Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘patricia spears jones’ Category

By Patricia Spears Jones

Wow, this is my last post for the basin blog of The Tidal Basin Review and I want to thank Randall, Melanie and everybody else for welcoming my words.  I also salute Ms. Henderson for the recent recognition of her work. DC continues to be a place for poets to grow and innovate.  Also salute to Busboys and Poets, now famously chastised for that Flat Langston cutout.  Also shout out to Derrick Brown who I read with at a Sunday Kind of Love event in December of 2006.  Regie Cabico, my main Filipino organized it.  And yes here is a ridiculous picture of us sitting at one of those booths and we were tired, not drunk taken by my good friend and fellow poet, Serena Fox.

April is National Poetry Month or Cruel to Poets Month because professional poets are busy reading, hawking new books, trying to get a better gig or stay in the one they have and judging contests everywhere.  It’s exhilarating and exhausting.  You will get to see and hear somebody really interesting wherever you are in this country even in places where the Tea Party roam—they tried to close down the Cowboy Poets! From March 30 when I heard Maureen Owen at the Poetry Project to this Monday when I saw Jessica Hagedorn (reading from her new novel, Toxicology) at a bookstore in Brooklyn, I have heard some great readings this spring. Ron Padgett and Elaine Equi, Samantha Thornhill at the book launch for the wonderful Mervyn Taylor who also gave a spirited reading from his new and older collections; David Rivard and Thomas Sayers Ellis at the BPL.  Plus I got to hear Edward P. Jones at a benefit for Kweli Journal in The New York Times fancy newish building. If you have not read The Known World, well you’ve missed an extraordinary novel of morals and manners that explores slavery in a truly novel way. Plus, he’s from D.C.

The past 30-40 years has seen an extraordinary outpouring of poetry in this nation.  In a way the special poetry section in O Magazine responds to that growth.  I want redo the already mashed over criticism, just want to say that it seems the editors aimed to introduce a broad readership to living poets and to some of the ways in which readers deal with poetry. The interview with Mary Oliver shows us an interesting woman, but I doubt if I ever really will read her poems.  On the other hand, the interview with W. S. Merwin is very important. He is not a very public poet, but has taken on the Poet Laureate position in part to continue to advocate for the natural world a more holistic look at the environment and nature, two words he does not like to use.  As he points out “Anything we do to the rest of the world we’re doing to ourselves.”

You know I had not read an O Magazine from beginning to end before this one and it struck me that it is a 21st century version of mass market journals of my youth:  Good Housekeeping, Redbook, McCall’s and Ebony.  There are recipes and budget tips, inspirational stories, clever but too dynamic fashion spreads and Ms. Winfrey representing the height of African American aspiration.  So I guess I should not have expected a more exciting fashion feature with the “emerging poets.”  But hey I think poets, fashion –poets in couture; let the fantasy drums beat.  Alas they were silent.  And why only women poets?  I saw that picture of Terrance Hayes in the New York Times Men’s Fashion Issue. Now the fantasy drums were beating there.  Poets may not be trendy, but we are surely stylish—think Patti Smith or Ntozake Shange. I wish more of that stylishness was used.  But I salute these women for working in front of the camera.

If anything, I found the 20 essential poetry collections too narrowly cast.  Not that anything was wrong, but where were poets whose books have more bite, humor, daring?  Kay Ryan over Lucille Clifton?  I say Clifton’s Blessing the Boats or Good Woman. No Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, but Frank O’Hara.  You can’t have O’Hara and not include Baraka or Allen Ginsberg for that measure. Where’s W. H. Auden, heck they used his poem in Four Weddings and a Funeral.  And finally where are the sonnets of William Shakespeare?  We are talking about poetry in English (mostly). A very oddly shaped list indeed. And I know that everyone reading that list had some serious substitutions.

