the thrill of departure

I taught a poetry workshop for Poets House using “departure” as a way to allow writers to take a different direction; try new things. Everyone has certain ways of seeing, feeling–I know that I do.  And any time I am asked to try something different, called to create from another vantage, I embrace the process.  But I know it may not work.  There is always risk in not making good or hopefully great work. Of having your writing in the company of others who have been deemed valuable.  I know that my work is well-regarded and for some deeply admirable.  But I am not a prize receiving poet.  The New York Times does not know my name.  My last book, Painkiller, of which I very proud received like 3 reviews.  And yet, I am completing A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems for White Pine Press.  I would love to get prizes and the monies attached.  I would love to get the praise.  But my work as a poet has been to keep going despite neglect or rejection–it is not about giving up hope. It is about thinking that maybe in the language I choose to work with, I bring something new, different, engaged to the discourse.  I am not glib.  I cannot reduce my work to a sound bite–that does not interest me.  What does is that thrill of departure-the step towards something possibility familiar, but often completely unknown.

When Elizabeth Alexander asked me to write a poem in response to Jacob Lawrence Migrations series, I was deeply touched.  This was not expected and I was not sure of what I’d do; how I’d do it.  I had written a poem in response to Lawrence’s “Builders” series-a gorgeous, hopeful group of paintings.  That poem was published in Black Renaissance Noire, thanks Quincy Troupe.  But this was different and when I was at VCCA this past August, I was able to pull together the strands of thinking about Lawrence’s work and a panel in that celebrated series and make a poem.  I will always be grateful to my fellow VCCA residents who heard the poem read aloud for the first time and my good friend Deborah Wood Holton for her insightful first reading.  I will read the final version, May 1 at MOMA with Elizabeth, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Tyehimba Jess, Crystal Williams, Nathasa Tretheway,  Terrence Hayes, and Kevin Young.

A few days ago I stood in the recording studio at MOMA holding the catalog and marveling at the hard work done to bring Lawrence’s work to a new generation; a large audience.  From what I have heard from everyone who worked with him, he was a deeply kind, generous and hard working man.  An artist whose gifts are giving with love and great honor to the ancestors.  I am grateful to him for showing what vision and work whether quickly seen or gained over a lifetime means.  It means that the thrills keep coming year after year after year.  The show opens April 3.  I hope you go see it and see the work of artists living and gone–depart from your own vision. See where the colors, lines, figures take you–the journey may be long or short, but it will be different.

At MOMA, with Jacob Lawrence catalog, January 2015

At MOMA, with Jacob Lawrence catalog, January 2015

 

Patricia Spears Jones Events Schedule 2017-2015

Moes Books, Berkeley CA

Moes Books, Berkeley CA

JANUARY 2017

January 1 The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church

Annual New Year’s Day Benefit

131 E. Tenth Street or 2nd Ave & 10th Street

3 p.m. to midnight, plus

$25.00 donation

Manhattan

 

January 14  Arts for Art

Evolving Festival, Justice is Compassion/Not a Police State

curated by Patricia Nicholson, co-founder

6:30 pm.

131 Suffolk Street Abrazo at The Clemente

Manhattan

info at  www.artsforart.org

 

January 20 Day One: A Poetry Reading and Open Mic

Organized by Ted Degnan and Jen Fitzgerald

Poets House

10 River Terrace

5 – 7 p.m.

Manhattan

 

February, 2017

February 2  Women Poets at Barnard

w/ Lynn Emanuel

Barnard College

Sulzberger Parlor, 3rd floor, Barnard Hall

7 p.m.

Manhattan

February 11, AWP Conference, Washington DC

Panelist: Writing Capitalism: Chicken Shack to Cloud Corporation; Barmaid to Bureaucrat

Organized by Julie Sheehan

w/ J.  Sheehan, Timothy Donelley, Sarah Vap and Sarah Briante

Marquis Salon 7& 8 Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Washington, DC

 

March 2017

March 11  Second Saturdays @CYRUS

organized by Terri Muss & Matt Pasca

w/ Terri Muss

1 Railroad Plz

7-9:30 p.m.

