Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Often I think of my friend Liam Rector and those old Bennington days. Seminar orientation when we all sat in Tishman Hall and watched Alec Baldwin in Glengary Glenn Ross. Learning the key to leadership and maybe becoming a successful writer. So many of us write. How many of us fail to learn our ABCs?


For a number of years I've been mentioning that the problem of the 21st Century is no longer the Color Line. It's actually religion. Sorry DuBois. It seems that whenever Obama steps into a church or has anything to do with religion - controversy follows. Forget his race for a moment;
the issue is the other R-word. Is Obama blessed or just lucky? What does this guy believe in? Too much science is like too much salt. Religion wants everything to be sweet. Don't you have faith? Or as Langston once said - " Ask, your mama."



A poet's confession (Click and read)

Buddy, Must I Watch Your Film?

Jamie Foxx portrays a cellist in the upcoming movie The Soloist. I can't always get into Jamie's acting. But I guess it's better that he is playing an instrument instead of trying to sing. I do respect that Foxx works hard on the screen. He is very serious about acting - and maybe that's the problem. I did enjoy him in Ray. Anyway, I don't know if I can watch another buddy movie between blacks and whites. Can't we find a new formula? I can only get down with Downey so often. I'm not an ironman for torture: http://www.soloistmovie.com/.

When I made the trip to Abu Dhabi last week, I watched 4 movies on the plane:

The Changeling
Burn After Reading
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Max Payne
Give many stars to "The Changeling." This was a decent flick.
"Burn After Reading" is all Brad Pitt. The first time I've been disappointed with the Cohen Brothers.
"The Day The Earth Stood Still" I wanted to run. An awful movie. Watching this film while flying over the Atlantic was like being stuck in the Middle Passage again. I wanted to lead a "Slave Revolt" and tell the pilot to try and land on water.
"Max Payne" - who wrote this script? A real Payne in the ass type of movie. Makes sitting difficult while viewing.
Oh, and I watched 3-5 minutes of "The Secret Life of Bees." No buzz here.

Quote of the Day:

All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.

- Senator Jim Webb (D.,Va)
Palestine & The Palestinians Today
2009 Annual Symposium

April 2 & 3, 2009
Held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Register online at: http://ccas.georgetown.edu
A Writer's Summer 2009 - Stony Brook Southampton:



A book for Buddhists...

Tricycle's Daily Dharma

The Buddha Did Not Teach Buddhism

The Buddha did not teach Buddhism. He taught the Dharma, a Sanskrit word that means “the truth,” “the way of things,” “the natural laws of mind and body.” He taught the truths of suffering and its causes, the end of suffering and its path. In eighty-four thousand discourses (a classical number used to mean “a lot”) the Buddha expounded in both simple and subtle ways the profound meaning of the Dharma. His teachings were always to specific people and were geared to the temperaments and capacities of each of his listeners.

-Joseph Goldstein, from One Dharma (HarperOne)

More 5th Inning News:

E. Ethelbert Miller will be reading and discussing his memoir The 5th Inning on Saturday, April 11, 2009. 1-3 PM at the Book Nook Bookstore, 5606 Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland.

The Language War:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama Administration has stopped using the expression "War on Terror." They will be more specific when it comes to who are the US enemies. Look for more specific references to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Too often the inability to define an enemy can result in everyone becoming one. We also confront the problem of facing a terrorist incident that no one wants to call terrorism.

The battle over language is key when one thinks about finding a key to the future.
Old language will keep one in the past. It's no fun being "buried" by words and expressions that are outdated. It's like being cast in one of those old rap videos.
Shake your booty and die.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My friend Gregory Orfalea has a new book out.
ANGELENO DAYS: An Arab American Writer on Family, Place and Politics.
Orfalea will be talking about his book at POLITICS & PROSE BOOKSTORE, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Sunday, April 5th at 5 PM.
202 364-1919

Upcoming Public Program:

I've invited Nicole Lee, the executive director of TRANSAFRICA FORUM to give a talk on Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 2:30 PM. The location is Founders Library, Roon 300, on the campus of Howard University. Lee will be talking about her work as well as issues regarding Africa and the Diaspora under the Obama Administration.

My daughter just informed me that the main commencement speaker for George Washington University (May 2009) is going to be Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama.

If the Obama Administration has an early MVP, Emanuel gets the E-Award.


Because I was on the road the last two weeks, I didn't have a chance to follow the controversy around Caryl Churchill's play. I did recall seeing a few emails in my box regarding it. There is an article by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon in The Nation (April 13, 2009). Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza was presented in a couple of American cities, including Washington D.C.

As Kushner and Solomon mention in their essay, "Any play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn't arouse anger and distress has missed the point."

This is the power of art. Controversy however must always lead to conversation. Conversation is about dialogue. Dialogue opens the door to peace. Peace opens the door to our hearts. Our hearts create art and soon we discover the cycle of love if we have vision to see beyond the controversy.

Anti-Semitism has been mentioned. It often raises its head when something critical about Israel is made. We've been struggling to separate government policies from people and religion. Palestinians are not invisible. If we don't hear their stories we can't create a new one. Everybody is shouting and no one wants to hear. Meanwhile, artists must attempt to build bridges with their paintings and poems. We must hear the new music, find the common language.

