Alice Notley & me

Alice Notley and Patricia Spears Jones, post 2015 The Poetry Project reading

I know wonderful poets like Alice Notley and her talented sons, Anselm and Edmund and other denizens of the New York School and their offspring.  I know composers, dancers, chefs.  I know great people.  And you know what, they know me–because I am working in the same vein of creativity, trying as best I can to add a distinctive voice to the discourse.  There are times when I get heard and this year is one of those years.  Included in the Poetry Suite for the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s Migrations Series; the publication of A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems; reading with Meera Nair at Salem College’s Center for Women Writers were all part of that inclusion.  Earlier this year I read in a wonderful tribute to Wanda Coleman and also Muriel Rukeyser.  These women poets along with Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich created a powerful foundation for feminists writers and I knew them all.  And now I am working to create work that builds on that work and the work of so many others.   I am grateful to be a poet and a thinker even in these very challenging times.

AWP, Chicago 2012

Angela Jackson, Deborah Wood Holton, me, Chicago, AWP, 2012

Center for Women Writers

with Metta Sama and Meera Nair at Salem College, North Carolina

Elizabeth Alexander and Patricia Spears Jones

Elizabeth Alexander, me, The Jacob Lawrence Migrations Series, Museum of Modern Art, April 2015

Jason Kao Hwang

Jason Kao Hwang, violin & me, Jayne Cortez tribute 2012

So when I got word from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund that I was a recipient of this year’s award in nonfiction, I was thrilled and humbled.  I will continue to work on my memoir about being that Black girl in Bohemia who met all these great poets and composers and dancers and yes chefs.  When you get any kind of affirmation it is really really really good news.

Wanda Coleman Tribute

Wanda Coleman Tribute, Poets House, May 2015

Not even winter and so much discontent

Not since September 2001 has the Thanksgiving holiday been so fraught.  The terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Paris, France, Kenya, Nigeria, and Mali on the one hand and the domestic terrorism in Colorado and elsewhere has many of grateful to be lucky enough to not be in harms way when these attacks take place.  But it is the ongoing revelation of the criminality of police officers across the U.S. that is so troubling.  The murder of Laquan McDonald by a police officer, the released video (there are 4 others) which was clearly tampered with, the year long coverup even as the officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore go trial and the officer who killed Tamir Rice is still walking around.  These are not “bad apples”–these are police officers armed to the teeth who are protect and serve the citizens of their cities and towns, but seem to think that mostly young Black males are unworthy of protection or service.  Families across this nation sat around tables dealing with the trauma of these multiple losses and many joined others in protest in Chicago and elsewhere on “Black Friday”.  I am too poor really to even deal with shopping, but I was glad to see people locked arm & arm on the Magnificent Mile in solidarity against the #culture of cruelty as Sharon Mesmer puts it.  There are plenty of criminals and terrorists killing people, the police do not have to add to the roster (yes this calls for a great deal of sarcasm).

I am thankful for many things including my brother, sister, their children and grandchildren (my many nephews & a couple of grand nieces), cousins, et al and many good friends in the city and around the world.  And social media keeps us connected in good ways, but social media brings us very close to actions like the Paris attacks & yes I have friends there, all okay.

When I leave the services at Saint John’s in Park Slope, we ask that the good lord “Grant us peace.”  And I so want us to start to demand the many ways possible to make peace more prevalent and sustainable.  All of these wars and our participating in them is not getting us any closer.  I cannot imagine life in Syria or Afghanistan or parts of Pakistan or Nigeria or even Venezuela, but greater escalation does not seem to be making the world “safer.”  Prayers are needed, but so too action.  The empty shoes of protesters on the streets of Paris are but one indication of creative ways to say to those in power that THINGS MUST CHANGE and the time is now.  Will they?  Discontented I leave you.  And slightly hopeful.0714110858a