Thursday, May 31, 2012


 This year's recipient of the Stephen Henderson Award, named in memory of the late literary critic and editor of Understanding the New Black Poetry, is Harryette Mullen.  The award was presented during a reception at the American Literature Association in San Francisco, organized by Shirley Moody-Turner and the AALCS with contributions from the ALA and many of the African American author societies..  Clarence Major was on hand following his own reading for a round of visiting and book signing.  This year the Toni Morrison Society, one of the reception's co-sponsors, also presented their annual awards for best essay, best book, etc.

AALCS President James Peterson kicked things off.  Former President Loretta Woodard gave a hearty introduction to this year's honoree.  Harryette Mullen made a few comments on receiving the award (presented by Keith Byerman) and then read from Sleeping with the Dictionary as well as from her work in progress, Tanka Diaries

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ALA Day 2

The second day of ALA in San Francisco started for me with an early session on Chicago's Black Renaissance, followed by a panel "Revisiting/Revising Critical Approaches to African American Literary Studies."  We held the business meeting of the African American Literature & Culture Society; this year it was the only business meeting I was obliged to attend.  One of the peaks for me was a roundtable on the work and life of Clarence Major, who was on hand for the session.  Look for Keith Byerman's just-published critical biography of Major over at Amazon.

 The second peak for me that day was the award reception for the AALCS -- Watch this space for more on that one.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The night before, I flew up from Santa Barbara and made my ritual preconference trip to Brandy Ho's Hunan restaurant just down the street from City Lights Books.  Been going there for decades and recommend it to you.  The first day offered panels on new approaches to African American poetry, a round table on 19th century African American literature and much more.  One of the peak moments for me was the day's concluding reading by Giannina Braschi. I'd been introduced to her work last Fall via the Spanglish edition of her genre-defying work Yo Yo Boing!  I brought my copies of her books to get signed, only to find that Amazon was giving her books away free at the reading.  Following the opening night reception, several of us poetry people went over to the Slanted Door Restaurant for dinner with Cecil Giscombe, who was heading off to Texas the next morning.  The Slanted Door couldn't serve me a rum and coke because they do not serve anything containing corn fructose.  They do, however, serve copious quantities of cotton candy for desert. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John (Cory) Sununu?

You wouldn't know it watching the news today, but the Romney campaign had its own surrogate-gate episode this morning.  While the media are still (rightly in my opinion) raking Mayor Booker across the coals, they seem to be giving a free pass to John Sununu.

Sununu is one of the major spokesmen for the Romney campaign, which should strike anybody with any short term memory at all as an odd choice. Romney, campaigning as the fiscally responsible candidate and denouncing the supposed profligacy of the President, has chosen as the public face of his campaign a man who was forced out of the Bush administration in the midst of scandals caused by his abuse and misuse of taxpayer funds.  John Sununu received a "recommendation" from President Bush that he should resign in 1991.  This after stories broke about his constant use of government funds for personal travel.  Among the exhibits, an $83,000 sking trip to Vail, Colorado.  And then there was the time he took a government limousine to New York (and sent it back to D.C. empty) so that he could attend a stamp auction; he returned on a corporate jet.

So, this is the guy Romney's people selected to represent their candidate in a press call this morning to rebut the Obama campaign's recent ads and statements on Bain Capital, which he did.  But in the course of his remarks he stated, "I think the Bain record as a whole is fair game."

So there you have it -- One of Romney's biggest surrogates, the big spender John Sununu, has invited us to look at the Bain record (honestly, he insists, and we agree) as a whole -- So let's hear no more from Romney (or from Booker) about how inappropriate such inspection is -- It's central to Romney's record.  Let's give Bain a scrupulous, honest, and lingering inspection.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Poet Allen Polite

 I first saw the name Allen Polite in an old issue of Yugen, that great little mag edited by LeRoi Jones and Hettie Jones.  Years passed before I saw the name in print again, by which time LeRoi Jones had become Amiri Baraka.  If you read Baraka's autobiography, you'll learn that the young Jones regarded Polite as one of his early mentors.  Aside from a few magazine appearances and anthologies such as Sixes and Sevens, though, Polite sightings were all too rare, and the poetry was as much an elusive legend as was the poet himself.  I knew that he had been married in early years to the remarkable novelist Carlene Hatcher Polite, whose book The Flagellants is still an amazing work crying out for critical attention.  We often heard about Allen Polite.  Trumpeter Bill Dixon included a composition titled "Ritratto Di Allen Polite" on his collection Papyrus

Now, thanks to Polite's widow, Helen, and the good work of Maryemma Graham and her colleagues at the Univeristy of Kansas, Polite's major works of poetry are available for new generations of readers.  For more information about Allen Polite, navigate to the website for the collection of his papers at the University of Connecticut at

 You will also find more information at the History of Black Writing Project at the University of Kansas.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Meet Dr. New

Left to Right: Dr. Linda Selzer, DR. Michael New, Dr. Jonathan Eburne and Dr. Iyun Osagie -- Penn State, May Day 2012.