Is There Anybody There? (2008)
Directed by John Crowley. With Thelma Barlow, Michael Caine, Linzey Cocker.
How can one grow old without the magic?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

How do we live without hope?

Sniff, Sniff...
No matter how many days I live there are things I just don't understand. For example, who are the people who shit all over the public toilets with no shame? Where do they live? Let's flush them out into the open.

Quote of the Day:

This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing."

-President Lula of Brazil
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Early Prints
Edwynn Houk Gallery

Through May 2, 2009
Transforming our Language:

We are not going to move forward as a nation or earth society unless we begin to ignore terms that are outdated or just chain people to misconceptions and powerlessness. These terms are used by the media and they manipulate us into thinking they are bad. Here are a few:

1. Big Government. What's wrong with big government? Shouldn't a government just work ? Why does size really matter? So much discussion about size makes me think we're talking about sex.

2. Taxes. Shouldn't everyone pay them? Where do we get money to keep our society going?

3. Race. Why isn't race a good thing? Do we all want to be the same? One man's black is another man's white.
All the great teachers of spirituality in all the major traditions have, therefore, insisted that before you can have faith, you must live in a certain way. You must lead a compassionate life, transcending the demands of the clamorous ego and recognizing the sacred in other; you must perform rituals (often enshrined in religious law) that make even the most mundane detail of our lives an encounter with the ultimate; all traditions insist that you must also pray. Prayer is thus not born of belief and intellectual conviction; it is a practice that creates faith.

- Karen Armstrong
I collect seashells, old turtle shells, fossils, sand dollars, pieces of wood, bleached bones - the castoff remains of once-living things. They remind me that dying is universal, the most ancient certainty, both revered and feared. Even stars die, blasting their light across the dark universe. Each of us follows in the footsteps of countless others who have gone before. Death is the final equalizer among us, and between humans and other species. I don't dwell on my own demise, but I know I'm past the midpoint of my days. My life is a vessel steadily emptying. I wonder what absolute stillness will be like.

-Michelle Cacho-Negrete

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Euro-American school of psychology has Christian underpinnings. This worldview says we have been kicked out of paradise because we are bad, and we need to spend our time here on earth atoning in order to go to a far better place. In this fractured view of existence, the earth has no role in mental health. In contrast, the indigenous worldview says that the earth is sacred; that this is paradise. This is the Holy Land, and we should therefore rely upon nature's example in formulating a model of mental health.

-Leslie Gray

Treve de blues

- Leon Damas

Compassion is my art

- Grace A. Ali

God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them.

- Samuel Goldwyn


MY GUEST TODAY IS IBTISAM BARAKAT. We met in Abu Dhabi just a few days ago.

I read an online interview in which she discussed the Palestinian situation in the Middle East. I found her comments about wounds to be very interesting. I contacted her and asked her a few questions of my own. What follows are remarks by a remarkable woman.


The car in the scar --

maybe it is not your make, but it's likely your model

March 28, 2009

Abu Dhabi - UAE

Living with wounds:Some people live inside a wound, swim in it from side to side, sleep by the edge like one sleeps by a lake, then go into the wound again in the morning.. Some live inside a wound like one lives inside a big villa, from room to room, this is the memory of being hit and not being able to bleed or plead, and this is the memory of my home stolen, its outside redone, and the walls around it smoothed over so that I won't be able to climb it at night. Right here in this room the embroidered cloth is nothing but minutes of my life waiting for myself to be on my side and speak to me. And this tea kettle goes on boiling. The sage and mint become dry in the summer and become green in the Spring, then dry out again, all on the kitchen counter.

This is the second floor of my scars...

Some people have wounds that are valley-deep.. one cannot climb up without losing all the weight and all the waiting too.. But they climb up although the sun is on the other side and the rain comes and does not leave.. The wounded wish they could talk to the rain and let it go..But rain loves wounds.. it wants to wash them.. rain loves wounds because it wants to grow flowers for the wounded person.. and so tears grow the flowers in the valley.. and people might come to visit you because of the pain-watered flowers that grow so tall from your valley.. taller than the stems of the reasons that wounded you.. and your wound can become a flower too and can reach the sun to dry itself after it bathed in big the tears.. and it can become a towel so big like the desert.. and it can become a sunset spreading itself all over the world to calm it down.. and it can to become anything it wants to become.. if you get out of its way.. in order to see it, and in order to see other ways too.

A wound is not a lesser form of life.. for it can become a book; it can become a loaf of bread, and an umbrella, and a big laugh, and a clock ticking toward a new time.. a path of minutes ticking.. taking you to a place that would not have ever opened up without the passage through this wound..

A wound is a tunnel, a highway, so many people traveling.. Slow down, open up the window and ask the person in the other lane.. What wound have you come from? But keep your eyes on the path. The crossroads are coming.. always coming...At Last.

Sometimes I look at the Atlas and I see wounds in countries, separated by borders.. people have scraped one another off plains, mountains, seasides.. I run my hand over the many places, and fold the paper, and give it all a hug.. That's how I can embrace 6 and a half billion people at once ...

