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The writing life can strange and hard, but when it’s good, you feel like hell never happened.

by Paige Smith

I’ve had a goofy smile on my face all day.

First, I was able to share the insanely good news that on Monday, April 23rd, I will be one of the opening readers along with Karolina Manko for our new Pulitzer winner Tracy K. Smith and Poet Laureate Philip Levine at Housing Works. It’s part of Knopf and Tumblr’s Celebrate Poetry campaign and there’s even going to be an open bar! It doesn’t get much better than that. Here are the details in case you’re in the City and love poetry and open bars.

THEN, I remembered that today is April 18 which means it was time for my poem “Skin Like Brick Dust” to show up on The Rumpus as part of its National Poetry Month Project. What a day!

Here’s a peak of the poem. Go over to The Rumpus to read the rest.

Two blocks beyond gravity,
I pressed into you, into you & away

from all the breaking. I didn’t know
your name, so I kissed one

into your mouth.

The writing life can strange and hard, but when it’s good, you feel like hell never happened. And here is where I repeat Nicherin Daishonin’s advice: “Suffer what there is to suffer. Enjoy what there is to enjoy.”

Tick, Tock — Approaching Deadlines

by Gary Evans

  • The VONA Voices Workshop deadline is April 9. This amazing retreat, which I myself will be applying to as well, is an amazing opportunity for emerging writers of color to learn from writers like Junot Diaz, Patricia Smith, Randal Kenan & more. 
  • The Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop will feature poets like Jake Adam York & Carl Phillips this summer. 
  • None other than the amazing D.A. Powell is judging the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry this year. The deadline is March 31. What are you waiting for? 

Interview in Eclectica Magazine & a Reading in Brooklyn

by I Wayan Sudarsana Yansen

Grateful to Jonterri Gadson for her thoughtful questions about When The Only Light Is Fire. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

JG     The book’s arc seems to move from boyhood to various representations of manhood. The first half of the chapbook contains several “boy” poems: “Terrible Boy,” “Boy in Stolen Evening Gown,” “Boy at Edge of Woods,” and “Boy at Threshold.” The fire of the book’s title seems to start in the trauma detailed in these poems, in the fields of these poems. How does trauma influence your writing?

SJ     I think of fire as a difficult knowledge. It illuminates, but something must be destroyed in order for that to happen. That paradox, to me, is the task of becoming a person. What am I going to burn down in order to clear a space for my foundation? That is what the archetypal “boy” of the poems is asking himself over and over.

With that being said, perhaps the hardest part of this process isn’t the trauma itself but the fact that boys, in particular, are conditioned to repress their feelings about trauma. I tried to reflect that in the first section of the chapbook by keeping the menace at the edges of the page. In “Terrible Boy,” for example, there are coded references and the final image, but the boy never actually says what is happening exactly.

Also, if you’re in NYC this Wednesday, 1/4, I’ll be reading with Megan Boyle & Thom Donovan as part of the Blue Note Reading Series in Brooklyn. It should be a hoot. Here are the details.

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

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.

Words to Write By: “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde

by Maureen Gubia

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny, and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us… We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

from “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” by Audre Lorde

by Karl Fritsch

“The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.”

– Sigmund Freud