Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wednesday April 27th, 2005 - 4:54AM

So the pattern seems to be now that after class on a Tuesday night, these Cave Canem clowns all conspire to make me drink. Thgis time we were at Gatsby's discussing everything from the sorry state of the majority of the poetry to be heard at the National Poetry Slam to how many songs folks have actually been able to fit on their iPODs. This class continues to be really good for me as the exercises are giving me more and more new poems. The latest one i'm working with is one in which we write the poem of our death beds. I couldn't find an in into the poem until i walked out the house this afternoon and there was a van parked utside the florist's down the block. The back door was open and a man was loading funeral wreaths into it, but the most festive meringue was blaring from the back and i figured this was my in, so we'll see. i should have a first draft by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, i'm gearing up for Masquerade again. We're talking July here folks and i can't figure out for sure how to make it better than the last time, but of course part of my ego-trip/personal drama is that i feel it has to be better than the last time or it's a failure. So i'm going back to the writing and hopefully i can show something at east a shade better than we saw last time.

It'll also be interesting doing it in the peak of summer as opposed to fall and winter. It's about to be on... like socks..

By the way, i just got done reading Martin Espada's "A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen" and it is as expected - phenomenal. Get it. I'm also still reading "Pathologies of Power" and what it exposes about U.S. policies vis a vis foreign countries and regimes that are dictatorships in other places is horrific and is the kind of thing that should be the focus of 60minutes and 20/20 features, because U.S. policy actively promotes poverty and death and poor health care in other countries in order to keep particular regimes in power and to further America's own profit and political motives. What we're not allowed to know about Haiti and Cuba and Nicaragua and Russia would make many of us cry to know that our tax dollars have contributed to this. If you are a student of global politics and care at all about understanding the truth about how power works (or doesn't) for poor people in the world go get Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power".

Okay. I'm done preaching, but this book hurts.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

Saturday April 23, 2005 2:20PM

So this is my poem of last week. It is written after e.e. cummings' "In-just". Do with it what y'all will and feel free to have comments...

(after e.e.cummings)

and the balls dance
out on the asphalt courts

baggy shorts oversized white tees
and JamaalandTyrone
swagger in
and the chains
trash talk and more bouncing echoes

and the blueandwhite cruiser comes by slowly

and the girls fix their hair
corn rows to afro puffs
and short jeans skirts
white tenis
and YvetteandTasha walk slowly
by the ricochet of
bouncing balls
boys taking it to the hole
and the blueandwhite cruiser
sirens once


and the boys freeze
slow their games
smooth guile of a stroll
spring and 5-O
flashes lights again
and EddieandKahil watch
from inside the chain-link court

Spring and
dogwood blossoms
dust the green-painted asphalt
and fifty boys bolt
in fifty directions

and 5-O chooses
a pair of fifteen-year olds
to chase
spring and their guns are drawn
spring and the flat report
rings into the Sunday afternoon
of a store-front church
sweet chariots coming
and their lights are flashing
and there are mothers wailing
the makeshift altars’ flowers
on the hot asphalt court will
fade by summer
and a ball rolls slowly to the street
and somewhere in the city
there is a quick siren
and boys are running everywhere


Meanwhile, I've been watching the NFL Draft. I can't believe that USC's Mike Williams dropped as far as tenth. I can't believe that folks actually thought that Braylon Edwards was a better option at wide receiver. Mark my words. Mike Williams is going to tear up the NFL if Joey Harrington at Detroit ever figures out how to throw straight. Other than that, it's clear i'm way too much of a geek to be sitting here watching folks pick other folks.

Thursday evening, i got to hang out with Martin Espada. Yes, I'm boasting. It was really cool to hang out with someone who is an idol of mine (not to mention the opportunity to sit at the table with he and Mark Doty at the Brooklyn Public Library during his reading there). Got to hang out also with Jack Aguerros; and it's amazing to hang out with older heads who've already forgotten more than you know; and are willing to share it without being obnoxious. Not to mention the poetry was amazingly good. I also went to the Canadian poets reading in lower Manhattan the other day hoping and expecting to hear Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. I didn't, but i was struck (again) by the absolute intent of some poets to read their work in the most boring fashion ever. While i do not need histrionics, i feel i'm within my right to request voice-modulation from time to time, expression or even a little passion. Many of our so-called academic poets read perfectly well and are very very compelling without having to "perform" per se - Sharon Olds, Mark Doty, Martin Espada, Tony Hoagland, Marie Howe (to name a few).

Anyway, San Diego is on the clock with the 12th pick; the one they got from the Giants last year (along with Philip Rivers)in exchange for Eli Manning. Oooops... there goes Merril Hoge talking shit again about Mike Williams not being a dominant player. I have to go scream at the TV now...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tuesday April 19, 2005 - 5:41AM

Last night's semi-final poetry slam was fun - weird, but fun. This was the first time for a long time i didn't care whether or not i won. i wanted to win, but i felt really really comfortable and unpressured the whole time and it allowed me to actually enjoy the poetry. For the first time, i decided well in advance what i was going to do in each round, and stuck to that. i didn't worry about strategizing or wondering about what other people might do (i never do that anyway).

