Friday, December 31, 2004
Anyway, I found the unpublished manuscript of crazy prose poems Afaa Michael Weaver and I exchanged for a spell. I forgot I had pulled them together under the title THE FICTIONAL LETTERS OF DON MILLO WRITTEN TO THE COLORED POET MICKY AT THE END OF THE 20TH CENTURY.
Boy are they funny and crazy...for example:
What's the difference between a Marlin and a black poet? The poet is the one with the hook in his back.
Yeah...the stuff was satire nonsense but with spice.
How can you go to the park? Do you remember the colored kid Pumpsie Green? The Red Sox was one of the last clubs to hire your people. I know...I got contacts in both leagues. We had a deal to bring in some Cubans but Fidel spoiled that. Now Micky, stay away from ballgames and the autobiographical essay. So many folks writing them and not hitting their weight. If you just want to go to the game for a beer and a cap - let me know. I try to keep everything cold. Once, Ted Williams kept his bat in my freezer. Kid got three hits the next game. They said he was the greatest hitter but no one ever knew about the icebox. You have to be real cool to hit 400. Now Toni Morrison she has speed just like that boy Jackie Robinson. Beloved, I call both of them. God I can still see him stealing home and Milkman falling back to earth. God Micky, why don't you just read instead of sitting behind third base. Wave the other poets home the next time the World Series hits Boston.
Of course I have piles and piles of books to put in order. But guess what? Tomorrow is January 1st and so I have the entire year to do that -Right?
I went to the bank and post-office this morning. I mailed a stack of bills and a few pieces of correspondence. The city is empty or folks are just sleeping and waiting to party tonight. It's nice and warm.
I had breakfast at Kramers and purchased three books. I'll be packing these items for Bennington:
Mercy by Lucille Clifton
Breath by Philip Levine. Bless Levine for putting a photograph of a young Don Cherry on the cover of his book. I guess that's a pocket trumpet under Cherry's arm.
Moyers On America by Bill Moyers
In The New Yorker (the latest isue) in between the article about Tony Kushner is a poem by Lawrence Raah. One of the lines made me think about the recent tsunami:
"Great poems told us that nature
would never betray us..."
Thursday, December 30, 2004
we got some members in the church that don't act right
so what you gonna do?
put them out
put them out
and let the church roll on.
My son is back home from NC. His team won both their games. They are now 8-3 and could be looking at a City Championship. The season is still young but things keep getting better. Lose early and win Late, that's what I say when a team starts off slow but wins it all in the end.
My afternoon interview with a radio friend was cancelled. This gave me a chance to get 6 letters of recommendations out for my friend Willa. She is trying to get accepted into a creative writing program.
I made good progress on my "Things to do" list. I pulled a couple of Dick Barnet's books and made a display at the circulation desk in the African American Resource Center.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
I had a morning meeting with staff at IPS. A good exchange of views and ideas on how to improve our operations.
Around 1PM I took the Metro over to U Street and took Michon to lunch. We ate at the new Sala Thai Restaurant (1301 U Street, NW). Whew...this neighborhood is changing while I type.
New stores opening every week. By next summer the place will feel like Coney Island...or is that just my mind?
Michon and I discussed future television shows for Humanities Profiled. We have a show in production which will be my interview with the historian Ira Berlin. Out topic is the Emancipation Proclamation. Another program in production is an old interview with poet/playwright Miguel Pinero. Depending on our budget we might be able to shoot a few more things in 2005.
After meeting with Michon I walked down to the LoveCafe. Yeah...it's like its name. Cozy, the type of place where your knees touch the person you're with. I was by myself and felt good too.
I've been looking for a place like this. Not too big...good light. It has a progressive look...
I'll make another trip back and see what folks are reading.
On my way home I bumped into one of the city's "popular" city council members. We had a nice warm chat in the warm air. We exchanged cards and I felt I knew where my electronic ballot went back in November.
I came home and found mail that had a nice jingle. My wife was getting her hair done by a sister who said "Happy Kwanzaa." I felt I was right in the middle of the Boondocks cartoon strip. I mumbled something back...picked up the mail with the good news and asked myself, " Is this the result one of the seven Kwanzaa principles I should be celebrating today? These are the days when we must have more faith in the unseen.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Don't tell anyone...
The United States of Leland (with Don Cheadle)
Zhou Yu's Train
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring
" To live is to be photographed, to have a record of one's life, and therefore to go on with one's life oblivious, or claiming to be oblivious, to the camera's nonstop attentions. But to live is also to pose."
- Susan Sontag.
AMERICAN RED CROSS
Contributions should be sent to International Response Fund, P.O.Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. For more information about donating, call 800-435-7699.
For information about friends or relatives who may have been affected call 866-438-4636.
You can also contact the Center for International Disaster Information at 703-276-1914.
Monday, December 27, 2004
I think I've known Willa since she was a little girl. She is a very good fiction writer. We spent the morning laughing. Her parents are dear friends of mine. Willa is interested in attending a creative writing program. I'll be working on her letters of recommendation tomorrow.
I dashed out of Tryst at 10AM and caught the 16th Street bus up to Mayorga in Silver Spring. I met with Susan (another writer). She is working on a novel set in the Sudan.
This evening I had dinner in Chinatown with Dan and Mimi. So how many pounds did I gain today?
Sunday, December 26, 2004
"Sooner or later I'm going to have to talk about the white house and how the men there don't seem to like big butt women."
I suspect within the next 10 years robots might be as common as cellphones and computers.
From today's Washington Post:
"The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections."
Might we see "Post-Ballot Adjustments" in future American elections? Is this taking place right now in Washington state? The term sounds like something that comes with fries and a song called "Dixie."
2 CDS...one is the soundtrack from the Ray movie and the other is Timeless Savoy Jazz: Parker, Davis, Coltrane, Garner, Gillespie and Hawkins.
The "Itty Bitty Buddha" that one can pack when taking a trip.
A box ofThe New Yorker Baseball cards/envelopes.
Jazz, Baseball and Buddhism. Now that's the title of a best selling book.
Last night I watched the film Napoleon Dynamite. While at jury duty my friend Ed told me to checkout this movie. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a funny film. My favorite character was Pedro. I liked how characters are just suddenly introduced in this film. How each person walks and talks is just priceless. My wife and daughter left me to watch it by myself. They didn't care for the pacing or the humor.
Since Richard Barnet's death I've been reading his ROOTS OF WAR. The man was a genius. There is no way you can read this book without nodding your head. It gives you insight into how the Bush Administration is changing the running of the country. Barnet wrote his book in 1972. Once again we are seeing how the military is shaping foreign policy. Putting DaRice in charge of the State Department makes Bush sense and keeping Rums keeps a certain type of diplomacy on the sidelines. We need to pay more attention to military/business relationships. Barnet's book examines how things changed in our world after WWII.
Since becoming board chair of IPS I've been pushing myself to read more things on politics.
So many issues to follow. I recently received a note from Edwidge D. I hope IPS will be able to do some things around Haiti. Edwidge will be coming to DC soon to talk about conditions in that country.
Well my son is packing to leave this morning for a basketball tournament in NC. I'm not missing his next DC game against St. John's on January 4th.
Football today. I hope the Ravens can make it to the playoffs.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Two good news items in the paper today. In the NY Times there is an article about electronic gun checks in Massachusetts. They are the first state to install an electronic instant-check system complete with a fingerprint scanner for gun licenses and gun purchases.
In The Washinton Post checkout "Rediscovered 'Race Movies' Playing to a New Audience" written by Sylvia Moreno. It's about all the black movies of the 1930. '40s and early '50s that have been saved and placed on DVD by Southern Methodist University. Contact the SMU's Hamon Arts Library which is the home of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. The films are part of the Tyler, Texas, Black Film Collection. Back in 1983 thousands of 35mm film canisters were discovered in an old warehouse in Tyler, east of Dallas. These films are now available as a three-DVD box set.
