Thursday, March 31, 2005

March 31st, 2005 - 5:09AM

So it's been a while. My March Madness brackets were busted the very first round when Syracuse was upended by Vermont. Still, the teams i picked to be in the finals (Illinois and North Carolina) are in the Final Four and still on course to meet each other.

In the meantime, i've been doing much better with the insomnia (except for right now of course). Clearly, wrestling with VIA is what gives me more insomnia than anything else.

I've also started the Cave Canem workshop under Patricia Smith's tutelage. Their are 15 of us all together and i'm really excited. Already, Patricia has given us some provocative exercises and i'm getting my writing jump-started again. So far, my favorite exercise has been the one in which we take a favorite poem by another poet, re-write it as a prose piece and then re-write that, as a new poem. What is supposed to happen is a completely new poem, inspired by the first but completely different from it. I've chosen Ai's poem "The Hitchhiker" and what is happening there is really crazy and extraordinary. I'll post the results of that by weekend.

I'm also reading Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power". Farmer is a medical doctor/anthropologist who is primarily concerned with the ways in which power dynamics internationally force the poor away from the option of health care and what they need for basic survival. In fact, because of poverty and political maneuvering amongst the rich (nations and corporations), millions of people die every year of treatable diseases. What's more, Farmer examines the ways in which more powerful, richer nations have historically put mechanisms in place that guarantee this discrepancy, even though they are very well aware of what their policie mean for the vast majority of the citizens of the nations they affect (including their own). Tracy Kidder (author of "Mountains beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Doctor Paul Farmer) says "Pathologies of Power is an eloquent plea for a working definition of human rights that would not neglect the most basic rights of all: food, shelter and health. This plea has special potency because it comes from Dr. Farmer, a person who has proven that the dream of universal and comprehensive human rights is possible, and who has brought food, shelter, health, and hope to some of the poorest people on this earth." I say, it'll open your eyes even further to the nature of inequity in the world; inequity that is wholly unnecessary, especially for those of us living in a country which touts its dedication to human rights (insult to integrity that it is). Go get the book though, it's amazing, but you don't have to take my word for it.

It's getting warm again folks. Go outside. Do something crazy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

March 16, 2005 - 10:35AM

I've just got done reading Toni Morrison's "Beloved". It is so all-encompassing in its scope. It is enormous. I am forever changed by it. I'd already read everything else by Morrisson save for "Love" but this book. It is a close second to "Song of Solomon" i believe, as her best book. What is perhaps most remarkable is her ability to excavate all the complexities of survival that have had to be undertaken by black folk and that still need to be undertaken. Without needing to point it out, her book explains how slavery still scars us; how it makes us all (oppressor and oppressed) depraved. It is about finding the enotional space to carve dignity out of the most horrific experiences and finding a way to live, regardless. If you haven't yet, read it now.


Now back to the NCAA tournament. Here are some "sleepers" to look for. I've been examining this carefully all year, so pay attention. As you know the most upsets always seem to occur with the 5-12 matchups, so pay attention to all those. A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed. It's not going to happen this year either. Louisville got kinda hosed with a #4 seed, so look for them to feel like they have something to prove. They WILL beat Washington with their #1 seed. Besides, Pitino can really coach and that Garcia kid is hot. Syracuse WILL take out Duke in the sweet sixteen. Yes Mara, you heard it hear first! Look at UAB, Nevada, UTEP, to be some of your scarier lower seeds. Also check out Florida, Alabama, Gonzaga as your other "sleepers" who can kill folks.


BJ Ward's "Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands", is a wonderful collection. I'm not yet done with it, but if you run into it (or any of his other books for that matter) pick it up. He featured for us on Monday and his work was wonderful.

Meanwhile, I began Patricia Smith's Cave Canem workshop last night and already i'm excited as hell, even though she did ask us to write a stanza for every five years of my life and it scared the bejeezus out of me. Get behind your TVs tonight folks. March Madness is here. Git 'r done!!

Monday, March 14, 2005

March 14, 2005 - 11:09AM

So before i head off to the gym, this is what's going on. I've much better becasue i've slept really hard this weekend, so i'm in a really good mood. Provided we can keep up this whole sleeping thing, the next week will be just fine.

