what perseverance brings aka poem with “legs”

broadside Kelly Writers House

broadside Kelly Writers House

Today I received this beautiful broadside from Kelly Writers House, for my program on April 21.  The poem, “Self-Portrait with Shop Window” is in A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems.  It is one of the poems that was not published, indeed it was rejected several times.  But I knew that it was a powerful poem and represented my work at its most complicated and so Dennis Maloney agreed that it should be in the collection  And now, it is in Best American Experimental Writing 2o16 from Weslayan U. Press–http://www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/bax/ edited by Charles Bernstein and Tracie Morris.

Sometimes you have a poem, a song, a play, a book that seems to find no love in the current marketplace.  It could be that your ideas are just ahead of  or seemingly behind everybody elses.  Who knows.  But if you really think that poem, song, play or book is worth the talent, the time, the effort it took for you to make it–well that’s where perseverance is what you have to have.  Poetry, art making may be easy for those who are clever, but for most of us it is challenging, enthralling, mind enhancing or mind blowing depending and you just have to honor that crazy love for your work and keep on pushing.

I enjoyed the way the Kelly House artists selected parts of the poem and highlighted its fragmentations.  Now my home has a large and beautiful broadside of this complex poem.  I love where it is placed in A Lucent Fire.  I love that it will be in Best American Experimental Writing.  I loved the poem has legs.

no ice tea; some lemonade

I don’t really have anything to add or subtract from the ongoing Lemonade discourses.  I do  salute the ambition of a Black pop singer who clearly has an eye for innovative video and cinematic art.  But I must say it is fascinating to see the kind of exegesis done on something not 3 weeks old.  Whole dissertations have been launched given the lengths that some folk have gone through parsing every color, angle and possibly ripped off image. le sigh.  After reading bell hooks comments & some of the pushback, I wrote on Facebook:

I think it is perfectly fine to not agree with major public intellectuals. I think that some folk don’t even know or care about “intersectionality”; “empowerment” or a host of other such words. I do know some women who would never call themselves feminists or womanists for that matter, but they work in this world like every obstacle in their way esp. ones put up by men must be knocked down and so they do. Is the patriarchy going to be destroyed? Is the matriarchy going to be destroyed? I keep reading posts about how this that and the other will, must go and have been for like 40 years and yet this that and the other are still here. Not saying don’t try to make change, just saying we may be at the beginning of that shift, but it will be generations hence that will reap the benefits (what ever those may be).

Today on the Brian Lehrer program after a discussion of the phrase “political correctness” and how its use has morphed over the past 4 decades, Sherman Alexie came on to discuss his most recent efforts focused on naming. Names are important and often what trips me up by fellow Black intellectuals is the lack of names–“the black body”; “the black male body” “the aestheticized black body” are just some of those phrases.  Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland all have names.  They are dead from police or police wannabe generated violence. It is hard to think of them as “bodies.”  But then, my take is an outlier to many intellectual gestures,  well-considered and well-crafted and I value being the contrarian.  Names and naming are important.  And when names are detached from the humans with them, there is loss.  It is hard to call names of the dead.  It is hard to know that young people, good people, smart people, dumb people with parents and cousins and lovers and enemies and dear friends are dead from violence–the police, strangers, close friends, lovers any of them can shoot, stab, choke, poison.  The world is a dangerous place.

And yet as Beyonce’s Lemonade shows, even a pop star can develop a vision of moving through this world going from rage to reconciliation (at least there was no rehab here). At some point, each of us learns how to move through life understanding suffering and pain is part of it, but also love, forgiveness and joy.  And those emotions and conditions are attached to people with names.  Mine is Patricia.  What is yours?

Book tour comes back East-Philadelphia in April.

Charles Bernstein and the terrific people at Kelly Writers House at UPENN invited me to read and chat in Philadelphia in April.  It was the perfect thing to do during April is Poetry Month.   I like Philadelphia.  I’ve encounter interesting art exhibitions, vistas and hang with lovely people like Liz Abrams-Morley a fellow poet.  We went to an installation years ago at the Eastern State Penitiary, one of America’s gifts to world culture, i. e. prison design. The cells of this prison visited by dignitaries in the 19th century set the standards for solitary confinement.  The installations were amazing and that is when I discovered the powerful work of Homer Jackson, a Philadelphia-based artist and activist.

So this April I headed to Philadelphia early Thursday morning April 21 on the Amtrak and when I went in search of the cafe car, I ran into Latasha N. Diggs!  She too, was on her way to Philly to perform.  I felt like a real touring professional-that’s the first time I ran into a fellow poet/writer/perfomer.  She looked great.

on the train 4-21-16

on the train 4-21-16

It was a full day for me. First, Charles Bernstein’s class at UPENN.  They had some very complicated questions which I answered during a radio recording for “Close Reading”  http://jacket2.org/commentary/patricia-spears-jones-close-listening.   Then later I joined Charles,  Al Filreis, the KWH Faculty Director, and Yolanda Wisher in a discussion of Akilah Oliver’s poem “is you is or is you ain’t” for Poemtalk.  Ms. Wisher is now the Poet Laureate of Philadelphia and she is brilliant, attractive alnd energetic.  She’s going to do great things. It was a lively conversation about Oliver’s poem.  It also showed how much she is missed given her untimely death.

Finally, I did a reading at the Kelly Writers House.  Jessica Lowenthal and her crew were really helpful.  And we had a good audience on a very powerful allergy hitting day!  I gave one of my best readings because the audience truly listened.  One woman came early and she seemed to have the best time.  It feels like I left my voice in Philadelphia.

It is good to go out and read work to people who are interested but are for the most part strangers.  Too often we really do preach to the choir.  Our voices as poets need to reach as many listeners as we can.  They are there and they offer us advice, support and surprising insight.  My A Lucent Fire tour has been one of the best things I’ve ever arranged.

and yes, later we found that Prince has departed.  So the radio played great music and on tv, images of the always fashion forward Prince multiplied.  I wrote about his first major label album when I had a music column for Essence back in the 1980s and yes I loved what he was doing even then. He influenced my generation of poets and the subsequent ones.  Thank you Prince, gylph

Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein

and all.  Am sure Charles Bernstein agrees and if he doesn’t –well that’s my generation.