I received a phone call this morning from Reggie, my old college roommate. We talked about music and politics like we were still back in the dorm. Back in the days did we ever go to class? I can still remember Reggie coming back (after Springbreak) from Philly with books on Islam and Eastern religions. Incense starting burning and soon the sound of a pocket flute was heard on our dorm floor. Little did we know that Reggie would one day play with Sun Ra. Around this time I changed my name to Ethelbert and told people I was from another planet. The rest is folklore and things you can't find in the yearbook.
Friday, December 24, 2004
"The further you go in writing the more alone you are. Most of your best and oldest friends die. Others move away. You do not see them except rarely, but you write and have much the same contact with them as though you were together at the cafe in the old days. You exchange comic, sometimes cheerfully obscene and irresponsible letters, and it it almost as good as talking. But you are more alone because that is how you must work and the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness."
" The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector."
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Richard J. Barnet, IPS co-founder died. Barnet left the Kennedy Administration and started the Insitute for Policy Studies with Marc Raskin. At the time he was 33 years old. In 1974 he wrote GLOBAL REACH. This book is considered the seminal work on globalization.
Other important books by Barnet are:
ROOTS OF WAR
INTERVENTION & REVOLUTION
The following is taken from the introduction of ROOTS OF WAR:
"We are the number one nation," President Lyndon B. Johnson told the National Foreign Policy Conference at the State Department at a crucial moment in the Vietnam War, "and we are going to stay the number one nation." There has never been a more succinct definition of the American national interest. This book is an examination of our national interest - who decides how American power is to be used in the world, and why.
Staying number one is a struggle for permanent victory. One failure of will, President Nixon has warned, will expose the United State to the world as a "pitiful helpless giant." In the pursuit of permanent victory the United States has engaged in a form of permanent war."
"With the dawn of oil production in 1999, Sudan's Government began collecting $500 million a year in revenue. About 80% went to buy weapons."
-Washington Post, 12.23.04
90 works by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat will be on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum from March 11, 2005 - June 5, 2005. Basquiat died in 1988.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
There's no visible exit in the frame - only a cloud of dust.
I spent the morning meeting with Anna Johnson. Anna once owned Open Hand Publishing Company. She republished THE MAKING OF BLACK REVOLUTIONARIES by James Forman. I still think this is one of the best accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. Anna also published my collection of poems WHERE ARE THE LOVE POEMS FOR DICTATORS?
Anna is one of those exceptional people who is committed to social change.
The HU campus is empty. A new academic year will begin in a few weeks.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
While Doug was in my office I had a chance to talk to a couple of the workmen who are putting in a sprinkler system. I asked one guy about what might happened to some of the books if the system was activated. Do you know what happens? Anyway we had a good discussion about preserving things. I asked him if he had to make a choice between saving a building and the original copy of the U.S. Constitution what would he do? He said he would save the building.
Hmmm. I think I need to move my files. I love talking to people. It's how I learn what I don't know and what other people think they know.
I received a note from Julia about a possible panel on my work at the upcoming ALA conference
in Boston. That would be nice.
I also received an invitation today to do a reading in March at George Washington University.
I was reading the Paris Review interview with Robert Frost last night. I came across this remark by Frost:
"The father is always a Republican toward his son, and his mother's always a Democrat."
In the same interview Frost talks about his dislike for the translations of things. Tonight I plan to read the Paris Review interview with Ezra Pound.
Voces de America (American Voices)
Interviews with American Writers
Laura P. Alonso Gallo, ed.
"Enriching the Chorus, A Poetic Vision of the World: E. Ethelbert Miller"
31 interviews with writers from the Americas spanning nearly 700 pages
published by Advana Vieja in Spain, distributed by Ediciones Universal in Miami, FL:
Cost: 25 Euros in Spain
Monday, December 20, 2004
I had lunch at B Smith's restaurant (Union Station) with two members of the Norwegian Embassy. A nice opportunity to talk and laugh. We discussed working on some projects together.
I made a number of phone calls this afternoon. One was to Karla Hammond. We are finally back in touch, thanks to someone reading my E-Notes. Many years ago Karla did some wonderful interviews with a number of major writers. I think we might have started corresponding when she was working on an interview with June Jordan. Karla and I never met. We joked about that today. I have a stack of old letters from Karla to put in order.
Today I received a Bennington packet filled with the manuscripts of my new students. It's that time again.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
by Jeffrey Rosen.
" As blogs expand, people will need to develop new social conventions to resurrect the boundaries between public and private interactions."
I try to avoid the Hill unless I'm going to the Folger Library or Library of Congress. In the old days I did a number of readings in the area. The Starfish is a funny place. The waiters are nice. Everyone is not fluent in English, but that's what makes it fun too. You point, look, laugh and eat. Food can bring people together.
Now what is Rumsfeld eating? It looks like folks in the Republican Party want him out of the Administration. With all the changes Bush has made going into his second term, folks might just want to make one more. I can see Bush waiting until he speaks to the nation in January to maybe announce that Rumsfeld is stepping down. I can see him "thanking" the guy for his service during prime time. It's the way out the exit. I can't see a second Bush group going into their first year with leftovers on the table. It's all about food remember?
So what about the Nationals? I saw a friend of mine this morning in the Safeway wearing one of those funny red hats with the W.
Watermelons? It's all about food remember? It's amazing how many racist emails Lady Cropp received. What's with all these monkey jokes again?? Are we trying to bring a soccer team from Europe here? Are the people calling Cropp names the type of people who seem to be attending our games lately? Politics is about compromise and respect. Leadership is about making difficult decisions. Kennedy once called it profiles in courage.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
"All poems read easily, but teachers should be aware of his playful, tender work about lovemaking. This book offers fine poetic craft applied to a wide, troubled world."
A morning Poet Lore meeting and then some Bennington work. I did watch some football. Eli finally looked like a QB. The Steelers look like a team that won't go far in the playoffs. Their rookie QB is OK but not great. The guy still has to take his finals.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Netfa Freeman called a SALSA meeting. He is trying to establish an advisory committee. SALSA stands for Social Action & Leadership School for Activists. http://www.hotsalsa.org
Around 3PM I met with Karen Dolan and folks working with the LEO network. Karen runs the Cities for Peace/Progressive Challenge unit at IPS. www.citiesforpeace.org
We were joined by Malia who will be doing most of the LEO work; targeting 21 cities where she will work with elected officials around a number of important political issues: The War, Walmart, Patriot Act, etc. Malia is in need of a laptop computer, wireless, CD ROM and DVD capabilities.
This is a chance for someone to make a lovely end of the year contribution to a progressive organization. Malia can be contacted at: Malialazu@aol.com
Please let folks know...
Thursday, December 16, 2004
I went into the waiting area and took a seat near the front of the room. The television was tuned to the Ken Burns jazz documentary. It was the BeBop era. I sat looking up at the monitor- Dizzy, Bird and others just playing away. What happened to the Discovery Channel and the little animals in Australia that will make you sip on sleep in five minutes?
I was torn between watching the jazz film or reading my Poet Lore packets. Before I could decide my friend Ed Darden took the seat beside me. We laughed and talked about family, politics and just about everything. Here we were two black men outside the judicial system
and watching the clock turn. By Noon we were informed that we could go home early. Ed and I walked over to 7th street and had lunch across the street from the MCI arena.