But then again, O Magazine’s take on poetry is that it helps you.  It inspires you.  It gets you through the fact that you lost your woman, your man, your good health or all your money to Bernie Madoff!  That’s fine. That’s good.  But sometimes poetry ought to scare the fuck out of you.  Sometimes it ought to seduce you—think of the wonderful film, Il Postino where the postman uses Neruda’s poems to court his future wife.  Sometimes poems should confuse you or amplify your curiosity or make you laugh out loud.  Or poems should tell you something about the culture; about humanity in the macro.  For instance, I return to Christopher Logue’s “translations” of The Iliad –the two books I have are The Husbands and War Music–in which he explores the abuse of power and how the Gods play with humanity—our bodies are simply toys for their boredom, jealously, and rage. And of course the Gods in The Iliad are all too human in their characteristics.  Moreover, I read Neruda and June Jordan and Adrienne Rich and listen to Sekou Sundiata for poems that speak to these larger themes.

We are living in precarious times full of promise for some, peril and despair for many.  Poetry may act as a salve and that can be wonderful, but it ought to break us out of our comfort zones whether psychic, emotional or social. And while many poets are ruthless in their ambition these days, few are fearless. But poetry has to evolve, innovate, create out of the language of these times or lead the language in some way.  That can’t be done by always watching what you’re saying and who is listening. I know I am not young and eager—am now late middle-aged and eager. And so maybe these words will seem trivial to some.  I hope not. Without fearlessness, poets become very conservative in their making and may find themselves creating work that is the literary equivalent of warm milk.  As a poet and reader, I prefer stronger stuff by the innovators, the crazy makers (heck I didn’t even mention Bob Kaufman for that list because who am I kidding?).  It does not make for an easy life, that is for sure, but it can make for some great poetry.

Oh and last but not least, a bit of shameless promotion:

Saludos and welcome to next blogger. I know the words will ring through.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

By Patricia Spears Jones

 

In the early 70s, when I came to New York Cityin the early seventies, I loved the song “you got to have friends” sung by the incomparable Bette Midler.  I once met the songwriter at a loft party downtown—he was burly and funny and not at all like what I thought a songwriter should look like.  But then, what did I know.  I came from a small town in Arkansas and while there were musicians and artists and possibly poets there, no one claimed those titles.  Coming to NYC was my journey to Oz for me and of course I found friends to join me in my adventures on these sidewalks of.  But it is that coming from Arkansasthat fascinates—I would tell people I was from Arkansas and they would blink and say “you’re the first person I’ve met from Arkansas”.  Was I an alien from the strange planet, Arkansas?  And when they found out I was a poet, they would ask me I knew Maya Angelou who was like 30 plus years older than me—No, never met Ms. Angelou, but I do like Why The Caged Bird Sings

 

Poets from Arkansas are few and far between.  Frank Stanford is the misunderstood genius.  Ms. Angelou, the inspirational standard bearer.  C. D. Wright, a few years older than me is part of the establishment-major awards, teaches at Brown.  And then there’s Henry Dumas, long dead, still admired.  He was from Sweet Home and I have no idea where that is.  But in his very short life he produced poetry and fiction.  And here is where the friend thing comes in.  We know his work; we have his work because of Eugene Redmond.  Play Ebony Play Ivory published in both hard cover and paperback in 1974, a few years after his untimely death at the hands of NYC policemen.  I inscribed my hardcover volume thus: Second copy, first copy lent out and never returned, 1978.  

Redmond and other admirers of Dumas’ work including Jay Wright who wrote the introduction for the collection were able to keep alive a talented poet who was already a star in the making in the Black Arts Movement, engaged in his study of African history, philosophy, etc. and enraged atAmerica’s slow pace of change like everyone Black and young and hungry for a future—a future denied him.  His most accomplished poem “Knees of a Natural Man” begins:

 

My ole man took me to thefultonfish market

we walk around in the guts and the scales

 

 

my ole man show me a dead fish, eyes like throat spit

he say “you hungry boy?’ i say “naw, not yet”

 

 

The education of the Negro is a delicate thing, he seems to be saying.  This isn’t about teaching somebody to fish–it’s about survival by hustle and not much has changed since the 1960s when this poem was written.  In Play Ebony Play Ivory, his poetic range is evident from lyrics to angry polemics to gutbucket blues songs.  Maybe it was hisArkansas roots that allowed his mind to roam so freely over so many things.  Mr. Redmond’s efforts allows us to see “what the new breed” was bringing in the 1960s. Dumas left the planet at age 33 or was it 34. His poems continue to play ebony, play ivory.

