Category Archives: News & Culture

“The relationship with Audre Lorde is just ongoing and life-long.” – Jacqui Alexander

A little under the weather today, but I’m really grateful to my friend Darnell Moore for pointing me to this video of Jacqui Alexander discussing her relationship with Audre Lorde. The clip is part of the Signified Project which is worth looking into as well.

Sleep Well, Adrienne.

First the air is blue and then

it is bluer and then green and then

black I am blacking out and yet

Going Through the Door with Nikky Finney

by Senseteam

“It’s true that they called my name specifically, and that in itself is a wonderful thing, but 10,000 other people rushed through the door with me.” – Nikky Finney on winning the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry

I am so grateful for this Lambda Literary interview with Nikky Finney. Truth be told, I haven’t even finished reading it but I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Given the thematic focus of this blog, I figured this excerpt was worthy of a taste, but you really need to read the entire interview.

Did you stay in South Carolina?

I could not have stayed in South Carolina and become the writer that I have become; a writer who relishes exploring themes that are as beautiful as they are taboo. I was always my mother’s most curious child, the one also with the hardest head. I wanted to see the rest of the country and the rest of the globe. I loved to be on the move. I had to see what was down the road and over the hill. South Carolina is a state steeped in conservative values and traditions. There’s a lot about the state that does not like change. As a teenager I knew I would break away from some of those traditions. As much as I loved my family, I knew I would step away from home and make my own way in the world. I had to. I had to leave home, the church, and all the people who loved and protected me. I had to explore all the things that I needed to explore. I knew that I had to leave the southern landscape that I had been born into in order to find out exactly who I was in the world.

Where did you go next?

I went further South (laughs).

But I Remember The Song…

by Sean Edward Whelan

I wonder what Reginald Shepherd would have had to say about the sky over New York this first December morning, and if Tory Dent would decide to sleep in, shoving the alarm clock off the night stand, and if Joe Brainard would be at work on another collage, and who would Essex Hemphill wake up beside this morning, and where is Assotto Saint, and where is Melvin Dixon, and where is Thomas Avena, and where is Donald Britton, and where is Tim Dlugos, and where is Jaime Gil de Biedma, and where is Leland Hickman and where and where…

With a grateful nod to Philip Clark & David Groff’s Persistent Voices (Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS), I will be tweeting links to work by these voices today, December 1, World AIDS Day.

WHEN THE ONLY LIGHT IS FIRE featured in Next Magazine

by Hernan Paganini

Thanks to Jameson Fitzpatrick for doing this interview. Here’s an excerpt:

Saeed Jones’ debut chapbook of poems, When the Only Light Is Fire, charts a lush, humid nightscape where objects are transformed by distance and danger always lurks. Here, night has a throat. Trees turn their backs. A boy wears “a negligee of gnats.”

Counting influences as varied as Toni Morrison, Greek mythology and Alexander McQueen, the young poet is as unabashedly concerned with beauty as he is socially conscious. His slim 44-page collection, out November 15 from Sibling Rivalry Press, calls upon a multiplicity of voices and a strong sense of the magical to address the complexities of desire, violence and memory faced by a queer person of color from the South.

Over tea at his West Harlem home, Jones—who lived in Tennessee, Texas and Kentucky before moving north to complete his master’s degree at Rutgers-Newark—describes the chapbook as a love letter to who he was in the South. “But the letter’s been set on fire,” he explains. “That’s where we get the distortion, that’s why it hurts to hold. It’s turning to ash.”

Go here to read the rest.

A Response to Suheir Hammad’s “What I Will”

by Justin Walker

I. Well aware that every generation has likely thought the world was coming to an end during its time & that perhaps this kind of panic is another word for “civilization,” I have to say: I do believe the world is on fire. From the turned backs of governors against the people in Wisconsin & Ohio to the government guns being turned on people in Libya to the hardened faces I see when I walk to work in Newark to the faces among the wreck in Japan & back again: people are suffering in a way that seems to have outdistanced our understanding of the word “suffering.” Perhaps only “madness” is the word for our world, or “bedlam.”
II. But what use is it to give in to bedlam? Who exactly would that help? And so, I try not to give in. When I walk into my classroom & see the faces of my 9th & 12th grade students & hear them reading Dickens & Morrison out loud & asking questions — good, deep-hearted questions — I answer them smiling. I answer them & whisper to myself that “this is not bedlam.”
III. I’m grateful to have happened across Suheir Hammad’s performance of “What I Will” at TED. (Click the link to watch the video.) The poem which begins “I will not dance to your war drum. / I will not lend my soul nor my bones to your war drum. / I will not dance to that beat. / I know that beat. / It is lifeless.” speaks to a rejection not only of war (in all of its forms) but to a rejection of that “panic” as well; the kind of “panic” that seizes the mind and the body & renders them useless. Her poem reminded me that when I sit down at my desk each morning & write my way into this world, perhaps each line is just another way of saying “This heartbeat is louder than death.”

by Luigi Loquarto

The 2011 NEA Grant Awards for Poetry have been announced & it’s lovely to see so many familiar names on the list. Quite a few of them have been discussed on this blog: Jericho Brown, Anna Journey, James Allan Hall, Blas Falconer & many more.