Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Update on my son's team and game:

Men's Basketball Dealt 87-78 Loss by Lebanon Valley
1/31/07 -- Widener suffered an 87-78 Commonwealth Conference loss to Lebanon Valley at Schwartz Center as it could not overcome Kyle Enoch, who poured in 31 points and shot 9-of-11 from 3-point range.

Lebanon Valley (12-8, 4-5 CC) grabbed a 73-63 lead with 7:27 left when Eric Humphrey hit the second of back-to-back layups. Widener (11-8, 6-3) responded with a 9-2 burst in just under two minutes, including two 3-pointers from senior Essien Ford (Baltimore, MD), for a 75-72 margin with 5:48 to go.

The Dutchmen increased their lead to 78-73 when James Shinn drilled 1-of-2 free throws with 2:48 left. But sophomore Nyere Miller (Washington, DC) continued his torrid shooting for Widener, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:22 left for a two-point margin.

With Enoch closely guarded, Lebanon Valley turned to Hunter Bretschneider and he responded. The senior drained a clutch 3-pointer from the left baseline with 1:02 left for an 81-76 cushion.
Ford missed a 3-pointer and after senior Terry Smith (York, PA) grabbed the offensive rebound, he fell to the ground and was called for traveling. Enoch made two from the line to make it 83-76 with 40 seconds to play.

Enoch shot 9-of-12 from the floor, helping the Flying Dutchmen hit 54 percent (31-of-57) overall and 12-of-22 from beyond the arc. Enoch scored 19 points in the second half, during which Lebanon Valley shot 61 percent (17-of-28) overall and 7-of-10 from 3-point range.
Shinn had 15 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, Bretschneider scored 13 points and Humphrey netted 11.

Miller finished with career bests of 22 points and seven 3-pointers for Widener, which shot 44 percent (26-of-59) overall with a season-high 14 three-pointers. Senior Malcolm Thomas (Baltimore, MD) scored 21 points, Ford had 12 and Smith ended with 10 and nine rebounds.
I'll be doing an NPR program on February 21st. A discussion of the late Bebe Moore Campbell's YOUR BLUES AIN'T LIKE MINE. This was her first novel. It was published in 1992.
We need to be careful of how words move across borders like workers or refugees. Take a word like apartheid that slipped into our vocabulary right out of South Africa. Thanks Nelson. Soon we started to use the word to describe what we once simply called segregation in the US. Look at how Carter has upset folks with the use of this word in reference to Palestinians. So what's next? The next word might be ethnic cleansing. We might start using it to replace a word like gentrification. Moving people out of neighbors with economic pressure and no need for guns. The result is the same. The people have been removed and a new group of men and women appear claiming the ground beneath their feet. I saw the term used in a casual way a few weeks ago in regards to Black/Latino relationships in LA. Latinos forcing blacks out of an area using the threat of violence. Ethnic cleansing is a word that brings Bosnia back to mind. Might it mean Brooklyn in the future? Bensonhurst? U Street? You never know. Watch your words.
Which do you prefer, serious news or entertainment? Which is which? Blur. Blur. The lines cross and the media will try to push us to vote for Trump or Oprah for president. Politics is becoming a game show. The American Idol is more popular than the president. It's not about ideology anymore. It started with polls. Up. Down. Now you can simply blackberry yourself into office. But can you govern? What mistakes must we suffer?
So a picture emerges of a stronger looking Castro. But what if we had invaded Cuba a few months back using the excuse that we were looking for Castro's cancer? Might we have made a mess of Havana too? If only Iraq had shared their x-rays. Right? Do you know how many people have died because of wars and poor health care?
Support John Edwards for President:

I'm writing to invite you to come hear John Edwards outline his vision for the Democratic Party and our country at the Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting on Friday morning at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Dupont Circle (1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009).

This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate Senator Edwards' grassroots support. Senator Edwards is scheduled to speak at approximately 10:40 a.m. However, since the doors will be opening at 8:00 a.m. and the meeting will be starting at 9:00 a.m., we recommend that you try to join us as early as possible since individuals will be allowed into the hotel ballroom on a first-come, first-serve basis.

We'll have a table with stickers, t-shirts, flyers and other materials, and laptops to sign up new One Corps members. You're welcome and encouraged to bring friends and family along too.

Hope to see you on Friday!


George Stern
National One Corps Director
John Edwards for President
Poetry News:

EDWARD HIRSCH will be teaching at the creative writing workshop in Brazil from July 9-16, 2007.

Participate in a week-long poetry workshop with Edward Hirsch and a translation class on Brazilian poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Joao Cabral de Melo Neto. Discussions on Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil and tours of important cultural sites and literary landmarks. Also, casual get togethers with leading contemporary Brazilian poets, editors, writers, translators, and publishers.

Creative Writing Brazil is an unique literary workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil organized by Rattapallax magazine and Academia Interncional de Cinema. The workshops are run by leading American and Brazilian poets, writers and educators and conducted in English. The purpose of the workshop is to experience the culture of Brazil and produce new and complex literary work. Poets and writers who have participated in our trips to Brazil include Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Breytan Breytanbach, Jerome Rothenberg, Cecilia Vicuna, Edwin Torres, Nathalie Handal, and Poetry Wales editor Robert Minhinnick. [ more info. ]

Edward Hirsch is a poet and critic. He has published six books of poems: For the Sleepwalkers (1981), Wild Gratitude (1986), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Night Parade (1989), Earthly Measures (1994), On Love (1998), and Lay Back the Darkness (2003). He has also written four prose books: How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999), a national bestseller, Responsive Reading (1999), The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration (2002), and Poet's Choice (2006). He is the editor of Transforming Vision: Writers on Art (1994) and Theodore Roethke's Selected Poems (2005). He is also the co-editor of A William Maxwell Portrait: Memories and Appreciations (2004). He has received the Prix de Rome, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, and a MacArthur Fellowship. He taught for eighteen years at the University of Houston, and is now the fourth president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. [ more info. ]
Well, the good thing is that the blog idiot did mention Fred in his E-tag. Fred Joiner is being featured in THE EAST OF THE RIVER GROUP SHOW - THE GRAND OPENING OF THE HONFLEUR GALLERY. This is the new arts space opening on 1241 Good Hope Road, SE. See site:
The Opening reception is Saturday, February 24th at 7 PM.
I'm so tired of this guy getting into my E-Notes. What does he want? My Anthony Braxton records?
I'm not going to wait until Black History Month to tell Ethelbert what I think. I don't care if these are his E-Notes. I saw him down at Busboys last night. I came for the Open Mic program.
I noticed that Ethelbert didn't stay around to listen to the young poets. What's up with that??
I mean I saw him sitting in the back of the Langston Room around 6:30 pm with the owner and a few folks like the poet Fred Joiner ( a nice guy). Ethelbert was chasing that catfish on his plate like it was going up stream. I spoke with Bro. Sundiata before the program and got 2 tickets to his show- but let me run before Ethelbert tries to change the code again.
Jah Music:
Bob Marley's birthday is February 6th. Make plans to celebrate. Lively Up Yourself!
62nd Anniversary of Marley's birth.

Parker: Do you understand what I'm saying?

Ethelbert: No. Slow down so I can hear you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Poetry for YOU:

30th Anniversary of the Poet and the Poem with Grace Cavalieri
This is a good site for "walking" information:

Stay well.
The age factor? If John McCain runs and wins, he would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president.
Marcus Raskin (founder of IPS) has a new book out:

Raskin's co-author is Robert Spero.

