Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The E-Note Within The E-Note

I took a look at E-Notes from 2004 and saw I was doing much more blogging back then. I think I've gotten into the lazy habit of simply posting things and being a clearinghouse for information. In the old days one picked up a copy of Negro Digest/Black World for the black cultural roundup. Ernest Kaiser kept people up to date on new books dealing with African American culture when you read Freedomways magazine. Today folks will say we have the Internet and everything you need to know is out there somewhere. But why do we have to search the junk drawer just to find a screwdriver?

Maybe in August I'll get back to blogging more. Back in 2004 I was not on Facebook. So now and then I have to decide what to place where. I plan to keep the E-Notes more personal.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


There are days when a poem tips it's hat, opens a door, says hello, gives directions or simply winks when you pass. Howe's work does that for me here:
Exchange yesterday with the novelist Charles Johnson:

CJ:  It seems you know everybody.

E:  That's what the Devil always tells me.


Everything is coming together around my Collected Poems. Many thanks to Randall, Kirsten, Heather and Susannah. Below is the cover art design. Thanks to the wonderful artist Felix Angel for contributing an image that captures the themes of my work.

Publication date is Spring 2016.  I hope it will be another time of miracles and wonder.

Monday, July 27, 2015


A man came looking for you
(today) with a box of love.
I only had yesterday's address
and was too busy listening to Dolphy
making birds sounds on his horn.

After tree sitting I came down
and fixed some Mexican food.
I remembered the spice of you.
There are onions here that will
make you cry. A green pepper
has her hand in the center of my

Too many apples slice themselves
with the hunger of forgiveness.Sex
is a flame that burns. Let me be
the faucet your hands turn to.

Is that Mingus standing outside
near a car? A bear mountain
of a man growling with lemons
and oranges.

 - E. Ethelbert Miller


Sunday, July 26, 2015



I think Dinky and I were in high school when we discovered the FM Guide. It opened an entire world to us. All our friends were AM kids. Turning the dial and the years -  I wonder if we read the way we once listened to radio. I finished reading BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates and felt the book was more about faith and God. This is why I posted a small "probe" and said maybe we should see Coates following in the footsteps of August Wilson and not just Baldwin. We should also go back and look at Richard Wright since Coates takes his title from one of his poems. Wright's Tarbaby kiss with Communism did not leave him with a fever for Jesus. Now and then Wright wrote about the blues maybe to let people know that after Friday and Saturday night he was not going to church. If you're not going to see the Pope now and then like Raul in Cuba, then  God becomes a utility infielder on a losing team. Here is what Ta-Nehisi Coates writes near the end of his book.
A book his publisher decided to rush to publication because of recent incidents in South Carolina.

Coates writes:

Have you ever taken a hard look at those pictures from the sit-ins in the '60s, a hard, serious look?
Have you ever looked at the faces? The faces are neither angry, nor sad, nor joyous. They betray almost no emotion. They look out past their tormentors, past us, and focus on something way beyond anything known to me.  I think they are fastened to their god, a god whom I cannot know and in whom I do not believe.

After reading this one can conclude that Coates is on another "frequency" than his elders. Remember when one listened to FM for less static and better quality? Even though it was on AM that one might hear a preacher. So the question after reading BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME is perhaps a bigger one than blackness. At a time when one is looking at pictures of Pluto, how do we ponder the making of the Universe without our God?  Before we even think about raising our children or protecting the black body - who are we and why are we here?  Is there some divine order and meaning to things?  Did white people open a different fortune cookie?  When Coates writes about the Mecca and the Yard at Howard, he is describing outdoor blackness. There is that other Mecca (and here religious terms become interesting) of Howard students who are in Rankin Chapel praying to their Lord. Now and then you can find them near the flagpole. Yes, those students are in the chapel talking to Jesus and once a year listening to Cornel West comparing scripture to Motown tunes.
OK. Let me stop there with the West reference. But maybe that's why Coates talks about the Mecca.
One writer looks east while another looks west; perhaps the difference between AM and FM. Meanwhile I never knew who nicknamed Howard the Mecca replacing that Capstone of Negro Education glitter, or if the Mecca was simply that housing complex in Chicago that Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about.