 
 

 

Earlier this year, Akilah Oliver, a wonderfully intellectual and adventurous woman and an amazing poet passed away unexpectedly.  She also left several chapbooks, performance tapes and a poetry volume A Toast in the House of Friends from Coffee House Press.  One of my favorite texts by her is from The Putterer’s Notebook (Belladonna Books):

The dream itself becomes commodity & how should I live, decomposing [as I am]&

Irretrievable, how should I live, dreaming like Jimi Hendrix in red suede, homesick, this body a

serial topography laughing drunkenly in grandmother’s robes,

in the looking glass,

Who reflects the dead?

Being a friend I have to do some praise work of poet friends. Giovanni Singleton and Julie Patton are Black Women poets who deserve much wider audiences. I met Giovanni at Squaw Valley in the early 1990s and she was on a very different literary path from all of us.  Like Harryette Mullen, Tonya Foster, Erica Hunt, Christopher Stackhouse, et al, she is fascinated by the process as well as the expressive qualities of making texts. She is the editor/publisher of nocturnes (re) view, an important and ambitious literary journal; I’ve not seen any new issues, but I am sure there are past editions still in print and worth the price.  Julie Patton is the trickster queen of poetry, working her art fueled, Afro centric magic in texts and songs and visual art that showcase a deep knowledge and love of Black people and the Black Arts Movement that made a place for us all.  She is the author of Using Blue to Get Black and Notes for Some (Nominally) Awake. We share a friendship with Sandra Payne, a wonderful NYC based artist who has made “movies” of our poems on her website, www.sandrapayne.com.

Picture of Julie Patton w headscarf and Tonya Foster, 2008 Tea photo by Janet Goldner

 

C. D. Wright sent me a copy of One With Others.  She explores Arkansas’ legacy of racism, corruption and brutality focusing on a march led by Suhkarah Yahweh then known as Sweet Willie Wine—a march against fear—that ended with mass arrest and horrific treatment of my townspeople in 1969.  Outside of the Little Rock Nine in 1957, very little of what happened in Arkansas during the Civil Rights era has made it into the popular consciousness.  Her book tells a very under told story, that of a few White folks who actually opened their eyes, their hearts and one who took the major step to join the Black folks in that march.  Of course, she was vilified and made her way to New York City where she made new friends and carried on her life.  Wright’s book is amazing and yes she thanks me and my family for our input.  Several of the poems in my first collection, The Weather That Kills talk about growing up in the Delta during that time and one major incident in which my neighbors were brutalized by the Klan. In that poem I talk about my “family’s ordinary courage.”  And it is and was the ordinary courage of Black folks in the Delta who made a way for me to be who I am.  It is good that Wright took up the gauntlet to seriously deal with race from her perspective and those of the townsfolk.  Many are still traumatized and yes the Klan operates there, albeit quietly..   

As a Black poet I have written about poems for weddings; Billie Holiday as a goddess figure : lust, love and loss; poems against violence and police brutality;  Jimi Hendrix (twice);  the Age of AIDs; walking the streets of Munich in 1989 and my favorite shade of lipstick.  All of these poems arrive via a prism of race, gender, nationality, geography.  I do not apologize for subjectivity. And I know that is because of the talent, energy and yes sacrifices of poets such as Henry Dumas and Lorenzo Thomas that I am able to be the poet that I am. Other Black poets may choose different paths to make their work.  Black poets should not have to carry the weight of race and racism in our work unless demanded by the poet.  There is no one size fits all version of Blackness or any other “ness.”   If there was, we’d be dull and dull people rarely have friends.