This was a type of day that you put in your pocket and let it dance with your change.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
This afternoon I met with the IPS staff. What a fun bunch. I'm looking forward to my term as chair of the board. I shared with folks information about myself and presented a few of the things I would like to accomplish during the next few months.
Two people I met for the first time were Emily Schwartz Greco and Kerri Sherlock. Greco is the Media Director for the Foreign Policy In Focus (http;//www.fpif.org). Sherlock is the managing attorney for the Break The Chain Campaign (BreakTheChainCampaign.org).
I left IPS and went down to Borders on 14th Street. I read a couple of Bennington packets.
I have a couple of days of leave from HU. Tomorrow is Jury Duty. I plan to just take my copy of A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS by Amos Oz to read.
Perhaps Hank Aaron said it best: "I know that you can't put something in your body to make you hit a fastball, changeup or curveball." Baseball faces the same challenges as every other sport: the pressure to perform forces some to seek any advantage, legal or illegal. There is no reason to expect more from baseball than we do from society.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Please join D.C. Poets Against the War as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy of peace and call for an end to the Iraq war. Poets: Camille Dungy, Esther Iverem and E. Ethelbert Miller
Wednesday, January 19, 2005 6:30 PM
Karibu Books, The Mall at Prince George's, 3500 East-West Highway, Hyattsville, MD 20782
Karibu Books is run by wonderful people: www.karibubooks.com
Checkout these websites:
Tomorrow I will meet with the IPS staff and provide them with an outline of the things I plan to do as board chair during the next few months.
I went from downtown to DuPont Circle for lunch with Fran Jordan, Francine Jamin and Robert Giron. We met at the Thai Chef restaurant (1712 Connecticut Ave, NW). We talked about how I could get involved with The Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College. The purpose of the Institute is to celebrate and increase knowledge of America's culture, history, principles and poltiical traditions.
We left Thai Chef and walked over to the Provisions Library. I love the place...
OK...sports fans. My son will be on Comcast sports playing basketball on Thursday evening.
The time is either 7:30 PM or 8PM. It's the airing of the recent 16th Annual Gonzaga D.C. Classic Charity Basketball Tournament. It's Gonzaga against DeMatha. What a great game...I have to see it again. There are about five outstanding plays my son made.
The next big game is January 4th against St. John. Now you know you have to get to that game an 1hr before the tip. It's always crowded.
Monday, December 13, 2004
My black heavy coat is out. I found one glove. Gloves are like socks, one is always disappearing.
I met with my friend Randall. He is moving to Chicago next week where he will pursue his writing career. Deidre came by the office and we went to lunch around Noon. We ate at the 5Guys joint on Georgia Avenue. It was the first time I stuck my head in the place. The Cajun fries are good and are given to you in a brown paper bag. The grease cuts into the paper before you get your change back. If someone placed newspaper on the small tables I would swear that I was in a small town in Mississippi. The burgers come with everything and they spill out of the bun like the ones at Wendy. I don't know who the 5 guys are but for cheap food its not bad. I like hanging with Deidre. We have many mutual friends. Deidre did some work with my Anacostia exhibit.
In the afternoon Paula who teaches at the Ellington school came by for some information about
Blacks and Jews. We talked for about an hour. I pulled material that I thought would be helpful in writing a paper that's due on Friday.
Rebecca Warner's new poetry book is out. Rebecca is a Bennie. She was my student a few years ago. The title of her new book is NORTHWEST PASSAGE. It's published by Orchises Press:
P.O.Box 20602, Alexandria, Virginia 22320-1602. $14.95.
On the back of Warner's book I say the following about her work:
"There's enough variety in this book to open a supermarket. Don't just sample the sweets, read the title poem and watch Warner fasten a flower to the dress of history."
The new Poets & Writers just came in the mail -January/February 2005 issue. John Haskell is on the cover.
Tonight I need to complete work on 2 Bennington packets and read submissions for Poet Lore.
But first I'm going to checkout the The New Yorker.
I read with Mike Beyer who lives in Baltimore. He is the author of a very creative chapbook -
NOT A DAMN THING IN MY POCKETS BUT AMERICA. Beyer calls it an escalator chapbook.
It opens like an accordion. Beyer did a print run of 600. If you want to obtain copies of the book write to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hilary Tham introduced me to the audience. It was good to see her again. Hilary has always been a special member of the local literary community. I began my reading with 2 poems from MEMOIR OF THE HAWK by James Tate. I read about 8 poems from a new collection I'm working on. I concluded with Ahmos Zu-Bolton's poem "Half-Moon Over Poplarville."
After the reading I came back home and watched the Redskins lose to the Eagles. I don't expect the Redskins to win another game this season.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
"Fans who use Viagra and Cialis to improve their "performance" should not be surprised that athletes use steroids to improve their own."
- Kathryn Jay
Washington Post (12/12/04)
What a game last night. What a game. DeMatha defeated Gonzaga. My son's team went into the championship game as the underdog. They lead DeMatha the entire game until the last 2 minutes. Then things just fell apart. My son played an awesome game. I think folks saw his court genius and ability to lead a team. He was elected team captain during the beginning of the season by his teammates. Gonzaga is now 6-3. The way they played last night they might not lose any more games after this one. It's obvious they can defeat any high school basketball team in the area. I think DeMatha learned that last night. Round 2 will be next year.
My son's team upcoming games will be in North Carolina the last week of December. I was one proud Poppa last night.
Today I have to give a poetry reading at the Iota Club and Cafe (2832 Wilson Blvd) in Arlington, Virginia. It's the Potomac Review publication reading. 6 PM. I'll be reading with poets Mike Beyer and Judy Neri.
I judged the 9th Annual Poetry Contest for the Potomac Review. The work I selected is in the new issue. I picked poems by Jenifer Browne Lawrence, Shawna St. Leigh and Nancy Tupper Ling.
Here is a link to the Potomac Review. Folks might want to think about submitting work to this quality journal:http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/potomacreview/
Friday, December 10, 2004
Gonzaga will play DeMatha tomorrow night at 8:45 PM for the Gonzaga DC Classic Tournament.
The game will be at American University. It will be shown on Comcast television at a later date.
Gonzaga defeated Jesuit High (from California) this evening to advance to the final game.
Now back to reading Bennington packets and submissions for Poet Lore magazine.
- Mahmoud Darwish
Much of the day was spent at the DC Classic. I saw several good high school basketball games.
My son's team defeated a school from NC and advanced in the tournament. They will play a school from California today at 6:45PM - American University.
3 Bennington packets arrived in the mail. It means I will have a busy weekend. Charles Johnson sent me the latest copy (January 2005) of SHAMBHALA SUN. He wrote the cover story which is an essay about Martin Luther King, Jr and his message of love and courage.
Today I have a couple of meetings at Howard.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I have a Noon meeting at the Martin Luther King Library with the literature division folks. We have been planning a big poetry celebration for National Poetry Month. The date is April 23rd. Wendy Rieger agreed to be the honorary chairperson for the event.
DC Classic tomorrow...
I took a break this evening and watched Bourne Supremacy with my son. How many cities do we visit in this film? Whew...I needed a passport just to watch it. I'm glad I saw this on video. It's an action home movie. You need to see the first Bourne film for #2 to make sense.
Let me get back to reading.
"What's the Story? A Deeper Look at the History of Greater Shaw in Washington, DC in the Context of the National African American Experience."
This program is sponosred by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Shaw Community Fund of the Community Foundation of Washington, D.C.
It's a project of Cultural Tourism DC.
My presentation is at 11AM.
