Waiting to Inhale–2017

The past 6 weeks have been to an assault on the collective nervous system of this nation and the world.  A new President with a variety of dicey dudes and former daisy dukes have moved in.  It feels like a parody except people are being deported; health care is being altered; houses of worship (mosques, synagogues and churches) have been desecrated and bomb threats called in across the U.S.  And people have been murdered.  It has been over several decades since the “peaceful” transfer of power has brought so much violence, fear and yes response.  We talk about backlash as exclusively on the right, but of course that is not true.  Many people: moderate, liberal, progressive and even further left are on line, on the phone, in the offices of their “representatives”,  in the streets.  Too early to call it an uprising, but #resistance is good.

In the meanwhile, poets have organized many events and are developing language in response to these tumultuous times.  As well we should.  The past few years have seen so much change–some very good; some very very bad–and our work as poets, writers and artists is consider those changes.  In the Raoul Peck documentary on James Baldwin, there is a passage where JB talks about being a witness and a participant–how they often bleed into each other.  Right now, whether we want to or not we are witnessing deep stresses on our democracy.  And we are participating as citizens in response.  No one other than the propagandists are writing the script.  None of us knows how any of this will turn out.  We have our hopes and our fears.

As a poet, I do what poets always do.  I write.  I publish.  I join in the festival of words that help all of live our lives.  I am grateful for the wit, wisdom, anger and anguished displayed over the past several weeks.

Over the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my work online and in a number of anthologies.  Here are three recent ones–check them out, get them, get them in your library.  You will be pleased with your choices.

T. Medina ed. antholgy

Tony Medina ed. this anthology of poems in resistance to police violence.

Anthology of poems for Gwendolyn Brooks

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

Anthology from Pam Ushuk,et al

Cutthroat Journal pub this amazing collection 2-2017. Proceeds go to ACLU

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 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


can’t sleep too much on my mind

The Furious Flower Poetry Center is housed in a little house in Harrisonburg –part of James Madison University.  Never has so small a space held such a large role.  I just got back from the third Furious Flower conference that brought poets and scholars of the African diaspora (majority American) to this well-to do city in the midst of the mountains of Virginia.  A place where most of the people are Republicans.  Where people talk football, hunting and yes education, law and order and too much money in politics.  You can see that money in the terrible political ads.  I got there on the Amtrak to Charlottesville which was on time as if to mock the lateness of the same train a month earlier when I went to VCCA.

halfway to the conference

halfway to the conference

I am so pleased to have been invited.  I’ve been writing and publishing for four decades.  I write because I want to try and make large work on intimate issues–at least I try.  I don’t quite fit an of the critical stance and maybe my work never will.  I just don’t know.  But I was asked and I am happy to have read with truly fine and important poets: Jericho Brown, Camille Dungy, Mendi Obadike, Remica L. Bingham-Risher, Tyehimba Jess, Samantha Thornhill and A. Van Jordan.  Our group brought a diverse range of poetics and strategies, but we were all well versed in how to present words.   But it would have been great if we had been presented at Wilson Hall as were the other major readings.  It would have been great if we had been introduced.  But by Saturday everyone was close to exhausted–much to consider by some super considerable people.   Despite these small issues, I am so glad I was there.  And I was happy to sign the conference booklet–there are people who get all of the names.

And so there we were many of my bestest friends-there were we were chatting and gossiping and sharing of work old and new.  But so much so much it makes sleeping almost impossible as words and phrases and images reel about my mind:  Rita Dove telling us “this is not my hair.”; hearing Nikki Giovanni go on and on about space travel and champagne; watching Marilyn Nelson walk across the ballroom floor to get her award using an elegant walking stick; watching my main men: Tony Medina, Major Jackson, Thomas Sayers Ellis who were festive, pensive, observant depending.  Medina’s performance of the poem/tribute for Amiri Baraka, which I first heard at Barka’s funeral was well done.  Thomas Sayers Ellis performed with Luke Stewart (bassist) and James Brandon Lewis (saxophone) including his piece in honor of Chuck Brown, the founder of Gogo.Ekere Taille read well w/ her elders and Jessica Care Moore let her song King join her when she read in the Baraka tribute.  Kwame Dawes gave a great talk as did Brenda Marie Osbey.  The intelligence quotient was quite high. The focus on the Black Arts Movement impressive, but other Black cultural trends were also considered