Atlas.. at-loss of how to love you, my wound, and my wounder and my way.. my world.. At last I know what to do..when a wound reopens. A wound does not wish to close forever any more than a book wants to do .. it reopens.. in the right hands it reopens because it wishes to be understood fully.. And if understood, it is then healed and becomes a book that you can use for your pillow.. or as a step to reach the top shelf in your kitchen on the days you do not want to read in it.. Words do not mind people standing on them.

But some wounds are like holy books in temples and dictionaries in big-city libraries; they must stay open for all to see, to brush by them, to find the meaning of a word in them. And some wounds are mouths.. they open.. speak.. close.. then silence.. silence.. and you feel so alone who someone who must shout does not.. but then they speak again..

I listen to a wound when it reopens .. this mouth that kisses life.. sometimes it sings.. sometimes it speaks poetry that I cannot understand.. And sometimes it screams and gives nothing.. but when the sun is crisp and hangs in the sky like an orange that can feed the entire world, and when i have no to-do lists, some wound screams and gives birth to a field of questions.. birth frantic rush is dizzying, and I know that my wound is on your side, like a pocket, endless with possibilities.


And perhaps each wound comes with a key, like a door.. it open, reopen.. can be entered and exited too.. all entering and existing will know the story.

A Call

A wound is a response to a call like the heart answers the Guest is response to the call for prayer.. This Guest is forever there, and is forever to be invited, over and over.. But your wound happened on the day you answered a knock that was not meant for you and the one at the door was not meant to stay. A quick reply would have been enough but you sought a friend in someone passing like a cloud.. and so your longing began and stretched across the sky and the skin of your soul tore up into a wound..


Each person heals in a different way.. finger prints, foot prints, voice prints, and healing prints.. For words people, printing is the path .. As I hold your hands, I know that your finger prints on my finger prints changes my writings of my destiny.. and thought prints.. and pain prints.. and ecstasy prints.. And it is all a draft anyway.. A draft that comes through the door of the wound.. And I get drafted to other people's questions and they to mine.. But all wounds are self-inflicted.. because all things in the universe are self-included.. which part of the self, of the verse, do you like to sing in the morning when you wash your hair.

The car in the scar

A person is healed when she is no longer too wound up about a wound, and can hold hands with what was toward what would be, and listens to the songs of wounds like one listens to a grandpa filled with intuition. Joy jingles in one's pocket like car keys when one has a a grandpa so wise.. He says that scars are friends who are hard to make, then when the time comes, comes like the evening of a day, you know that a scar has a car in it .. you have the keys.. it can take you anywhere you like. You choose the destination.. I am heading East to see your smile.. Wait for me.




Ibtisam Barakat is the author of the memoir, TASTING THE SKY: A PALESTINIAN CHILDHOOD.


Back in DC.

Tomorrow I'll go over to the L'Enfant Moderne Art Gallery (3232 P Street, NW) around 2 PM and hear my friend Alessandra Gelmi read. It will be good to see her. Gelmi is the author of WHO'S AFRAID OF RED?
Whatever was left, that was ours for awhile.
But sooner or later the hills will take it back, give it to the animals.

- Louise Gluck
I think there's something idiotic about the self, that every day you have to get up and be the same person.
- Wallace Shawn
This might be the most important E-Note to be posted this year:


Friday, March 27, 2009

JOBS FOR YOUTH: I spent the morning talking with my friend Shyree about summer youth employment in DC. Every year we talk about trying to find a job for every young person. We should end this as quickly as possible. Let's admit the summer project is broken. Should I count the ways? Many of the kids just want to get paid. We should teach our kids values and service first. During the summer they should be directed into summer programs that are an extension of the school year. Why talk about money? Let's move an entire generation away from materialism. Youth working first. Let's get our kids in physical shape too. From inner cities to rural areas. Let's have the next generation rediscover America; maybe then we can build this more perfect union.
Sunday there is going to be a special 2-hour series premiere of THE NO.1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY. Jill Scott in the lead role. Feel-good television is what Entertainment Weekly calls it.
I'm going to pass. If anyone wants to review it - I'll post it. Send to: emiller698@aol.com
I spent the day in New York visiting my mom. She will be 90 in a few months. I drafted an essay I might share with my editor at NPR. Maybe it could run in May for Mother's Day. Sometimes it feels so strange being back in New York. The city no longer claims me. I've become so much the stranger. Even my own mother shook her head when I left her. She reminded me to stop laughing and become more serious. Maybe I'll take her advice this time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tents on the front page of The New York Times today. Yep - tents. People in Sacramento homeless. What year is this? Buddy, can you spare a dime? Things are turning ugly. How many months are we from a major protest being organized in the States?

The media wants us to pay attention to Mexico, guns and gangs right now. Looks like that pushed Pakistan to the curb for a moment. Meanwhile, the real action is taking place in Europe. Anybody talking about Iceland lately? What about people in the streets in France?