Bayshore, LI,  NY

 

March 21, School of Visual Arts

Voices of Resistance org. by David Pemberton

w/ Lydia Cortes, Sheila Maldonado & Bakar Wilson

SVA Library

380 Second Ave.

Manhattan

7 p.m.

FREE

 

March 26, Bowery Poetry Club

The Golden Shovel Book Launch

Organized by Peter Kahn & Ravi Shankar,

w/ Latasha N. Diggs, Greg Pardlo, Jean Valentine, Elizabeth Macklin, Patricia Smith. et al

308 Bowery

Manhattan

3-5 p.m.

Free

Anthology of poems for Gwendolyn Brooks

Anthology honoring Gwendolyn Brooks-so glad to be in this.

April 2017

April 1  Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College

Paterson Poetry Prize Winner & Finalists Reading

Organized by Maria M. Gillan

w/ Mark Doty, et al

Hamilton Club Building

Paterson, New Jersey

1 p.m.

FREE

 

April 1, Howl Happening

WORD: An Anthology from A Gathering of Tribes

Emceed by Bob Holman

w/ Sheila Maldonado, Eileen Myles and Edwin Torres

6 E. First Street

Manhattan

7-9 p.m

FREE

 

April 7  Walking with Whitman Poetry in Performance

The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

Curated by Cynthia Shor

6:00-9:30 p.m.

246 Old Walt Whitman Road

Huntington Station, LI, NY

 

April 20  Brooklyn Poets Anthology Reading

Organized by Jason Koo

w/ Timothy Donnelly, D. Nurske, Candace Williams, et al

Smack Mellon

92 Plymouth Street

7 p.m.

$20-$35 at the door

Brooklyn

 

May 2017

May 12, Pete’s Candy Store

w/Sharon Mesmer and Elaine Sexton

curated by Michael Broder

709 Lorimer Street

7 p.m.

Brooklyn NY

http://www.petescandystore.com/


June, 2017
June 25-30  Week Three
Fine Arts Work Center–workshops & readings
Organized by Kelle Groom
Provincetown, MA
(508) 487-9960/FAWC.ORG

Cover art by Sandra Payne

JANUARY 2016

January 12  Poets Settlement

Organized/hosted by Terence Degnan, et al

Breucklyn Colony

274 4th Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11215

8 p.m.

 

FEBRUARY

February 12, Brooklyn Poets Reading Series

Organized by Jason Koo

w/ Rosebud Ben-Oni & Lonely Christopher

BRIC MEDIA ARTS

674 Fulton Street

7 p.m.

Brooklyn

F

 

February 17, Book Launch at BookCourt

Organized by the Poetry Society of America

w/ Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

163 Court Street

Free

Brooklyn

 

February 23, NYU Book Center

Organized by Scott R. Hightower

w/ Barbara Fischer, Terese Svoboda & Jonathan Wells

6 p.m.

726 Broadway

Free

Manhattan

 

February 25, University of Pacific

Organized by Zhou Xiaojing, Ph.D.

English Department

Free

6:30 p.m.

Stockton, CA

 

February 29 University of California, Berkeley

Anniversary Celebration of Robert Hass’ Lunch Poems

w/ Cecil Giscombe, Brenda Hillman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lynn Hejinian, et al

Morrison Library inside the Doe Library north entrance

5:30 to 7:30 PM

Wine reception

Berkeley, CA

 

MARCH

March 2, Moe’s Books

w/ Dennis Maloney

2476 Telegraph Avenue

7:30 p.m.

Berkeley, CA

 

March 3, The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University

Organized by Steve Dickinson

w/ Clarence Major

1600 Holloway Avenue

4:30 p.m.

