Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company has permitted Book World to reprint "Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot, but only in print; as the Eliot Estate does not permit Internet or electronic use of the poem. Please find and enjoy the piece in our newspaper.)
-- Book World
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 28th
4 pm – 6:30 pm
Anna’s Jazz Island
2120 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA (USA)
The Before Columbus Foundation announces
Winners of the Twenty-Eighth Annual
Lifetime Achievement Award
Author of Mojo Hand: An Orphic Tale
Oakland, CA — The Before Columbus Foundation announces the Winners of the Twenty-Eighth Annual AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS. The 2008 American Book Award winners will be formally recognized on Sunday, December 28th at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way in Berkeley, CA. The awards will take place from 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Authors attending will read selections from their works and sign copies of their award-winning books. A reception and book signing will take place following the ceremony. This event is free to the public. For more information, call (510) 681-5652.
California Poet Laureate (2005-2008) Al Young will host the event. Al Young was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who has said of Mr. Young: “Al Young is a poet, an educator and a man with a passion for the arts. His remarkable talent and sense of mission to bring poetry into the lives of Californians is an inspiration.”
The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.
– Javier Huerta
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I noted in this space back during the primaries that Obama was the only candidate heard to make education in the reading of poetry a part of his campaign speeches. He said, to be precise, that everybody should graduate having learned to read poetry.
Odetta died last night at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
"Nigger, your breed ain’t metaphysical."
"Pondy Woods" - Robert Penn Warren
"Cracker, your breed ain’t exegetical."
– response from Sterling Brown
Returning to Robert Penn Warren’s Who Speaks for the Negro from a hiatus of some two decades, I found myself tracking my rereading against a mental checklist I had not realized I was keeping. When Warren took note of the desultory attempts to try Byron de la Beckwith for his murder of Medgar Evers, I was able from my later vantage point to note (in the very margin next to the place where Warren remarks, "The jury . . . was again hung. There has been no third trial") that de la Beckwith had been tried a third time, and at long last brought to the justice white Mississippi had conspired to abet him in eluding. When Warren mentioned the then young Lawrence Guyot, tireless community organizer of the Mississippi Project, I could not only compare Warren’s descriptions to my own meeting with Guyot just this past April at a conference on the Arts in the Civil Rights Era, I could recall how Guyot’s presence had been pointed out at the convocation in Denver of the Democratic National Committee, how Guyot had been honored as one who had worked to bring about this astonishing political moment in America. When Warren referred to the courageous field reporting of David Halberstam, I reread with the new knowledge that even Halberstam had been placed under FBI surveillance that would continue for decades. I also, though, found that I kept thinking of Sterling Brown, an author far less celebrated than Warren, and how he had responded to Warren’s renewed conversation with "the Negro."
On April 3, 1965, Sterling Brown wrote a letter to the editors of Look magazine, having just read a preview of Warren’s work published under the title, "The Negro Now." Apparently Warren had indeed found a new Negro, and a new voice with which to speak. Brown writes:
The eloquent thoughtfulness of Robert Penn Warren's "The Negro Now" (Look, March 23) convinces us that Mr. Warren has progressed since his early career when he portrayed John Brown as a horse-stealing, murderous fanatic, and when, in "The Briar Patch," he trembled at the dire results of literal education for Negroes. Mr. Warren's analysis of the shock treatment that the "book-reading white Southerners" are undergoing is trenchant, and his adjuration to us all, Negro and white, to struggle for our own freedom is as welcome as needed.
Nevertheless, Mr. Warren clings to regional superstitions: e.g. the canard about the difference between North and South which "lumps" with a vengeance. A lingering theme song dear to the southern agrarians sets forth the antislavery elements in the Old South, and doughface elements in the Old North. Still we must be grateful for small favors and some of the favors of Mr. Warren (now an authority on segregation and the thoughts of the Negro) are by no means small.