Read Full Post »

By Patricia Spears Jones

I am sitting in a local coffee shop, Common Ground on Tompkins Ave in Brooklyn, this Friday afternoon.  The sun tries to shine.  We are having a reluctant spring after a relentless winter.  Everything about 2011 is complicated, challenging, exhilarating and exhausting and Easter has not come.  We need relief.

I’ve been thinking about pranks, prankster and the need for clowns.  Earlier this year, a Cutout of Langston Hughes was swiped from BusBoys & Poets, a DC restaurant and cultural space.  It was done on behalf of Black poets in particular and poets in general to GET MORE RESPECT including dear Mr. Hughes.  So during AWP when like every other poet in America was in town, cardboard Langston was liberated.  A wonderful picture of those who secured Flat Langston was circulated on FB and both the prank and the picture brought a smile and occasioned this poem “Flat Langston (let my cutout go)” and the poems ends thusly:

What now for the poets alive surrounding my figure in white, what

will they do between now and the next controversy?  If I had a gift

It was to say that no matter what, the poet stands ready comic or tragic

To mock bite or embrace.

The problem with becoming part of the canon is that we assign certain ideas about poet and artists and their work and they are flattened by the reverence. Hughes was intensely ambitious and understood how to manipulate his image to market his poetry and enhance his including that silly busboy picture.  But is can also keep us from remembering the width and wit of his work –indeed one of his best book titles is Not Without Laughter.  But whether as a cardboard cutout or on that canonical pedestal, our best known writers are held to conventional shapes as if they are not allowed to mess up, mess around or scratch their asses.

I love comedy, comedians, and the comic.  People are always surprised that there is so much humor in my work.  But there’s a great deal of humor of the work of poets I really enjoy—you can’t get to wisdom without finding that point where pain gives way to understanding, headshaking and sometimes downright laughing.  Lorenzo Thomas, Charles Bernstein, Maureen Owen, Elaine Equi, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Pedro Pietri, Lydia Cortes, Ntozake Shange, Willie Perdomo, and Adrian Matjeka make work that erupts with serious fun. At least to me.

I grew up during a time when American comedy was vibrant and biting.  Mort Sahl, Mike Nichols & Elaine May, George Carlin, Bob Newhart, and Lily Tomlin on the White Side.  And Oh my stars— Bill Cosby, Dick Gregory, Godfrey Cambridge, Moms Mabley, Flip Wilson and glorious glorious  Richard Pryor on the Black Side. I saw many them by staying up way past my bedtime watching The Tonight Show—Johnny Carson was no slouch back then and Jack Parr’s shows on Friday Nights.

Thulani Davis, a great poet as well as novelist, journalist and librettist for the Opera X and I used to talk about how much we learned about the world from watching/listening to the comics working in the sixties.  If you want to see how certain psychological relationships are played out look at those Nichols/May skits—downright scary.  And Dick Gregory & Godfrey Cambridge were so damn erudite.  If you want someone to deflate the Ways of Racists White Folks–they could do it without cursing while wearing super sharp suits.  Now curse words were used in the “blue” albums made by Redd Foxx, et al.  These party albums were for ADULTS, thank you very much and were intensely scatological (from what little I got to hear). Moms Mabley was hilarious—“Don’t bring no old man” still reverberates in my brain. And I can see the cover art for Moms at the White House—perfect.  But Pryor trumped them all.  I am sure I saw his first ever appearance on The Tonight Show and besides laughing so hard I am sure folks in Marianna Arkansas heard me, he had to have been the skinniest grown man I’d ever seen.