San Francisco, CA

http://poetry.sfsu.edu/

 

March 30-April 2 AWP : readings, signings, panel

March 31  Black Earth Institute Fellows’ Reading

AWP Off site Reading: Stories Books and Cafe

T. Broby, M. Durand, A. Hedge Coke, L. Camp, A. Finch

& A. Fisher-Wirth

1716 W. Sunset Blvd

6-8 p.m.

Free

APRIL

 

April 1, Book Signing

Organized by Pam Ushuk

Best of Cutthroat

1 p.m.

April 1  Book Signing  A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems

Organized by Dennis Maloney, Publisher

White Pine Press, Table 743

2-3 p.m.

BOOKFAIR: LA Convention Center/JW Marriott

w/ Matthew Dickman, AWP Los Angeles, 2016

w/ Matthew Dickman, AWP Los Angeles, 2016

April 2,  Out of LA: A Tribute to Jayne Cortez (1936-2012)

Organized by Laura Hinton.  Panelists: Aldon Lynn Nielson,

Jennifer Ryan and Pam Ward

Room 410 LA Convention Center, Meeting Floor Level

3-4:15 p.m.

Los Angeles

https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/schedule_overview

 

April 21, The Kelly Writers House

University of Pennsylvania

broadside Kelly Writers House

broadside Kelly Writers House

Organized by Charles Bernstein, Al Fireis & Jessica Lowenthal

7 p.m.

3805 Locust Walk

7 p.m.

Philadelphia, PA

MAY 2016

photo by John Casquerelli

Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop

 

May 26, EARSHOT

Organized by Emily Skillings

w/Larry Kaplun, Nicole Sealy and Christian Smith

8 p.m.

Over the Eight, Union & Richardson

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

*******

JUNE

 

June 17,  Benefit  Reading for Community of Writers

Dedicated to C. D. Wright, organized by Alison DeLauer

W/ Kazim Ali, Bob Hass, Brenda Hillman, Cathy Park Hong

Sharon Olds & Kevin Simmonds

7 p.m.

First Congregational Church (Berkeley)

2345 Channing Way

Berkeley, CA

 

June 23, Staff Reading for Community of Writers

w/ Kazim Ali, Bob Hass, Cathy Park Hong and Sharon Olds

7 p.m.

Poets, Squaw Valley, 2016

Cathy Park Hong & Nikia Chaey at Squaw Valley, June 2016

Olympic Valley, CA

 

 

JULY

July 14, 24th Annual Poetry Showcase Reading

Organized by Stephen Motika

w/ Alicia Jo Rabins, Camille Rankine, Stacy Szymaszek

7 p.m.

Poets House

10 River Terrace

Manhattan

 

AUGUST

August 8,  Local 61 Brooklyn YAWP

organized by Jason Koo

7 p.m.

61 Bergen Street

Brooklyn NY

www.brooklynpoets.org

 

SEPTEMBER

September 11  Group Reading

Jefferson Market Library

organized by Scott Hightower. Sally Davidowff, et al

2-4 p.m.

10th Street & Sixth Avenue

Manhattan

 

September 16, The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church

Ted Greenwald Memorial–Group reading

organized by Poetry Project

8 p.m.

131 E. 10th Street

Manhattan

Ted Greenwald Memorial Reading at St. Mark's Poetry Project

Ted Greenwald Memorial Reading at St. Mark’s Poetry Project

September 25  Arts for Art/In the Garden Series

organized by Steve Dalanchinsky

w/ Yuko Otomo,

3-5 p.m.

6 BC Garden-E. 6th Street between B&C

Manhattan

 

OCTOBER

October 11,  Reading/PSU, Altoona

Organized by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Noon

Free

Titelman Study of the Misciangna Family Center for the Performing Arts

Altoona, PA

 

October 17, BOOKCOURT/Reading from RESISTING ARREST Anthology

w/ Tony Medina, Marilyn Nelson, Quincy Scott Miller, et al

7 p.m.

