Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"The one who stimulates attraction to herself by molding her complexities to meet a given situation and by demonstrating, at the same time, the effect her having on the situation has upon her own self, wins."

I'll confess that the first thing that caught my eye (sorry) about Jane Unrue's new book was this cover collage by Keith Waldrop, but then I went on to read the book.

You should, too . . . go to SPD and check it out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ted Hudson

The first scholarly monograph on Amiri Baraka was Ted Hudson's From LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka: The Literary Works, from Duke University Press. You can see that in those days Duke, like most university presses prior to about the mid-1980s, didn't invest a lot in cover design. Then as now, though, what mattered was what was between the covers, and Hudson's book laid the ground for all who came after. Or at least it should have; there are still far too many people who set out to write about even so central a poet as Baraka without doing the primary homework.

I'd known of Hudson and his book in my own student days at Federal City College, so you can well imagine what it meant to me when I arrived at Howard University as an adjunct and found his office right up the hallway. Ted was the kind of colleague who would reach out to a young adjunct and offer encouragement. We shared a UDC connection. I had gone to Federal City, and he had been at D.C. Teachers prior to his career at Howard, both schools that were conjoined in the creation of the University of the District of Columbia.

He was also the kind of colleague to share his obsessions with Duke Ellington. Hudson served as the editor of Ellingtoniana, the newsletter of the Duke Ellington Society.

This year the Howard University Department of English honored Ted Hudson's years of service to education and his scholarship at the annual Burch lecture. I join my former colleagues in paying tribute to a scholar whose work has meant so much to my own.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not Quite Hollow Victory

All through the 2008 primary season, competing health care reform plans occupied the center of the debates. Clinton, Obama and Edwards each advanced a plan and argued its merits: mandates vs no mandates, public option, etc. In the end, Obama was the nominee and won a decisive victory in the presidential election. Democrats won still more decisive majorities in both houses of congress.

So, tonight . . . what does the nation have to show for it?

Tonight Congress will pass the Mitt Romney health care reform plan.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Well-Versed Rae Armantrout

Congratulations to good friend Rae Armantrout, whose book Versed has been chosen for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. As Glenn Campbell said when Charlie Pride won the Country Music Association Award, "it's about damn time."

You can find the book here.

And over there you can find the book A Wild Salience, featuring a wide-ranging set of explorations of Rae's work over the years, including my own brief take, "Extremities Made to Seem Precedence.

Monday, March 08, 2010

i.e. Reader

Out from Narrow House publishers is the i.e. Reader, featuring poets who have appeared in the i.e. reading series in Baltimore.

It was my good fortune to read in the series with D.C. friends Beth Joselow and Phyllis Rosenzweig back in October of 2007 at the Carriage House, a great venue for poetry or music, hidden up one of those many Baltimore alleyways that THE WIRE seems not to know about. You can see photos from that event below.

The Reader features such poets as Rosmarie Waldrop, Rod Smith, Buck Downs, Charles Bernstein, Heather Fuller, Bruce Andrews, Norma Cole, John Yau, Peter Gizzi, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and a host of others.

Navigate over to SPD for more info by clicking here.

Typically for me, I contributed a poem that I did not read in the i.e. series:

". . . and i followed her to the station"

This suitcase intends
A world
Broke at the clasp

World gone wrong

These rails portend
A done wrong life

Th ese unintended
Blues stones
In my passway
Cinders rasp
In my draw
Rail against the night

Smokestack steel strings
Open tuning
Bottle up and go
She gone

What I loved well
In the wake
Her train

Black rain
To freezing ties

Dry ice

Monday, March 01, 2010


Some times life has a way of bringing good people back into your life over and over again.

More than two decades ago I met Alicia Partnoy in D.C. writing circles. Alicia has a remarkable story, and she tells some of it in her book The Little School, named for the place she was held by the Argentine junta during the years of la guerra sucia. Alicia was one of las desaparecidas.

Much as the first message of the slave narratives was that their authors were no longer in slavery, the publication of The Little School was a testament to Alicia's survival, and to her reappearance. (As much as we slam President Carter for his many failings, his human rights initiative did have some demonstrable results.)

Speaking of good people, Alicia's first book carried a blurb from Bernice Johnson Reagon, who I first saw in person singing solo on the stage of Howard University when I was 19, and who we all saw again just the other day performing with The Freedom Singers in the White House.

Alicia became a good friend, and we collaborated on such things as a panel that brought her together with Julia Alvarez. I used to see Alicia all the time in HISPANIA BOOKS in Adams Morgan, where she would always point out for me the books by South American experimentalists I might not have heard of yet.

Fast froward many years to a day when I'm sitting in my office at Loyola Marymount University looking at the faculty newsletter, when whose name do I see among the new hires but Alicia's. After I'd left D.C. she'd gone on to get an advanced degree at Catholic University, and now she had moved to L.A. with her wonderful family. Her office was just around the corner from my own and we had many pleasant times before my career took me on to Pennsylvania.

More fast forwarding . . . My colleague Sophia sends out an email announcing a visit to our campus by . . . Alicia Partnoy. I volunteered to meet Alicia's flight when it came in and we had an overdue reunion.

The day of Alicia's talk, I was sitting in the coffee shop between meetings with students when I got an email from my brother who works at NPR. He was sending me a message to tell me that my dear friend Ethelbert Miller was at that very moment in the next studio recording a program. I asked my brother to try to get word to Ethelbert that our mutual companera Alicia was visiting. I was able to tell Alicia of this great coincidence just before she began her talk . . . which, as it turned out, featured clips from her own earlier appearance on the same program Ethelbert was at that very moment recording.

Many reappearances . . . Some times the universe conspires to make good on the promise of the human . . .