San Antonio has many accents

Riverwalk, San Antonio

one of the many bridges over the river.

I am not sure what I was expecting when I agreed to be a featured speaker and workshop leader for the 2nd annual Gemini Ink Writers Conference.  I knew that I would be paid okay and I’d have a hotel room and meet some really great writers from all over the country because that is what conferences do.  But I had no idea of how much I’d like San Antonio.  The hotel was straight out of the 1950s and yes it was LBJ’s campaign headquarters.  The Tiki Bar was small and tacky-the music was great or awful depending on the lounge lizard on the floor.  The staff was attentive or not depending.  San Antonio is majority Latino, but you can see that power is in the hands of Anglos.  And the place is all about male vanity.  Indeed, the hats, boots, well ironed cotton shirts–every man had some sort of attire that said this is who I am or what I do.  And women dress to please them. The heels high. The necklines flattering.  Or they dress to defy them.  Either way the patriarchy is rules Texas even in its gentler form in San Antonio.

That’s the human sort of thing, but what was thrilling was the shape of the city, the architecture, the sun blasting all creatures, buildings, streets and water.  There was this engagement with the river and the street and the sun that really enthralled me.  The heat is serious.  The colors are bright and then blasted by the sun light.  The black and white mural on Navarro Street seemed to say-we have to seek the very basic of colors–black and white, all the others wil

Mural-San Antonio

l be bleached away.  The conference was a great success I think.  But for me it was revealing–a reminder that the history of this nation is varied and complex and one 300 year old city can showcase the greatness and the smallness of our ideas, ideals and civility.  It was pointed out that 25% of the local Hispanic population is illiterate.  It was also explained to me that there is no unified school board, no citywide

support of public education.  That illiteracy rate goes to show how power is not shared in San Antonio and why there are many many people exploited each and every day even as the flowers blossom and the river curves its way into the heart.

Riverwalk Tile mural

Tile work is important in San Antonio

going global?


good friends make life a little sweeter

not really, but my poems are being translated. Marilyn Hacker recommended my work to the editor of a major Paris based literary journal and here’s the result.  SO PLEASED.  Now have poems translated into Czech, Spanish and French.  Check out my poems and poems by D. Nurske, S. Rauschenbush and Barry Wallenstein.


What a spring, what a summer-Botanic Garden to National Seashore

Tulips at BBG

Emperor Tulips, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

These tulips were in full bloom the day it was announced that I was the 2o17 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize.  Good friend and Bed-Stuy neighbor, Alicia Bleghens and I walked about the garden on a day full of sun and full of people.  Since then I feel as if much of my life is full of sun and full of people and filled with gifts, many insubstantial.   I sit in my apartment which is also my studio looking at books and art with the fan whirring and my belly a bit too full from an overlarge breakfast and feeling deeply grateful for my personal rewards, and deeply disappointed in the current political environment.

The Fourth of July really is a complicated holiday for Black Americans.  As someone whose family has been here several generations including the generation of enslavement, I so understand how necessary liberty and equality and justice is for full humanity and citizenship.  All of the white nationalists carrying on about “their” country makes me simply want to vomit.  But they are doing what their ancestors did: terrorize people and scar their own communities. Their own communities need to disown, dismiss and deeply disrupt their activities.  Alas racism remains a think strand in the American tapestry and will take a while, a long while to undo.

I say this with some kinds of optimism in my heart.  It could be that I just taught a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA where I worked with white people who are working hard to know more about writers and cultures outside of their own.  This is challenging work, but the work is being done and out of that comes more complicated, sophisticated poetics (I think).  When I asked them to recommend poets they read, the list included many contemporary writers of color.  I deeply admire the range.

Workshop recomendations FAWC, 2017

Since May, I have made a number of difficult decisions, but ones that I needed to make. I will not teach comp next year.  I do not want to do so.  I am working on a new poetry manuscript as new poems written between 2015 and now keep arising from my mind and heart. I look forward to teaching at Adelphi University. I am grateful for the many blessings I have received this year and I am so pleased to share what I know and learn new things.  It takes the sting from the ugliness, stupidity and bellicosity of the political environment.  It makes me know that in America change happens, sometimes for those who already have too much, sometimes for the rest of us.

One of the joys of my time in Provincetown was joining Susan Bee and Charles Bernstein who have been summering on the Cape since they were young newly weds–that was like 30 something years ago.  They heart heart heart the National Seashore and now so do I.  The Atlantic Ocean is powerful and inexorable and thanks to President Kennedy we can see this place much like the pilgrims who alas cut own the many beeches and left the coast as dunes.  Much is being done to hold off the erosion of the shore, but it’s beauty abides.  The National Seashore is a true treasure.  If you go to Cape Cod, you must see it.

National Seashore, Race Point, Cape Cod