The four freedoms were outlined in Franklin D. Roosevelt's message to Congress on January 6, 1941.

(We need to post these 4 Freedoms in every school building):

The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments, to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -anywhere in the world.
Oh, if you go back to the Metro section of the Washington Post today - you'll see the "Butterfly"
connection. How are those men hanging out on Yuma Street, SE linked to Singer being picked for the Attorney General of the District? Do you know the answer to this question? Here is a hint found in the same newspaper:

She (Singer) came to know Fenty after meeting him at her children's elementary school. She and Sternlieb (Singer's husband) are friends with City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Sternlieb is active in local political circles and was on a Fenty transition committee that handled enviornmental issues.

See- the guys on Yuma Street are hanging out "in the enviornment" and not connected to the transition committee. They also don't have their kids in the right elementary school. Eh-
Which brings us back to the major issue in the city being education (and not crime). Right?

It's all who you know. Qualifications? Folks don't need no qualifications.
Bonds 22. No not new software. Barry Bonds has a contract and might soon have Aaron's record too. What's a Bud (Selig) to do? If this was Iraq someone would be looking for a private contractor. Hmmm. What a mess. Do you keep Bonds out of the Hall of Fame?
New mayor - new murders. It was good to see F-Man on Yuma Street, SE. talking with folks. These visits will wear thin however in a few months if crime does not go down. It will be a new mayor with the same old hat. Right now homicides are up from last year and we are in the first month of 2007. We can't blame this stuff on Al Gore weather.
But what can a mayor really do? He can't stop some of this violence; especially when there is a relationship between the killer and the victim. F-Man however might have to change his wardrobe. Showing up dressed like the G-reaper seems like the guy is looking for souls. Check the photo in the Metro section of the Washington Post today (B1).
Iran is suddenly in the news more than Iraq. What does this mean? Do you remember when Korea was in the news almost everyday? The media shapes the agenda. Did you see how it was so happy to have Jane Fonda back?
37% of the population in Bolivia speak a native language that predates the arrival of the Spanish colonists in the 16th century. Shouldn't folks be encouraged to learn Aymara and Quechua?
The government of Evo Morales is pushing the teaching of the native languages. There is opposition but the teaching and learning of these languages look like a good thing to me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Slipping into Darkness. Remember that song by the group WAR? Those words come back to me as I watch the evening news. Slipping Into Darkness. War with Iran next? Another country about to have a smashed government and men running around with guns. Folks embracing chaos and waiting for some divine era to begin. I think the dinosaurs had the same expectations.

Car bombs in Israel again. Palestinians fighting Palestinians. Hugo angry at America and playing the rhetoric game.Nonsense in Nigeria. Haiti not even in the news. Somalia reduced to nothing but clans. Even the good poets are pissing in the streets.

Slipping into Darkness?
Institute For Policy Studies

Eleven Progressive Caucus Members Who Have Become Committee Chairs in the 110th Congress

Roundtable to Discuss Their Priorities
Wednesday, January 31, 2007.
Panel from 4-5:30 pm. Reception from 5:30-7 pm.
2237 Rayburn House Office Building

On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the Nation, and the Institute for Policy Studies will host a panel discussion on the new Progressive Promise for America that will feature CPC Members who are now Committee Chairs.

Co-hosted by the CPC, in conjunction with The Nation magazine, the Institute for Policy Studies, the panel will explore the potential of new leadership, new ideas and new momentum in Congress and around the nation.

Fifteen years ago, then Congressman Bernard Sanders and four colleagues founded the non-partisan CPC. Ten years ago, over 600 progressive leaders joined the CPC in Washington to launch the Fairness Agenda for America. Today, the 69-member CPC is the largest caucus in Congress and its members serve as the majority of House Committee Chairs. Today, in leadership roles, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and its partners in civil society begin the process of advancing the Progressive Promise in the legislative process.

Invited participants who will be featured in the roundtable discussion are:

Rep. John Conyers Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones Rep. Henry Waxman
Rep. George Miller Rep. Nydia Velazquez Rep. Louise Slaughter Rep. Charles Rangel Rep. Bennie Thompson Rep. Tom Lantos
Rep. Bob Filner Rep. Barney Frank

In The Nation's January 22 issue, editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel highlighted 10 important bills spearheaded by CPC members. In the same issue Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies outlined 10 congressional hearing ideas for the new CPC chairs. You can join the discussion on strategic hearings at and

4:00 pm-5:30 pm: PANEL DISCUSSION

Welcome by the CPC Co-Chairs: Rep. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee
Introductory remarks by Senator Bernard Sanders (invited) and Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies

Moderator: John Nichols, The Nation

Panel Discussion: What are the priorities and plans of key Progressive Caucus Committee Chairs?

5:30pm-7:00pm: RECEPTION

Following the roundtable discussion, there will be a reception in the same room to honor all of the CPC Members and co-hosted by a wide array of non-governmental progressive organizations from inside and outside Washington, D.C. While the social reception is under way, media will be granted the opportunity to meet the individual Committee Chairs in an informal setting for deep background and on-the-record interviews.
Quote of the Day:

"I think your faith is more important than your job, family is more important than your job. We all know that's they way it should be, but we're kind of afraid to say that sometimes."

- Tony Dungy, Coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
As we head into the Super Bowl week, Dungy and Smith are getting a lot of attention for their style of coaching. They don't yell or scream at players and they get the job done. They are cool and not emotional. Where did they get this from? It has always been there. These are the black men who are the deacons at church, working men (and not getting paid their worth like Lovie), the pillars of our community, conservative but progressive, race men but not fools. They are like jazz musicians in the 1950s. Maybe the game on the 4th will be known for the rebirth of the cool. What's Prince gonna play at halftime? A tribute to Miles?
A good story to read in The New Yorker (1/29/07) is "Cell One" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Adichie is the author of two novels, PURPLE HIBISCUS and HALF OF A YELLOW SUN.

On the days I don't see you
I love you more.

On the days I do see you
I don't love you enough.

- E. Ethelbert Miller

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hey, anyone in LA want to read my poetry at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice CA on March 9th at 7 PM? This will be the opening for the traveling exhibit of Letterpress Broadsides by Distinquished Artists & Writers - HOW THE INK FEELS. The exhibit features 64 matted and framed letterpress broadsides which illuminate poetry and prose selection by well known writers.

Here is the list of writers:
James Agee
Agha Shahid Ali
Marvin Bell
Wendell Berry
Robert Bly,
Madeline DeFrees
Ivan Doig
Rita Dove
Martin Espada
Vi Gale
Tess Gallagher
Donald Hall
Ursula K. LeGuin
Mark Halperin
Joy Harjo
Robert Hass
Jane Hirshfield
Richard Hugo
David Lee
Li-Young Lee
Denise Levertov
Barry Lopez
Sandra Lopez
Stanley Kunitz
Chris Merrill
W.S. Merwin
E. Ethelbert Miller
Howard Nemerov
Naomi Shihab Nye
Paulann Petersen
Carlos Reyes
Alberto Rios
Ralph Salisbury
Gary Snyder
Richard Shelton
Peggy Shumaker
Primus St. John
Kim Stafford
William Stafford
James Welch
Ingrid Wendt
New book out:

BONE PAGODA, a new book of poems by Susan Tichy, is now available from Ahsahta Press.

