Friday, April 18, 2014

#10 for National Poetry Month - one turn around the sun by Tim Seibles recorded by Roger Bonair-Agard

Long Poem by Tim Seibles recorded by Roger Bonair-Agard w/ cameos by Nina Jane Merrill Bonair-Agard
To be perfectly transparent, Tim Seibles is a mentor of mine.  I love his work.  I love the conversation of it partly because - and this is why sometimes we choose the mentors we do - i like to believe that something of that conversation appears in my own work.  Seibles’ work with a long poem is particularly deft.  I imagine that his ability to concentrate an intensity of purpose, language and passion in a line, a word and phrase; and then sustain it for - in this case eighteen and a half minutes; is mine.  I want it to be mine so desperately, because his poems are at once so perfectly personal and political at the same damn time that you’re left marveling at the poem’s ability to achieve that AND not implode at the same time, like what you imagine might happen if you time-travelled and came into contact with yourself.  All of us hoping we’re writing poems that deconstruct and explain our world(s) in a way that souls might be able to read/parse and here’s Seibles writing the soul so that the universe might parse it.
Look, you have to find the 20 minutes in your day, your night right now to listen to this poem.  So many times we’re moved to wish we could get back some time we just spend watching, listening to, doing some inane thing.  We get to experience so little that we’d willingly give the universe back 20minutes in gratitude for.  This might be one such block of time.  Listen to this poem and then go love your girl or your boy or your child or your own lonely skin harder.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

#9 for National Poetry Month - claim - for the ocean by Roger Bonair-Agard

a recorded poem of my own for #9. claim - for the ocean, which appeared in the journal Drunken Boat earlier this year.

get it.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#8 for National Poetry Month - On Hiking the Smoky Mountains - First Draft

On Hiking the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

 I keep thinking about the Cherokee
on their land some 40 odd miles away –
the word reservation – as in something reserved
for.  I keep thinking about this
land that is no-one’s and for which so many
have deeds – pieces of paper marked and stamped
with the state’s seal – a proclamation that makes
it so.  And so of course I think
of my own black skin   in this South
in these mountains – the place of the Blue
Smoke the Cherokee called it – and how
on edge I am in it   such that I’ve a knife
dangling from my waist  a hunting knife
inscribed with a stamp that says something
of the Chippewa nation.  To be sure
I have never cut a man   but there have
been bottles broken   pockets full of rocks    
a baseball bat all meant towards grave
harm and thank God it never has quite come
to that.  But here again these good folk look
through me as though their being here has nothing
to do with my being here – carefully cataloging
the trillium and the showy orchids and the violets
and the hemlock and the deer and the blue heron
and the black bear – all of which the Cherokee
had names and stories for long before these good
folk had deeds.  I keep thinking about how
it’s a good bet none of these Cherokee come
here to hike – to walk for the sake of walking
this land which they once felt free to walk.
I’m thinking again   of course   about
the girl with us     my best made thing
and what I want to teach her about land
and people and respect and how maybe
the only way to do it is to take her down
to the reservation and sit in a bar there and tell
stories – the ones I was told about land
and hope that there we each hear a more
familiar song – something of smoke
and gods and nations – something to make
us feel free in our skins without all the sharp
edges we think we need to get by.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#7 for National Poetry Month - Roger records Negores with Guns by Nikki Finney

Nikki Finney’s work (and her mentorship) has been re-casting my sensibility of my own voice for many years now.  Her poems stay steeped in personal and public history in a way that won’t let us forget that the one cannot actually relinquish the other.
This poem, to my reading, epitomizes and essentializes this work of Finney’s.  It is sublime, her ‘map’ of the American South here.  She has always been particularly skilled at this specific portraiture and its nuances of love and hostility, but here the artist’s brushstrokes have become even finer, more exact.  I chose to record this poem in part because of the brilliant sonic evocation of the repetition - how among other things, she echoes gunfire’s retort while holding the entire scene in the well cared for and familial love of these black folk, teaching their daughter to survive in the only way they know how.
If one can achieve the duende in the word before the word is actually uttered, then it is achieved here - the soaring, the lifting, the contracting with writer and reader to be transported into new understandings of love and fight and black people.  I hope you dig it.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