163 Court Street

Free

Brooklyn, NY

 

NOVEMBER

November 1, Dia/Chelsea Contemporary Poetry Series

organized by Vincent Katz

w/ Christopher Stackhouse

535 W. 22nd Street, 5th Floor

$10.00 gen admission/$6.00 seniors & students

6:30 p.m.

212-989-5566

Manhattan

 

November 2,  An Openings Roundtable

organized by Sabra Moore

w/ Janet Goldner, Marina Gutierrez,  Cecilia Vicuna, Mimi Smith & K. Miyamota

Rizzoli

6:30 p.m.

 

November 18 The Writers Studio presents

2017 PUSHCART PRIZE ANTHOLOGY Reading

with Charles Baxter, et al & Bill Henderson, Publisher

The Strand Book Store (Rare Books Room)

12th and Broadway

7 p.m.

$15.00 ticket at the desk

Manhattan

 

post reading at The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, Dec. 2015 w/ Lydia Cortes

post reading at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Dec. 2015 w/ Lydia Cortes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

88888888888888888888888888888888

8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

DECEMBER 2015

December 9, The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church

Organized by Simone White

w/ Susie Timmons

8 p.m.

Belladonna reading, March 2015

Kimberly Lyons, Laynie Brown, et al,March 2015

131 E. 10th Street

Manhattan

Donation

Home

 

NOVEMBER

November 22,  The Poetry Brothel

Organized by Stephanie Berger, et al

w/ Nick Flynn

New York City

 

November 14, Poets Network & Exchange

Organized by Lorraine Currelley

w/E.J. Antonio, Jacqueline Johnson, Tyehimba Jess

Countee Cullen Branch, NYPL

1 p.m.

Free

http://poetsnetworkandexchange.wordpress.com/

 

OCTOBER

October 19, Tribute to the Poet Ai

Organized by The Poetry Society of America, Academy of American Poets, Cave Canem, et al

w/ Yusef Komunyakaa, Joy Harjo, Sapphire, Timothy Lieu, Susan Wheeler, et al

Prohansky Auditorium, CUNY Graduate Center

Fifth Avenue & 34th Street

7 p.m.

Manhattan

 

SEPTEMBER

September 25, Glitter Pomegranate Series

Bedford Avenue YMCA

Curated by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

w/ Gregory Pardlo, Eugenia Lee and Lynne Procope

1121 Bedford Avenue

6:30 p.m.

Brooklyn, NY

 

 September 20, Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon

Organized by Juliet P. Howard

Invitation Only: Reading/Workshop

TBA

https://www.facebook.com/WomenWritersinBloom.PoetrySalon

 

September 2, The Brooklyn Commons

Music Now! At  Poetry/Jazz
w/Spiritchild XspiritMental, Ras Moshe Burnett, et al  & open mic
The Brooklyn Commons
388 Atlantic Ave. btwn Hoyt St. & Bond St.
Brooklyn.
A,C to Hoyt-Schemerhorn/Any train to Atlantic Ave.

6 p.m. -9 p.m.

$11 contribution

 

AUGUST

 August 9, Boog City Festival

David Kirschbaum, et al

Unnameable Bookstore

Vanderbilt Avenue

1:45 p.m.

Brooklyn, NY

 

JULY, 2015

July 25

Merryall Center

Voices of Poetry organized by Neil Silberblatt

w/ Patrick Donnelly, Michael Klein, and musicians

8 p.m.

New Milford, Connecticut

For directions, call (860) 354-7264 or visit www.merryallcenter.org.

 

JULY 26

Fifth Annual The New York Poetry Festival

Organized by Stephanie Berger

w/ Nick Flynn David Matlin and Fran Quinn

3 p.m.