Ethelbert: You look like my Uncle Tom.

Washington: Some folks think all black people look alike.

Ethelbert: This might sound like a dumb question but- what's "down" from slavery?

Washington: The Souls of Black folk?

Ethelbert: Have you ever been to Atlanta?

Washington: Yes and Michael Vick is so "talented" but still can't win.

Ethelbert: Yeah, you can have 10 talented guys but still can't win without the 11th.

Washington: Yep - you need more than a talented 10.

Ethelbert: Do you think Vick should switch to a new position?

Washington: You mean like carpenter?
And the Eddie Murphy pictures don't help.

-60.1% of African American males are overweight.
- 78% of African American women lead the population in obesity and being moderately overweight.

Black colleges and universities need to play a more active role in helping to improve the diets of African Americans. Check the food on campus. Are we graduating from an institution of higher learning or just learning to live high on the hog?
How many of our students are pre-law, pre-med, and pre-diabetic?

1. Fasting.
No reason why we can’t use this month to focus on health issues within the African American community.

2. Read the work of Black leaders we mention but seldom read.
Let’s start with Paul Robeson and work our way back to Kelly Miller.

3. Help and organize Black History Month programs with your local

4. Buy a black book for your mother and father. It’s amazing how much
Black History our parents don’t know.

5. Play more, blues and jazz in the house. Oh, and take a moment to
listen to some Mahalia Jackson. Play “Precious Lord” before
March 1st.
No " E" Mag today.

Ethelbert Meets Tubman

Tubman: Sir, do you have some spare change to help me get North?

Ethelbert: Sorry, I don't have anything.

Tubman: Would you like to buy a copy of the Underground Railroad Map?

Ethelbert: No, I'm sorry I don't want one.

Tubman: OK. God bless. Have a nice day.
On the Home Front:

The Long Beach Case is one to watch. Black teenagers convicted in beating 3 white women.
Eight of the teenagers are girls. The women were beaten with pumpkins, newspapers and a skateboard. Yipes! Pumpkins?

Oh, and on the campus of Guilford College in North Carolina, football players beat up three Palestinian students. Uproar?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The New York Times ran an interesting story today about baseball being exported to Africa. Mets General Manager Omar Minaya is on his way to Ghana for a four-day good will tour. The creation of a baseball market in Africa could be a wonderful thing for young Africans. It means teams will be have to be created and fields of dreams built. This is a good investment for Ghana to make. No reason why Africa can't join the fun that is taking place in Latin America and Asia.
Baseball Fever - Catch IT!
South Africa was a recent participate in the World Baseball Classic.

My interview with Melissa Tuckey can be found by going to the website of Foreign Policy In Focus:
See the Fiesta section.
Tim Crawford, the board chair of The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland, put together his Chairman's Index. Apologies to Harper's Magazine:


Number of published novels written by Kate Lehrer: 4
Number of published novels written by Robert Olen Butler: 10
Number of published novels written by Jim Lehrer: 17
Cost to mail a novel weighing more than 1 lb. but less than 2 via Book Rate: $2.07
Cost of Priority Mail for same package: $4.20
Cost of Writer’s Center annual membership dues: $40
Number of annual-dues-paying members: 1,840
Number of names on the Writer’s Center list serve: 4,700
Percentage of those who are donors: 3
Percentage of total 2005 U.S. charitable contributions given to arts organizations: 5.2
Percentage of U.S. total given by individuals rather than foundations and corporations: 76.5
Number of copies of workshop brochures mailed out each quarter: 6,700
Number of workshops completed in 2006: 217
Total number of workshop sessions: 1,250
Average number of sessions per workshop: 5.8
Total number of workshop participants: 2,557
Number of active instructors: 110
Number of venues where our workshops take place: 5
Number of full-time staff members: 6
Square footage of our main facility: 12,500
Amount of annual expenses fully defrayed by earned income in 2006: 65%
Percentage of U.S. volunteers, i.e., helped others for no monetary pay, in 2005: 28.8
Median annual hours donated by those volunteers: 50
Number of Board of Directors members authorized pursuant to the bylaws: 25
Number of current Board members: 17
Percentage of Board members who are also donors: 100%
Number of Board members who have written book reviews for the Chicago Sun Times: 1
Number of Board members who have won the National Book Award: 1
Number of cities whose mayors have proclaimed an “E. Ethelbert Miller Day”: 2
Rate of decline in U.S. adult population that read a literary work between 1992 and 2002: 14%
Rate of decline since 2002: I don’t even want to know
Extent to which the Writer’s Center is needed “now more than ever”: [your opinion here]
The "Browning" of America? I want to live in a land where there are many people like Sarah Browning , Melissa Tuckey and Esther Iverum. I guess these are the type of women who changed history by being active in social movements.

Good to see D-Man Betts out there too. But where were the other million black men? More people of color need to be active in Peace protests. It would have been nice to see thousands of Latinos marching with African Americans - build bridges not barriers. Love is the common language.
So what's different about a peace march today? Well, no one goes to listen to anyone. It seems we have no real major leaders we want to listen to. Movie stars do not make the earth shine bright. I respect them, but where is the person whose words can inspire folks? It seems King's shadow is still missing. Where is the great speaker who will define this historical moment? No one comes close - and maybe it's the format. Remember how King ignored the time constraints at the March on Washington. He started preaching...
Well, we need someone to do that today. We need that sermon on the...
America has no great orators. It's why we hunger for eloquence in the media. Unfortunately, we want people to look better than how they talk. We need substance and not sound bites. War can hide behind slogans but peace deserves its own vocabulary.
So good to see Martin Espada and his family in town. I love this guy. We met so long ago. Can we measure the time in books? Martin gave me a copy of his new book - THE REPUBLIC OF POETRY. The publisher is Norton. Here is what Ariel Dorfman said about it:

"What a tender, marvelous collection. First, that broken, glorious jouney into the redemptive heart of my Chile, and then, as if that had not been enough, the many gates of epiphanies and sorrows being opened again and again, over and over."

As I saw Espada walking in the march today, I knew Neruda was in his blood, breathing and pointing us in the direction of hope.
Who supports war? As the peace march passed a counter-demonstration, I saw hanging from a tree an effigy of Jane Fonda. Anything hanging from a tree is a lynching to me. I will always see a black person in that position. Fonda's name could have been my own. I didn't have to listen to what the people below the tree were yelling in my direction. All the people were white in the counter-demonstration. Only the flags they were waving had any connection to me.

If these folks are the supporters of the war in Iraq, it might be another reason to bring our troops home. I might need the National Guard to protect me in my own country. No matter how much I might disagree with Bush - the guy is still my president. I'm not going to hang an effigy of him in a tree. I'll continue to use the freedom we have to protest and disagree and try to change our foreign policy.

A peace march should always be an act of beauty.
The 30th Anniversary program at the Writer's Center was great. Friday's guest was David Lehman. He gave a wonderful reading, including new work. The event was hosted byPoet Lore.
Tomorrow the Center will highlight Robert Olen Butler. The hosts will be Jim and Kate Lehrer.
They are the honorary chairpersons for the 30th Anniversary.

I purchased a copy of the Lehman bible - THE OXFORD BOOK OF AMERICAN POETRY.
I read several Emily Dickinson poems on the Metro ride home.