Things won't get better until the Buddha smiles.
THINGS TO MONITOR when looking at the dark:

With the economic blues being sung around the country, pay close attention to what I call the "politics of reduction." Recession can travel with its R-buddy -racism. Programs, projects and even institutions can be eliminated without any mention of a political agenda. It's just economics baby! Maybe we can't afford to be equal right now. Maybe we can't afford to fund the black shows and exhibits. Mayor Fenty (DC) wants to no longer fund "D.C. Emancipation Day." Do you remember the days of slavery? Might new ones becoming? Clean the slate and start all over again? Slavery as stimulus? Remember when we thought Lincoln fired us from our jobs? Was that Recession or Emancipation? With John Hope gone - someone please explain. It's getting dark outside - too dark to see.

Johnny Blanchard dead at 76.

1961 and I'm watching Blanchard hit another home run into the right field stands of Yankee Stadium. I'm jumping around like Monk in the middle of one of his jazz sessions. I wasn't even listening to jazz yet. It was just baseball and me.

Writer's Blogs: What Works (& What Doesn't)
by C.M. Mayo
March 25, 2009

Dear Friends,

Please go to the link below to sign a letter to President Obama calling for "...concrete changes in U.S. policy towards Cuba that will allow for the uninhibited flow of art, culture, information, ideas and debates, as well as travel by artists, cultural workers and professionals, and arts and cultural aficionados between the two countries."

You will be in very good company, including Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Mavis and Yvonne Staples, Arturo O'Farrill, Peter Coyote, Danny Glover, Herbie Hancock, Daisy Zamora, Graham Nash, Eddie Palmieri, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Margaret Randall, Pete Seeger, Vinie Burrows, Poncho Sanchez, and the 2005 National Poetry Slam Championship Team from New Mexico.

Sign this letter from U.S. Artists, Arts Presenters, Arts Educators and Cultural Scholars in support of Cultural Relations with Cuba, at

Thanks so much,
Anya Achtenberg


President Obama will give a number of commencement speeches this year. They will be at the following institutions:

Notre Dame
Arizona State University
U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland

Al Gore will release another book on the subject of global warming in November. The title is OUR CHOICE. Rodale is the publisher. Proceeds from the book will be donated to Alliance for Climate Protection.

Walter Mosley has a new detective novel out. THE LONG FALL introduces private investigator Leonid McGill. The book is written in the Classic Noir style. The publisher is Riverhead. The price is $25.95

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sad News...History stops today.

A friend just sent me an email.

The historian John Hope Franklin has died.
'CRY HAVOC!' Poetry of War and Remembrance, 1968 - 2008
Lannan Literary Symposium & Festival
Georgetown University: March 30-31, 2009

Siah Armajani, James Fenton, Carolyn Forché, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Harry Mattison, Khaled Mattawa, Ken McCullough, Dunya Mikhail, Brian Turner, the Khmer chanting of U Sam Oeur, the poetry of Saadi Yousef For a complete program and schedule visit http://lannan.georgetown.edu/symposiumfestival_havoc.html




During my trip to Abu Dhabi I was able to read Naomi Ayala's new collection of poems. THIS SIDE OF EARLY has just been published by Curbstone Press.

Naomi will be the next writer I interview in my series When The Word Is Written sponsored by the Historical Society of Washington. This will take place on Saturday, April 25th at 2 PM. It's a wonderful way to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Historical Society of Washington is located at 801 K Street, N.W.

Copies of Naomi's book will be on sale.

What do I know about anything?
The rain comes down
I am lonely like a tattered hat.
- Naomi Ayala

I tell my students and my readers that whoever reads or listens to a witness becomes a witness.
- Elie Wiesel
I write
for my heart
has become a country,
and I want all people
to live in it.

- Ibtisam Barakat

Tricycle's Daily Dharma

One Reason We Get Angry

The trigger for much of our anger is frustrated expectation. We sometimes invest so much of ourselves in a project that when it doesn’t turn out as it should we become irate. All ‘shoulds’ point to an expectation, a prediction for the future. We might have realized by now that the future is uncertain, unpredictable. Relying too much on an expectation for the future, a ‘should’, is asking for trouble.

–Ajahn Brahm, from Opening the Door of your Heart (Lothian Books)


Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling retired after 23 seasons. He had a good career with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Boston Red Sox.

3,116 strikeouts
216-146 record
3.46 ERA

11-2 in the postseason.

I see Schilling being a possible political candidate in the future. The guy is outspoken.
It won't surprise me if in four years he is known as "Curt the pitcher."
Republicans should recruit this guy.
If the economy fails to turn around in four years we might be asking - "Hey buddy, can you spare a Schilling?"
Night Talk:

Often in the early morning hours I correspond with my fellow writer Charles Johnson in Seattle. We exchange information and personal updates. Sometimes we talk about race. There are times when white racist remarks circulating in the media just irk us. I found myself telling Charles the following:

It's just a distraction. As artists we need to keep doing the work that is positive and nurturing.Some of this negative racist stuff is nothing but white people "cleansing" themselves. Some folks need a "deep tissue" massage to get at those hidden racist cells. Obama is good medicine for our nation. I can't wait until our bodies feel better and we can hug folks without pulling a muscle.