But the NCAA tournament begins tonight and these are a coupla things for y'all to look for.
1. Notre Dame got gipped by not getting into the tournament.
2. Pittsburgh is going to get a lot further than a lot of folks think
3. J.J. Redick of Duke is a phenomenal shooter and his overall game has improved greatly this year (he can actually drive the basket now) but i'm a little tired of how much they always look for a really all-American looking boy (usually white, often from Duke) in college ball and blow him up way more than is necessary. Besides for my money, Salim Stoudamire is as good a shooter (maybe better), better in the clutch and has more all-around game.
4. Whether or not North Carolina (tarheels) win, they'll continue the tradition of sending the most and best NBA-ready players to the next level. Dean Smith was brilliant at preparing kids for the NBA, preparing them so that they always performed better than others thought they would at the next level - see: Jordan, Worthy, Perkins, Scott Williams etc etc etc. Roy Williams (UNC's current coach) is a Dean Smith disciple and even when he was a coach at Kansas, he prepared students well for the NBA
5. Warrick of Syracuse will do well in the NBA if/when he develops a more consistent outside shot.
6. Your final four will be Illinois, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Syracuse. You heard it here first.
Meanwhile, i'm almost done with Beloved. It is a fascinating critique of this country's history and the way in which we have developed a pathology of depravity that is a result of the way in which oppression has worked in this country; and oppression of the most heinous kinds, up until very recently. Fact is, the depravity that results infects both the oppressed AND the oppressor and where that leaves us all spiritually is a very very difficultly hopeless place. Still, the opportunity for salvation lies in the pockets of the moments of our day to day lives and sometimes all that is, is an ability to feel human for a bit. Sometimes that ability can come only out of the mouth of a bottle, or in violence, but isn't all self-flagellation no matter how ritual or non-ritual, a kind of search for salvation?

that's where i am right now with this book. i'm about to read meg kearney's collection (i read with her on friday in new jersey ans she's awesome. In a day or two i'll be able to tell you in more depth why i like her work. I also got to meet Suji Kwock Kim whose "Notes from a Divided Country" i stole from Salome a while back and really enjoyed. BJ Ward's work was also phenomenal (and he's featuring for us tonight) and Joe Weil and Phebus Etienne also read really enjoyable work. I'll have more in-depth analysis on all of their work or we'll be bringing them to readings near you in a minute...

off to run a bit.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

4:35AM - March 10th 2005

Freakin insomnia!!!!!!!!

anyway the sound of the radiator is comforting in a 75 Impala fallen into disrepair sort of way. life isn't bad, but there are weird dark patches on my face because of the eratic sleep. it'll get better. meanwhile i have to steal moments of sleep in the middle of the day to make up.

christina marie: i don't yet know when or even if, they'll air me on Def Poetry Jam. They don't air everyone who taped, so we just kinda wait around and find out a coupla days before the season begins. the second time, i wasn't even told. i just heard one day that i was on.

i'm reading toni morrison's "beloved". christa bell from seattle sent it to me in the mail. she wins! the book is freakin' me out and fuckin' up my chi though.

off to search the cupboards for camomile tea. that outta at least send me on my way...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Saturday March 5, 2005 – 3:20AM

Alright, here we are with the not sleeping again. Tonight I blame Salome for drunk dialing me at 2 J

But I owe you a story so… I’m in Milwaukee last weekend, you know, just chillin’ because I had a bunch of gigs in Joliet Illinois with Mark Eleveld (it was a great time at Joliet West High School and the Chicago Bar and Grill – more on that later). So it’s 2AM and Bianca and I decide to get Benadryl (because she has a cat and I’m allergic) and some food. We drive twenty feet exactly before it’s obvious the left front tire is flat. Of course it’s 20 freakin’ degrees outside, but we pull aside (much as we can) and I get to the task of tire-changing. I’ve got to the part where I’m removing the lug nuts, when a woman comes by walking a huge Chow dog. Two young, white, obviously just out the club and drunk guys come by going in the opposite direction. One dude says semi-slurrlingly “that’s a big dog you got there…”. The woman responds, “and you’re two big drunk assholes!!” The conversation does not take it’s time degenerating. Like a flash flood; one minute the sun is shining, the next you’re up to your next in sewage water, the exchange goes iMMEDiately south. One guy says “Just a minute there, lemme pee on your dog” and motions like he’s about to unsheath his dick for said pissing. The woman wheels, charges at the men and says “you’re gonna pee on my dog asshole??!! I’’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!!”.

I’m flabbergasted already and this thing is developing in front of me like a bad nightmare. I’m envisioning the two frat boy like dudes beating the shit out of the drunk woman and her dog (one of the guys is well over six foot, big and also drunk). This second guy, the big one, has meanwhile started mocking the woman in that children’s sing-song tone “Crack whore, crack whore…”. I run over there (with tire-iron in hand, because I’ma be sure they don’t whup MY ass either).

so, I’m getting between the woman and the guys. the woman is trying to throw punches over my shoulder. I’m saying “Ma’am, ma’am, let’s go, leave it alone, it’s not worth it. take your dog and go home” Over my shoulder… “crack whore, crack whore…”.