Basketball update...my son's team (4-2) won last night in Rockville, Md. He was in double figures for the third straight game. The Gonzaga DC Classic starts on Thursday. Gonzaga will be playing West Forsyth from NC at 5PM. The game is at Gonzaga. Friday and Saturday games are at American University. Show your face in the place and don't be late.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
At the Anacostia Museum I met with high school students from Ballou, Bell and Roosevelt. They had read my memoir FATHERING WORDS. The program was sponsored by the PEN/Faulker Writers in Schools project. Ann Marie Lavorata coordinated everything. It was good to talk about the book and give the young people autographs. Two students gave me letters about how the book affected them.
One student wrote the following:
"I want you to know that FATHERING WORDS is one of the most interesting books that I have ever read. Once I started, it was hard for me to put it down because it was so exciting. "
Comments like this is what keeps me writing.
OK..update on Stevie Wonder. His new album won't be out until next April. The title is TIME 2 LOVE. It will be his first album since 1995. Wonder has future plans to release a jazz album with harmonica, and also a gospel one. I can't wait...
August Wilson's new play GEM OF THE OCEAN is at the Walter Kerr Theater (219 48th Street) in New York. The play was reviewed today in the Washington Post and New York Times.
Monday, December 06, 2004
I did some cleaning up in the Center. So much dust left from folks knocking holes in the ceiling...
I had a good talk with my Buddy Bev about Vivian Gornick's work. I've been reading Gornick's APPROACHING EYE LEVEL on the bus and train. I have a few more pages to read. I recently loaned Bev my copy of FIERCE ATTACHMENTS and she couldn't put it down.
After work at HU I met with novelist Susan Burgess-Lent at Mayorga Coffee Factory on Georgia Avenue/Silver Spring. Susan is the author of two novels. Our mutual friend Wendy Rieger thought it would be good for us to meet. So glad we did. Susan and I had fun talking about writing as well as happenings in Africa.
Later I went down to the Folger to hear Harryette Mullen read. A good program. Poets night out. Melissa Tuckey, Sarah Browning, Brandon Johnson and others in the audience. Also there was James Fraser from the Emily Dickinson International Society and Eve Grubin, Programs Director at the Poetry Society of America in New York.
Just before the Folger reading I bumped into the actor Clayton LeBouef on Pennsylvania Avenue. We talked for about 30 minutes. I guess I became a fan of Clayton's work on the television show Homicide. He told me to checkout the film SOMETHING THE LORD MADE.
It should be released on DVD in January. Mos Def is in it...so is Clayton.
Thanks to Sarah Browning I got home early tonight. She gave me ride home from the Folger.
In the home mail pile was the latest issue of THE WRITER'S CHRONICLE (December 2004).
It features interviews with Annie Finch and Edward P. Jones.
Tomorrow morning I have a talk to give on FATHERING WORDS at the Anacostia Museum. The program is sponsored by the PEN/Faulkner Writers in School project. The audience will consist of 40 high school students and five teachers.
My son has a basketball game tomorrow night. I hope his team can build on their last victory.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I've been working on my notes for a presentation at the Cultural Tourism DC conference taking place this week. "What's the Story? A Deeper Look at the History of Greater Shaw in Washington, DC in the Context of the National African American Experience. It will be held on December 7-8, 2004 at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage.
My talk is on the 8th at 11AM. I will be talking about "Looking to the future: African American culture in the coming decades."
Other speakers at this event will include James A. Miller, James O. Horton, Niani Kilkenny and others.
Poet Harryette Mullen is reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library tomorrow evening. I hope to attend. Mullen is the author of SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY. The program starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $10. This is the 2004 Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute Reading.
The Folger is located at 201 East Capitol St, SE.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Fathi Arafat (Yasir's brother) recently died in Cairo. He was 67.
Maori writer Witi Ihimaera the author of WHALE RIDER will be the writer-in-residence at George Wasington University in 2005.
I did a few errands this morning. I took a copy of APPROACHING EYE LEVEL by Vivian Gornick to keep me company on the bus. Her writing always places a smile on my face.
Friday, December 03, 2004
I did get some important pieces of mail out. That's always a good feeling for a writer.
I think I'm in the middle of reading 5 or 6 books at once. A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS by Amos Oz came in the mail today. Whew...I would love to read this book during the upcoming holidays.
My son's team lost to McDonogh School (from Baltimore). His team is now 1-2. Not a good start.
Their second game of the St. Albans tournament will be tomorrow (December 4th) at 7PM.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Alice Coltrane's TRANSLINEAR LIGHT
Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby (The New mixes) Vol. 1
There was a time when I listened to more Alice than John. We are what we listen to.
Poet John Murillo has a small chapbook you can obtain for $5.
ALUTA... is published by ZuluAzteca Press: email@example.com
John has 2 poems in the D.C. POETS AGAINST THE WAR anthology.
I've been writing letters of recommendations the last few days. I completed a major one today.
I talked with a couple of students about life. That's one of the more enjoyable parts of the job.
My computer is still not working. I hear many people in Iraq are still without power. I'm humble and will wait for troops to arrive.
The new Potomac Review just came out. Issue # 38. I judged the 9th Annual Poetry Contest
for the journal. My picks were Jenifer Browne Lawrence, Shawna St. Leigh and Nancy Tupper Ling.
If you're interested in submitting work to the review here is the information:
My poem "The Genesis of Torture" can also be found in this issue of the Potomac Review.
See page 82.
So look at SI. Sportsmen of the Year: Red Sox Nation 2004. Good pick.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
"Should Miller average near double digits for assists this season - which he has the ability to do- the Eagles will be tough to beat."
I agree. I'm just a proud Dad.
Thanks to Adrienne Black who makes my website go...
Workers still working in my HU space. I had a lunch meeting with Raskin (founder of IPS) at the Sofitel at Lafayette Square. I had a good soup and lemonade with fresh mint. I've become addicted to lemonade and fresh mint. Its what I was drinking in Israel. Raskin and I talked about the future of IPS. It's always good watching this man think. The guy is a genius.
IPS will have to move soon. A group of us looked at property on 14th Street this afternoon.
The place has potential.
For you New Yorkers - checkout the Poets House Holiday Book Sale. December 9-11.
11AM-7PM. Poets House is located at 72 Spring Street, 2nd Floor.
Later in the day I ran into Allison Barlow and Helen Brunner. Friends from my Blue Mountain Center days. Allison was my volleyball partner and just a child back in the day. She has 2 children now, as does her brother Toby. The Blue Mountain Center will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2006.
- Annie Dillard
Today it's lunch with Raskin at IPS.
My son has a basketball game this evening. Team is 1-1. Big games the next two weeks. Come to the DC Classic: www.gonzagadcclassic.org
Monday, November 29, 2004
Amistad is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
I went down into the stacks and pulled some poetry books for research. The HU library has an excellent collection of poetry books.
I gave a talk/reading to senior citizens over in Georgetown at the St. John's Episcopal Church located at 3240 O St, NW. I invited my friend Melissa Tuckey to join me. She is a student enrolled in the George Mason creative writing program. We both read our own work as well as poems by Linda Hogan, James Tate and Stanley Kunitz. We had a nice discussion afterwards.
On the way back across town I ran into the writer Richard McCann. He has a new book out next year. McCann has been a cornerstone of the creative writing program at American University for the last several years.
In the mail was a large pile of material for a writer up for promotion at his college. I have to review the package and write a critical evaluation. I have about two months to do it. I guess I do about 3 - 4 of these things a year. Sometimes it feels like jury duty. It's important- so I push myself to do it. It's a good opportunity to keep up with what folks are writing.
Also in the mail was Gretchen Roberts-Shorter's new novel CAN'T REMEMBER PLAYING.
The book was published by the Washington Writers' Publishing House. The novel is set in the 1780s. You get the Revolutionary War, slavery and more. The book sells for $14.95 and can be obtain by writing to:
Washington Writers' Publishing House, P.O.Box 15271, Washington, DC 20003
Gretchen is one of those writers I wish I could have helped more. Sometimes there is just too much on my desk.