Apparently Brown expanded on these views at a conference, prompting a quick note from critic Hoyt Fuller:
I also want desperately to know the book (and the passage, if possible) from which you quoted the inestimable Mr. Robert Penn Warren during the conference. I'm dying to get my hands on that book. Mr. Warren is getting away with murder these days, capitalizing on his new-found religion, but he should have to eat those old words.
We can understand that Brown and Fuller might want Warren to eat more crow than he does in Who Speaks for the Negro; we can imagine they might want him to eat that buzzard from "Pondy Woods." But I think it’s important to recognize that at least some of their frustration had to do with the disparity between what they saw of the public reception of Warren’s book and what they knew of the difficulties actually existing Negroes faced in trying to speak for themselves. Brown had signed an earlier letter to the Washington Evening Star, with his usual dose of irony, "A Southern (Negro -- born in D.C) Moderate." Brown had also signed off on a much earlier project in which black public intellectuals provided any number of good answers to the question in Warren’s title some two decades before Warren published his book, Rayford Logan’s edited volume What the Negro Wants. Seeing the acclaim that greeted Warren’s late arriving news while still smarting from the memory of the Logan book’s history must have been nearly as much as Brown could bear.
The University of North Carolina Press had contracted with Rayford Logan for the collection that came to be titled What the Negro Wants. It would seem from the press’s response to the manuscript, though, that they didn’t really want to hear what the Negro wanted. One reader’s report had complained that the volume did not give sufficient time to considerations of how "far the Negro is responsible for his condition." The appropriately named "O.J. Coffin" suggested that the press bury the book, complaining that the contributors "talk of intermarriage and world congresses of Negroes as nonchalantly as Walrus and Carpenter might discuss cabbages and kings." Coffin, we learn from Kenneth Janken’s introduction to a reprint of Logan’s book, returned his reader’s fee, asking that it be given to some Negro charity. N.C. Newbold worried in his report about the harm that Logan’s collection might do, advised the deletion of any and all references to intermarriage, and suggested that if the book were to appear at all, it should come before the public accompanied by an unprecedented introduction from the university press itself detailing the Southern majority’s stance on the issues taken up by these speaking Negroes. William Terry Couch, the director of the University of North Carolina Press, wrote to Logan upon digesting the manuscript’s appeals for an end to segregation: "If this is what the Negro wants, nothing could be clearer than that what he needs, and needs most urgently, is to revise his wants." Eventually, Logan, who read his contracts as closely as Sterling Brown read poems, threatened the press with a law suit, and the book finally appeared, with Brown’s own essay "Count Us In" closing out the collection.
Small wonder then that Sterling Brown, like so many others of his time, found Warren’s belated ameliorationist narrative a bit much to take so late as 1965.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This is the sight that greeted me as I arrived at the hotel for this year's conference of the Modernist Studies Association. It wasn't raining all that hard just yet, but the lions of modernity were taking no chances.
But this year things were markedly different for modernism; Vanderbilt was hosting the event. More about that in a subsequent post.
The standout panel for me was one organized by Linda Kinnahan that felt alomost like a continuation of the Lifting Belly conference from September. This panel addressed issues in the writings of Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy and Lorine Niedecker. There were many other notable things at this year's MSA, including the presence of two (count 'em!), two papers on Melvin B. Tolson. One of these was by Kathy Lou Schultz, poet-editor-critic. Tisa Bryant was also on that panel. Sadly for me, it was the same time as my own round table, so I had to miss that one.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This is the end of The Alphabet, by Ron Silliman:
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Across three decades I've been listening to the music of Amina Claudine Myers without ever having had an opportunity to see her in concert.
From the outset, though, Myers was an accomplished composer and performer in her own right. Among the many albums of her work in my collection are Jumping in the Sugar Bowl, The Circle of Time, Song for Mother E, Amina Claudine Myers Salutes Bessie Smith and my favorite (surprise), Poems for Piano. Many of these collections are still available on CD, and you can check this Amazon page for information about them.