly, and so very fast. The sauce of the chicken breast did reduce to a nice syrupy texture. I’d added a chicken bullion cube to it because as I was tasting, the sauce seemed a bit weak, despite the lemon and rum.

When I place everything on the plate, I see that another color or texture would’ve greatly enhanced the presentation of this meal. And I’m a bit leery about the texture, because okra can be such a slimy number to begin with, even though I really love it. When you consider the color of the chicken breasts (brown), the okra (green, red, some hint of white), and the potatoes (purple, and white) the dish is a bit too low-keyed. But hey, this is 40 minutes. For dessert, we have the option of cherry vanilla ice cream, or fresh peaches in a red wine sauce with peach sorbet.
When I bring the food to Mr. Hungry Lockjaw, he’d opened a fantastic bottle of Denis Carré Pommard Premier Cru 2003 “Les Charmots”, which proves an excellent, delectable accompaniment.

This is what the food looked like…

Dinner arrived on the TV stands around 8:30p (there was a football game on television!).

Oh, and what was his reaction? He said, “I really like the chicken.” LOL.
When I asked him about the okra, he said, “You know, I always like okra.” He also asked, “Is this all?” And when I told him there was avocado salad and a choice of dessert, he seem quite satisfied.

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When you reach September….

The summer is just about over, and mercifully the god awful heat and humidity are abating. There are wondrous moments of cool breezes. Imagine August being cooler than July?! Unheard of.

We kick off our fall line up on Sunday, September 26 at 3PM with Thomas Sayers Ellis, who has a beautiful new book called Skin, Inc. that has been published by Graywolf Press, our co-sponsor for this salon.

Ellis is calling these his Identity Repair Poems, and he’s really stretching and straining the very seams of language in his reach for freshness.

Ellis is a poet as well as the founder of the Darkroom Collective, a group of writers that included Carl Phillips, Major Jackson, Bethany White, Natasha Trethewey, Kevin Young,Tracy K. Smith, and others, According to an article by Cornelius Eady written for The New Yorker magazine, the writers of this collective could “well turn out to be as important to American letters as the Harlem Renaissance.”

Now this is just the kind of activism we need in the arts community to provide a platform for all that talent amongst us.

Can’t wait to hear Thomas read his work, talk about experimenting with language, the politics of publishing, etc. as well as get your take on it! Of course, we’ll give you a delicious home-cooked meal, some good wine and a signed hardcover edition of Skin, Inc.

WHERE, pray tell, can you find a better bargain for $30?! Bring a friend and get a 15% discount on the admission. Don’t forget to RSVP on our webpage or by emailing You may also call 212 749 7771 to respond. Seating is limited.

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