A literary scene grows in West New York

Indie bookstore’s open mic night attracting dozens

A crowd of sometimes 30 or more literature lovers gathers each week at B&F Books at 6-60th St. in West New York, one of the few independent bookstores in the area, to participate in open mic readings and performances every Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m.
The non-judgmental, open environment allows neighbors to learn and share some of their own works, their favorite authors, or share a lecture on a beloved topic.
“Lorraine Gibney used to be a teacher of mine, and she decided to host a poetry night and it just took off from there,” said shop owner Lawrence Arteaga, who occasionally reads his own work, like “I Write,” at a recent evening.
Arteaga hosts the after-hours event, setting too few chairs around the tightly nestled shop, but Gibney and others create the atmosphere.
At a recent conclave, Neil Rodriguez moderated a discussion and talked about his mixed background. He’s a practicing Buddhist who has lived in the Hudson County area for over two decades, since he arrived here from Cuba. He who works as a sommelier and linguist, and felt comfortable enough to tell a dozen listeners that he is two years in remission from Hodgkin’s Disease.
“After a couple of weeks here, I feel like I’m part of a family,” said Rodriguez.

Love of the word

Janice and Irene came to the event to listen. Christian and Sasha heard about the gatherings by word of mouth. Javier shared “The Ten Martyrs,” commonly featured at Yom Kippur services. And Amy brought her friend Michaela, who was egged by the crowd to read a poem she wrote and kept on her phone. The audience applauded when she finished.

“After a couple of weeks here, I feel like I’m part of a family.” – Neil Rodriguez
Theresa Borelli, a Weehawken resident, has some of her literature on sale at the shop. She has a varied background as an author and professor who has managed everything from child counseling to criminal justice. She’s written about women’s issues, prayer, and anti-bullying, and has attended numerous open mic events since her twenties. Today, she performs spoken word, rap and various readings. But on this night, she was there to listen and support friends.
“One gentleman stood up last week and said ‘I have three homes – one a couple blocks away; one on my bike in my surroundings, and here’,” she said.
One attendee, Millie, read from Frederico Garcia Lorca’s “Precious and the Air,” and gave background information on the Spanish author , a man whom many speculated was gay. Garcia Lorca often wrote of air, gypsies and marginalized people before his mysterious death in 1936 in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. She also read her own piece about kites on a Sunday afternoon, and remembered a lost loved one.
Gibney shared some of what she knew about the history of Hudson County, including stories of the Queen’s sapphire hidden by Captain Kidd. She also spoke of the infamous Mary Cecelia Rogers, the “Cigar Girl” who had many famous lovers, including Edgar Allen Poe and fiancé Daniel Payne.
The shop not only allows Gibney to share stories, but displays some of her artwork. A charcoal piece hangs across the room from one of her watercolor pieces.
“We’ve had 30 people last week and we’ve had everyone from motivational life coaches show up, to singers who sing jazz, to a blues poet with a harmonica,” said Arteaga.
He added, “It’s the kind of place to network and socialize. Every Thursday is different.”

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