GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS

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. 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

 

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

A Lucent Fire

Cover: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected

HAPPY DANCE IN MY HEAD HAPPY DANCE IN MY HEAD

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–”

http://www.whitepine.org/catalog.php?show=2014#A

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 http://aboutplacejournal.org/

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

 

what can I say, summer has been summer

Tai Allen, birthday guy

Tai Allen, birthday guy

today I came home to my messy apartment filled with a sense of cheer.  all day long  “I feel free” rolled about my head–darn, I never got to see Eric Clapton live. but if I had i would have pretty much rolled about in “I feel free”. Mostly this is because I was getting my hair done by my stylist, a young woman I deeply admire.  Nadia Vassell is one of the rare Black entrepreneurs in the very now gentrified Lower East Side. Tai Allen, a fine poet and designer is working on a beer/wine festival–people make money in all kinds of ways.  Charmaine Bee, a terrific artist has her own Gullah Girl Tea on the side. Atim Oton now has four stores and is running around probably working on Store #5.   I think all of these young(er) Black people are so smart, so energetic and disciplined and they make me pleased to alive to see them make a difference.  They make me smile.  They give me hope.

Someone sent me a link to a piece I wrote in 1998.  It’s about poetry and how one could use poetry.  Lorenzo Thomas urged me to write this essay.  He is my poet/spirit being.  I miss him.  His encouragement kept me going when things went wrong.  If he had not ask for this work, it would have been written.  Enjoy.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/article/250738

 

 

They are not bodies

There have been numerous op-ed pieces about “the Black body”–the vulnerable, often violated “Black body”.  And while I understand this phrase and its meaning I often find myself angry with it.  It is reductive.  It removes the personalities, the narratives of the specific human beings who were vulnerable and violated.  Black lives matter.  Black lives have narratives that explode the ideal of justice and equality and respect that should be the foundation of a great Republic.  Black lives matter because if there was justice, equality and respect no one would write about “the Black body.”

The men and women who have been killed by members of law enforcement and/or their allies over the past few years have names and narratives that go beyond the sensational ways in their lives were interrupted have names, had lives that mattered to someone who loved them, cared about them, worried over them and now mourn them. #blacklivesmatter.

Sandra Bland should still be breathing and so should so many other people with names.  Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and many others. They are not “bodies” to me.  They are young and old, poor and middle class, well educated and street wise, family people, single and looking,  going to college or dropped out.  They had smiles and told stories and maybe knew how to dance or write or served as emergency babysitters. They are not bodies. They have parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, a favorite teacher or teachers they hated.  Someone saved their baby teeth.  Someone has their pictures in a Bible.  Their mothers wear White and seek solace and justice. Their mothers speak to the media, but speak to them in private. They are not bodies. They should be breathing. They should be smiling and planning a party or angry and cursing or studying geometry or checking out new games or walking around.  They have names. They have families. They have stories. They are not bodies.

 

new poems this summer

This summer I have poems in very different places:  Upstreet, a print journal frm Massachusetts.  Cutthroat, a journal from Colorad0–this one is a tribute issue to Joy Harjo and Linda Hogan.  And two poems http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/07/poetry/patricia-spears-jones

Cutthroat

Cutthroat

Whispers and prayers in The Brooklyn Rail was created in response to the horrific killings

in Charleston, SC.  Blossoms in the gyre in Cutthroat is a way of connecting nature, spirit and the struggle for justice.  Poets are working.  Poets are working hard.

 

Half -moon blues

Last night I sat on my neighbor’s stoop. She is a retired nurse. The sky was clear. The moon half-full and both of us were both furll of anguish and rage. She said “I can’t watch the news, this story” and then we discussed what most likely happened to Sandra Bland. My neighbor could have been Ms. Bland. So could I. The video of the State Trooper’s “arrest” of Ms. Bland is horrifying. “There was no reason, no reason” my neighbor muttered. “And he kept saying put down your cell phone”. That video shows male rage at its most naked. Had that trooper written the ticket and walked away, Ms. Bland would be either paying a fine or disputing the ticket. She’s dead. We sat there and just marveled at our own “luck.”

photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Macon Street roses, Bed-Stuy