I could go on and on, but I have to stop and figure out what does any of this mean.  I think for me it means I am part of the discourse. That I have entered the charmed circle of poest and writers who are read, taught, discussed on a regular basis that makes me feel very good.  We read. We talked to each other.  We exchanged email addresses.  We drank and ate and danced and felt so much gratitude to have the chance to be together.  Dr. Joanne Gabbin has created a powerful entity, may it continue.

many poets at Wilson Hall

many poets at Wilson Hall

summer blessings and borders

This is a summer that is truly a summer.  The weather in late June seemed to as beautiful as the world’s activities grew more violent, volatile.  Something says to me the Creator is working overtime to provide humans relief for bad human activity–at the borders of the US and Mexico; Israel and Palestine; Nigeria and Chad–borders where children give them selves up; where children are kidnapped and murdered; where children are kidnapped, sold or murdered.  Borders where evil weaves a ugly web of lies, brutality, fear.  So to wake up for several days to bright sunshine and little humidity in Brooklyn–to roses blooming, birds singing, dogs being walked.  To wake up fairly healthy with things to do; students to teach; people to see; food to eat and wine to drink  is to have many blessings placed upon me.  But all blessings are provisional.  So are the bad human activity. Should we be Iraq? Should we help Nigeria find stolen girls?  Should we reduce our energy use so that fracking, etc. was not so profitable?  or is the phrase: “Could we”?  It is July 4th.  It is rainy and quiet.  My brother is staying home, mowing his backyard; my sister in Arkansas is planning her church work and planning to see friends. My eldest nephew is probably working overtime in a high end hotel in Dallas.  My nephews and nieces are eating barbecue and watching videos. in Texas and Tennessee. We are a small family spread around the U.S.  We are also feeling the loss of my mother who this year last year was still alive. Still engaged in the world of the living, but shutting down.  Later somebody in Bed-Stuy will attempt to show off the illegal fireworks bought most likely in Pennsylvania.  As a Southerner, I understand crossroads. But borders.  Borders are places of deep terror. Borders are where too many children are lost.

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Poems for humans’ use

I have always said that April is cruel to poets month.  Poets are reading everywhere. Some are writing a new poem each day–oh you productive ones.  Sometimes, we just post each others’ work on Facebook elsewhere.  It is that feast more than famine moment month.  But as a poet, I am pleased for the feast.   It is good to hear poets as diverse as Cyrus Cassells, , Scott Hightower, Julie Patton, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Anne Waldman, Simone White and that’s just the first two weeks in New York City.  At the end of March, I was pleased to launch my new chapbook Living in the Love Economy Berl’s Poetry Shop, a wonderful space for poetry books and all who read them in DUMBO, beneath the Manhattan Bridge and to attend the Center for Black Literature’s National Black Writers Conference.  I look forward to readings and events in April.  


photograph by John Casquerelli

This past week I led a Master Class at the 12th National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College and I used “Mourning the Queen of Sunday” by Robert Hayden as the prompt. It is Hayden’s centenary and I envy Tony Medina and others who attended a conference in Detroit at Wayne State University.  Whether it Academy of American Poets poem-a-day; your local library’s Poem in a pocket Day or if in NYC, you visit the luminous as in daylight Poets House in Tribeca, open your mind and heart to the efforts of we would be bards.  You never know what you find there.  Some time powerful, forceful, feelingforce, thinkingforce, beingforce. Poems can generate great light or deep darkness.  That is good.  Poems are human made for humans’ use.