Monthly Archives: February 2009

AWP’s Love Letter to Chi-Town

Thanks to the encouragement of Tom Hunley, I attended AWP for the first time while I was a junior at WKU.  Although I will be the first to admit that it was a bit overwhelming, it also solidified my decision to apply to an MFA program. Also, I got to meet poets like Patricia Smith, Terrance Hayes, Jeannine Hall Gailey,  among others. Anyway, I leave for this year’s AWP (in Chicago) on Wednesday and would like to share some tips for those of you who may be new to the AWP Hustle.

– No one bothered to tell me that you don’t have to go to every panel session. I thought it was like school. You go from one panel to another to another. Bad idea. Instead, pick a few panels that you are really interested in and don’t be afraid to take a breather now and then.

– (Most) writers are actually pretty nice. Don’t be afraid to let them know you like their work. After seeing Patricia Smith read, I talked to her in the bookfair. We’re still talking to this day.

–  Be sure to go to some off-site events. Some of the best readings/gatherings take place at bookstores and bars scattered throughout the city. Don’t be afraid to explore. I noticed that off-site events tend to be a little more relaxed and, dare I say it, more fun.

– Wear good shoes. I did a lot of standing.

– Stop by the Rutgers-Newark MFA table and say hello. I will be there from time to time.


Two Poems in The Adirondack Review


Death in Bed by Saeed Jones

Mary Magdalene by Saeed Jones

Speaking of Universality – “PUSH”

If you want to know why the universality expecation is so troubling, check out this out. Lionsgate is the movie company charged with the “challenge” of marketing the Sundance Award-Winning film “PUSH”. Based on the novel by Sapphire,  it “centers on an illiterate and obese African-American teenager in 1980s Harlem who is pregnant with her father’s child — for the second time — and is also abused by her mother.”

And here are some choice quotes from the NYTimes about the challenge this subject matter poses:

As films like “The Great Debaters” and “Miracle at St. Anna” have shown, a release labeled a black film by the marketplace — and “Push” already has been — can be an incredibly tough sell to mainstream white audiences.

“Having Oprah and Tyler Perry out there pushing for this movie is a very big deal,” said Geoffrey Ammer, a theatrical marketing consultant who has worked at Sony Pictures, Walt Disney and Marvel. “The question becomes is there enough entertainment there to hook a broad audience,” he added. “Does it pull your heartstrings? Does it make you cry? Does it make you laugh? Their campaign will need to address that immediately.”

My memoir.. in six words.

“Illegal in at least five states.”

That’s mine. What’s yours?

Jericho Brown: against Universality

After an interesting class discussion on universality and writers of color (led by Tayari Jones), I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a week now. As a gay black southern writer, identity politics and the expectation for my writing to have a universal appeal (or not) is relevant, perplexing, and irritating. To be honest, I’m often so busy just trying to write the best poems I can — I don’t have time to be worrying about politics. That comes later, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not trying to make a statement so much as I’m trying to be sincere.

Either way, Jericho Brown (author of Please) drops some serious knowledge on the subject:

I negotiate the personal and the universal by understanding that the universal, as it has been presented to us over and over again, is a lie. I know it’s a lie because, though I’ve witnessed audience members at readings ask gay poets what a straight person can appreciate about their poems, I have never seen a straight poet asked what gay people can appreciate about his or her poems.

Go to Critical Mass to read the rest of Jericho’s discussion with Rigoberto Gonzalez.