Four close friends remembered loved ones lost to AIDS in an intimate affair Tuesday evening at Borders Bookstore in Columbus Circle.
Songwriter Ricky Ian Gordon, wearing a newsboy cap and blue blazer, joyfully played emcee alongside poets Michael Klein, Marie Howe and former State Poet of New York Jean Valentine in a celebration tied to National Poetry Month.
Each poet had lost a loved one or family member to the illness and had bonded with the musician two decades ago in a period of mourning.
"Michael is not only a wonderful poet but a wonderful friend who I became close with in the '90s. He had just written his first book. It was the 1990s and we were all still losing our friends, lovers to AIDS — I lost my lover to AIDS," Gordon said by way of introducing Klein.
He then continued: "I needed to go on a pilgrimage to find other people who were grieving. Then in Provincetown I became close with Marie. Then I took a class with Jean and I became close to her too. Their poems were lifelines for me. This relationship continued and I started setting their poems to music."
For his album Bric-A-Brac, Gordon drew inspiration from poems close to heart and set them to piano music, often with his own words. This set the procedure for the night's event: each poet read a selection, after which Gordon performed his own soulful interpretation on the piano.
Before reading "Just Now," Howe acknowledged that Gordon's passion for poetry was more than just a drawing board for his songs.
"Ricky Gordon knows more poems than anyone I know," she declared, then faced a grinning Gordon.
"How many poems do you know?"
"Hundreds," Gordon answered.
"He walks around with them just in his body," she said.