Algonquin Stage, Colonels Row Park

Governors Island

Free

About

 

MAY, 2015

Center for Women Writers

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

May 1, Museum of Modern Art

Debut Reading: Poetry Suite for Migration Series, One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence

Migrations Series and Other Works organized/curated Elizabeth Alexander

w/ Rita Dove, Nikky Finney, Terence Hayes, Tyehimba Jess,

Crystal Williams, et al

6:30 p.m.

The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1

Manhattan

http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/events/23538

 

May 10, hosting WORDS SUNDAY

Janet Kaplan and Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Calabar Imports

4 p.m.

351 Tompkins Avenue

Brooklyn

 

May 15, Center for Book Arts

The Broadside Series hosted by Sharon Dolin

w/ Ada Limon, Jen Bervin and Genine Lentine

7 p.m.

28 W. 27

Manhattan

 

APRIL 2015

April 2, Hell Yes, Readings from The Inferno by Dante Alghieri

Cathedral of St. John Divine

Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street

9 p.m.

Manhattan

Open to the Public

April 12, hosting WORDS SUNDAY

w/ LaToya Jordan and Ras Moshe Burnett

Calabar Imports Bed-Stuy

351 Tompkins

Brooklyn

info@calabar-imports.com

 

MARCH 2015

March 3, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Women’s Herstory Conference

w/ Lee Briccetti, Elaine Sexton, Nita Noveno, et al

7-9 p.m.

Manhattan

Free

 

March 8 McNally Jackson Books

Curated by Belladonna Collaborative

w/ Laynie Browne and Kimberly Lyons

7 p.m.

52 Prince Street

Manhattan

Free

 

March 18 The Center for Women Writers

Curated by Metta Sama, Director

w/ Meera Nair

Salem College

7 p.m.

601 S Church Street

photo by John Casquerelli

Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop

Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101

http://www.salem.edu/community/cww/

 

 

FEBRUARY  2015

February 5 RESPOND at Smack Mellon
DUMBO FIRST THURSDAY
“Don’t shoot” curated by Samuel Jablom
w/ Anomalous who, Steve Dalachinsky, Joyce LeeAnn Joseph,
Yuko Otomo, and Peter Rugh
7:30 p.m.
SMACK MELLON
92 Plymouth Street @ Washington
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Free

JANUARY  2015

January 1, The Poetry Project New Year’s Day Benefit
Organized by The Poetry Project
w/ a cast of hundreds
2 p.m. to midnight
St. Mark’s Church on the Bouwerie
131 E. 10th Street
Manhattan
Donation: $20

January 3, First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum
Poetry Popup in Crossing Brooklyn
Organized by Alan Felsenthal
w/ Corinna Copp, Ricky Laurentis, and Charles North
Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn
Free w/ Museum Admission

DECEMBER

December 1, KGB Monday Night Poetry Series
Organized by John Deming
w/ Shanna Compton
7:30 p.m.
E. 4th Street
Manhattan

NOVEMBER POETRY EVENTS

November 11, Poets@Pace
w/ Monica de la Torre
Organized by Charles North
Pace University
Once Pace Plaza
Manhattan
6-7:30 p.m.
FREE

OCTOBER POETRY EVENTS

October 12, AiPO POETRY SCULPTURE
w/Christine Malvasi, Sophie Malleret,Najee Omar, &Nikhil Melnechuk
Organized by Samuel Jablon
1-2 p.m. UNION SQUARE
Manhattan
FREE

SEPTEMBER  POETRY EVENTS

September 13, Greenpoint Branch
Brooklyn Public Library
Organized by Melanie Nielsen
w/ Kristen Gallagher
107 Norman Ave @Leonard Street
Brooklyn, NY
718-349-8504

September 24-27, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future
Of African-American Poetry
James Madison University
Furious Flower Poetry Center
Organized by Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
www.jmu.edu/furiousflower

JUNE POETRY EVENTS

June 19, Lunch Poems, Word for Word Series
Organized by Paul Romero
w/ Lydica Cortes,  Jessica Greenbay,  Jocelyn Lieu & Sharan Strange
12:30 p.m.
Free
BRYANT PARK Reading Room
Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street
Manhattan

June 29, Voices of Poetry
Organized by Neil Silberblatt
w/ Chivas Sandage, Vivian Shipley, Mark Statman & Bianca Stone
4 p.m.
$15/$10 students
26 Bedford Road
Katonah, NY.