Richard Pryor

Many comics working now are not as interesting-language is all about curse words and adolescent behavior.  Eddie Murphy in his early hungry for the world days and Chris Rock are terrific, but the one comic in the past few years that I really enjoyed was Bernie Mac.  Like Pryor he came from the Midwestand deeply understood the ways of Black folks and the other folks Black folks interact with. While Pryor’s demons were well known, Mac had a more straight arrow image (family man, working guy).  But in different ways, they worked hard to create a space for what are really moral tales told with gusto.  Pryor’s tale of his assault on his car is one way to say Kill the thing, not a person and it is one of the funniest monologues, ever.  And Mac’s stories of caring for and his frustrations with his extended family as crack cocaine and prison exploded the fragility his own home and  of African American families across this country says more about “responsibility” then these endless Right Wing and Religious admonitions targeted at “minorities.”  Well there are Black Folks (wealthy and otherwise) in every city, town and village in this nation taking care of someone connected by blood or circumstance.  Two Black men from the heart of this complex nation make me laugh when I see film clips and remember a line, a story or a shrug: as if to say, yes we really do this so we make that better day.

Read Full Post »

By Patricia Spears Jones

 

I’ve been slowly reading Gwendolyn Brooks’ Report from Part Two (Third World Press, 1966) because Ms. Brooks’ prose is slow.  She is always the teacher and much like the formidable women, I knew growing up—mothers, wives, teachers, choir directors, workers, and maids, shopkeepers— who took their time with the niceties and made rules for us to use and to break.  My first “tea” party was in kindergarten and we had to bring dolls and my doll was broken, lost, so I brought my tattered teddy bear.  We stood out of course.  This was my first taste of being just a tad unconventional.  Mrs. Stewart our teacher was really lovely.  She welcomed me and my bear as if there was not one problem in the world.  She defined HOSTESS for me.  And now whenever I get the chance to open my doors to friends and occasional strangers, I think of Mrs. Stewart. 

Indeed, I have hosted an annual tea which has been going on more or less since the early 90s for my women friends.  They come in all sizes, shapes, races, but all are poets, writers, and artists.  They bring good food, cheer and sometimes serious conversation to the party.  In 2001, when I lived in Prospect Heights, we were all shaking from 911.  I remember people talking about what had happened that year that was good.  The party helped us reclaim some of our pre-911 lives.  Another time, Helen Oji, a wonderful artist who works for Eileen Fisher and Sandra Payne, the artist and ex-Young Adult Librarian for the NYPL had both been in The New York Times.   We were thrilled. Sandra has taken poems by me and Julie Patton, who is a regular guest and made them into “movies” on her website, www.sandrapayne.com.   

Near the end of each fete,  I ask my guests to talk about what they’ve done as artists and what they look forward to and to sign my book.  It now serves as a record of these events and that means that I now know that some friends will not return. Akilah Oliver, the  brilliant poet and author of A Toast in the House of Friends (Coffee House) left us unexpectedly this past February and now I have her kind note in my guest book, but she will never taste whatever treats are brought to the festivities. 

Tea Party

 

Okay back to Mrs. Brooks.  She writes carefully, lovingly about growing up in this modest, yet happy home. But, I wonder.  No sibling rivalry?  No major tensions?  It could not have all been Paul Laurence Dunbar read after supper, ice cream as a special treat and do your homework or was it?  She says “My mother “brought up” my late brother Raymond and myself in the sunshine of certain rules” And then she list rules about cleanliness, dutifulness, self-respect, the honor of the family, work, and politeness to all. Those are the rules that grew out of the Protestant ethic—with a strong helping of Black Self-Determination.  My mother and neighbors had similar spoken and unspoken rules.  They are not so easy to faithfully follow as Mrs. Brooks points out when she talks about trying to always be polite even when such behavior unnerved people.  You can’t be polite to people who don’t know or don’t care about these rules. 

Gwendolyn Brooks

 

 Oh, but those rules to live by kept her sane while going through the amazing changes that took place in America during her lifetime. Many Chicago poets talk about how Mrs. Brooks would go to open mic or community readings and sign up just like everyone else and they were surprised.  But how else would she act?   She was raised to respect others and “WORK for what we use and enjoy.  To steal-the merest match or marble or licorice switch—unthinkable.”  She was not going to thieve anyone else’s light or time. And then again, when I met her, Grace Paley has a similar MO.  There are writers and artists who are gracious; who have bearing. Who walk this earth to show each of us how to act.  It is not easy to care that much.  To wait your turn when you know you’re the celebrated one.  But she did and others do.  That to me is wisdom.  It takes a life time to learn when and how to be generous.  I envy the Chicago poets who had her in their good graces for so many years.

