Saturday, February 19, 2011


You think Wisconsin has it bad . . . Today the winds blowing through D.C. knocked down the national Christmas tree. My father, who has been photographing the tree for decades, took this shot of the workmen trying to put the tree back up. Hope they get it done before Congress shuts down the government.

(photo by Aldon D. Nielsen)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


"Preverbs precede themselves, so to speak, with hidden trapdoors," so writes George Quasha by way of prefacing his preverbial volume.

I hadn't seen new work from Quasha for quite some time, so it was a more than usually pleasant surprise to see this new book from Manuel Brito's Zasterele editions.

It made me think of Williams walking through the Paterson park and thinking of the Mexican artisan who had outprecedented himself. It made me think of an herbal paradise. It made me think of quashing presuppositions.

"Beings are marked by what you do.

My life is on this line.

Think right through."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nourbese Philip

Thanks to Muning for these shots of me with M. Nourbese Philip in Philadelphia.

Friday, February 11, 2011


National Book Award winner Terrence Hayes drove over from Pittsburgh for a return poetry reading at Penn State last night. He agreed to take questions at the end and was indeed asked who his favorite poet might be. On the upside, the undergrads in the audience were seen taking copious notes (on paper! in handwriting!) and many of them lined up to buy books of their own accord.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Started out the last day with the panel in tribute to Lucille Clifton. My only previous experience of AWP had been a conference in Baltimore, where Lucille Clifton had been present to receive a panel full of tributes and to read from her work. This time the room was filled with friends, and I got the chance to tell Clifton's daughters that I had known their father in his Morgan State days. (For those of you who don't know Clifton's bio., her husband, Fred, was a philosopher and a wonderful teacher. I always wondered what that household must have been like, with a poet and a philosopher and their children.) Later I dropped in to a panel where writers were reading from their works related to D.C. itself, primarily so that I could hear my friend Ethelbert Miller.

That night it was on to THE REEF in Adams Morgan, just below Columbia Road, for the biggest poetry festival of the week, sponsored by Edge Books, Abraham Lincoln Magazine and West Wind Review. Tom Orange played a poem on a C Melody Sax only minutes after Mel Nichols took to the uke, or something like one; I do recall a capo in evidence. K-Lo, who said she'd never answer to that name, did. The whole thing will appear over at Penn Sound before too long. Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did.
God, it was good to be back in D.C.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Friday night found Rod Smith and his begging bowl cornered in the Science and Nature section of Bridge Street Books. Like children following the Pied Piper, we poetry people followed the sound of Rod's gong show over to Bridge Street Books for yet another poetry extravaganza. From Charles Alexander to Rosmarie Waldrop (we didn't have a "Z" poet as Zapruder had read the night before) we alphabetically celebrated and sang ourselves. (Meanwhile, uptown at Busboys & Poets, some out-of-town poet was stealing the Life-Sized cutout Langston Hughes B&P had ordered up to brighten the festivities. -- A whole new meaning to Looking for Langston.)

Sunday, February 06, 2011


At some point when I was being inattentive, the Association formerly known as the AWP became the "Association of Writers & Writing Programs," thus enacting a sort of Whitmanian barbaric awwp. But, despite the introduction of an additional "W," it appears the AWWP still goes by the initials "AWP."

I got to this year's conclave in time to hear the reading and conversation featuring Rae Armantrout, and to get the expected bad news that Ed Roberson was among the many frozen in place in Chicago.
Later that evening I made my way over to the Four Seasons Hotel, site of previous MLA off-site readings, for my first AWP Off-Site of the year. (In contrast to the MLA, during the AWP the entire city becomes one continuous off-site reading. Where the MLA gives us nervous young professors hurriedly editing their papers in the coffee shops, the AWP is a flutter with writers trading books with each other and hunching over their laptops to improve their scansion.) The Four Seasons was again the venue for a Bridge Street Books sponsored event, featuring poetry readings by Anselm Berrigan, Timothy Donnely, Robert Fernandez, Cathy Park Hong, Ish Klein, K. Selim Mohammed, Chris Nealon, Mel Nichols, Elizabeth Willis, Mathew Zapruder, and the aforementioned Rae Armantrout. At some point I'll be posting a recording of the evening to Penn Sound, so keep an eye out for that announcement.