Sunday, December 30, 2012

Remembering Jayne Cortez

Some years ago I was asked to introduce Jayne Cortez's poetry reading at the University of Maine.  Below are the words I offered on that occasion:

"At a certain moment in history when Aime Cesaire started to decolonize his neolonial head
and free his image by dealing with the world from the idea of negritude
when young Aime Cesaire said forget Paris and returned to look into the future by diving inside
 the past of his native land . . .
At that moment of no compromise his poetry became poetry unique to poetry"

In the small hours of April, before a crowd that did not know how to crowd, these words brought comfort –

That afternoon, as I sat in a room at Georgetown University, poet Rod Smith had come quietly up to me pushing his cell phone towards me – without my glasses on, I had no idea what he was trying to tell me, but then, as he pointed to the display on  his phone, it came into focus . . . the screen bore the news that Aime Cesaire had died –

We passed the phone to poet Eugene Redmond, who made the announcement to the stunned crowd gathered at the conference, a conference dedicated to the arts in the Civil Rights era – What could any of us say?  We all, poets and activists alike, carried Cesaire inside our very language – on our tongues --

That night, the first poet on the evening program was Jayne Cortez – with no preliminaries, she began quietly reciting her poem of tribute to Cesaire – a poem that itself grows out of a moment of no compromise – a moment when what is needed more than ever is a poetry unique to poetry –
This has always been Jayne Cortez’s way – from MOUTH ON PAPER to JAZZ FAN LOOKS BACK, from COAGULATIONS to SOMEWHERE IN ADVANCE OF NOWHERE – The titles of her brilliant recordings might almost serve as a manifesto for any artist determined on a course of self-sufficiency: MAINTAIN CONTROL, UNSUBMISSIVE BLUES, TAKING THE BLUES BACK HOME – or, if you’re of a philosophic bent, BORDERS OF DISORDERLY TIME

No one told her to do this – No one could tell her how to do this – There were only the brave examples of those disorderly orders of predecession: Aime Cesaire, Leon Damas, Nicolas Guillen, Big Mama Thornton –     poets who recognized what Cortez remarks in one poem: “Everybody wants to be famous - Nobody needs it.”
In the afterlife of the word, it is not fame that feeds us – it is the name that comes to the tip of our tongue, borne up on the waves of our history –
At a certain moment, when neither the politics nor the poetry of custom could bear us up any longer, Jayne Cortez returned to look into the future and found that THE BEAUTIFUL ONES ARE NOT YET BORN, found her way to THE BEAUTIFUL BOOK, found her way to flying home, to bumblebee and Big Mama, found her way to no compromise – won her primary –

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A BRAND NEW BEGGAR - a brand new book

Coming in days from STEERAGE PRESS --A new book of poetry from A.L. Nielsen.

Comments on earlier poetry by Nielsen;

The poems of A.L.Nielsen are self-organizing networks. It
is Brancusi's duty to make skinny sculptures; it is mine,
& a pleasant one, to introduce A.L. Nielsen. We have
been silent partners for a decade in a scheme to
overthrow mainstream discourse & undermine
exemplary sentences.
     David Bromige

The poetry of Aldon Nielsen is marked by rare insight, which penetrates the invisible moments of our daily peregrinations.
     Will Alexander

The sentence can be such a wonder when it’s not in service. As smart and unpredictable as an escaped slave. 
       Fred Wah

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Just in time for the holidays, here is a new book from John Ashbery. For some reason the blurbs and table of contents are in an extra large font. Ashbery is 85 and I need reading glasses, so maybe Ecco Press, also aging, was thinking of our eyes. In any event, QUICK QUESTION makes a great stocking stuffer.

from "Puff Piece"

And when I pulled it out of my pocket I thought surely
all this has been done before. And my smirched muse
answered, wholly in secret: What are apron strings

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Coming Soon from STEERAGE PRESS -


poems by A.L. Nielsen

"A. L. Nielsen is at it again, lighting fireworks under language and capturing the explosions on paper.  These poems' short, deeply enjambed lines will work your brains as much as your eyes.  Using every sonic trick in the book -- including assonance, consonance, and insistent rhythms -- Nielsen stitches together places from Ghana to Nebraska, people from C.L.R. James to Lady Day, and moments from his childhood through his capacious present.  Readers of his earlier books will recognize the wicked wit he often turns on politics and culture and will warm to the less familiar (but characteristically wordplay-ful) love poems he includes.  Here is a poet who knows what he can do with the genre, and does it -- well."

                                                                                Evie Shockley

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Manuel Brito continues his exemplary series of books with RHYME SCHEME by Tracy Morris.

This book appeared magically in my mail box; I had not known it was even in the works.  I think this beautiful little volume may be the first hardback from Zasterle Editions.  And it includes a CD, whose label reproduces the striking cover art by Diedra Harris-Kelley.

Manuel will be updating his web site with information about the book soon, and you will be able to get it before too long from SPD, so watch those spaces.


sinewy sass snakeskin slink seamless spine
routed--out her head. helix exlixers, elicit, fine

ripple through time, so striking, blindin',
dem men turn to stone when dey admirin'.