Friday, January 26, 2007

This sounds like more than a "botched" statement. Here is Bill Parcells talking about QB Tony Romo:

"Tony's a good kid, but he can get a little off the reservation. He needs to be kept on a good leash."

Bill sounds too much like a Cowboy. We won't miss statements like this one.
Congrats to Sonny Rollins who just won the Polar Music Prize ($143,000). The award is given by The Swedish Royal Academy of Music.
Edison talks to Ethelbert

Edison: I've been trying to read this black poem in the dark.

Ethelbert: What do you think?

Edison: I just don't get it. I don't understand it. Is it me?

Ethelbert: Most of us are in the dark when it comes to black poetry.

Edison: Do you think the light bulb might help?

Ethelbert: I don't know. Maybe you should think of something else.
Quote of the Day:

"Given a mask, we will speak the truth."
- Oscar Wilde
Lincoln Talks To Ethelbert.

Lincoln: Well sir, what does the E stand for?

Ethelbert: Emancipation sir.

Lincoln: That's a strange name. I never heard it before. Where are your people from?

poems about you in my head
so much of you i would love to kiss
where is the memory of my lips

my hands outside your temple
will you let my prayers enter?
to love you is to worship

to kneel at your bed
is to confess how beautiful
you are

- E. Ethelbert Miller

Thursday, January 25, 2007

HU is getting ready to undertake a 3rd Strategic Framework For Action. I wish them the best.
Lately I've been feeling like Frank Robinson or is it Curt Flood?
Seeking Sekou:

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center proudly presents

Sekou Sundiata
the 51st (dream) state

Friday, February 2 . 8PM
Saturday, February 3 . 8PM

Mapping the State of the American Soul
Recognizing who we are
Celebrating who we strive to be

Kay Theatre
Tickets: $30 / $7 students
February 2: Post-performance discussion
February 3: Post-show Meet the Artists in the Grand Pavilion
For tickets, call 301.405.ARTS or visit our website:
Back to Ball:

Widener Holds Off Elizabethtown, 70-65

A steal and two free throws with 7.3 seconds left from sophomore Nyere Miller (Washington, DC) iced Widener's fifth victory in six outings.
I just borrowed from Professor Carr (in my department) a copy of The Black Scholar magazine.
This must be the latest issue (Vol. 36, No. 2-3). My favorite picture of June Jordan is on the cover. This is the picture of June I had on my wall back when I lived in The Newport West on Rhode Island Avenue. I remember coming home after work and discovering to my horror that the picture had fallen from the wall and my 3 cats had decided that pictures taste good and make you purr. Those three tails had been chewing away. I saved June photo and my heart that day.If cats could talk -I wonder what they would say?

Anyway, in the back of the Black Scholar there is a review of Arnold Rampersad's THE OXFORD ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN POETRY. The review is by Melba Joyce Boyd. I read it and immediately chuckled. This is a "regional" review. One of Boyd's major complaints about Rampersad's book is who is left out. This is often the focus of reviewers of anthologies. They skim the pages looking to see who is not included. I don't think I'll ever do a poetry anthology again. Why clone headaches? Everyone is not going to be in every anthology.
I remember when a well known poet called my publisher once and said "I'm certain Ethelbert didn't wish to exclude....." But I did. I had a sense of what I wanted to do with my book. I knew what work I wanted to use. So, I'm happy for Rampersad doing his thing. I used his book as a text last semester in my George Mason class. The book is a nice easy read.
John Edgar Tidwell continues to keep the memory and work of poet Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987) alive. He just edited the WRITINGS OF FRANK MARSHALL DAVIS: A VOICE OF THE BLACK PRESS ( University of Mississippi Press).
Online order :

I was introduced to the work of Davis by my mentor Dr. Stephen Henderson. Henderson pulled Davis out of retirement(in Hawaii) and invited him to Howard University in the late 1970s. I remember sitting in the back of the African American Resource Center (at Howard) interviewing Davis about his life. Talking to Davis after being around people like Sterling Brown, Owen Dodson and Arthur P. Davis, was like doing graduate work. I quickly realized that the black experience was a wide and very deep river. I looked around for someone to shout the name of the Holy Ghost.
Quote of the Day:

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the apparent inability of many people on both sides to understand the position of the other, and the unwillingness of some to even try.
- Kofi Annan, from his final address to the UN Security Council (December 12, 2006)/
I saw "Jitney" last night at Ford's Theatre. I love August Wilson's work. One of my favorite pictures in my home office is one of Wilson, Charles Johnson and myself at the Eliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle. Wilson and Johnson had come to my poetry reading at the bookstore. Afterwards we sat around in a cafe and I couldn't stop laughing at some of Wilson's stories. It's his humor and insight into things that I love on the stage. I can never get tired of his work. "Jitney" is being directed by Jennifer Nelson. Don't you just love her? Fred Strothers is in this production. He plays the character Becker. Don't miss Fred. I love this guy work. He has to be one of the best African American actors working. This guy needs a major Hollywood role. What does he have to do? Make a rap video?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Many thanks for Kerry not running for president again.
Some folks know how to come in out of the rain.

Now, if we can just convince a few other people not to run.
Should we promise them shelter from the storm?
From John Edwards:

Dear Ethelbert,

Like many of you, I watched the State of the Union last night and heard more of the same at a time when we need fundamental change. Rather than honest assessments and a vision for the future, we got rationalizations for the failed policies of the past -- and small ideas that won't make a difference in the lives of working Americans. But if Washington can't face reality and go big, then it's up to us to show the way.

The next president must do more than simply undo this president's mistakes - the next president must offer a vision to transform America in the 21st century. The American people are ready for something fundamentally new. We should be talking about the great things we can do for our nation and our world if we put our minds to it.

And I want to start tonight. Please join me tonight for a live online video discussion tonight at 9:30 ET at We'll talk about our ideas for changing America and take questions from you about the big challenges we face -- from ending the war in Iraq to rebuilding America's Gulf Coast. How are we going to end the scourge of poverty in 30 years? What role do we all have to play in stopping global warming? How do we ensure that every American gets the top quality health care we deserve? And a topic the president did not even mention last night -- what can we do to ensure that there will be good jobs and job security for Americans in the decades to come?

This campaign is about more than the presidency, and it's certainly about more than me. It's about a whole generation of Americans who are ready to take personal responsibility for ensuring our nation's greatness. Join me tonight, and let's get started.



P.S. - Thanks to your support, we've got a full page ad in today's edition of the D.C. newspaper Roll Call showing Congress that -- despite what Bush says -- their constituents know they have the power to stop the proposed escalation in Iraq, and we expect them to do so. Click here to see the ad you made possible.
A new baseball book coming out:

It makes one wonder:

Well maybe New Orleans and parts of Mississippi are no longer part of the Union. Might this be the reason there was no mention of Katrina by Bush?
Peace requires looking at the old world with new eyes:

The Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP) Invites you to attend a party with a purpose!

Join us in an educational and fundraising party to support the work of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

ICAHD is a non-violent, direct action group opposed to Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. ICAHD has been rebuilding the demolished homes of Palestinians for over eight years and educating people about the long-term implications of house demolitions on prospects for a just peace in the region.

We will watch a short film, Resisting the Occupation: On the Ground, enjoy the Iron Sheik perform, network and nibble on refreshments.

