Poet Topaz Winters hosts moving evening of music and verse at ‘So, Stranger’ launch

BY BEN TOGUT | On August 13, internationally acclaimed poet Topaz Winters kicked off the book tour for her “So, Stranger” at Nook, a cafe and craft beer lounge in Bushwick.

Her third collection of poetry, “So, Stranger” lays bare “the sharp disappointments of the American Dream narrative, while giving way to the joy of brown bodies.” To celebrate her release, Winters reunited with some of her favorite performers in what made for a captivating night of poetry and music.

“It’s surreal to hold this book in my hands,” she confessed, “because it’s a book I never thought I’d get out.”

Winters was originally apprehensive about publishing “So, Stranger” as the book explores the poet’s complex relationship with her father. However, after one of Winters’ most vulnerable poems, “War Story with My Father”, went viral, she realized that the poems that scared her were the ones she urgently needed to share with the world.

“While writing this book, I asked myself again and again what I was giving up to be an artist, to be a girl, to be an immigrant,” she said. “But I also found immense wonder in occupying the liminal spaces between these labels.”

Topaz Winters was initially reluctant to release “So, Stranger”.

Throughout the launch event, various collaborators joined Winters as she read “So, Stranger.” Poets Jason B. Crawford and Malvika Jolly both read poems they wrote in conversation with works by “So, Stranger”. Jordan Popky sang a haunting rendition of Winters’ poem “I Found a New World Across the Sea,” while backing himself on guitar. Musicians ÊMIA and Stefan Hopwood performed alongside Winters as she read “So, Stranger.” This juxtaposition of music and poetry created an intimate environment, allowing viewers to enter the vivid and urgent world of Winters’ latest collection.

The Nook launch marks the start of Winters’ “So, Stranger” tour, which continues through the end of this month. Winters recently read at P&T Knitwear on Orchard Street with musician and friend Paola Bennet. She will continue to feature artists from different disciplines at her future shows in Provincetown, Massachusetts, three stops in New Hampshire – Keene, Manchester and Ossipee – as well as Philadelphia and, two events in New Jersey, in Union City and Camden.

Winters’ new collection “So, Stranger” ($18) can be purchased online at Button Poetry.