I'm back to listening to Etta James tonight: Blue Gardenia.
Oh...while in Georgetown I saw some nice sweatshirts for our new baseball team - The Nationals. Now if we can just drop those funny looking W caps. I hate them...no wonder the Senators couldn't win with those things on their heads.
DC City Council should just vote for having the team in DC. Was the City Council folks talking about improving our schools and having a new library before baseball was heading this way? I don't think so. 50 people walking around with protest posters is not a Boston Tea Party. It's a small poetry reading.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
"Most writers write totally off the top of their heads. They don't know how their work fits within the tradition of literature, they don't know really what their objectives are. But art, like science, has rules, objectives. It's only on the basis of having a sense of tradition that you can say that something fits within the continuum and advances it."
The Latino woman had a couple of kids. They didn't need to listen to all the foul language. The black man said he was 52 and didn't have to be pushed around in front of his own home. I told him I was older and he should listen to an elder. ;-)
I'm also getting too old for this type of stuff.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Bert knows what Bo didn't know.
A number of letters from the literary critic Karla Hammond. Whatever happened to her? She was living in CT.
Ahmos just moved back to DC. His letters are filled with so much literary history of the 1970s and 1980s. Maybe we should sit down and look at what we were doing back then. If we're not careful magazines like Callaloo will just skip over folks like Thulani Davis, Ahmos Zu-Bolton, Primus St. John and others. This is what happened to folks who were writing in the 1950s and early 1960s. Their careers were overshadowed by the advocates of the Black Arts Movement.
Folks will think poetry started again when Saul Williams was born. That's a slam. Well hush my mouth but keep my eyes open.
Friday, November 26, 2004
- Charles Johnson
PASSING THE THREE GATES: INTERVIEWS WITH CHARLES JOHNSON
edited by Jim McWilliams
University of Washington Press, 2004.
- Allen Hoffman in his essay "From the Herring to the Leviathan" published in the first issue of Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature.
Checkout the essay on Charlie Brown by Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker (November 29, 2004). It's good.
Early morning work: Letters mailed. A short jog. One letter of recommendation completed. One more letter of recommendation to do.
I'll hopefully complete all my Bennington work this afternoon. Maybe I'll have a moment to go down to the basement and pack 2 boxes of books for the Booker T. Washington Charter School.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Edwidge Danticat had an OP-ED article on Haiti in the New York Times on November 24th. E's uncle recently died while seeking asylum in the US.
Here are E' s words:
"When he left Port-au-Prince, my uncle joined a long list of desperate, ill-fated Haitians who are fleeing a country that is plagued not only by gang warfare, rebel attacks, summary arrests and other human rights violations, but also ecological disasters: in September, flash floods caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne killed 1,900 people and left 200,000 more homeless."
In the Washington Post today there was an article about how Kodak will no longer be making slide projectors. Can you believe that? Do you remember how the slides always got stuck?
MOMA just reopened. The Museum of Modern Art in New York. www.moma.org
I won't get to visit until April of next year.
Yesterday I received the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. There is a review of all the new Neruda books, as well as an article on Hayden Carruth.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Carl Phillips writes : Bolz persuasively argues for a narrative in which time no longer figures as it used to: anything - to our delight and terror, equally- is possible.
Jody is a fellow editor of Poet Lore and teaches creative writing at George Washington University.
Another pointer from the new Marsalis book:
"You should go practice, then think about saving the world."
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I like this Zen sentence in his book:
"It's important to realize that in order to be different, you have to do something different."
I went to the big poetry committee meeting held at the King Library. We are planning the next TAKING POETRY TO THE STREET. It's a celebration of National Poetry Month sponsored by the DC Public Library. The date is April 23rd, from Noon to 3PM. Last April it was a nice affair...
Talking about the library...have you seen the lovely renovations taking place in the King building? New carpet, etc.
I think Richard L. Jackson is doing a good job down there. Can we keep the guy in the director's position? Down the street the good Wizards keep leaving town. We already lost Hamilton...let's keep the other Richard at the library.
Poet Lore meeting this evening.
Talking about poetry, the new Callaloo magazine is out. The focus is on "the new wave" of contemporary African American Poetry. Thomas Ellis, A. Van Jordan, Honoree Jeffers are included.
I'm waiting for the writer to emerge who will have that June Jordan walk and talk. Right now I see Suheir doing it and she's not African American. Hmmmm.
If African American poetry keeps coming out of workshops while a war is going on some of this stuff is going to be nothing but wallpaper in an academic's basement. Good for an MLA meeting and wine or beer at the bar.
Still some of the best writers at work today are in this latest issue of Callaloo. Get your copy...Vol. 27. No.4.
I'm glad Charles Rowell (editor) included interviews with the new wave. How many are perms?
I need to make travel arrangements( today) for my January trip to Bennington.
No other major trips being planned for 2005 right now.
Monday, November 22, 2004
On my way over to Howard I shared a cab with Kirsten a nice woman who had recently started working at the Norwegian Embassy. Our female cabdriver wrote poetry and recited a long piece that was actually very good. It did take me longer than usual to get across town.
At the HU post office I mailed my son's basketball tapes to the schools he is interested in playing for next year. I dropped one of his videos over at Howard's athletic office.
Folks are doing construction in the Resource Center. :-( My computer is not working...
Like Ali in Zaire I roll with the punches.
I'm slowly writing new poems for my next collection. Here's what's coming:
ON SEEING THE FIRST WIFE A SECOND TIME
We sit in a Hard Rock Cafe
with our two drinks in front of us.
The woman behind you stares at
your gray hair. I look into your eyes
and try to find the address to our
old apartment. We've been holding
hands all night as if we wanted to
touch tomorrow. When you talk
about the sad things in your life I can
smell the burning of a tear.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Coming in future E-Notes will be short book reviews. Changes are being made to my website. Comments and feedback are always helpful.
At Howard it was a day of talking to folks and helping them with research. One person who came by my office to visit was the writer and scholar John McCluskey, Jr from Indiana University in Bloomington. We had a wonderful time talking and laughing. It made the day.
Mikki picked me up from Howard after work and we went down to Chinatown for dinner. Afterwards we drove over to 10th Street and went to the Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany program at the Smithsonian. It was good to see so many people out for the event. Both of the writers are loved. They have fans. They were both gracious and seemed moved by the evening.
Mikki and I sat in the auditorium holding hands like we were back in college. We were married back in 1972. After the program we walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe and had a drink. We looked at each other's gray hair and wondered where the time went. I'm glad our friendship is still special...
Before going to bed I looked at the mail. Two new books arrived:
Destiny's Gift by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. Illustrated by Adjoa Burrowes.
I remember when Natasha came from Harvard to Howard. Adjoa was a Fine Arts Student at Howard back in the day. She did a couple of my Ascension reading flyers. The first one was after the death of our friend Janet Gaillard. The film Juice by E. Dickerson is dedicated to Janet.
Little, Brown and Company sent me Martha Cooley's new novel. The title is Thirty-Three Swoons. Martha is the author of The Archivist and is teaching at Bennington. I look forward to giving her a hug during our January residency.
OK...let me go get my birthday cake. I saw Denise sneaking it into the house the other day.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Ken Burns will release his documentary on the boxer Jack Johnson on PBS in January. The title is UNFORGIVEABLE BLACKNESS: THE RISE AND FALL OF JACK JOHNSON.
I wonder if football player Terrell Owens will be watching.
Irshad Manji had an interesting article on Islam in yesterday's New York Times.