February 3, 2007 4:00 - 6:00 pm Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC Suggested Donation: $20 - $100

(100% of your donation goes directly to ICAHD) Space is limited. RSVP is recommended.
Hey- Cowboys out there!
Be sure to obtain a copy of the latest issue of Folklife Center News (Vol. 28, No.3). The focus in on Cowboy poetry. See essay by David Stanley, "Cowboy Poetry Then and Now."
C.M. Mayo just sent me the new book she edited. MEXICO: A Traveler's Literary Companion.
Mayo is founding editor of Tameme.
Share books, share borders.
Alan King just released his new chapbook, THE MUSIC WE ARE. The title comes from the work of Rumi. King is a freelance writer for the Prince George's County Gazette and Capital Community News. The poems that embrace family in his new book are the ones you want to take out on a date. King's dad is visible in a few and you read these poems and applaud black fathers. No need for Will Smith to be your only role model. King is a poet of the heart which means there are a lot of references to kissing in this book. Too many? Count the wet lips. If you're looking for form you can also wear King's book. You'll find a ghazal, a haiku or two.
I like King's urban ear. I like when older black folks turn and say "... these young folks are too fresh for they own yolk." If Alan keeps writing he will be a King for many days. He will be a poet with a good future. Listen: the wind is pouring wine!

Cultural Tourism DC
Project Associate, Heritage Programs
Position Announcement

A nonprofit coalition of 185 cultural and neighborhood organizations with partners in tourism, hospitality, government and business, Cultural Tourism DC (CTdc) promotes local culture and heritage as tools for economic development (

The Project Associate for Heritage Programs supports the planning, design, implementation, production, and maintenance of the Neighborhood Heritage Trails, Art on Call, and the African American Heritage Trail programs. The position reports to the Project Director of Heritage Programs and maintains key relationships with the Communications and Development Director and the Office Manager.

Job Responsibilities

Heritage Trails
· Support Project Director in
o Managing business aspects of the Heritage Trail Memorandum of Agreement with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and US Department of Transportation
o Staffing DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails Advisory Committee
o Maintaining project records
o Vendor and consultant relationships
· Track production schedules and staff hours for Heritage Trails
· Attend community meetings and assist working groups in applying for Heritage Trails
· Assist Heritage Trails team in determining sign locations
· Manage inventory of trail guides, storage, and distribution
· Manage Heritage Trail sign maintenance

Art on Call
· Support Project Director in communicating with neighborhood committees to spur and monitor progress
· Schedule and attend neighborhood meetings
· Track and record program expenses and monitor budget performance
· Update vendor lists
· Update database of call box locations based on neighborhood committee surveys

African American Heritage Trail
· Support Project Director in
o Managing communication with owners of site properties
o Acquisition of necessary city permits for site markers
o Fabrication and installation of site markers

· Work with the Office Manager to maintain income and expense records and provide administrative support as needed
· As a member of the Heritage Programs department, assist with special events, publicity and other duties as assigned


Bachelor’s degree required
Minimum 2 years experience working with diverse populations in an urban setting
Ability to manage multiple tasks and competing priorities
Demonstrated proficiency with spreadsheets and databases
Strong oral, written and interpersonal communications skills essential
Familiarity with District of Columbia cultural community and city agencies a plus

To Apply

Submit résumé and cover letter with salary requirements via email to with Heritage Programs in subject line; mail to Cultural Tourism DC, 1250 H Street, NW, #1000, Washington, DC 20005; or fax 202-661-7599. No phone calls.
Back to work after a wonderful evening with Lady Wendy. We had dinner at Indique which is a lovely Indian restaurant located at 3512-14 Connecticut Avenue. It's right outside the Cleveland Park Metro. Highly recommended. Wendy and I laughed about so many was good to break bread with a friend.
D.C. Poets Against the War

Media Contact, Event Coordinator,
Melissa Tuckey (cell) 513-312-1564

Poets March Together to Call for an End to the War

Called together by D.C. Poets Against the War, poets will gather from all over the country at Busboys and Poets, 14th & V Streets, NW, Washington, DC, at 10:30 AM on Saturday, January 27, 2007 and will head together down to the Capitol for the United for Peace & Justice march and rally, calling on Congress to bring the troops home now. Local poets and poets from around the country will also give a reading for peace Saturday from 7-9 PM at Busboys and Poets, featuring Martín Espada, Susan Tichy, and others.

Among the surge of poets will be Martín Espada, award-winning poet, essayist and translator; E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist and one of D.C.’s best-loved poets; and Sarah Browning, editor, poet and founder of D.C. Poets Against the War. They will be joined by numerous others.

They will carry signs like “Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it” -- Flannery O'Connor, writer, or “Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge,”--Anne Bradstreet, poet.

Poets will gather at Busboys and Poets on 14th street at 10:30 am, for a photo opportunity and will travel together by metro at 11 am to the site of the rally.

Martín Espada says, "I am coming to Washington, DC, marching with the poets' contingent and carrying poetry at the march because poets and poetry matter more than ever in times of war. The language of poetry is powerful precisely because it is not the language of power. Phrases such as 'weapons of mass destruction,' used by our government to justify war, bleed language of its meaning. Poetry restores the blood to words. Pablo Neruda wrote during the Spanish Civil War: 'The world has changed and my poetry has changed.' Yet, poets may also change the world by changing the people who read them, in ways great and small, profound and subtle."

E. Ethelbert Miller says, “In her introduction to The Best American Poetry 1996, Adrienne Rich made reference to what she called ‘apartheid of the imagination.’ A form of blockage in ‘the throat of poetry.’ I see this happening to us today. If poets fail to "imagine" peace or have visions of a world without wars, then we will not survive in this nation or on this earth. As Auden once wrote, ‘we must love one another or die.’”

Sarah Browning adds, “We’re calling poets to march together to reclaim language and put an end to this illegal and immoral war.”

Opposition to the war among poets has been widespread and poets have been speaking out and giving readings opposed to the war since 2003. In January of 2003, poet Sam Hamill issued a call to friends to submit poems against the war to his website “” Within weeks they received over 10,000 poems.

D.C. Poets Against the War was founded that same year, almost four years ago, when local poets gathered to share poems and concerns about the approaching conflict. Poets from the group have read widely throughout the D.C. area and the organization has since published an anthology of poems by local poets speaking for peace. Additionally, Sarah Browning, D.C. Poets Against the War Coordinator, was guest editor of the Wartime Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, which can be found at

For more information about DC Poets Against the War go to

The events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Upcoming Event:

Make Reservations for 30th Anniversary Event

Pulitzer-prize winning author Robert Olen Butler will be the featured speaker at our 30th Anniversary Party on Saturday, January 27, at 8:00 p.m. Jim and Kate Lehrer are the honorary co-chairs for a year-long celebration of this landmark, and hosts of this event.

The birthday weekend programs will include poet David Lehman at a Friday-night event on January 26, at 7:30 p.m., sponsored by Poet Lore magazine and hosted by E.Ethelbert Miller. Both events will be followed by a fireside reception in our reading room. This is a rare opportunity to meet some of the most accomplished writers in the country and enjoy a lively celebration with your fellow members, staff and instructors. Tickets for the David Lehman event are $25 ($20 members) and tickets for the Robert Olen Butler event are $60 ($45).

We are encouraging our members to make reservations early. Make reservations through our Website,, or by calling us at 301-654-8664.