Life Lessons from Living in the Love Economy

Life Lessons

There are many lessons learned in life

But few come from tragedy—I know, I know

 

What makes you stronger and all that.  Rot

I say

 

You learn more from what makes you laugh

How much pleasure the tongue can bring and where it was placed

 

The sweet look on your lover’s face.  Or how loud P FUNK

Could be on stage and off   NOT JUST KNEEDEEP

 

The towers falling; a man shot in the back

All terrible, but: What can you do about that?

 

What can you make of a world so wedded to injustice?

How dare you name the oppressor and demand his head,

 

His badge, his ranch or those secret accounts in the Maldives?

It is not as if the struggle is useless, it is that it continues.

 

But joy, where is it?  What does it look like, smell like—bergamot

Lemons, honey, roses, musk?

 

To find it, is to explore a path where the stumbles are many

The curses frequent, but the rewards

 

forthcoming in A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems (White Pine Press)

Year’s ending-horses still galloping

I know that the Year of the Horse will go into late January, so the galloping is not over.  We have been on a very wild ride.  The news of day has often been mysterious, horrific, terrifying or utterly silly.  Sometimes the same item can be described with all those words.  I know that it has been a wild ride for me and one that I treasure because I am breathing and too many people I love no longer breathe.

Florence Tate whom I only met in “real life” recently passed.  I knew her son Greg Tate for what seems like forever.  But his famous Mama I met via social media–she was a great presence on Facebook and intensely encouraging to me and many other writers, artists, singers, organizers, activisits and bon vivants.  The last time I saw her breathing was at the Funeral for Amiri Baraka–the kind of affair that brought his friends, enemies, former lovers, their children and just about anyone who was a who in the downtown/Black Arts Movement/literary scene to Symphony Hall in Newark.  I will also miss Galway Kinnell whose readings at Brooklyn’s Ferry Landings at the end of the Poets House Bridge Walks were so very very special.  His passion for life, for poetry for oatmeal LOL never left him. Like Baraka, Kinnell was a fighter for justice; a great teacher–they were poets who created communities and they both lived long enough to modify earlier excesses and mend some fences.

I can’t breathe #Ican’tbreathe has become a chant; an indictment; a statement of anguish and demand.  Eric Garner’s utterly unnecessary death at the hands of the NYPD and others who are here to serve people galvanized and continues to galvanize young people on top of those marching/organizing/agitating in Ferguson MO.  The parade of dead Black, Brown and occasionally White bodies at the hands of Law Enforcement (LE) has made a significant number of people who had otherwised kept their heads in the sand. look up and see that the police are more soldiers than peace officers and that much of policing has become occupation–the lastest military incursions by the Israel into Gaza serves as a kind of template, it seems to me.  These are ugly times.  Ugly times.

And yet I am writing on a chilly rainy day in Brooklyn, a piano solo-some minor league European composer’s work makes perfect background noise.  Today I went to the Museum of Modern Art to read “Lave” a poem commissioned for the catalog for One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence Migrations Series which will open in early April at MOMA.  Elizabeth Alexander has done a great job of bringing Black poets with very different poetics together to honor and respond to Lawrence’s seminal work.  I know that this was a great opportunity; a great challenge.  I hope people will respond to our response.  I also saw the Robert Gober Retrospective.  Gober is White.  He’s Gay and he’s Young and very definitely breathing and I am glad.  His sculptures defy standards of beauty; his bodies are never complete; his anguish not extinguished; his fears what should be feared–bullies, killers of the mind as well as body–the title of the exhibition is The Heart Is Not  a Metaphor and you know what it is not  Pulsating, pumping, a muscle whose only job is to keep the body upright and moving, the heart is beyond compare.  And yet even Gober allows the heart, the hearth to become symbols for the ways we attempt to stunt pulsation; to destroy intimacy, charity, erotic impulse.