Manji is the author of THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM: A MUSLIM'S CALL FOR REFORM IN HER FAITH. Manji is a young Canadian Muslim.
I just got a newsletter and note from my buddies at the Blue Mountain Center located in upstate New York. They wanted to know if I knew some "hot" poets interested in coming to their retreat. For more info contact: BMC@bluemountaincenter.org
Blue Mountain is where I wrote many of the poems included in WHERE ARE THE LOVE POEMS FOR DICTATORS?
Folks in Detroit are trying to raise money for a bust that will honor poet Naomi Madgett in Detroit. Madgett is also the founder of Lotus Press. That's a company that's responsible for many African American poets having books. Include me on the list. Madgett published my collection SEASON OF HUNGER/CRY OF RAIN. Lotus Press Inc is trying to raise $20,000 fo r the project honoring Madgett. If you want to make a gift contact Diane Reeder, Chair, Lotus Press, Inc. They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website is: www.lotuspress.org
My son had another basketball scrimmage. He was looking good last night.
It was nice to eat dinner together at Union Station and then take a cab back home. In a few months he will be on his own and playing college ball. He has a box of highlight tapes going out to schools next week.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
New book arrivals:
Where Monsoons Cry by Lalita Noronha.
It's a collection of short stories published by Kwame Alexander. Noronha writes about Indian culture within America. I started reading the first story "This Is America" and found her words tasty.
Bart Schneider's new novel also arrived in the mail. The title is Beautiful Inez. The character Inez Roseman is a violinist with the San Francisco Symphony. The story takes place in the 1960s.
I met Bart when I was in the Twin Cities several months ago. He is the founding editor of the Hungry Mind Review and Speakeasy magazine.
2 New Yorker magazine articles I have on my desk to read:
Article on Richard Wilbur in the November 22nd issue
Profile of Amos Oz in the November 8th issue
Last night I was out in PG County watching my son's first preseason game. It's going to take a few games before his team starts to play well. It's early. Another game this evening at Gonzaga.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
While I was in Israel I was elected the new chair of the Institute for Policy Studies. Checkout website: www.ips-dc.org
I have a couple of meetings at Howard today. I'm in the middle of returning Bennington packets.
Yesterday I had a lunch and a fun conversation with my buddy Bev at Borders in Silver Spring.
Today is my son's first preseason basketball game. Two other games will be played on Thursday and Saturday. This is his senior year in high school. Coaches are still calling the house. I have no idea what college he plans to attend. I'm beginning to see the pressure some of these young kids are under.
I'm reading Stanley Crouch's new book: THE ARTIFICIAL WHITE MAN. I missed his book party at P& P a few weeks ago. Crouch was on one of my early Ascension readings. We held it at Howard and only a few people came. I wonder what would happen today.
SF Friday with Octavia Butler and Samuel Delaney on November 19th at 7PM. The program will be at the National Museum of Natural History (Baird Auditorium, 12th Street and Constitution Ave). This event is part of the exhibit I curated back in June - ALL THE STORIES ARE TRUE. The exhibit will be up until the end of December. Be sure to see it...tell friends.
The exhibit is at the Anacostia Museum located at 1901 Fort Pl, SE. Call 202 610-3290 for details.
Well it's "BERT DAY" on Saturday. I'll be 54. Celebrate by reading a poem to a friend. :-)
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
On the front page of the New York Times today is a picture of Colin Powell and Condo Rice. They look like father and daughter. Rice is passing a note. We all know what it says:
"Should I take this job?"
" Can we meet after this? "
Powell has the look of a father who is accepting a daughter's explanation or maybe she is seeking forgiveness.
White people frame the back of the picture. Over Powell's shoulder is the head of a white woman. The white man between Powell and Rice is wearing glasses. He is looking in another direction but you can still notice the top of his ear. Who is this guy? We know he's listening...so that's why Condo is passing the note. He He. Oh do you remember those old slavery days? Even the "good" ones ran away. He He
This city is a crossroads for religion and politics. It's never going to end. I think about how what I know about the Palestinian movement started with Arafat. During these times of symbols this man became one. Think of South Africa without Mandela or the Bulls without Jordan.
But right now I'm on the otherside of the street. Everyone has a wise crack about Arafat. It's understandable. How many Jews have died from terrorism? I'm a visitor and I don't even want to ride a bus. How do you go about your daily life without thinking about the people you love.
CNN and The Jerusalem Post focus on the Middle East after Arafat. Is this a window that will open for peace? If it is a window we should look down and see how far up we are. No jumping and let's not push someone. Where can Mahmoud Abbas really go? The radical Palestinians - the Al-Aqua Martyrs Bridgade are changing their name to the Yasser Arafat Martyrs Bridgade. Is that a step up or down?
Just yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my hotel lobby talking about poetry with Channa Magori. She is completing her thesis at Bar Ilan University. It's Channa that will suggest I read Michael Oren's " Arafat Without Tears" when I get back to Washington. It was published in the Washington Post on Sunday, November14th.
Today is my day to go to The Mount of Olives and visit the Dome of the Ascension and the Garden of Gethsemane. Judy Labenshohm will be my guide. We exchanged emails before I came to Israel. Judy graduated from Goucher. We are 1 minute in our cab when the driver suggests we not go. The Mount of Olives is located in East Jerusalem. After a long exchange between Judy and the cabdriver we decide to make the trip. The cabdriver says he will wait for us. I like this guy and he doesn't have a meter either. Judy and I are off. As soon as we reach our destination the climate changes. People are already posting pictures of Arafat on walls.
Outside Gethesemane a guy tricks me into getting on a camel. It's a very bad experience for me.
It's like the bad ride I had as a child while visiting Coney Island. I'm outside Gethesmane and I feel betrayed. The guy who owns the camel has taken my Minnesota Twins cap. He wants me to pose on his camel like I'm in a desert. There's no sand in my eyes but I'm angry.
So Judy and I continue on our journey to Via Dolorosa. I'm feeling very much like Jesus today.
We stop at several of the stations on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I get an idea for a poem.
On Friday, Mark Joseph an MA poetry student at BIU meets me outside the hotel around 10:30AM. I like Mark. He has a nice gentleness and exudes a quiet warmth. We walk over to Linda Zisquit's home where she is having an art opening. It's a nice time to be having a gathering. I catch a glimpse of the local art community.
I have another free afternoon until the poet Steve Stern and his girlfriend drop by around 5:00 PM. We are going to the Wailing Wall where we will meet the writer Allen Hoffman. It's time for
Shabbat. Allen has been kind enough to invite me to dinner. One of the things I really love about Jewish culture are the Friday gatherings around the dinner table. What a beautiful way to keep tradition and community alive. While eating I hear small explosions in the distance. Allen jokes about what's going on outside. It's the end of Ramadan so many Muslims are celebrating their own holidays. Allen is a funny guy but The Jerusalem Post will mention the following on Sunday the 14th:
"While the prayer service at the Temple Mount passed without incident, hundreds of Palestinian teens scuffled with police at several locations in east Jerusalem throughout the morning and late afternoon after police barred them from entering the site. Several hundred Arab teens who repeatedly tried to force their way into the Temple Mount via the Lion's Gate were forcibly dispersed by the police on the scene."
During the day there were rumors of people snatching Arafat's coffin and bringing it here for burial. Later when I watch CNN and see what happened in Ramallah I understand the concern.
However it's not chaos. This is what Vivian Gornick once wrote in her memoir FIERCE ATTACHMENTS:
"Twenty years later when I was living as a journalist in the Middle East, I witnessed Arab funerals almost weekly- hundreds of men and women rushing through the streets, tearing at their clothes, uttering cries of an animal-like nature at a terrifying pitch of noise, people fainting, being trampled, while the crowd whirled screeching on. Westerners who might be standing beside me in the street would shake their heads in amazement at a sight so foreign it confirmed them in their secret conviction that these people were indeed not like themselves."