Visit our new website at:
As if the OJ book was not enough - why do we have to read THE ENEMY AT HOME by Dinesh D'Souza? The complete title of this book is stupid and dangerous:


Can you imagine anyone who lost a love one on 9/11 picking his nonsense up? Should I turnover my telephone contacts of people on the "cultural left" to the proper authorities? Dumb stuff. The Cultural Left didn't fly airplanes into the Towers. Is this slick marketing? Title sex? Foreplay intellectual touching without substance?

Have you seen the ads for this book:

"Only by showing more respect for traditional values can we begin to persuade moderate Muslims to shun extremists in their own country."

D'Souza seems to be writing for a buck. He should stand on a corner too.

So the problem is secularism? Oh - save me!
Oscar time. Yep. Forest Whitaker better win! That's my bet. I'll vote for Meryl too. Well we did advance from last year's Oscar song. We've moved from "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" to Dreamgirls. Hmmm. So much progress in a year I'm afraid to look to the future. Hey- look at Al Gore getting in on the movie action too. Truth must be word.

Monday, January 22, 2007

This looks interesting:

The George Washington University Muslim Student Association's Islam Awareness Week. Our theme for this year is "ISLAMerica: Exploring the Fusion of Our Identity".

Jazakum Allah
Friday, January 26th*Jumu'ah: Friday Prayer with Imam Johari
Continental Ballroom1:15 pm
*Eid Dinner Hajj Pilgrimage: Uniting the Essence of a PeopleImam Magid from Adams Center
Continental Ballroom6:30 pm

Saturday, January 27th*
Bowling for a Cause
Interfaith Community Service Event
Entrance fee : 2 canned goods/clothing for donation to Miriam's Kitchen.

Sunday, January 28th *
Islam and Black America. Dr. Sherman Jackson
Co-Sponsored by NAACP
Ampitheatre 2 pm

Monday, January 29th*
Tabling 10 am -3 pm 1st Flr Lobby elevators in Marvin Center

*An In-Depth Look: Ban on the Burqa
Merve Kavakci
Co-sponsored by Islamic Alliance for Justice
Continental Ballroom 7 pm

Tuesday, January 30th*
Reflections of Identity Art Exhibit
Great Hall

*Loyalty to God vs. Country: The Moral Obligations of Citizenship
Dr. Louay Safi from Center for Islam and Democracy and ISNACo-sponsored by GW
Continental Ballroom
7 pm

Wednesday, January 31st*
The Spiritual Expression of Arabic Calligraphy Lecture and Workshop Dr. Aishah Elinor Holland
Marvin Center 301 1pm- 4pm

*Espionage at Guantanamo?
Chaplain James Yee
Co-sponsored by The Sigur Center for Asian Studies (Elliott School of International Affairs), College Democrats, and Asian Student Alliance
Grand Ballroom
7 pm

Thursday, February 1st*
Muhammad and the Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy
Hisham Mahmoud
7 pm

Friday, February 2nd
*Coffee NightFeaturing comedian Mo Amer from "Allah Made Me Funny"
Continental Ballroom 7:30 pm

-----Other co-sponsors for the week include Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC), Arab Student Association, and GW Dining Services Commission-----
**********Contact with any questions*************
-WWW.GWMSA.COM -PRAYER ROOM: Marvin Center Rm 406/ 21st and H St. -JUMU'AH (FRIDAY) PRAYER: Mariam's Kitchen, Basement 24th and G St. at 1:15pm. ---Contact info:
-WWW.GWMSA.COM -PRAYER ROOM: Marvin Center Rm 406/ 21st and H St. -JUMU'AH (FRIDAY) PRAYER: Mariam's Kitchen, Basement 24th and G St. at 1:15pm. ---Contact info:

Just a quick and exhilerating update, and a couple of requests for volunteers for Jan 27. Sarah Browningwas able to post our protest plans on Poets Against the War's website and we are getting a huge response. Poets are sending us ideas for signs from all over theworld, I've heard from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Australia,Ireland, Canada, and Mexico, so far. With one poet in Mexico who says she will be coming to DC to march and read with us.

We also have poets joining us at the protest and reading from NY, NH,MA, PA, MS, and points beyond.BIG NEWS: Poet, Translator, Editor and Translator, Martin Espada willbe joining us for the march and reading. If by any chance you are not yet familiar with his work you can read more about him at We look forward to marching with him.

We also will be joined by David Connolly, the Vietnam Veteran AgainstWar poet who is featured in the Voices in Wartime video.We hope also to have an Iraqi poet or two join us.Needless to say, our reading list for the evening reading is closed,and I need to ask everyone on the reading list to please be community-minded, and keep your reading time to five minutes or less,perhaps just one poem. We have a waiting list of folk who would like to read, some coming from far away. It's going to be amazing. If you have not signed up yet, but would like to be on the waiting list,email me

Our reading will be filmed by Allison Curtis and Luce Remy who areinterested in doing a documentary on the Split this Rock PoetryFestival. They are especially interested in the community of poets forming in DC around this event, and DC Poets Against the War effort.

We'll begathering on Satuday, January 27th at 10:30 am at Busboys and Poets,2021 14th Street NW, Washington, DC (U Street/Cardozo on the GreenLine), and heading via metro together to the protest at around 11 am.We'll have plenty of signs, or bring your own if you feel inspired.

January 27th, from 7-9 pm DC Poets Against the War will be hosting areading in the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets with poets MartinEspada, David Donnolly, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Sarah Browning, EstherIverem, Christi Kramer, Mike Maggio, Susan Tichy, and more. Join poets from across the country who are speaking out on this day ofprotest.We also invite you to join us for sign making! We'll meet at MelissaTuckey's house, 1422 Varnum Street, NW on Thursday, January 25th from7-9 pm. We'll provide the sign making materials and the pizza!

PleaseRSVP if you are able to join us at
It must be "Black Coach Day" or something. Mike Tomlin just hired to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers. Could Dallas be next? Must we wait until Juneteenth?
No more Tuna in Dallas. Who is going to be the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys? This team can go either up or down next season. Major changes in staff could mean an entire new system for folks to learn. Who is going to babysit TO? What about Romo getting his confidence back? This is good news for Redskin fans. Maybe they won't finish in last place again.
NEWS ALERT from The Wall Street Journal.
Jan. 22, 2007.

Pfizer announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or 10% of its work force, by the end of 2008 as it closes three research sites and two manufacturing facilities. The drug maker hopes to boost long-term profit growth amid flat sales, and said the moves will save as much as $2 billion a year.
Bernie Sanders, the new senator from Vermont has been pushing dental health among the rural poor. This is important. Here is a remark by Sanders that was in his NY Times Magazine profile (1/22/07):

"How many employers are going to hire someone who doesn't have teeth? You go around this state (Vermont), and you will find a lot of people with no teeth. It is their badge of poverty."
Quote of the Day:

Poetry will flourish - in terminal capitalism as in terminating communism - only when it is harder to find, when it is perceived as a valuable and virtually disallowed production that must be sought by need and by desire. We must eroticize the situation of poetry where we have only sanitized it; we must remember that poetry is, in the ultimate sense, a secretion from within, not a suntan lotion for external use only.
- Richard Howard
PEN Literary Awards Keynote Address, May 20, 1996.
News from IPS:


A Conversation with PETER BARNES, Co-Founder of Working Assets and author of CAPITALISM 3.0: A GUIDE TO RECLAIMING THE COMMONS.