I write this on the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis.  There’s been little about King in the media.  We have “moved on” to Libya; the  faux “Tea Party”; the noise of bad changes in the making—cut the little things that keep people healthy, help them gain employment; stay in their home; keep a business open—so that we can go on to the big things: break down and destroy Social Security; Medicare and Medicaid.  It is as if we need to be a Third World country so people can start fighting for stuff that’s already here. 

At the Schomburg, Jan. 29, 2009, Photo: Thomas Sayers Ellis

 

In Dr. King’s speech in Memphis, he urged the crowd to practice a “kind of dangerous unselfishness.”  In an era where the competition for the glittering prizes; the spotlight; the mic is so fierce, I cannot imagine anything more radical than King’s admonishment.  Like Gwendolyn Brooks’ respect for herself and her colleagues whether at university, church or poetry slam, that capacity to share is all but lost. But not always, not by me and not by so many who walk amongst us whispering “stand up straight.”. If you come to my party whether with grand items in hand or nothing but your own good name, you are welcome. Be my guest.

Read Full Post »

By Patricia Spears Jones

 

This year, Greg and Ginger Romero Pardlo gave me a great birthday present a cut out of the word FABULOUS and it rings a cane bottomed chair where sits a paper Mache doll from Mexico that Jessica Hagedorn gave me over 15 years ago.  I am a woman who grew up in one small town and traveled far to be who I want to be.  I poet.  I don’t sing except when no one is around and yes I love to wear the diamond studs that I bought for myself.   I am a woman who keeps friends, gifts, and secrets.  No secrets will be spilled here, but it is always good to look who matters and why in one’s own life to see what they brought you and what you may have given them.  Sometimes you get to tell them in person and sometimes you can only do it in print.  This chilly spring evening I am thinking of how and why I came to Brooklyn. I may be a poet w/ little coin, but that has never kept me fro living as well as I can. And the thing about Brooklyn, is it feels so much like Paris, a place I’d love to return to.  And I shall someday.

But I am in Brooklyn tonight and the first time I really was in this borough was to go to Park Slope to June Jordan’s apartment where she was rousing rabble against The American Poetry Review. Her apartment was high ceilinged, near Grand Army Plaza and it had all of things that I still aspire to:  bookshelves, huge fireplace; good solid furniture, painting, pictures every where and an air of adventures in poetry and art. My place is more stripped down, but it has some of that.

 

 

 

APR carried columns by her and Alice Walker, but (at that time) did not see fit to publish actual poems by either of these amazing women poets or any other Black, Latino (well maybe somebody from Chile or something) or Asian (Basho in translation?) or Native American (well I think dead Native Americans).  I exaggerate, but not by much.  And June was simply incensed that a journal called The American Poetry Review did not actually publish Americans of all colors and poetry stripes.  I was in my early 20s and I was now entering the world of Poetry Politics. 

June Jordan

 

So she gathered me and others to get young poets to send in their work.  Mine was not accepted, but my former Irish American boyfriend’s work was—oh well.  Men always get through the doors opened by activists.  Out of those evenings and others, Jordan made her way to a terrific essay “For the Sake of People’s Poetry: Walt Whitman and the Rest of Us” in which she declares:  I too am a descendent of Walt Whitman.  And I am not by myself struggling to tell the truth about this history of so much land and so much blood.” The essay opens her book Passion: New Poems 1977-1980 and also contains “Poem for South African Women” in which the last line is “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”

That line: “we are the ones we have been waiting for” was used by Obama the candidate many times during his 2008 campaign.  And variations show up in ads and such.  What strikes me is that a poem for a particular group of struggling dynamic women who were doing their best to UNDO apartheid became part of a campaign to undo a kind of racist conundrum (No Black can be President of the US).  The power of poetry is that it may inculcate itself in places that the poet can barely fathom.  But then, June had declared herself Whitman’s descendent.  And poets can be unintentional prophets.