I watched Obama's press conference last night. It reminded me of one of those large lecture auditoriums where you took a class because it was a requirement. What troubled me was the format. Remember when the press raised their hands and struggled to be seen? President Obama selects who is going to ask a question.

Boy, would OJ have loved this. What upset me is that Obama only called on the major networks and media folks. No online publication was represented. It was nice to see someone from Ebony magazine at the press conference. But when did Ebony become The Nation? The White House needs to have a press conference in which some questions come from bloggers. This would be more democratic. I chuckled when someone asked President Obama about the issue of race. Only an American would do this. We have people living in tents across the country and we wonder if someone feels comfortable sitting across the table from a black man in the Oval Office.This is where major media news outlets just fail in moving us to the next elevator level. Didn't you want to know about what Obama had for breakfast? Every question asked at last night's press conference was recycled from yesterday's news.. It was an open book exam for the president. Someone needs to go back and examine how Ronald Reagan changed media access to the presidency. Remember when we knew Ronnie didn't know the answer? Ah - I miss those jelly bean moments.

WASHINGTON, DC -Street Scenes: Projects for DC, in collaboration with Provisions Library and the Institute for Policy Studies, is presenting British artist Jeremy Deller's “It Is What It Is; Conversations About Iraq,” at the National Mall in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2009.

The project features a RV towing the wreck of a car that was blown up by a bomb attack in Iraq.This project, co-sponsored by Creative Time, was commissioned by the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).

The first part of the show was the installation of the destroyed car at the New Museum, which included specialists sitting on a sofa discussing the Iraq war. The second part of the project is a three-week, cross-country road trip, during which an RV tows the wreck to cities across the US. Riding in the RV are Deller, Jonathan Harvey (an Iraq war veteran and recently demobilized Psychological Operations platoon sergeant) and Esam Pasha (an Iraqi refugee, artist, and former translator for the Chief Advisor in the British Embassy of Baghdad).

The RV will visit Washington DC on Thursday, March 26. It will be on view from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm at the National Mall on Jefferson Drive SW, between 12th and 14th Streets.Deller aims to spark a public dialogue with this project.

As he said in an interview with The Art Newspaper,“To speak with someone who has been in Iraq, has fought there or has lived under a regime, is fascinating to me. I'm setting up a series of opportunities for people to meet and their conversations are at the heart of the project.”Deller adds,“I thought it would be interesting to travel in this holiday RV with this destroyed car on a flatbed lorry behind us.It's one thing to do something like this in New York, in a liberal environment, and it's another to turn up at truck stop in Mississippi.”

This local iteration of the “It Is What It Is: Conversations about Iraq” has been made possible by the support of the Institute for Policy Studies, Provisions Library and Street Scenes: Projects for DCFor information on Street Scenes: Projects for DC: www.streetscenesdc.com

For information on Provisions Library: www.provisionslibrary.orgFor information on Institute for Policy Studies: www.ips-dc.org

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts

FEATURE Carol Houck Smith: Editor Extraordinaire

At the 2008 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference in New York, Blackbird sponsored a tribute to the work of Carol Houck Smith, a celebration of the persistence and care she showed to many poets during her editing career at W. W. Norton.

In the event recording published here, poets Stephen Dunn, A. Van Jordan, Gerald Stern, and Ellen Bryant Voigt make brief remarks and read from their poems. Smith provides closing comments.

Carol Houck Smith died December 1, 2008 at her home in New York City.

You will also find in our pages excerpts from Smith's obituary as it was prepared by W. W. Norton and a brief remembrance of her by Ellen Bryant Voigt.

For the Carol Houck Smith feature, visit the Blackbird v7n2 Features menu directly at http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v7n2/features.htm
or enter Blackbird v7n2 through our splash and foreword page at http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/
Blackbird is a joint venture of the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and New Virginia Review, Inc.

The latest news from my friend Ms. Pornpimol Kanchanalak in Bangkok. Notice her use of the term 5th Inning at the end of the essay. She recently read my memoir.


from Sweet Beasley:
National Poetry Month is coming: www.poets.org

Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-out, two-run single in the top of the 10th, and Japan beat reigning Olympic champion South Korea 5-3 Monday night to win its second straight WBC title before a boisterous crowd of 54,846 at Dodger Stadium.
The Japanese won the inaugural tournament three years ago, beating Cuba 10-6 in the finals at Petco Park in San Diego.

"I really wish I could be in the state of Zen but ... I kept thinking of all these things that I shouldn't think about, but I was able to hit, so I felt like maybe I surpassed something myself."

- Ichiro Suzuki

Should little black boys run around with ashy knees now that we have a black president?
If you would like to be with me and to find comfort that way, the first thing for you to learn is the right behavior. Go back to your home and learn to do as your parents want, continue to recite your prayers, and work hard in your daily life. At the same time, clean yourself up, put on proper clothes, and don't neglect yourself again. When you've learned this, come back to me and you may be allowed to become one of my followers.


From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000.

One thing I like about being on the road are the people I meet. Attending my reading at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was the writer Ibtisam Barakat. She is the author of Tasting The Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. Boy, did we have many friends in common. It was wonderful having a chance to talk with her. Hey - maybe she will contribute to the E-MAG.

