Item 65 poem and image

Sometimes you take the plunge when there is no water

here the divers-three divers on a board rise up out of sand

then fall into a blue day, made bluer by the cleansing

winds from the Caribbean.  We are witness to the falling

to the divers 3 in the sands of Coney Island.  John Ahearn

bids us greetings and farewells, sunsets and sunsets.

Sometimes you take the plunge when the water is not near.

Poem by Patricia Spears Jones–art by John Ahearn

Atmosphere by Coney Island,  July 2016

divers by John Ahearn, Coney Island

divers by John Ahearn, Coney Island

brash and bold–Giants go home, June 4, 2016

What a strange day– Muhammed Ali’s death while not unexpected is unsettling–it is as if the heavens are demanding the giants return and so one by one they return. that even Soul Cycle had a sign saying RIP says how large Ali loomed over the collective consciousness.

Tribute sign, SoHo

Tribute sign, SoHo

I saw him once in 1970 when as a college student I went to a Black Expressions conference in Indiana. He was just about to get back his position-he had been stripped of his championship–and he was speaking at the conference. He was magnetic, unbelievably handsome (yes that pretty) and I’ve never seen men so lit up by any other man. They had grown up with brash, bold “poet” who had innovated boxing. Truly he was the alpha male. And he loved being one.
Ali was no saint. His cruelty towards Joe Frazier was awful and there were always rumors about his womanizing. But he was deeply principled and his stance against the War in Viet nam led to his conviction of draft dodging and the loss of his title–this when he was 25 years old. He will be forever a symbol of what it means to be brash, bold, gorgeous, but also spiritual and moral and deeply principled who could come back and triumph again.

So, considering Ali’s joining the ancestors, I returned from a venture into Manhattan which more and more seems like Fantasyland for White people (mostly) and global tourists, it was odd to encounter another  moment of audacious sadness.

Here in Bed-Stuy, Spike Lee has organized a Prince born day party at Bed-Stuy Plaza. Many people in purple t-shirts were celebrating Prince’s born day, even as we all digest the news that he died from an opiod–how Midwestern. The irony of my book title Painkiller is that every time I’ve been prescribed them, I throw away 90% of the pills and believe me I hate pain. Clearly Prince pushed his body beyond what his 57 year old self should do and his body gave it up. And Ali’s Parkinson came from the great feats he did as a boxer. Both men were bold and it is a combination of boldness and spirituality that marks them.

There are plenty of bold guys right now, but they seem so extraordinarily empty–their boldness, their in your faceness, their twitter feeds do not add up to anything that literally changes the way a sport is played or music created/produced–they don’t invent, they just shift things from one side of the room to the other. Prince was intensely creative in ways that many are still trying to come to terms with.  Moreover, he explored in real time a range of ways to be masculine that few even dared to try–only Bowie strikes me as being that openly fluid, but then again he was white and British.  Prince’s passing was not expected, he was still a “young” i.e. middle-aged man. Maybe that is why Ali’s passing is unsettling. He lived a life filled with innovation in his sport; a powerful spiritual journey; a deep love of Black people; and the ability to learn from his many mistakes and finally the ability to sustain family. His essence was strong and it was that essence that could take him around the globe, always Muhammed Ali. ‪#‎boldandbrash‬

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.

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.

 

 

California dreaming on a chilly day

Yesterday, I knew I had truly returned to New York City.  It was cold.  The trains were not running–turns out some guy who stole a cell phone was hit by an F Train (served him right) and I got home to an email telling me NO, you are not getting that Fellowship that you’ve applied for a gazillion times.  Aah, but from last Wednesday to Sunday morning of week before I was in L.A. and I had a ball.

The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley had a party first day in Echo Park, a charming enclave with actual Victorian houses–some beautifully dressed up and appointed, others falling down, drunken ruins of buildings. Aah. The poets, writers, artists who gathered were charming and lively-the food delicious and I won a bottle of wine for coming the furthest (from Brooklyn) to this party.  Thanks Brett Hall Jones, et al.  I so look forward to serving as one of the staff poets with Kazim Ali who was there and Sharon Olds, Cathy Park Hong, Juan Felipe Herrera and Bob Hass, the director this June.  I went to Squaw, 3 times during the 1990s and many of my best poems started there.  To return as a teacher is really a blessing–I think Galway Kinnell is smiling about this.

AWP was held in the Convention Center and well I hung out in the Book fair and ran into good people I don’t get to see like Prageeta Sharma and people I see often like Reggie Harris.  There were many major conversations about poets who are going through difficult times and how the community is poorly dealing with all the mess of it.  Sad.  Poets House presented a spectacular program on poetry and protest with Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Luis Javier Rodriguez and Naomi Shahib Nye. There was a lot of candy at many of booths and tables (I took as much chocolate as I could really take).  I saw a good friend whom I need to reconcile with and we did.  L. A. was good for that kind of thing.

