Halloween weather

This is the year that I have been in places where Halloween is not about spectacle, but about the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. In Celtic Lore, All Hallows Eve is really New Year’s Eve–the old world goes/the new year comes and yes the living and the dead may speak.  Which is why Dios de los Muertos makes sense too.  There needs to be an understanding of the many worlds we move through.  Poets of course know this.  We do.  We may not always acknowledge that, but we do.   Without that intuited understanding of the many worlds we move through we would be bereft of word play.  We would not recognize the need for myths.  We would be diminished in our words and in our play.   One of my favorite uses of the mythic is Ishmael Reed’s masterful “I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra” http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-am-cowboy-boat-ra

My favorite Halloween time was in the late 1970s’early 80s before AIDS and celebrity overtook the Village Halloween Parade.  In the early iteration, the parade was home made, artist organized-goofy, sexy and a true conversation between the living and the dead. When the Bread & Puppet Theater people met up in Washington Square around midnight and the hag became the maiden or was it the other way around; when drag queens wearing nurses uniforms tottered by on 5 inch heels across W. 4th St.; seeing The Royal Wedding at the corner of W. 10th & W. 4th–loved the guy as Princess Diana; when one group’s costumes were Victorian lamp shades just walking across 7th avenue South on the way to Christopher Street which post 10 pm. became a loud disco party.  Everyone was dancing, everyone was conversing with the living and the dead.   I guess the AIDS epidemic increased that conversation.  I miss many people who were stricken with the disease-smart, talented pleasure seeking men and women.  I am thankful for having known David Warrilow, Max Navarre, many others.

Now Halloween is a business, like everything else in America.  The business of costumes and how to videos and sugared and sugar free candies and fake spider webs and decorations.  I grew up with the hand made costume, the kind that make scenes in Meet me St. Louis and To Kill a Mockingbird so memorable.  Things change, not always for the better. But every year Halloween comes round. Every year a circle of the living and dead meet, dance and begin to survive winter.

Black Earth

Black Earth

Bicycle, bicycle

I can see my mother

Pumping her legs

A daily exercise

Thin pallet on the linoleum

Mosquitos on the other side

Of the screen door

She raises and lowers her legs

On a journey to better health?

I can see her,

See mothers  across  America

Their legs vigorously riding

Bicycles in air

Bikes with thick tires—

Sporting wire baskets

And  heavy brakes

Bicycles that said, if you pump

Hard enough, fast enough

I will take you where you need to go.


Gina Lollabridgida

Gina Lollabridgida

Patricia Spears Jones Reading at Bryant Park

John Keene blog post about the reading.


Word for Word Lunch Poems at Bryant Park + Jeffery Renard Allen at Powerhouse

Among the many treasures New York City offers year-round is the weekly Word for Word series at the outdoor Bryant Park Reading Room, right behind the New York Public Library‘s Schwarzman Research Branch. Organized by Paul Romero, the poetry readings occur on Tuesdays (and some Wednesdays) in the evening and Thursdays at lunch time from January through the late fall, , except on major holidays, and feature a diverse range of readers. This year’s lunchtime readings have been organized around specific presses and poetry organizations and groups, so poets published by Coffee House Press, Song Cave Press, WordTech Communications, and affiliated with CUNY and Blue Flower Arts have read so far.

My Angel #1

My angel refuses to be like the others

He removed his wings and is not on television


He’s a “he” which I find ironic

But then, to be spiritual in an age of religious

fanaticism is to be ironical

Continue reading

can’t sleep too much on my mind

The Furious Flower Poetry Center is housed in a little house in Harrisonburg –part of James Madison University.  Never has so small a space held such a large role.  I just got back from the third Furious Flower conference that brought poets and scholars of the African diaspora (majority American) to this well-to do city in the midst of the mountains of Virginia.  A place where most of the people are Republicans.  Where people talk football, hunting and yes education, law and order and too much money in politics.  You can see that money in the terrible political ads.  I got there on the Amtrak to Charlottesville which was on time as if to mock the lateness of the same train a month earlier when I went to VCCA.

halfway to the conference

halfway to the conference

I am so pleased to have been invited.  I’ve been writing and publishing for four decades.  I write because I want to try and make large work on intimate issues–at least I try.  I don’t quite fit an of the critical stance and maybe my work never will.  I just don’t know.  But I was asked and I am happy to have read with truly fine and important poets: Jericho Brown, Camille Dungy, Mendi Obadike, Remica L. Bingham-Risher, Tyehimba Jess, Samantha Thornhill and A. Van Jordan.  Our group brought a diverse range of poetics and strategies, but we were all well versed in how to present words.   But it would have been great if we had been presented at Wilson Hall as were the other major readings.  It would have been great if we had been introduced.  But by Saturday everyone was close to exhausted–much to consider by some super considerable people.   Despite these small issues, I am so glad I was there.  And I was happy to sign the conference booklet–there are people who get all of the names.

And so there we were many of my bestest friends-there were we were chatting and gossiping and sharing of work old and new.  But so much so much it makes sleeping almost impossible as words and phrases and images reel about my mind:  Rita Dove telling us “this is not my hair.”; hearing Nikki Giovanni go on and on about space travel and champagne; watching Marilyn Nelson walk across the ballroom floor to get her award using an elegant walking stick; watching my main men: Tony Medina, Major Jackson, Thomas Sayers Ellis who were festive, pensive, observant depending.  Medina’s performance of the poem/tribute for Amiri Baraka, which I first heard at Barka’s funeral was well done.  Thomas Sayers Ellis performed with Luke Stewart (bassist) and James Brandon Lewis (saxophone) including his piece in honor of Chuck Brown, the founder of Gogo.Ekere Taille read well w/ her elders and Jessica Care Moore let her song King join her when she read in the Baraka tribute.  Kwame Dawes gave a great talk as did Brenda Marie Osbey.  The intelligence quotient was quite high. The focus on the Black Arts Movement impressive, but other Black cultural trends were also considered

I could go on and on, but I have to stop and figure out what does any of this mean.  I think for me it means I am part of the discourse. That I have entered the charmed circle of poest and writers who are read, taught, discussed on a regular basis that makes me feel very good.  We read. We talked to each other.  We exchanged email addresses.  We drank and ate and danced and felt so much gratitude to have the chance to be together.  Dr. Joanne Gabbin has created a powerful entity, may it continue.

many poets at Wilson Hall

many poets at Wilson Hall