June was the most political of poets and also the most lyrical.  Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press) should be in every poets library. I learned from her how to use in the lyric, plenty of politics, but I confess to not having the kind of mind that could create a great poem that is OVERTLY political.  There are few people who can.   A young poet on Facebook wrote me that he thought my poem, “Sly and the Family Stone:

Under the Bit Tit: Atlanta, 1973” in The Weather That Kills was a great political poem.  I think of it as one of m best early poems and yes it has plenty of politics in it.

I wrote that a few years after leaving the South where I was born, raised and schooled for New York City and the possibilities of trying to make of myself something.  What, I was not sure.  But music, art, and risk compose the vocabulary of my inner self.  I could not live without music of all sorts.  I am fascinated by how artists draw, paint, sculpt, and create whole worlds with tarp, string, light bulbs, even the earth—Robert Smithson remote earthworks; Ana Mendieta’s Siluetas.

I am often the first to do thing; have been an unintentional pioneer which is why I found myself as Program Coordinator at St Mark’s Poetry Project.  The one and only time I ever saw Sly Stone was in Atlanta in that auditorium shaped like it is nickname.  And you could feel that desire for a new day at the same time as the end of the hippie era was starting.  There were all those traces of all that war music that had played and played throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The marches against. The riots on.  Rebellions, death.  Desire for something better-that feel good hand that could get out of control. The edges of things were getting blurry and we were weary already.   And we wanted “something we’ve dreamed about but/could not hear. Like a song of peace.”   Alas, Sly was not giving up that music the night I saw him and now I know that he had no way to do that.

The Weather That Kills

 

Tonight the President is raising money for his political party in Harlem at the aptly named Red Rooster.  Tonight our planes are flying over Libya; soldiers are on patrol in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Somewhere the “southern heritage” people are making new assaults on history trying to revive the Confederacy claiming it wasn’t about slavery. And elsewhere poets young and old are mining languages, looking for that line that prophesizes a better version of this best of all possible worlds.  The struggle for land and blood.

If June were alive, she’d most like be at a rally telling people to get off their asses and let the President know that if we are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the ones ready for peace music.  We want it now.

Read Full Post »

 

Patricia Spears Jones is the author of three poetry collections Painkiller (2010) and Femme du Monde (2006) from Tia Chucha Press and The Weather That Kills (1994) from Coffee House Press and two chapbooks Mythologizing Always and Repuestas!  Her poetry is anthologized in Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 DaysBlack Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry; Bowery Women: Poems; broken land: Poems of Brooklyn; Poetry After 911; Blood & Tears: Poems for Matthew Shepard; Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology; Sisterfire; and Best American Poetry, 2000.  She has written plays with music commissioned and produced by Mabou Mines: ‘Mother’ in 1994 and Song for New York: What Women Do When Men Sit Knitting in 2007.  She edited and contributed to Think:  Poems for Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Day Hat and co-edited the groundbreaking anthology, Ordinary Women: Poetry by New York City Women (1978).  Her poems, interviews, reviews and commentary can be found in Bomb; Tuesday; An Art Project,  www.kwelijournal.com, downtown Brooklyn, Fifth WednesdayBarrow Street, The Oxford American, The Poetry Project Newsletter, African Voices, PMS#8;  Black Renaissance Noire, Court Green, Callaloo, nocturne, Agni, Black Issues Book Review, Essence, The Brooklyn Rail, The Southampton Review; TriQuarterly, Ploughshares and  www.tribes.org.  Has a MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. She has taught at Poets House, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Cave Canem’s New York City Workshop, Parsons School of Design, Sarah Lawrence College, and summer courses at Naropa University, Pine Manor College, University of Rhode Island, and is scheduled for Manhattanville College, summer 2011. Her website is www.psjones.com.

Read Full Post »