Here is a link to her website: http://www.ibtisambarakat.com/


Nicholas Hughes, Sylvia Plath's son commits suicide:

Economic News: Please read and share with others.


I will be having my second book party for The 5th Inning on Wednesday (March 25th) at 7PM.
The place: Shirlington Branch Public Library, 4200 Campbell Avenue in Arlington, Virginia.

Book signing will follow across the street at Busboys and Poets (Shirlington).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Well, let me take a short nap and then get back into the flow of things.
Well I made it back today from Abu Dhabi. I want to thank Michon Boston for keeping the E-Notes fresh and tasty during my absence. I was a guest at the Abu Dhabi international Book Fair. My book At night, we are all black poets was released by Kalima (www.kalima.ae). It's a wonderful collection of over forty years of my poetry translated by Wissal Al-Allaq. Yesterday we did a poetry reading together and it was followed by a Q&A period. We sold 80 books and had an attentive audience. It was wonderful seeing Wissal again. We first met in Yemen, 12 years ago when she was a student. It's amazing to see how much work went into the publication of what's a very handsome book. If you read Arabic, let me know. I should have a number of copies in a few weeks.

Last Words.

This is my last day on E-Notes. I just talked to Ethelbert on the phone. He's on his way home from the airport. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share with his readers on this platform. It speaks to the strength of our friendship. Feel free to stop by eclectique916. Ethelbert will be back on-line soon.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sports Moments

Sweet 16?
What Mike Slive, chairman of the N.C.A.A. Division I men’s basketball committee, and his minions have left us is a tournament high on predictability and low on charm.
- Pete Thamel, NY Times

Parallel Lives
Lance Armstrong arrived at a hospital in central Spain after suffering a hard crash during the first stage of a five-day race.

A flip off his bicycle took "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer off the air Monday with a shoulder injury. (Note: a deer jumped on the path)

Danger. Danger.

E-Notes is a lot more Jeffersonian and patient than I am with AOL its surveys, news, and user comments. Both of us have AOL email accounts. When I logged on this morning, I was greeted with today's top headlines. The first is "The Most Dangerous States in America." The source of the story is the Congressional Quarterly Press's Annual Crime State Rankings. AOL gives you the option to click through their gallery to see if your state "made the list."

The Headline was paired with this photo of Washington, DC. Washington, DC did not make the top 10 list AOL was tooting for "Most Dangerous State." Washington, DC is not a state. I clicked on their "Most Dangerous Cities" related link. Washington, DC did not make the top ten list for 2008.

But wait....there's more!

AOL is leaping into original "news" content with PoliticsDaily.com. AOL’s site will be “polypartisan” and focus initially on commentary rather than breaking news, Marty Moe, senior vice president of AOL’s MediaGlow content division, told TheWrap.

Is "polypartisan" the same as Jeffersonian?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Angry Black Man Watch continues

Frank Rich lifted the following quote from a letter-to-the-editor:
President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.

I agree that you can't ignore the anger and populist outrage over the AIG bonuses and the economy, and a whole host of issues in general. But there's more to that letter-to-the-editor from Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, California that Frank Rich didn't print. So I'll print it here on e-Notes.

This is a defining moment for his [Obama's] presidency, and how he responds will determine the trajectory of his term. He needs to deal with the excesses within the financial industry with the same toughness and conviction that President Ronald Reagan brought to bear during the air traffic controllers’ strike. To date, he is sorely wanting.

This brings up another issue. After the air traffic controllers strike and the bust up of their union, salaries began to slide in certain sectors that were once the foundations for creating a vibrant working middle class. Some actions implode louder than words.

As a Katrina moment - there's a difference between doing something that might work (and we may disagree on the how), and doing nothing. Is this a fair comparison? Is it fair to the people who were directly affected by the neglect and horror of the hurricaine? Maybe, maybe not, but the quote makes great press.

Just as in the campaign, the obsession with Barack's anger continues -- Does Barack Obama get angry? Will he express anger in a way that will make a great media moment? When will he fulfill his angry black man creds? Will we find out in his 5th Inning?

Look for "anger" to be a barometer of the Obama presidency.

Maybe the President's listening to "Kind of Blue" on his i-pod.

President H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Libera comes to Washington in April

The Office on African Affairs (DC), in conjunction with the Oracle Group, The U.S. State Department ofAfrican Affairs, the Library of Congress, and Afrocaribetv, invitescommunity members to hear President H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to discuss her upcoming book, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President on the "In the Cafe with Mocha" Television Show.

What: Official book signing event planned for Washington, D.C. President H.E. Discussion by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia on her upcoming book, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's FirstWoman President on the "In the Cafe with Mocha" Television Show.

When: April 17th, 2009
Time: 6:30pm--9:30pm

Where: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center (Atrium Ballroom) 1300Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.

