Trenton Literature Year in Review: 2013

Pulitzer Prize winning Trentonian Poet Yusef Komunyakaa published Testimony, a collection poetry inspired by Charlie Parker

Trenton Poet Laureate Doc Long had reminiscences published in Volunteers in the African Bush, a collection of essays about the early years of the Peace Corp in Africa

Capital City Open Mic celebrated its one year anniversary in April

The New Jim Crow Committee of Trenton met and discussed Michelle Alexander’s book and mapped out ways to put responses to the book in action.

The Trenton Books at Home Program handed out thousands of books for Trenton kids.

Trenton author and radio host Yolanda Landy Robinson published Don’t Be Bitter Be Better, a book of inspirations.

Trenton author Natasha Buckalious Parker published her poetella, Ah Hood Romance

Trenton author Will Foskey published Poeticine

In November, Trenton author Marie Murf Antionette, author of The Struggle and A Girl Named Job, was bookseller for a day at Classics.

In February, Barbara Keogh became the reigning Classics Scrabble champion.

volunteers sierra leone

Bookstore People: Poets and Lawyers

This is part two in my series of cool bookstore people.  Here was installment number one.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Soft-spoken and intense, Yusef was a Classics customer for 6 months before I realized he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1994.  I know that if I won the Pulitzer Prize, my wife would probably have to talk me out of wearing a nametag that reads “I Won the Pulitzer Prize—Ask Me How Great I Am.”  Yusef, on the other hand, might be the humblest guy I ever met, encouraging to young writers and supportive of Trenton’s literary efforts.   When at Classics he can be found unassumingly browsing the stacks, when not engaged in a quiet, earnest discussion with writers and readers.

Though Yusef teaches at New York University, he still makes time to stop in at Classics when he can.  If you can’t meet him at Classics, you should meet him through his poetry.  Start with Neon Vernacular.

My favorite Yusef quote (from Neon Vernacular):  “I am this space my body believes in.”


Mark Walter

Mark has been a Classics customer since before there was a Classics, in the New Hope forerunner–The Book Cellar.  Every Friday night, with few exceptions, Mark drives from New York City where he practices law to Trenton.  He can be found in the back playing Scrabble and cracking terrible puns, walking in the door with Citerella chocolate cake, or browsing the stacks piling up stacks and stacks of Flashman novels, travel books, books about New York, Time and Again and Modesty Blaise, all of which he will share with Scrabble players and other customers. 

In addition to sharing books and chocolate cake, Mark is also happy to share stories about his father, the famed New York pianist Cy Walter.  A friendship struck at Classics with Richard Behrens led to the creation of a fantastic website in his father’s honor.  You should visit it here:

Mark is one of the most generous and genuinely warm people in the world and we are richer for knowing him.

A memorable Mark quote: “Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication.”


We are continuing our feature on prize-winning novels, with commentary by Classics customers–

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Commentary from Classics customers: 

John Calu: “Challenging from the initial premise to the way he maneuvers between different eras without a warning… incredible writing.

Garry R Feltus: “Having been raised in the Great Lakes region, I really enjoy and have a bias toward the ‘coming of age’ component in Eugenides’ writing. His description of and his reaction to the tension of the 60’s in middle America is almost profound. In fact, I see storyline as more a metaphor for old world/new world, adolescent struggle with sexuality and a storytelling bridge than as a study of gender identity and hermaphroditism. It is, nonetheless, a wonderfully told story with a profound respect for family history, response to societal norms and self discovery.

Jan Wigginton: “I think Eugenides is an immensely talented writer and there are many reasons to like this book. Personally, I am a big fan of an “attention grabber” opening and in my book, Middlesex ranks right up there :

“I was born twice: first, as a …baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan in August of 1974. “

With an opener like this you almost have to keep reading (I know I did). I also think his account of Greek family life is absolutely hysterical, and I love how he weaves so much of the history of Detroit into the story of the Stephanides family. Definitely read this if you get a chance — I’m sure you’ll find your own reasons for loving this book as much as I did!