Steve and his girlfriend walk me back to the Dan Panorama Jerusalem after dinner with Allen and his family. It's about 9:30 PM. All is quiet on the western front.
Saturday, November 13th is my last day in Israel. I have a morning flight back to the States on Sunday. If you have a last day anywhere then spend it with a person like Noga Tarnopolsky.
Noga is a journalist and the type of woman that men spin around for. We spend a couple of hours just going from one cafe to another. We talk. We laugh. I ask her about why so many women are walking around with their "middles" showing and reminding me of what happens when you drink too much beer. It's suppose to be sexy she tells me. I tell her that might only be the case when a woman is wearing jewelry or belly dancing. Noga looks down at her clothes...she's the only woman in the cafe with that old Jane Fonda look.
Noga and I drop by the Bookshop at the American Colony Hotel. The owner Munther loves his Noga as does many of the men who are sitting around the hotel. It's Noga's world so I spend time looking at the books. Munther is running an excellent small bookshop. I purchase a anthology of Gibran's work for my son, as well as SOMEONE TO RUN WITH by David Grossman and UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS PARADISE by Mahmoud Darwish.
When I say good-bye to Noga outside my hotel I feel I'm in Casablanca. It's me that has to get on that plane tomorrow.
Monday, November 15, 2004
I'm in the lobby of the Dan Panorama Jerusalem waiting for Sharon Friedman. She is one of my many new friends that will take me around the city. Sharon is a literary agent. She represented a book that includes my work - TALES FROM THE COUCH: WRITERS ON THERAPY edited by Jason Shinder. This book was published by William Morrow back in 2000.
The hotel is filled with American tourists here to see the holy city. This could be Waco, Texas but the Jews outnumber the Christians. I thank God and say a small prayer to myself.
Thanks to Sharon I visit almost the entire Old City. We go from the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter to the Muslim Quarter. The end of Ramadan is coming and the Muslim Quarter is filled with too many people. Sharon and I are soon trapped in a bad movie. It's as bad as the Old Human Kindness Days that were once held in DC. The last one might have been a tribute to Nina Simone before the chaos descended. I'm caught in a sea of humanity or maybe it's one big hungry ocean. A young man's wagon turns over and the noise is a small explosion. This is a bad experience I tell myself but I can't hear.
Yesterday I spent the morning with Risa Lichtman. She's a creative writing student at Bar Ilan University (BIU). We had a nice morning just walking around Tel Aviv. We stopped at an outdoor market and I purchased a silver ring for myself. I wanted to take back something that would forever remind me of this trip. Risa and I soon discover a small cafe. We sat and talked about her poetry and the writing life. I had a lemonade drink with large pieces of mint. I would become addicted to this stuff before the end of the week. The owner of the cafe spent time acting in New York. When I told him I was a writer he immediately invited me to a poetry reading taking place the next day at the cafe. When Risa stepped outside for a few minutes I pushed for her to be booked. Before heading back to the Kfar Maccabiah (where I'm staying) Risa took me down to the beach. We stood there enjoying the sun dancing on the Mediterranean. I could see Jaffa to our left. A young couple from Brooklyn requested that I take their picture. Who's looking at who?
With my three bags I check out of the Kfar Maccabiah around 3:30 PM. I take a cab to BIU.
I meet Shaindy Rudoff at the gate. Allen Hoffman (fiction writer) soon joins us. What a fun guy. He needs a television show. I love being in his company and he loves baseball. An old Cardinal fan. He is still mourning the lost of the Cardinals to the Red Sox. I mention the name of Curt Flood and we talk about visiting the Wailing Wall together.
My last lecture as a Fulbright scholar is about the Black Arts Movement. It's Shaindy's Jewish Arts Seminar. I begin by talking about Larry Neal and then I become Lou Brock taking a big lead off first...I'm having fun. After my talk Allen and I take a cab to the Lilit restaurant on Mazeh Street 42. We have dinner with Donald and Linda Zisquit. Linda is a poet and the author of RITUAL BATH (Broken Moon Press in Seattle). A few minutes into the conversation she tells me that she is going to Pittsburgh and will be spending time with poets Terrance Hayes and Yona Harvey. How small can the world be? I wrote an Omar poem about Yona.
After food and good conversation it's off to Jerusalem. Entering this city at night is like slipping into a history book and having it close on you.
- Bob Dylan from his memoir CHRONICLES, VOLUME 1.
I finish reading Dylan's memoir while in Jerusalem. "I head full of ideas that are driving me insane."
I got back home around 1:30 AM. I departed from Israel around 11:15AM after being asked many questions at the airport. Despite all the security why does Continental airlines still serve all their meals with knifes? I sat next to an attractive young woman who coughed without covering her mouth the entire trip. Even when she fell asleep her mouth was still open. Somewhere over the Atlantic I started coughing too. I had an aisle seat and a book. I ate my meals quickly. It was funny to find her standing behind me at the baggage claim area being friendly, talkative, and still coughing. I asked her what her luggage looked like. She didn't know.
I left her there and walked through the airport doors into my sister's embrace. It was good to see the Marie from FATHERING WORDS. We drove over to New York and paid a short visit to our Mom. I gave both of them small gifts. I gave my sister a nice rock from Jerusalem to place on my brother's grave.
Around 7 PM (Sunday) my sister took me to the 34th street station. The train I wanted to catch was soldout. I did talk to two people I hadn't seen in many years. Both worked at Howard University when there were Democrats in theWhite House.
So it's Monday and I just had breakfast with Naomi and also got my haircut. I'm wearing a beard now...so I have a Middle Eastern look? How did this happen? Let's go back and look at my last few days in Israel.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
David and I were taken to the city of Acco for most of the day. We had our own guide. Acco or Acre is an ancient Canaanite and Phoenician port. You walk around thinking about the Crusades.
So much history, so may wars.
I spent the entire day visiting Bet She'arim with Israel Leshem. This was the highlight of the trip so far. It was a chance to see another part of the country outside of Haifa.
I've been thinking about writing a few poems.
I sat this morning on campus looking down on the city of Haifa. 10AM I attended a lecture demonstration by David Pleasant. David is African American and the other Fulbright scholar from the States. He is a musician from the Gullah area of the States.
Around Noon I was taken to lunch at the IBM building located next to the campus. There are so many cats walking around here. A good omen. At lunch are Yaron Shukrun and Liby Obadial of the American Embassy.
I gave two talks today. One on Langston Hughes and the other on the Black Arts Movement.
They were both very well received.
In the evening I spent time answering email. Folks were upset with the recent elections. I spent the night in my room watching CNN. It was the same news.
It was fun meeting Dr. M. Sobel. She's my host here. I'm a guest of the Center for the Study of The United States. Dr. Sobel reminds me of an old friend. We immediately begin to enjoy each other's company. She's an expert on African American culture. We sit in one of the campus cafe's and discuss school politics. She provides me with a good insight into recent trends and developments at the university.
My first talk is about being a literary activist. I think I selected the right topic.
2:48 AM. I can still get the time on my cell phone. I'm staying in one of the Univerity of Haifa's guest rooms. Nice accommodations. Excellent lighting. I arrrived around 11 PM last night. Continental Flight 96 from Newark. It was the 5th plane to land at the new airport (Terminal #3) in Tel Aviv. What a beautiful place. Whew. It's like being in a museum. There is a long walk from the airplane to customs and the baggage claim area but who cares. I departed from the plan with Ben. He is a young Israeli who has returned from his grandfather's funeral in Baltimore. We sat next to each other on the plane but didn't actually talk until the last 2 hours of what was a 10 1/2 hour trip. I spent much of the time on the plane sleeping and reading Bob Dylan's memoir. I chuckled when I came to the page about him in Jerusalem:
"I went to Jerusalem, got myself photographed at the Western Wall wearing a skullcap. The image was transmitted worldwide instantly and quickly all the great rags changed me overnight into a Zionist."
