I was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Gabrielle Boulaine on January 29, when we lost a bright, generous, fiery and incredibly perceptive poet from Buffalo. For a little while we lived with just a few scant yards between us on Buffalo's west side, where she worked day and night to produce, promote and organize the Nickel City Poetry Slam events and Slam media for the Buffalo area. I will never forget the night that Celia White & I held Buffalo Poets in Conversation at Bon Vivant back in 2008, which she attended. She wasn't on the panel, but as I had hoped, she came and spoke her mind about what poetry means and what working together as writers and artists means. I also had a wonderfully supercharged & overexuberant conversation with her about poetry and community out on the Hertel Ave. sidewalk not long after the "official" event was over. She told me that performance poetry was now making its way into university coursework as an art form, and as we talked, our shared dedication and commitment to poetry and poets electrified the air between us. She was an amazing artist with an intoxicating personality. She was wildly unconventional, funny, sexy and way way smarter than most of us. She was the only poet I knew who could draw an audience from every possible background to enjoy literature and performance at the Nickel City poetry slams. It is a terrible loss for a national community of writers and performers who have, far more than most MFA and writing programs, provided a large and popular audience for poetry. She left the conversation that night to go read her poems at a noisy pool hall and bar, while my friend J and I left to introduce a friend to a lounge a few blocks away. A few months later, I was lucky enough to publish three of her poems in the mini-anthology that featured works by the poets in attendance (Overherd at the River's Hip). I looked up to her as an inspiration, and can't think of a better role model for writers who want to have some serious fun with words and performance.
Thanks to R.D. Pohl of the Buffalo News for providing this link of her last performance. And thanks also to the organizers of the benefit/celebration of her life at Nietzsche's Bar in Allentown, which will take place on Valentine's Day.
See R.D. Pohl's remembrance of Gabrielle here.
The Buffalo News obituary for Gabrielle Boulaine is here.