And maybe before resting by our Brooks we should think Wright - as in Richard Wright. It is the reference to his work that we see before we even pickup Ta-Nehisi's gem of a book. Along with "Between The World and Me" Wright's other major poem is "I Have Seen Black Hands." I can see an editor in New York thinking "hands up" after coming back from lunch and a hashtag vision.
Coates titles his book after something written by Wright and structures his book after the work of Baldwin. AM and FM once again. He connects with his literary tradition but not his religious one.
There is nothing wrong with this. What makes BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME an important book is because it requires the reader to come stumbling out of darkness and to witness the many lynchings of our time. We watch the news the way Wright imagined hanging from a tree. This is US - like the metal sculpture the artist Ed Love had outside his house when he resided in Washington DC.

Where is God in all of this?  What is he doing?  I think after Ta-Nehisi looks at the terribleness of this world he might conclude what August Wilson did. God is a mean MF.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


This weekend my best friend Grace Ali will be visiting the Vatican. I know Pope Francis will bless her. Below a photo with St. Peter's Basilica in the background.


I never know what my friend Anike is going to do. This talented woman would have been the at the center of the Harlem Renaissance if she lived during the 1920s. I can see Zora feeling jealous like she was collecting only folktales and singing behind Diana Ross.Anike Robinson when she talks reminds me of Ntozake. A couple of years ago she painted my face for her Altar Ego Project. Here is Anike at Busboys and Poets (Takoma) yesterday morning. I took this picture after she put my head in a frame. More about that later...


I'm reading BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates and I come across a line in his book  I will call "spiritual floss" - something so strong it can't be broken except by our intellect. Something we need to use to clean our mouths before we speak. A sentence we should pull between our teeth and maybe understand why our gums bleed, warning us of our declining health. Toni Morrison  in her blurb compares Coates to Baldwin. Her possible mistake is that she concluded there had been an intellectual void following Baldwin's death. Morrison overlooks the genius of August Wilson. It is at the end of the first section of his book that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for the world the way Wilson wrote for the stage. Wilson I consider to be one of the greatest African American writers that ever lived. Coates follows Wilson's path and direction when he writes divine and give us this sentence:


Is it a coincidence to find Ta-Nehisi's son (Samori) born in August? The world is a mysterious place.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Does Mitt Romney still read polls?  Do you need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows?
Yes, I still quote Dylan - Bob Dylan not Dylan Thomas. It was just a matter of time maybe before a hot August day arrives that we would get an article like the one I'm posting below. Are Race Relations getting better is like the old Ebony article that once asked the ridiculous question - Are Negro Girls Getting Prettier? What are we trying to measure? Consider the media nonsense of using Obama's election as a tool of measurement for race relations. Did anyone ponder the weight of Jackie Robinson's bat? How did his stealing home in the World Series help a unemployed black woman find a job? Isn't this as silly as reading today's New York Times?  We like polls the way a poor person likes to count $1 bills. Race Relations reminds me of how one might do a book review by just looking at the cover. Do we have any idea what the book is about? Don't we all walk around being prejudice and keep adding to global warming?  Hot hatred seems to increase every day I go outside. Social media does nothing more than step in the spit at the feet of race relations. How can we think "right" thoughts after being informed of another kickass police incident? I'm afraid after Obama is no longer president all the polar bears will die? Yep, that's what the Artic Polls are telling those bears right now. You would have to be colorblind or racist not to believe it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I hate when my days get away from me. I did get a haircut and pick-up my COLLECTED POEMS manuscript from IPS. I needed to hold the future book in my hands, feel the weight of my own words.

The highlight of the day was meeting Lisa Gold, the executive director of the WPA. She was sitting with the artist Judy Byron outside the Potter's House on Columbia Road.


So you want to know
what happened in the jail
cell? You don't believe
your eyes and the tape
refuses to confess.
What's left?

It's a Mulder and Scully
moment. Yes -another
black body found in
the X-files hanging
in a cabinet in the
middle of the basement
at the center of the

 - E. Ethelbert Miller