Limited Seating!!! Tickets are on sale now and includes signed book. For Ticketing Information please visit www.theoraclegroup.net or call301-461-6925

The Challenge for Africa

Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya releases a new book, The Challenge for Africa, April 7. Wangari Maathai is founder of the Green Belt Movement. The book illuminates the complex and dynamic nature of the African continent based on her three decade experiences as an envionrmental activist and campaigner for democracy. Maathai calls for a new path forward policially, economically, and socially. A book tour stop in D.C is in the works. Stay up to date by visiting the TransAfrica Forum website - http://www.transafricaforum.org/.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Former president George W. Bush writes his 5 Inning.

Not to be outdone by former first lady Laura Bush who inked her memoir book deal with Scribner, the former president's memoir, due 2010, will focus on key decisions in his life. Here's a blurb from the AP:

Instead of telling his life story, Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, from giving up drinking to picking Dick Cheney as his vice president to sending troops to Iraq. He will also write about his relationship with family members, including his father, the first President Bush, his religious faith and his highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

Crown Publishers will publish the memoir tentatively titled (no....not The Decider), but Decision Points. Maybe it's a reconciliation with the Thousand Points of Light.

Sitting President Barack Obama also inherited a book deal with Crown - a youth version of his memoir, Dreams from My Father, and a memoir to be published after his term in office.
Where Your Money Is There Your Heart Will Be.

Every Saturday, I post the President's Weekly address on my eclectique916 website. You can view it there or at http://www.whitehouse.gov/.

I just finished and dropped off my taxes yesterday. On a gut level, I know I'll owe. I'm self employed. You just can't predict what income will come in from year to year. A good year is to estimate it just right and you owe nothing or something like $100. Owing can indicate another good year because you under estimated your income and came out with more profit than you thought (but put the extras away just in case). In other words, I can't predict. So many forces outside my mind, body, and soul influence the ins and outs of cash flow. So many choices I have to make. I don't have cable, but I'm not giving up DSL.

So I share my thoughts about the National Budget submitted by the Obama Administration with E-Notes. Today I have to provide content for 3 blogs, so don't blame me for the economy of words.


I have friends I call on who are only concerned about the meat and potatoes of issues and not the politics. They are not tied to any political party or agenda. They will vote Republican or Democrat. [I'm not sure about 3rd parties.] And they can pretty much give me a good idea of where the middle ground is. I talked to one of these friends this week about the AIG bonus bomb and what she thought about it. She said she didn't care about those AIG bonuses. She cares about having healthcare.

Today volunteers will be on the streets talking to people and rallying support for the national budget submitted by the President to the Congress. Next week, the budget goes into debate on the Hill.

The Congressional Budget Office has already delcared this budget a blue print for weakening the economy by increasing the deficit by $1 trillion a year according to the Washington Post. But let's look back 7 years ago (March 2, 2002) at the CBO and its projections in a report by the "News Hour's" Paul Soloman with Barry Anderson, then Deputy Director of the CBO (one of the numbers crunchers):

BARRY ANDERSON: For 200 years, we forecasted not ten years out, not five years out, but only 18 months out. You look at the private forecasters; they're really not doing too much more than that right now. I know the Congress needs estimates that go out ten years and we will supply them. But we make no bones about it that there is an awful lot of uncertainty about what our projections are ten years hence.
PAUL SOLMAN: Would you bet me $100 that your projections will be within 10 percent of the ultimate reality?

BARRY ANDERSON: No, and the reason being is because I would bet you many times $100 that Congress will enact legislation that will change those projections somewhere different than the $5.6 trillion. But I don't know what legislation they're going to enact.

PAUL SOLMAN: And you don't know if it will make the number higher or lower.


In all fairness to the CBO, I did go to the source - the Director's Blog - and encourage readers to do the same. Note the emphasis on "current laws and policies" in its projection. Meaning, if policy remains the same, these are the projections. And what the office offers is an analysis not policy.

I believe strongly, the economy says more about human behavior than numbers. On "current laws and policies," those AIG executives are entitled to those bonuses. This has been the practice for some time and no one complained as long as everyone was cashing in - Wall Street's verison of "spread the wealth." In terms of behavior and ethics, they suck. So what do you do? Where do you put your focus and energy in terms of changing the policy to curb the behavior.

This week, on "The Tonight Show" President Obama continued his three talking points about the budget: education, energy and healthcare.

This is where I'm shifting my attention. My friend doesn't have a healthcare plan even though she has a full-time job. I'm not sure she's up for the fight about single-payer, universal vs. private, public whatever. But I'm sure she's very interested in a healthcare plan that's affordable, available, and attainable no matter what your present medical condition, age, and/or income.

As my sister said to me, the budget should be looked at as a moral document. After the debates, what the final national budget looks like remains to be seen. But it will certainly reflect what this country truly values.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is Your Heart a Lonely Hunter and an Open Book?

The Big Read - D.C. begins its city read of Carson McCullers' The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter April 23. The official kick-off is Saturday, April 25 at 11 am at Gallaudet University (800 Florida Avenue, NE) co-sponsored with Gallaudet University Community Relations Committee. George Pelecanos, crime author, writer/producer for the HBO series "The Wire" is the 2009 honorary chair and will be at the kick-off event.