Ben and I talked about National Service in Israel, the settlement issue, housing and about 10 other topics including the US elections. Ben had been traveling around South America with his girl friend. They had went to Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. I told him about the movie THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES. I looked at Ben sitting next to me. He was a young man with a beard wearing a t-shirt. He looked very much like Che.
Did I have a problem exiting the US and entering Israel? I was pulled aside in Newark and Tel Aviv. I expected it since my passport had been stamped back in the 1990s when I made trips to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen.
At the airport I was met by my driver Asi. A funny guy who immediately grabbed my bag and we took off. It was about an hour trip to Haifa. When you see the city for the first time at night it reminds you of a necklace. I'll see what she's wearing in the morning.
I wake with my back hurting from sleeping on my Mom's couch. I know this feeling. It's like Larry Bird's last days on the court. I should stretch out on the floor before I get dressed. I turn the television on and catch the Sunday football scores. The Steelers defeated the Patriots. That leaves only the Eagles as an undefeated team. The headlines this morning is about a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. That's where I'm going in a few hours. Why? It's difficult not to think about the purpose of life. Be safe is what people tell me. I call a few friends and our conversations have a dark cloud above them. One friend starts to cry and you understand where the love comes from when a soldier makes it back from a war. The desire to return must be stronger than the desire to leave. Maybe that's the problem I'm facing right now. I'm closing doors and trying to open new ones. I've spent the last few months discarding things, cataloging stuff and donating books to schools and prisons. Much of my personal items and papers are boxed and ready for shipment to Emory & Henry College in Virginia. I'll complete things by January. So I watch the television footage on Fox of the recent bombing in Israel. Will there be others while I'm visiting?
A country with no safe place. It's like living in New Jersey after 9/11. You try to convince yourself that nothing is going to happen to you. But what about the people who have been killed in Tel Aviv? How do I mourn? Is this my loss too? The biblical question question again. Am I my brother's keeper? To say yes is to affirm life and to struggle for peace. Election Day is tomorrow and I think about the importance of every vote. We should think about each life the same way. It's the only way to make sense out of the slogan "vote or die."
I'm off to the Holy Land. Every trip I've taken in my life has come at what is a turning point. I know this is a major one. Another transition as I move toward becoming an elder. I'll be 55 next year. I know this trip is different because it's the first one in which my son is driving me to Union Station. It's 7A.M. The clock changed last night so folks are still getting that extra hour of sleep. I look at my son driving into manhood. Yesterday we went to the bank. We parked the car in front of the playground where I taught him how to play basketball. An old neighbor recognized us. She laughed as she noticed my son was wearing his varsity jacket. I guess all those early morning practices placed him on the right path. I get out of the car, lift my three bags and say good-bye. I tell my son I love him because there is nothing else to say. He returns home to his father's house.
What becomes of the father? I read the New York Times for much of the ride to New York. There is a story about people from Somalia trying to live in Italy. I tear out the review of Derek Walcott's new collection of poems. PRODIGAL. I read a few pages of Dylan's CHRONICLES. I'm saving the book for the plane ride. Sipping a page now and then. I look out the window at Delaware and New Jersey.
When I reach my Mom's apartment on Harrison street, she greets me at the door. I place my Minnesota Twins cap on her head. She keeps it there and walks around the house with it on. It's a sign that she's happy to have company. My Mom has no idea where I'm going or what I'll be doing in Israel. I show her a map and trace the route from Tel Aviv to Haifa. Where is the map between the two of us?
While I'm at my Mom's house my cell phone rings a few times and I talk to three dear friends. Don Mee in Seattle back from a translation conference in California where she met Ngugi, Julia in Indiana working on a paper on Stephen Henderson, and my buddy Bev in DC. After talking on the phone I make a trip to Bazzini and bring back sandwiches for lunch. My Mom asks me four times if I need napkins.
I watch some television. My Mom is the only person in New York with bad reception. It's like looking at early television when folks used hangers for rabbit ears. It's impossible to watch any type of sport. How many guys on a team? Who's playing? Why are all the colors of the uniforms green?
I fall asleep on my Mom's living room couch. This furniture is like an outside womb. It seems I can never get away from it. The couch must be as old as Jerusalem. I'll be able to tell in a few days.
Halloween in New York. Can anyone tell? Folks are wearing costumes. This has become more of an adult holiday over the years. I'm in Greenwich Village sitting in a cafe waiting to meet Elana a visual artist who has a studio on Bleeker Street. There are times when I love this city and I remember I was born here.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
We also need to work during the off years. I'm hoping Bush will make major changes in his Adminstration team. There is still a battle taking place within the Republican party. What is the difference between hope and faith?
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Saturday, October 30, 2004
I purchased Bob Dylan's CHRONICLES. I decided to pack this book for my trip instead of the DREAMS IN THE MIRROR: A Biography of EE Cummings...why add more weight if you're black. What would Tubman do?
I stayed in Borders and read some work by one of my Bennington students. I also reviewed the new bylaws I received today from the National Writers Union. Jerry Colby is the new President of NWU. I've been working with Rob Ramer (in the Twin Cities) trying to upgrade the National Advisory Board.
For additional information about NWU go to our website:www.new.org If you click on Diversity Committee it will lead you to a speech I gave in 2001 at the Delegates Assembly.
I left Borders and went over to Phillips Famous Seafood. Who said it was famous? I ordered a soft-shell crab sandwich. The service was slow. For a moment I thought I was in Waffle House or Denny's and might need a lawyer to bring my order. Eating a soft-shell crab sandwich must mean I'm getting up in age. I feel like an old black man who plays dominos out front of the general store in a small town. I have two pieces of white bread covering something. The hot sauce is dancing and I can smell the blues coming from the kitchen or maybe it's gospel reminding me that tomorrow is Sunday and my soul needs to get itself to church.
Before I met my daughter at the movies I walked around DuPont Circle. I went into a Kramers and read a few pages of Bob Dylan's memoir. It's a book you can read quickly. Dylan writes like Dylan. No, not Dylan Thomas.
After the movies my daughter and I went to the Polo India Club (1736 Connecticut Ave) and had dinner. It was one of the few restaurants not crowded. It's amazing to walk around downtown DC at night and see so "few" black people. Where are we? I felt like a free person of color walking around in an old northern state. Is it 1850? Are my brothers and sisters in economic bondage? Do they lack a free pass that would permit them to travel to see plays and movies?Or are we home doing the Soul Food thing? Hmmm. I have a feeling that when the baseball games are played again in DC I'm going to look around and feel like it's Fenway Park.
Red Sox Nation expanding?
Talking baseball - I can't wait for the Expos (The DC Grays?) to play here next year. The team is scheduled to play Seattle. Do you know what that means??? Ichiro baby! I get to see my favorite player in action. I'm getting a seat in right field. Who has the beer?
Friday, October 29, 2004
In the evening I went to my son's school to meet with his teachers. I cooked dinner...some catfish and other goodies.
I slept for a couple of hours until the phone rang. It was good to get up and complete work on my Langston Hughes lecture that I'll give in Israel. I have only one more lecture to complete.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I received a nice postcard from the poet Elaine Upton. She is doing well and living in New Mexico.
The joys of being a writer is receiving a check in the mail and not expecting it. I just received my honorarium from a program I did this summer.