I read with Black Earth Institute Fellows: Lauren Camp, Taylor Broby, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Marcella Durand (woo hoo) and Melissa Tuckey at this weird bookstore on Sunset Blvd.  Getting there including getting the Uber driver to find us on Figuroa in front of the Convention Center–there are different kinds of blindness in L.A. and many one way streets.

I moderated Out of L.A.: A Tribute for Jayne Cortez that was organized by Laura Hinton who has done some serious scholarship on Cortez’ life in LA. as a young woman.  Aldon Nielsen, Jennifer D. Ryan-Bright and Pam Ward were the other panelists and they all contributed deep understanding and knowledge about Cortez’ development, but it was Mel Edwards who flew into the L.A. to attend the panel who pointed out that Cortez was NOT a member of the Watts Writers Workshop which was started post the riots of 1965 and enhanced info about the artistic scene that Cortez was a significant member of.  Love, courage and freedom–those are the words I think of when I think of Jayne and she is deeply missed.  Latasha Diggs is organizing several programs in Cortez honor that will take place in New York City this April.

What I loved the most was moving about downtown–the roundabout way to get to the Double Tree Hotel to meet a filmmaker doing interviews with poets for an upcoming documentary and seeing a Hindu wedding procession at it’s start; looking at the stream of L.A. Kings fans in their sports gear; a handsome man (designer/carpenter/gorgeous guy) talking with clients/friends outside a beautiful Japanese restaurant; martinis with my one my best male friends at the pretty Noe’s bar at Omni California Plaza;  bouganvilla on the side of massively ugly buildings; kissing a man I care about; running into a poet I’ve not seen since my first visit to Squaw.  In weather warm enough for daytime roaming, but too cool for nighttime hanging w/out serious sweaters, clear skies, and massive billboards with moving parts trans human–Blade Runner with out the murkiness.  Northern California was indeed cold and damp at night, but Southern California was simply cold.

I sold out my book,  A Lucent Fire: New & Selected at the White Pine Table.  I bought books by dear friends and new ones.  And best of all I kept running into Patricia Jabbeh Wesley who is the most exuberant poet/scholar ever.  You must read/hear her.

Poets at VIDA

VIDA table. Melissa Studdard, Patricia J. Wesley

VCFA's Table-everyone was great

VCFA’s Table-everyone was great

Myra Shapiro bought my last book at White Pine Press Table

Myra Shapiro bought my last book at White Pine Press Table

Poet friends

Black women make beautiful poets: E. Hunt, H. Mullen, T. Foster & E. J. Antonio

Crystal Williams & Matthew Shenoda in red lobby light

Crystal Williams & Matthew Shenoda in red lobby light

So many dear friends new friends so many poets and artists and writers and dreamers and hustlers and then at 5:30 or so on Saturday the EXODUS  out of the Center began–I was waiting for a parting of the escalators.

“hate California, it’s cold & it’s damp”

Never knew how Lorenz Hart could come up with such an odd lyric, but then again, he may have wound up on San Francisco sometime in June expecting sun and getting fog and chill.  I am in Stockton where it is sunny and it smells of cars and trucks and highways. I am to read at the University of the Pacific and then go onto the Bay Area, a place I find utterly beautiful and oddly estranged.  I will be reading at The Poetry Center with Clarence Major, a legendary space and a celebrated author.  I am really pleased.  To get here, you work for 4 decades on poems and ideas and finally people begin to notice.  (I am all for understatement).

What feels sad right now is this nation and the current bombasticity of political discourse –if you want to even given it that due.  It’s been a long time since stories of con men abound, so the populace seems ill prepared for being conned.  There are threads in the American psyche that loves to be lied to–it goes with White Supremacy-the invisible ideology. It allows otherwise intelligent people to make really bad decisions and then loudly declare the reasons why.  The KKK was at one point called The Invisible Kingdom.  These are the things you think about during Black History Month.  or at least I do.

G. Carter Woodson and others did a great thing in insisting on the making Negro History important.  I grew up with Negro History was celebrated for one week, so a whole month seems pretty darn good.  and of course what is really being dealt with is American History which frankly is not being taught the other 11 months.  So I hope that I can add some knowledge about my one little corner of  Black History here where it is not that cold and it is very dry.

Poetry Center poster

SFSU Poetry Center

My little Christmas Sermon/Solstice Greeting

I don’t ever tell people to have a “blessed” day because I believe that any of us at any moment can be in a state of grace. That said, today felt blessed to me even though I did not make it to church. It is Advent and in some ways it the season of yearning of waiting for something good to happen. Whether you believe Jesus was born in a manger, etc. is beside the point. That the myth is of humble birth surrounded by those who work with animals while Mary & Joseph are on their way to pay taxes and add to the census is pretty amazing. We live in a world where the poor, those who work in the fields, those who must travel far to perform civic duty of any sort are scorned, ridiculed or ignored. We do this at our civic and spiritual peril. To yearn for something good to happen to have that good embodied in the birth of a boy in a stable is a tale told with joyful music. Tomorrow the solstice, winter truly begins and we need the quiet, the darkness to understand the moments when we truly are in a state of grace. ‪#‎mylittleChristmassermon‬ My granddaddy who was a Church of God In Christ pastor. He would be proud. Peace and may the shortest day bring you the longest dreams.