The commons—those creations of nature and society we inherit together and must preserve for our children—is under siege. Our current version of capitalism—the corporate, globalized version 2.0—is rapidly squandering this shared heritage.

How might strategies to strengthen the commons prevent corporate enclosure of common assets or externalization of corporate costs? How does this strategy relate to other efforts to regulate corporations or transform corporate governance?

TUES, January 23rd from 3:30 -5:00 pm. Institute for Policy Studies.1112 16th St. Suite 600 (near L and 16th St).


Co-Sponsored by the Strategic Corporate Initiative. To learn more about the book and commons work, see:
Visual artist Lou Stovall has an exhibit at the Prada Gallery (1030 Wisconsin Avenue, NW). The show is "Origin And The Landscape." The Prada Gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday from 11AM -5 PM. Stovall's show will be up until February 28th.
Don't miss!
The latest issue of The Dos Passos Review is out. This journal is edited by Mary Carroll-Hackett.
I serve on her editorial board. You might want to submit poetry or prose. Here is the address:

Dos Passos Review
Longwood University
201 High Street
Farmville, VA 23909
It might make more sense to follow the developments within the Republican Party if we desire an end to the war. If McCain cannot obtain the nomination because of his views, then it opens the door for someone in the Republican Party to be a "peace" candidate. Looking beyond the war - We need a serious change to our foreign policy. The Middle East, South America, Africa, Asia all contain "hot" spots. We might want to focus more on ending global poverty and supporting education around the world. Interfaith summits also need to be held. The problem of the 21st Century is not going to be the colorline, it looks more like the bible versus the Quran. Muslim scholars and intellectuals must sit down with western intellectuals and find common ground. Words like nonviolence, forgiveness, compassion, love, need to be used more in speeches around the world. How come I never hear more discussions of love coming from the "radical" Muslim community?
On the 70 bus - heading to Howard, two men discuss yesterday football games. One mentions how having two black coaches in the Superbowl is "a good feelin." This is where we tend to always find ourselves - at that moment of feeling and goodness. It's what one found in King's smile or on the tip of Jordan's tongue when he was flying to the basket. That good feeling that too often someone steals like your vote on election day. So we get a "good feelin" from Obama and Clinton running for president. But we sit on the back of buses perhaps knowing that nothing is going to change in our lives. We hate our jobs and the years of disappointment that even a bible can't push aside. We look into our lives and the emptiness is deep and dark. We are reckless swimmers who now walk ashore. Our spirits breaking like shells.
It's not even February and all my New Year Resolutions have not been kept. How are you doing? I'm in a slump right now. If this is a baseball game I would be hitting around .250.
I'm still trying to "field" the stuff on my desk. Why do all the bills look like errors?

Yesterday morning I had a wonderful house of artists - Lou Stovall, Jacquelyn Flowers, Walter Kravitz, Judith Harris. Good conversations as a result of a gift Sam Gilliam gave me. Art can bring people together. Maybe this is why I enjoy what I do.

I watched both NFL games. My teams lost. Oh - when Brady threw the interception it was like Ichiro dropping a ball in the outfield. It's not suppose to happen.

But now the upcoming SuperBowl will be held in February and the Colts and Bears have African American coaches. Geez...and it's Black History Month too. You know much will be made of this.
Dungy seems cool about it. Lovie reminds me of Clarence Thomas and seems to be hurting whenever someone talks about race and it's importance. I was shocked to hear Mr. Manning give credit to Dungy( for a change) in a post-game interview. The media would have you believe that the Colts are Peyton's team. Do you ever see Peyton playing defense? The Colts won because their defense starting playing the last couple of games. Just like the Bears team. Defense is what Dungy is known for. So who will win on Feb 4? I've been wrong the last few weeks - so what do I know? I'll go with the Bears. I loved Walter Payton. I don't want to watch a hundred new Manning commercials next season. The NFL would have you believe the entire world is Peyton's Place. Time for me to move to basketball. Are the Wizards really in first place?

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Treve de blues
- Leon Damas




FALL OUT OF HEAVEN is the title of his memoir.
LISTENING TO THE PAGE is the title of his collection of essays.


# 1

This week?

Working each morning on revision of new novel...except for Friday, when I was in NYC at some meetings with editors. And working in the afternoons on a couple of book reviews, and reading proofs of a book I've (co-)edited, essays by various members of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers staff, called "Workshop in a Book, The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction," and a pair of novellas of mine coming out in September under the title "The Fires", and getting ready to revise an essay titled "Classics of the Future" that I'm going to give as a talk at the Texas Center for Writers" in Austin at the end of February.

I see next four or five months taken up mostly by work on the novel, and reviews (and work on a huge text-book project that I am writing with a friend of mine for McGraw-Hill).

Reading new novel by Dinaw Mengestu, "The Beautiful Things Heaven Bears", about Ethiopian emigres in DC; "Lost City Radio" by Peruvian-American Daniel Alarcon;going to reread the (alas!) late Octavia Butler's "Fledgling" which comes out in paperback reprint next month; and looking forward to the new Rick Moody novella collection and the new Don Delillo novel, both out this spring.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jeffrey Renard Allen's new book of poems (STELLAR PLACES) came in the mail today. The book was published by Asphodel Press.

I finished reading Jong's SEDUCING THE DEMON this morning. I'll start reading THE MARCH by E. L. Doctorow.
I spent the day in Chester, PA. I watched my son play basketball. His team lost. I have some strong opinions about how the game was played. I spoke with my son and gave him some advice.
Quote of the Day:

"There's still a tendency to see these things in Sunni-Shia terms. But the Middle East is going to have to overcome that."
- Condoleezza Rice

Where has this woman been the last few centuries? In Europe?

Across the street
a man disappears

from his family.

A neighbor throws
a rock at a friend.

Everyone owns
a flag.

The new detention
centers have windows.

Outside you can see
the past.

Speak Japanese
to me.

- E. Ethelbert Miller
Egyptian blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil is on trail in Egypt. He has been in detention since November and faces 9 years of prison if convicted. Nabil in his blog made critical comments about the President of Egypt as well as Islam.

How many years might I be facing for things I've written in my E-Notes? What about you?
Are those your thoughts you're thinking?
Here are my picks for this weekend:

Patriots and Saints advance to the SuperBowl. Big games for Brady and Bush.
The crux of the problem?

"When Ms. Rice talks about the challenges the U.S. faces across the Mideast, she points, somewhat surprisingly, to Europe after World War II and to the West's decades-long face-off against the Soviet Union, which happens to be her area of expertise. It is a penchant that has scholars scratching their heads."

- Neil King Jr writing in The Wall Street Journal (1/19/07) "How Rice Uses History Lessons."

I've always felt Rice was a weak link in the Bush Administration and maybe it started before Bush was even elected. Let's go back to some of those debates and discussions of the Middle East.
Wasn't she a Bush coach? Advisor?

Europe is not the Middle East. How many people in the US government are in leadership positions and have no knowledge (history) of the area where our troops are? When armies and soldiers make mistakes people die. We can't expect to break a nation and then glue it back. History is not a toy.
The Pentagon sees 2007 Iraq -war costs to be $8.4 billion a month. This is nearly double that of the war's first year.