#6 for National Poetry Month - first draft offering - On Nina's climbing stairs

On Nina’s climbing stairs

The little one is climbing
stairs. Today   for the first time
I call her strong girl    I call
her young homie    I do not
call her pretty   or even
beautiful          I call
to her from imagined conversations
in our future     In these reasonings
she is saving me   again.  She is
refusing to let me be
anything but my best strongest unkillable
self.      The young homie’s gaze
doesn’t waver     she questions
me with the resolve of a prosecutor
She will hold me guilty for anything less
than refusing to die      every day
she comes to the well with me.
She bids me      drink father   live
The little one is climbing stairs
today               for the first

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Friday, April 11, 2014

#5 for National Poetry Month - Interview with Patrick Rosal

Patrick Rosal is a Filipino-American writer, author of 3 collections of poems and Assistant Professor of creative writing at Rutgers-Camden.  He is also a dear friend and I credit him with much of the study in conversation that has coalesced for me into a poetics.  When i first heard Patrick read poems at our LouderARTS Project in NYC circa 2003, i was ecstatic and dismayed.  Here were brilliant poems by someone whose poetic project as it were, was very similar to mine - except he was so much better.
In this interview, i get to sit with Patrick and share with you a tiny corner of the kinds of conversations we’ve had throughout the year.  It’s 30 minutes long.  Get your headphones in and settle in.  There’ll be more of these interviews to come.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 4 - Two Bottles of Rum and The Roaring Lion (recording) National Poetry Month

For the fourth day i feature a piece of my own from the collection Bury My Clothes.  This bit of narcissism comes via  the Society of Midland Authors which today awarded Bury My Clothes their prize for poetry.
Bury My Clothes, like my collection before it Gully, takes some calculated risks.  In BMC, this includes the bookending of the collection with these two long pieces which are more memoir than poem, more short-story than aspiring to verse.  In the end, i think this is among the collection’s features that perhaps make it interesting, or at least curious to a reader more accustomed to traditionally built collections of poetry.
Moreover, this piece, the one that begins the book is attempting to establish a sort of platform, one from which the writer (and perhaps the reader) builds an understanding of the cultural landscape which informs the collection’s ‘thesis’ - that is, that violence is an essential ingredient in the development and evolution of African diasporic art, and therefore in the spirit of the individual diasporic African.

At any rate, have at this.  Feel free to go after discussion in the comments or ask questions.  It’s National Poetry Month after all.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Apr 3 - third entry for National Poetry Month - Ocean Vuong's 'Homewrecker' as recorded by me

Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese American poet who spent his teenage years in Hartford, CT.  He is, even as a man still in mis mid-twenties, preternaturally wise.  If my grandfather were gay and Asian, he’d be Ocean Vuong.  His poems are amongst other things, patient, and always willing to step off the ledge with complete confidence that the air will hold them. Get down with this poem. Seek out his book.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

April 2 - 2nd entry for National Poetry Month - a note on the prose of Louise Erdrich and her poem Orozco's Christ, as recorded by me

“…When the birds descended, both Indians and whites set up great bonfires and tried driving them into nets.  The doves ate the wheat seedlings and the rye and started on the corn.  They ate the sprouts of new flowers and the buds of apples and the tough leaves of oak trees and even last uear’s chaff. The doves were plump, and delicious smoked, but one could wring the necks of hundreds or thousands and effect no visible diminishment of their number.  The pole-and-mud houses of the mixed-bloods and the bark huts of the blanket Indians were crushed by the weight of the birds.  They were roasted, burnt, baked up in pies, stewed, salted down in barrels, or clubbed dead with sticks and left to rot.  But the dead only fed the living and each morning when the people woke it was to the scraping and beating of wings, the murmurous susurration, the awful cooing babble, and the sight, to those who still possessed intact windows, of the curious and gentle faces of those creatures.”

This is the second paragraph of Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, a marvelous and amazing epic storyteller’s story of a novel.  I first read her in college and it took me a while to recognize the absolute poetry of her prose, and the ambitious rolling scope of her storytelling which in fact is the storytelling of all our elders, and what wonderful books we might all write if we listened carefully and faithfully as Erdrich, mimicked their tongues.

Go read everything by her.  Meanwhile here I go reading her poem Orozco’s Christ from the collection Baptism of Desire, aloud.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email