Each year, the Big Read encourages residents to come together to read, discuss, and experience a book as one community. It is also a chance to join the discussion with 11th graders in DCPS who are reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter for their English classes. This is D.C.'s 3rd Big Read presented by the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Download a readers guide for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter from the NEA Big Read national website: http://www.neabigread.org/. E-Notes/E. Ethelbert Miller, author of The 5th Inning, is featured on The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter audio guide available free at Big Read - D.C. events including the kick off.

For more information about the Big Read - D.C. and the city read of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter visit http://www.wdchumanities.org/ or email dcbigread@wdchumanities.org. The blogspot address is http://www.dcbigread.blogspot.com/.

Where Were You Six Years Ago?

This week marks the 6th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One day before the invasion I was in the Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was my last day before returning back to the states. News about the invasion was circulating. I was a U.S. citizen who didn't want to be in another country when one of my own invades someone else's country. I was anxious to get back. I was depressed. My friend and guide for this trip suggested going to the Boca where we found a little bar. Locals came there to drink beer and sing Broadway musical songs. It wasn't crowded, but it was lively. "Why can't we all enjoy this," I said. I perked up a bit. I had some flan. I was a little less anxious at least until I got home.

Split This Rock Poetry Festival is presenting a veterans poetry reading Saturday, March 21 at 7 PM at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW).

Sports moment.
AU loses a 14-point advantage to Villanova last night in the city of brotherly love. Oh, well.
Michael Wilbon has an eclectique moment about the NCAA in today's column:
What's the point of the tournament if there aren't seniors and cheerleaders sobbing every night? As theater, the NCAAs are in need of a makeover even more than the Oscars were. These kids are threatening to ruin the modern tradition of the tournament, not to mention my bracket -- which admittedly has Villanova going to the Final Four, but upsets galore as well. There's nothing more dreadful and less dramatic than a bunch of powerhouses stalking their way through the tournament.
Or are we all addicted to drama?

Tongues are wagging in pundit land about President Barack Obama's appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." This was a first for "The Tonight Show" to have a sitting President as a guest. It was a jacket and tie night for the house band. Does this make him look presidential - Obama that is not Leno? Is this the time for the President to make an appearance on a comedy show? It might not be the best move the day after you invade a country. Or maybe it's the established press that can't be taken seriously anymore. As my grandmother used to say, "There's a lot of truth in a joke." I'm writing late E-Notes because I stayed up for this.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

1000 Years and Counting

Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia ,that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency.

- Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman op-ed in the Washington Post

What can I say about Afghanistan except it ain’t your Senators’ Vietnam. When people say it was safer to cross the road when the Taliban were in control, take a clue. [See "News Hour" report by Margaret Warner.
People often give up a lot for "security" and to safely walk across the street.

But can you trust any religion or leadership that outlaws music?
I say to these guys, "go fly a kite."

The Humanities Council of Washington, DC has grants for neighborhood organizations to tell their neighborhood's story.

Workshops are Free. Call 202-387-8391, or RSVP at www.wdchumanities.org
Here's the schedule to learn about funding requirements:

Tuesday April 14, 2009 Noon to 1:30PM
Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE

Tuesday April 14, 2009 5:30PM to 7PM
Humanities Council of Washington, DC, 925 U Street NW

Tuesday April 21, 2009 5:30PM to 7PM
Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street SE

Quote of the Day
Conservatives have argued for decades that the sins most dangerous to our
society were rooted in lust when in fact they were rooted in greed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is it E-Notes? Or is it E-clectique?

Starting tomorrow through Sunday, I'll be blogging on E-Notes while E. Ethelbert Miller, is on assignment reading poems, signing books and sharing chapters from his new memoir The 5th Inning.

E-Notes has over 5,000 readers. Why are my hands sweating?

Look for more questions. E-Notes always questions. Look for less sports updates. I just don't keep up until the final 4. Hopefully the E - Notes will fill in offline. Look for some calendar stuff of interest to E-Notes readers (either you're E sharp, E flat or E natural - pick a note).

Look for late updates. E-Notes clocks in before 7 am. I'm just waking up.

Should I use my South Park persona as my icon image?

Michon Boston

In France labor unions are planning a nationwide strike on Thursday, to call for a tax increase on high-income earners.

Class warfare around the world is going to increase. Lines are being drawn. So few with much,
so many with less.

About 10,000 arts organizations, or 10% of the U.S. total, are at risk of folding according to the organization, Americans for the Arts.
Quote of the Day:

Technology makes it easy to lift parts of someone else's music, video, or other digital creations, tweak it, and call the result one's own.

- L. Gordon Crovitz

It might be important to begin monitoring the number of US soldiers that are wounded or killed in Afghanistan under the Obama Administration. Wars can quickly grow and the unfortunate thing is that so do casualties. It would be sad to withdraw troops from Iraq only to place them in harms way in another country. Sooner or later we are going to have to ask ourselves - what are we trying to defeat? It seems we are trying to "contain" radical Islam. But how does one halt the spreading of a faith - a way of looking at the world and one's relationship to God? So many ideas fighting for air in the world. What do you believe in? What would you kill or die for? Maybe this is the problem. We would rather kill than love. Some people would rather die than live.