At the end of this Year of Baldwin; this Year of Losses, public and private; this year of Protests and Counter Protests.  The fighting t-shirts: I can’t breathe/I can breathe  the year when too many White People found themselves in a racial quagmire of their own making with no understanding of how to get out–I for one listen to the young people who started #blacklivesmatter; who demanded to be heard in at unneeded Al Sharpton organized march; who march and chant and tweet and demand to be able to BREATHE and to have a future.  Saludos to you.  May we all get off that horse when the Year of the Horse ends, saddle sore, yes, but ready to walk on this altered/altared earth. May we find a way to breathe together in justice, in peace.

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Crech, Bed-Stuy, photo by Patricia Spears Jones

 

Holiday poem 2014

Feast

 

(in the back ground Otis Redding sings “Merry Christmas Baby”)

 

Oh the twinkling

Oh the twinkling lights

Each a color of delight

Morsels of sparkle, tasty fire

Feast.

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

Bed-Stuy Lights, Dec. 2014

November is for shutting down

Not running around.  Not starting new programs.  Not acting like it is always warm and easy and why isn’t it quiet. Well soon it will be-snow mentioned in the forecast, but all there is is a chilly November rain.  Despite that I went to Harlem for a program on the Life and Times of Albert Murray at the Schomburg Center.  A smallish crowd was there, but what was heartening was a smattering of young people as well as people more of his contemporaries.  Good panel, but the best was watching Mr Murray read about “Taking the A Train” that examines the issue of “home”.  And of course it was a love letter to Harlem, a place he lived for over 50 years.

Albert Murray projected  photo by Patricia S. Jones

Albert Murray projected photo by Patricia S. Jones

Each Sunday now I go to church which has been a great solace–have been missing my Mother a great deal and then I run back home and prepare to host a new series I curate WORDS SUNDAY at Calabar Imports Bed-Stuy Popup.  The shop brings some brightness to a rather drab part of Tompkins although slowly Tompkins Ave. is becoming a “destination” for certain types.  More and more I feel this neighborhood losing its style, its cool as the hipster types have morphed into Eurotrash or corporate go getters.  It makes for odd moments of levity or tension depending.  Last week featured Michael Broder and Rachel Levitsky, who on their own called it the queer Jewish reading.  So be it.  They were great.  I particularly loved Rachel’s prose–crafted, learned, funny at times.  This coming Sunday Jason Schneiderman and Cheryl Boyce-Taylor.  I hope I have enough energy to do them justice.

Rachel Levitsky reading photo by Paticia S. Jones

Rachel Levitsky reading photo by Paticia S. Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other great thing is I got written up in two different places in an article on WORDS SUNDAY at http://www.bkmag.com/2014/11/04/crossing-border-in-the-brooklyn-literary-scene-with-poet-patricia-spears-jones/ and I think it actually brought some people into the store!

And then I got to be BROOKLYN POET OF THE WEEK by Jason Koo and his Brooklyn Poets crew.  I got to pontificate and do some shout outs.  I said nice things about a former neighbor who passed away and I wrote a poem based on Jay Z’s Brooklyn Go Hard–not something I’d usually do.  So check it out http://bit.ly/1zGTOQI.

Did I mention teaching and a great reading at Pace University with Monica De La Torre?  No, well did that too. That I am teaching at Poets House? That I wrote a few mini-essays and even did some volunteer fundraising work?  Oh November, aren’t I supposed be prepping for hibernation?

 

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.