Monthly Archives: July 2011

Allow Me To Introduce Ferocious Jones

by Hannah Whitaker

Moving forward, I’ll be writing “The Ferocity” a monthly column featured on Lambda Literary. My first column “The Fierce Manifesto” just went live. Have at it folks!


Words to Write By: Helene Cixous

by Chris Cornish

We write, we paint, throughout our entire lives as if we were going to a foreign country, as if we were foreigners inside our own family, “hinas in die Fremde der Heimat,” as Celan writes, that is where we go. Between the writer and his or her family the question is always one of departing while remaining present, of being absent while in full presence, of escaping, of abandon. It is both utterly banal and the thing we don’t want to know or say. A writer has no children; I have no children when I write. When I write I escape myself, I uproot myself, I am a virgin; I leave from within my own house and I don’t return. The moment I pick up my pen – magical gesture – I forget all the people I love; an hour later they are not born and I have never known them. Yet we do return. But for the duration of of the journey we are killers.

– from The School of the Dead by Helene Cixous

It’s Here: The Cover Design of WHEN THE ONLY LIGHT IS FIRE

I’m so excited to be able to share the cover design of my forthcoming chapbook with all of you. From having the manuscript accepted for publication by Sibling Rivalry Press to stumbling upon the beautiful cover photograph by Chris Benbow to the wonderful dialogue I’ve been able to have with the SRP team about my vision for this chapbook, it’s been quite a journey.

The book launch date is November 15. Hold on to your wigs, folks!

Here’s the blurb from SRP about When the Only Light Is Fire:

In his debut chapbook of poetry, Saeed Jones walks on the periphery of the South, those places on the outskirts of town, in bars after midnight, and on dangerous backroads where most people keep their heads down or look the other way. Through Texas and Tennessee, Alabama and the riverbeds of the Mississippi, these poems wrap themselves in cloaks of masks and comfort; garments we learn are flammable if we stand too close to flames.

Words to Write By: Franz Kafka

“I think we ought to only read the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kinds of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.”

– Franza Kafka, 1904

Links: To Be Queer, Black & Writing

by Kehinde Wiley

  • I’m well overdue on this one, but having just started reading Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay & Coming of Age on the Streets of New York by Kai Wright, I had to take a moment & recommend this book. Wright follows several queer youth of color as they drift, hustle, and stride their way through New York City. In the same way that E. Patrick Johnson’s Sweet Tea offers a vivid, first-hand mosaic of gay men in the South, Drifting Toward Love gives a voice to young men of color who are often left our of the conversation about what it means to be queer in America.
  • And I can’t tell you how happy I am to also be able to recommend When Love Takes Over: A Celebration of SGL Couples of Color by Darian Aaron. Based on the interview series Aaron has featured on his blog for a good long while, the book offers yet another tile to the mosaic of queer life in America.
  • And in between reading those books, take a moment & get into these articles written by Kenyon Farrow and Darnell Moore which thoughtfully consider and question the reality & implications of marriage equality in America. As Farrow startlingly notes” What does it mean when so-called progressives celebrate a victory in large part won by GOP-supporting hedge fund managers, Tea Party funders and corporate conglomerates—the oft-spoken enemies of progressive causes?”
  • And finally, I love & wanted to share “When Women Were Clouds” a fierce poem by Anna Swanson.

What a Feeling

by Alvaro Sanchez-Motanes

As this is the first day in my new apartment in Harlem, which is to say, a day ripe with the peculiar smell of recently packed moving boxes being opened, a day of walking around with a box cutter in my pocket, a day of waiting for the couch to arrive and attempting to be patient while the cable man sets up my internet connection only realize he left the modem somewhere in the Bronx, I feel a little silly to be typing this blog post.

You see, I’m sitting on the edge of my bed with my Macbook on my lap (there’s no where else for it to sit while I type) and I am surrounded by half opened packing boxes. Really, the blog could wait except – well, I just opened the first two moving boxes full of books and the sense of joy that quite literally swept through me was such that I had to stop what I was doing and write about it. It felt that good.

Let me tell you about the first box, or as I labeled it for the movers, “The Box of Crucial Books.” I decided that if space was limited, I should be able to narrow my collection down to a group of books that I could not live without, or rather – a group of books that have taught me to live.

Here’s that group in its entirety: Sula, Jazz, Beloved, Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison. (At the moment, I can’t seem to find my copy of Song of Solomon which is a bit stressful but we shall overcome.) Giovanni’s Room and Another Country by James Baldwin as well as James Baldwin’s Collected Essays (edited by Toni Morrison.) A Raisin the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Invisible Man and Flying Home by Ralph Ellison as well as his Collected Essays, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Freedom in This Village by edited by E. Lynn Harris, When Harlem Was in Vogue by David Levering Lewis, Ceremonies by Essex Hemphill, The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, Outlaw Culture by bell hooks, I Put A Spell on You by Nina Simone, Sweet Tea by E. Patrick Johnson and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty edited by Andrew Bolton.

Those books are in my bones. The second group (which I am still in the process of unpacking – literally and metaphorically) is my flesh: poems. Among the poets that have already made it onto the shelf are Ai, Mahmoud Darwish, Louise Gluck, Robert Fagles, Anne Carson, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Audre Lorde, Reginald Shepherd, Yusef Komunyakaa. And those are just the first few books I pulled out of the box.

Of course, there is a body politic at work here. The demographic of my “crucial books” is not lost on me, but that’s not what I wanted to tell you here. What I wanted to tell you is that for the last month I have been working through the reality of living without my mother on this earth and all the madness that realization and the ensuing grief have entailed, but – for a brief moment today – I put some books on my shelf and felt accompanied rather than alone; somehow joyfully watched over and beckoned to continue. What a feeling. That’s what I wanted to tell you. I had a feeling that, with these books, I was not alone.