After about three minutes of that, the woman seems to notice for the first time that I’m in her way and wheels on me “leave me alone!! leave me alone!! leave me alone fucker!!” Not needing to be told twice and because she is trying to dial 911 and throw punches at the same time, and I wont be the idiot who when the police shows up is the black man menacing a white woman with a tire iron, so I say “Very well Ma’am, take your as-whupping on your own time.” The fiasco is not yet over, however. The men are trying to leave but she follows them across the street, takes a step back and tries to drop-kick one of the dudes! She misses of course; and falls on her ass in the snow. THEY PICK HER UP! She tries again with a roundhouse kick, whereupon the mean just get in their car and leave…


I swear, Joliet was a great experience though. I opened for Russell Rickford, author of the Biography of Betty Shabazz. He read from the book for the high-school students and spoke extremely well about the significance of her life, and her own legacy separate from her husband Malcolm X’s. You should all get it. Mr. Rickford is doing his Phd at Columbia and is very very very smart and has a brilliant understanding I think, of the history of the civil rights movement (amongst other things). It was a great time.

So now I’m in Ithaca, New York. I’m hosting some sort of slam thing here later. I’m reading Lorna Goodison’s ‘Controlling the Silver”. Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican heavy-hitter poet, in the talent bracket of your Walcotts and Braithwaites. I’m doing the review for Black Issues Review and so far the collection is really really good. I should have some more definitive report in a coupla days.

Sunday March 6, 2005 – 2:10PM

Yesterday’s work went well. I was required only to host the slams for the day – two preliminaries, the first of which featured teams from Monroe Community College and SUNY at Oneonta (Oneonta Won), the second of which featured teams from SUNY at Binghamton, SUNY at New Paltz and Niagara College. Three teams made it to the finals at 7PM; Oneonta, New Paltz and Binghamton. The slams were of a fairly high quality. The kids are well versed on the “game” - though a little too well versed if you ask me; but that’s another story – and there were a handful of poems that I thought were actually really good and showed exceptional promise. My evening was only just beginning though, once the slam was done. I couldn’t find anyone (student or administrator) to agree to go out with me for a beverage, so I made my own inquiries and set out. it was only nine by the time the slam was done, and while it would have done me well to go back to the guest suite and get work done and ten hours sleep, I thought better of such a foolish plan of action. I went to The Chapter House, which gave me the chance to try out a number of micro brews I hadn’t before, including one called Arrogant Bastard Ale (save your comments), an intense 7.5 percent hoppy ale that I had to wash down with a Harp Lager. But it was the band that was the joint, ladies and gentlemen. I figured that in as much as I’d actually allowed the bar to fleece me out of a cover charge of $5 (after all we do that to guests every Monday), I’d actually pay attention to the band that was striking up in the back room, after my third pint. Felice Rosser is genius as far as I’m concerned. I’d seen this mid-30s to mid 40s tall black woman in the bar earlier and I thought she looked somewhat out of place in the surroundings. On stage though, her bass guitar licks were pure grace, drumbeat, magic – her voice; think Michelle N’dege is she smoked a few more cigarettes, the band’s sound some sort of rock/reggae fusion. the only other musicians were a genius Japanese cat on electric guitar and a very very very good drummer. I was really glad I went and got me a copy of their cd. Faith (the cover of which is a shot from the Metropolitan Street station on the G Train, so I’m guessing she’s New York based. Go to and check her shit out. I guarantee satisfaction.

So now I’m on the bus on my way back and for the first time in years I get myself stuck on a full bus for five hours. When I say full, every seat is occupied AND my seat refuses to recline. I refuse to look at the scooby-doo movie they’re showing, but I bought a copy of Chinua Achebe’s collected poems and Kevin Young’s Jelly Roll, so I should have some good material with which to pass the time. Outside my window it is miles and miles of snow covered pasture, so there’s no relief out there…


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

March 2, 2005 - 2:35PM

So i don't have much time to get into this, but it's hilarious! i'm blogging at the laundromat. i have so many stories to tell. there is the one about me and Bianca in Milwaukee at 2:30AM. the story involves me, a tire-iron, two drunk frat boys and a woman with a dog... it's great. there is another story to tell that involves having had the same cab driver twice in three years, and recognizing him becaused he complained about his girlfriend (who happens to be Trinidadian) again!!

Karimi - dude! i have a new phone that doesn't have my old numbers in it, so forgive me. i'm gonna be in town again in may!! i swear we hangin' don't give me that cave canem shit! :-)