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

This-far-by-faith..

many dreams many nightmares

A Lucent Fire

A Lucent Fire: New and Selected

It is November and it is bright or gray depending on the day and precipitation.  The Northeast has the kind of light that dazzles. And then there are days that truly chill your bones.  And then so much carnage, Beirut, Paris, Kenya–the ugly angry work of men intent on inflicting pain suffering and death.  How to respond?  We must with creativity, liberality, generosity and intelligence as in discernment.    So let us stay with dreams that are not nightmares.

First, I yet again am the first feature of a new journal.  This time quotidienbee started by Shanna Compton and the wonderful people at Bloof!.  Here’s the link. https://medium.com/the-quotidian-bee/self-portrait-as-shop-window-da5fadc3a952/.  I know that David Rivard will just love this.  Also, my poem “Dancer” was posted on poets.org’s Poem of the Day site.

I just heard that I will be receiving a grant for my work from a wonderful Fund for women writers–am waiting for the announcement to post.

I am very proud that The Future Imagined Differently is up and does with very little what others spend millions on. http://aboutplacejournal.org/

Wonderful poets from Shelagh Patterson to Tai Allen to Christina Olivares to Sharon Mesmer are a few of the writers featured and great artists such as Denise Milan and Janet Goldner are presented.

And I look forward to reading December 9 I will be reading at The Poetry Project with Susie Timmons.    These are all dreams come true for me.

We are living in violent times.  We are also living in times where many among us are looking deeply at how we make this world–how we hold what is dear to us and work to bring harmony and peace.  War is not to taken lightly and the greatest nightmare is the kind of rhetoric coming out of many of those now running for the Presidency–we need wise people not easy bellicosity. Let us work to be as intelligent, generous, and creative as we can be.  Let our dreams flourish and those nightmares wither.

 

Fall 2015 is more than I can handle! NEW BOOK/WORDS SUNDAY

WORDS SUNDAY poster

poster Fall 2015 WORDS SUNDAY poster

But handle I must.  Many readings and events for my new book A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems, starting with Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon on September 20.  Cheryl Boyce-Taylor has asked me to feature at The Glitter Pomegranate new space at the Bedford Y with Gregory Pardlo and Lynne Procope on the 25th.

During that time I will be finishing up The Future Imagined Differently issue of About Place Journal.  It is going to have interesting art, writing, music–it will go live the first week of October.

And starting on October 25, WORDS SUNDAY returns to Calabar Imports Bed-Stuy on Tompkins Avenue which is becoming a nice place to walk about –new bars, restaurants,boutiques, but I miss Mr. Jimmy’s wonderful old fashioned variety store which was hijacked by developers.  Indeed, there has been a lot of developers hijacking of space and time and beauty in this neighborhood-the “new builds” are uniformly boring, bland, sad and they all charge too much.  The mostly young White people who give away considerable chunks of change for these boring, bland buildings are not hipsters or particularly hip they just look sort of generic as a White guy I heard describe a White woman on the train the other day.  I was surprised.  But its 2015 and the ways in which things shape shift are definitely on the unexpected side.  First up:  JP Howard and Nicole Callihan.

WORDS SUNDAY has presented in Bed-Stuy: Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gregory Pardlo; brilliant poet/performers: Janice Lowe, Alexis DeVeaux and Tai Allen. Plus poets: Rachel Levitsky, Michael H. Broder, Terence Degnan, Soraya Shalforoosh; Ekere Talle, Jason Schneiderman,  Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Robin Messing, Renato Rosaldo, LaToya Jordan, R. Erica Doyle, Alan Felsensthal, Jacqueline Johnson and Janet Kaplan.  I love that all of them either currently do or have lived/worked in Brooklyn.

I hope to see all kinds of great people at events I participate in or curate–It is a blessing to make work that people want to read and hear.

And I am deeply pleased to have my work in the great mix of work that is out now.  White Pine Press has done a great job with my book and Sandra Payne’s art work sets the tone.

A Lucent Fire

Cover: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected

 

Forthcoming

Morning Song

You wake up to the phrase “salt lick”

You realize you know not one thing

About salt licks—you know salt

And lick  but together? How does

The salt lick lick salt?

 

You know you are moving

To the land of word games

Or musical instruments

Unstrung, battered—too much play

 

Each day the gleaners walk side walks

In search of bottles. They separate

Already separated bags to find precious

Glass, that is plastic. They hate the cans

 

They know the places where beer

Overwhelms soda; where huge milk

Cartons say children, many children

Live here. They do not whistle when they

 

Work. They do not lick sweat

Off tired arms. They go about

The business of poverty with grace

And noise. Early morning dragging

The weight of others waste.

forthcoming in Tribes anthology with art work by Yuko Otomo