Anyhow, i came in tied for second with Rachel. Carlos Gomez won. That however was all incidental to the fact that Bekah Dinerstein featured. Bekah is an Urban Word student (still only 18 or 19 i think) and already a fabulous poet. For my money she is a poetry prodigy, and her work was gorgeous. Further, Bekah is at one and the same time, completely without ego and strangely self-assured. Her work is not yet in print anywhere, but keep looking and you'll see it soon enough.

I spent much of the day fascinated by international curling and kick boxing rotating on ESPN2. The precision of curling and the sweping of the ice to speed up (or slow down) and guide the stone, make for riveting drama. I found the kick boxing particularly interesting because it seemed so much more without the nastiness that seems to be prevalent in professional boxing. Of course, folks are getting their heads kicked in (that's kinda the point), but there seemd among the fighters a kind of camaraderie; an understanding of one another even in the ring that appears largely absent in professional boxing.

Thursday coming, i get to hang out with martin espada. that's likely the next time anyone hears from me. i have lots of writing to do for my Patricia Smith Cave Canem workshop tomorrow and i actually have some poems brewing in my head...

Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18th, 2005 - 6:30AM

Again with the insomnia. i've been awake for an hour and a half now. i even got to see the last half hour or so of Rosemarie's Baby. Today is going to be the semi-final slam at Bar 13. I feel not as prepared as i would like to be but i'll say this right now. i'm doing "trent lott" in the fourth round so that i don't have it to use for finals, should i reach the finals.

okay, so i know many of you have no idea what i'm talking about, but i get to say styff like that cuz i'm awake and woozy.

still, i'm excited about the upcoming possibilities for a team coming out of our venue. we will probably have two brand new poets on our team (brand new to our team - not to slam necessarily or to poetry) and that's very exciting, because they're also good poets. the National Poetry Slam voted at it's recent slam masters' meeting to offer a prize of $500 in the prelims, not for the winning individual or team but to the poem that took the most risk. the prize apparently is for the best written poem that dares try win a slam. i've been one of the voices bemoaning the lack of quality writing on the national slam level and the braintrust's obsessions with competition rules instead of actual poems. well, tony brown of worcester put his money where my mouth was and actually donated the money towards this prize, i understand. this is the best thing i think to have happened to the national poetry slam since patricia smith, and i personally thank him for it.

Also, as of yesterday VIA's rehearsals began again. stay tuned. we're at the whitney on may 18th, so it'll be interesting at least. i feel like i'm not doing quite as much reading of poetry as i'd like these days, so i'm going to go buckle down to some this week (if i can find the time anywhere).

i'm gone; maybe to find some sleep.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Saturday April 9, 2005 - 3:12PM

The weather is gorgeous and i got on my bike today in shorts and came over here to the International Center for Tolerance in Education, where i have shared office space to work on some writing and performing.

The sun is streaming in through the window, and this office in DUMBO, is right on the edge of the river, and in the river-park folks are soaking up the sun and for a moment all is right with the world.

Thanks to the commenter on my blog who showed love. In the past coupla weeks, much has happened. I'm working too much (a good thing) to blog consistently and at louderARTS, we had what might arguably be the best anniversary show to date. From Patrick Rosal's stellar feature to Patricia Smith's standing ovation performance, to louderARTISTS who all did the thing and did it right, i was really proud to be there; multiple shots of tequila and straight vodkas notwithstanding.

Patricia Smith's class has been really good for me, so i'll take this opportunity to post one of the things i've written in the class so far. It's based on some photos of black folk circa 1870-1880, that Patricia gave to us. i got one of this late adolescent girl. we're writing persona poems so this is my first offering...

called: Eurydice

I do not come when called
Mostly I materialize

Dark as a kiss
incarnate again
and again
sometimes twice in one life
now mother
now the burnt sugar sweet
of a wide-eyed wide-hipped
too-young lover

now concubine
now priest

I do not come
I am called
when the wayward rib
needs me

America is a dark continent
1878 exploding
all over my black behind

When I am called
I arrive black bitch
whore hard-ass
when I am called
I run fugitive
slave-codes Reconstruction
I’ve incarnated into the open
rotted mouths of my own lovers
just to know like they know

I dance in the clearing
I laugh too loud
I give benediction
I show off my knickers
and smell like funk
like ragtime
like fiddle and bucket-bass
I walk the long road North
I come when called
I ghost
I materialize
I moan
I dark continent
I incarnate
then come

I high lace collar
I don’t shuck and jive
I survive
I nigger I black
I fuck massa in the barn
I serve tea in the big house
I collect Oscar and whipped back
I exposed super-bowl nipple
I Hottentot
I dark continent
don’t tell me ‘bout Africa
no more

Amos and Andy are coming
Toni Morrison is coming
Michael Jackson and Tito Puente are coming
Tuskegee and Kent State are coming
Muhammed Ali is coming
Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza

I incarnate I birth pain
I know the bird
of my next life
fuck for love
for power
I traitor conscience

as usual, feel free to offer criticism, comment or contumely. one love people. go out and enjoy the sun.