This is the year I go to California (a lot!)

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

This past week has been all about Resurrection, Renewal and Blessings.  A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poem is a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award.  The winner is Brian Shimoda.

And this past Thursday I was asked to join the faculty for the Summer Workshop at The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. I attended two conferences and created some wonderful work.  I so hope I will help other poets do when I am there.

So now I gear up for a day of teaching and then off again to California.

On Wednesday, I will join literally thousands of poets, writers, teachers, arts administrators, journalists (an occasional musician) and go Los Angeles for the 2016 AWP Conference.  It will be enthralling, overwhelming, occasionally delightful and full of stress.  All conventions are part professional networking, part party, part boredom–like why isn’t there downtown and where is the free coffee?  L.A. is always an odd place to be.  It is incredibly dense, but no one talks about that.  The traffic is non stop–people do talk about that.  It has wonderful bookstores, but you really have to search them out and places of powerful beauty and utterly awfulness.  And sometimes it is very warm, but every once in a while it is as chilly as the Bay Area far far to its North.

I have the great pleasure of reading with Fellows from the Black Earth Institute on March 31; I will be doing a book signing for A Lucent Fire on Friday April 1 between 2-3 at the White Pine Press table; signing The Best of Cutthroat on the same day at 1.  And on Saturday, Laura Hinton asked me to moderate the panel Out of L.A.: A Tribute to Jayne Cortez that will take place on Saturday, 3:15-4:30 with Aldon Nielsen, Jennifer Ryan, Pam Ward and of course Laura Hinton.  There are reunions for the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley; VCCA: and Vermont College.  And many readings that I may or may not make it too. These events are listed on my web sites: Readings & Events Page.

It will be slightly insane, useful, terrible, beautiful, slighty giddy and wearisome.  Oh writers, oh conferences, Oh California!


next to last day of winter

A couple of weeks ago I stood on a friend’s deck in Tiburon with the Pacific Ocean as background-hundreds of sea birds in the water.  The sky was as blue as a sky can be.  The air was warm, but not too warm.  All of the Bay Area seemed to be in bloom.  I’d never been in a California “Spring”–its lovely to look at; to smell; to touch.  I can see why people live there-the beauty is often overwhelming.  But the traffic, the density–it seemed almost too much.

I went there for a book tour–to read my poems from A Lucent Fire and engage with audiences and so I did from student and faculty at The University of Pacific, who were smart and curious and asked great questions to a reading with Clarence Major at the legendary Poetry Center at San Francisco State University.  I also got to read at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave the last bookstore standing on that storied street.

It was odd because the week before I went to MOMA and saw a documentary about Bob Kaufman, the brilliant and deeply troubled African American poet –he was a “beat”poet in the best sense.  But he was part of the bohemian world of North Beach in San Francisco.  Of course North Beach still exists but not as a haven for bohemians unless they are the ones who can afford Bohemian Grove.  The wealthification of urban centers is erasing culture in bits and pieces so that people with digital devices can make more of them and spend money made from making apps and stuff on other apps and stuff.  So boring really.

Thus I was grateful to spend Sunday morning at St. Gregory of Nyssa, an Anglican church in the mission where an old friend serves as one of the clergy.  She preached that day about getting through Lent and got me to be the lector. It was a strange and generous experience–there was step dancing and Quaker style comments and a great deal of singing which I loved.  The church has a hearty and close knit congregation and provides services and solace to the community which is at the edge of the Mission, but also where much property has appreciated over the past few years. I remember Adrienne Rich writing about “the interstices” and in many ways so much of life these days is in between (hope and despair); (financial ruin and getting by); (cynicism and anger).  It was good to be in a spiritual space with good people who believe and care and welcome.

So I thank Dr. Xiaojing Zhou, a fine scholar, educator, and translator who brought me to University of the Pacific and her colleagues.  Brenda Hillman and Bob Hass who were gracious enough to add me to a reading for Lunch Poems at UC Berkeley to Owen Moes, who has like one of the best bookstores on the planet; to Steve Dickinson, who really makes great things happen at The Poetry Center and to my good friend Sue who let me be a guest in her Oakland Hills bungalow.

Winter is officially over on the 21st, but there is a chill, the possibility of snow on Palm Sunday.  A reminder that the sun and earth may move in certain ways, but the temperature will do what it wants to do.  I welcome the soft chill, that final farewell to winter’s quiet.  And I welcome new possibilities and more natural beauty.  Flowers and trees and birds and bees and you know stuff like that.  Seasonal changes always throw me off my game and into another one–the mysteries, the interstices, the moments in between.

Dr, Xiaoing Zhou, U of Pacific

Dr, Xiaojing Zhou, U of Pacific

calla lillies do grow wild

calla lillies do grow wild

a strange tree in Oakland

a strange tree in Oakland

the Pacific Ocean as background

the Pacific Ocean as background

“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



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

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.  I know that David Rivard will just love this.  Also, my poem “Dancer” was posted on’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.

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


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



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


HARVEST: A Lucent Fire from White Pine Press and About Place Journal now “live”

A Lucent Fire

Cover: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected


This year has been one of my most productive and I am so pleased to have my newest full-length collection: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems covering work from 1975 to the present!  It’s been quite a trip.  I am looking forward to getting this new book into the hands of readers.  My publisher Dennis Maloney has created a wonderful promotion:

To celebrate the release of our latest volume in our Distinguished Poets Series, A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems by Patricia Spears Jones, if you order from the White Pine website we will include another White Pine title of our choosing with your order.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips says of this collection: “There is a wise and dangerous fire in Jones’ poetry that harkens back to James Baldwin and, further back to the Old Testament: the past–both a highly personal past and an expansive civic past–”

So check out my new book!  Read, let e know what you think.  Enjoy

On October 5, The Future Imagined Differently Imagined for About Place Journal went live at

Poets, essayists, artists, composers are included from Myra Sklarew, Marcella Durand, Shelagh Patterson, Margo Berdeshevsky, Tony Medina, Purvi Shah, William Nixon, Ras Moshe Barnett, Jason Kao Hwang, Robbie McCauley, Beverly Naidus and the great Brasilian artist, Denise Milan.

Happy Dance Happy Dance

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths