Yes, I deserve this

roses and cards from friends near and far

Anyone who works long and hard and seriously at their chosen art form deserves recognition.  Anyone.  But I am not anyone and I am so glad to have received the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers.  It was a balm, a boon, and a joy to share with friends on May 23rd at the Century Club–so venerable, the balcony looks towards the Chrysler Building!  Strands of my life from Loft Jazz world, The Poetry Project, Bomb Magazine, Mabou Mines,  Vermont College, VCCA, Rhodes College, CUNY, St John’s Church in Park Slope, Cave Canem were all there. So many people, I did not get to greet everyone.  They came from Boston and Long Island and one of my hometown friends ws there! Nicole Peyrafitte posted part of my acceptance speech, thus the title of this blog.

My hair stylist Nadia Vassell made my hair look fab; a Lancome rep at Saks did my makeup.    I wore new clothes that Janet Goldner helped me shop for. I was happy.  I am thrilled and tired and glad that the ceremony and brouhaha are over.  I have plans for this good fortune, mostly paying bills and giving myself that cushion because I’ve had many many many rainy days and no cushion.  I do not come from money or a pedigree.  There are no relatives who went to Harvard or Spelman or even FSU!  I am the first person in my entire family to go to and complete college. I come from Forrest City, a small town in Arkansas in the Delta that is barely holding on, but was once a site of major cotton plantations and the ancillary businesses resulting from that.  Cotton is still there and rice and soy beans and corn, but people Black or White are not “on the land”-huge machines do what hundreds of poorly paid people did 50 years ago.  But the land is where my mama resides in a graveyard in the South end of town and land is what I co-own with my brother and sister in town.  And land is large and flat and green. I come from a verdant and violent place.

So I deeply appreciate the judges selection of my work. It means that you can come from a small place in a small state and make it big (well Bill Clinton did that first, but hey, he’s not a poet) in your chosen field.  I am not “big”, but this says that my work is important. And they give me money too! I am so pleased that this “win” is only about selection from a small universe of nominees and not one of us knew we were up for this prize.  This is about merit and spirit and recognition and yes, I deserve this.  Any poet who has been writing and publishing and editing and reviewing and caring deeply about language and the people who explore and explode it, deserves recognition.  So whomever receives this next year–enjoy the roses, the cards, the love and acclaim from friends and more scrutiny than one can possibly handle.  For now, the recipient is moi and moi is pleased and glad to have made an excuse for wonderful friends to celebrate and be joyful on a balcony in mid-town as the sun set and everyone dressed up!

Selfie with Lee Briccetti, dir. of Poets House

May is here, but April was amazing

Before April–I had the great pleasure of reading from my new book, Living in the Love Economy at Berl’s Poetry Shop with Erica Hunt and Anselm Berrigan, two great poets and very good friends.  Joey Infante, et al brought my vision for this collection to a bright fruition.  I am so very proud of it  and the chapbook Swimming to America, from Red Glass Books  both serves as a platform to my New & Selected coming out in 2015 from White Pine Press.


As I’ve often said, April is Cruel to Poets Month–there were so many readings and so little time esp if you are a poet!  So I did my best. Heard Cyrus Cassells in conversation with Charif Shanahan at NYU. It was a lively and reflective dialogue after a fine reading by Cyrus.  It was great to hear him talk about finding his voice after early and high praise. His new poems are taking even more lyric leaps.

Earlier in the month, went to the CUNY housed Chapbook Festival.  My new chapbook, Living in the Love Economy was on display and sold!  Song Cave, CUNY’s brilliant Lost & Found series-a must have for serious poetry scholars and readers–and of course Overpass Books were there.   Amiel Alcalay, et al read and discussed the latest Lost & Found series including 2 booklets of Adrienne Rich’s writing about teaching at CUNY in the SEEK program.

Brenda Hillman was in town and I got to hear her read at Berl’s Poetry Shop with Evelyn Reilly–a great evening brought to us by Belladonna Collaborative.

And finally, it was really wonderful to attend A Painter and His Poets: The Art of George Schneeman at Poets House on April 26.  Maureen Owen was in town from Denver; Bill Berkson, co-curator from Boston, Alice Notley in from Paris, and Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, Larry Fagin, et al from NYC.  Padgett who was the other c0-curator was an affable presenter and the readings and comments conjured a world where spontaneity and chance were as much a part of collaboration as talent and the ability to take risks.  In an era where folks are waiting for funding for . . . these poets worked with a painter who was open to words as they were open to his artistic vision.


Maureen Owen & Bob Holman, Poets House

Maureen Owen & Bob Holman, Poets House

I read in very disperate events:  the Ruth Malaczech Art & Impact event at the Martin E. Segal Theater Center at CUNY Grad Center where the living members of Mabou Mines and other avant garde theater people discussed the life and art of the great actress and founding member of Mabou.  The Reading of the Inferno by Dante at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Maundy Thursday organized by Marilyn Nelson–saw some wonderful friends and it ended before midnight!   And  an Alice Notley  tribute reading for the Downtown Literary Festival; and finally for Nita Noveno and Sara Lippman’s fine series, the Sunday Salon with Terence Degnan, et al.  They posted a video.

And now it’s May–the sun is shining FINALLY and on May1, I saw photographs from The Birmingham Project by Dawoud Bey at The Mary Boone Gallery on Fifth Avenue.  Bey has grown as an articulate and fierce documentary photographer of the Black Experience.  His artistry is at its best in these works that were done in Birmingham in response to the legacy of the Black Alabamans who struggled for civil and human rights and the children who now live in the city.  It is a major work and should be seen and housed in a major museum and soon.

Carrie Mae Weems and Sandra Payne at Dawoud Bey's exhibition.

Carrie Mae Weems and Sandra Payne at Dawoud Bey’s exhibition.

April Events


Tribute to Ruth Malaczech

w/ Lee Breuer, Joanne Akalits, Sharon Fogarty, et al

Co-curated by Dr. Jessica Silsby Brater

6:30 p.m.

Segal Theater, CUNY Graduate Center

34th & Fifth Avenue




April 13 Housing Works Downtown Literary Festival

Tribute to Alice Notley

Group Reading organized by Alice Whitwam

2-3 p.m.

Bowery Poetry Club

308 Bowery




April 17,  Dante Alghieri’s Inferno Reading

9-midnight after Maundy Thursday Service

Group Reading organized by Marilyn Nelson, et al

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street



April 22, Brownstone Poets

Organized by Patricia Carragon

w/ Yuyutsu Sharma, et al

7:30 p.m.


Café Dada

57 Seventh Avenue

Brooklyn NY


April 27, Sunday Salon

Organized by Nita Noveno

w/ Terence Degnan, Kim Friedman & Sweta Vikram

7 p.m.


Jimmy’s No. 43

43 E. 7th Street