U.S. raided Sudan's Embassy. International violation?

Good News:

Israel freed $100 million in Palestinian tax funds.

Friday, January 19, 2007

New Art in Downtown DC:

The Dragon Gate by Andrew Crawford was just commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. It can be found at 602 & 604 H Street, NW, between 6th & 7th Streets.
Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan. Hmmm. She must be running for president.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Black History Month:

Montpelier Arts Center is having the opening reception for "Cross the Tracks: An Historical Review of African Americans and Railroads, Sunday, Febrary 4th, 2-4 PM.

February 16th, Noon-2PM - Luncheon/Lecture with Eric Arneson.

Reservations required for Luncheon: 301 953-1993
Montpelier Arts Center, 9652 Muirkirk Road, Laurel, Maryland.
Pictures from the war we need to see:

Is the Golden Mosque in Samarra being repaired?
War Report: How come we don't hear anything about Basra anymore? What's going on in Mosul? Kirkuk?

Wouldn't it make sense to bring Moktada al -Sadr and Maliki to the same table?
No one has voted in the 2008 election yet the media is trying to tell us that Senator Clinton has won the Democratic nomination for president. How is this possible? Has she won in New Hampshire or Iowa? How did she become the frontrunner? Who is responsible for this? You? Me? This is very dangerous. Who is the Big Brother telling us how to vote? Who tells us which candidate can't win? Sniff. Sniff. Something is very foul here.
Quote of the Day:

I am concerned that public discussion of my book " Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" has been diverted from the book's basic proposals: that peace talks be resumed after six years of delay and that the tragic persecution of Palestinians be ended. Although most critics have not seriously disputed or even mentioned the facts and suggestions about these two issues, an apparently concerted campaign has been focused on the book's title, combined with allegations that I am anti-Israel. This is not good for any of us who are committed to Israel's status as a peaceful nation living in harmony with its neighbors.

- Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the US and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Breakfast at Busboys this morning with Nicole Lee. She is the new executive director of TransAfrica Forum. Lee should be placed on that list of Black women leaders to watch. She's the new face of an important organization. Does Oprah know about her? Why is Beyonce getting all of the attention?
Dear Friends,

After an incredibly helpful and inspiring forum with the Institute for Policy Studies last night, we are all the more fired up to turn out masses of poets to march for an end to this bloody war -- and to the immoral concept of perpetual war. Please join us! Details are below. We welcome your poetry, your fighting spirit, your passion.

On Saturday, January 27, DC Poets Against the War will host a poets contingent at the United for Peace and Justice protest.

Look forward to meeting up with poets from across the country. We hope you will be able to join us! We'll be gathering on Satuday, January 27th at 10:30 am at Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street NW, Washington, DC (U Street/Cardozo on the Green Line), and heading via metro together to the protest at around 11 am.

We'll have plenty of signs, or bring your own if you feel inspired.That evening, January 27th, from 7-9 pm DC Poets Against the War will be hosting a reading in the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets with poets Reginald Dwayne Betts, Sarah Browning, Esther Iverem, Christi Kramer, Mike Maggio, and more. Join poets from across the country who are speaking out on this day of protest.

Please let me know if I can add you to our list of readers! ( We also invite you to join us for sign making! We'll meet at Melissa Tuckey's house, 1422 Varnum Street, NW on Thursday, January 25th from 7-9 pm. We'll provide the sign making materials and pizza! Please RSVP if you are able to join us at
News Alert 9:54 a.m. ET Thursday, January 18, 2007.
Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist Art Buchwald, 81, Dies. Art Buchwald, 81, the newspaper humor columnist for more than a half-century who found new comic material in the issues that come up at the end of life, died of kidney failure last night at his son's home in Washington, his family announced today.
Widener wins their 10th game. Go Nyere!

Men's Basketball Wins Season-High Fourth Straight, 71-58 at Lebanon Valley

1/17/06 -- Widener in the second half did not permit a point for over nine minutes and shot exceptionally well from the foul line for its fourth straight victory, a 71-58 Commonwealth Conference triumph at Lebanon Valley in Annville, PA.

LVC (10-6, 2-3 CC) grabbed its final lead, 42-40, with 16:02 left on Jimmy's Curran's 3-pointer. Widener took over from there, scoring 12 straight points for a 52-42 lead with 7:07 remaining. Senior Malcolm Thomas (Baltimore, MD) poured in seven points in that run for the Pride (10-5, 5-0), who matched their best conference start since 2000-01.

Any attempted comeback from the Flying Dutchmen from that point was denied thanks to the visitors effort from the line. Widener hit 15-for-16 from the stripe over the final 5:16, including senior Essien Ford (Baltimore, MD) going 8-for-8, and 16-for-19 in the second half.

Ford netted 24 points over 39 minutes, marking the seventh time this season he poured in at least 20. Thomas finished with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and sophomore Nyere Miller (Washington, DC) added 11.

Hunter Bretschneider scored 20 points with five 3-pointers and Curran finished with 18 for LVC, which shot only 34 percent (11-of-32) from the field in the second half and 37 percent (21-of-57) overall.

Thomas scored nine points and Miller added five as the Pride gained a 20-6 lead over the first 8:15. LVC roared back on a 21-7 run for a 25-25 tie before Widener grabbed a 34-29 halftime margin.

Widener and Messiah tangle Saturday at Schwartz Center in a battle of undefeated league teams, beginning at 3:00 pm. That will be preceded by the women's contest between the same schools at 1:00 pm.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Panel Discussion tomorrow at the National Archives:

"New Culture: The Museum Renaissance in Washington"
Panelists: Joe Urschel (Newseum), Brent D. Glass (National Museumof American History), Lonnie Bunch (National Museum of African American Culture and History), Marc Pachter (National Portrait Gallery), Alan Hantman (architect of the Capitol) and Marty Sewell (U.S.Capitol Visitor Center).

7PM McGowan Theater, National Archives Building
Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets NW
202 357-5000
Congrats! Jerry Reese became the third African American to be an NFL general manager.
Reese will be working with the New York Giants.
Birthday Champ - Muhammad Ali is 65.
More attention should be given to the conditions of nursing homes across the US. I found these excerpts from Ira Rosofsky's OP-ED in the NY Times "Escape From the Nursing Home" to be interesting:

"Few elderly people or their families make a deliberate, considered decision to move into a nursing home. More often, institutionalization follows an accident or sudden illness. The broken hip is a typical trigger."

"In many cases, a nursing home offers services far beyond what a patient needs. Many people need only a little help - someone to dispense their medicines, prepare their meals and help them get in and out of bed."
Series Founder Reads to Honor First Anniversary

On the first anniversary of the founding of A Space Inside, Monica F. Jacobe, series founder and 2007 Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, will read from her creative nonfiction on Wednesday, January 24 at 7 p.m. at Riverby Books on Capitol Hill.

She will be introduced by local poet Sandra Beasley.Monica Jacobe is a Washington, DC, writer who earned an MFA in creative writing at American University with a concentration in creative nonfiction.

She is now working on a doctorate in American literature at The Catholic University of America. Monica has taught writing of all kinds at both American and Catholic as well as the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Media Bistro, and the University of Maryland, College Park. She founded A Space Inside in 2005 and hosted the first reading in January 2006. Her creative works have appeared or are forthcoming in Crosscut, apt, The Ward 6 Review, RY-K-RY Quarterly Literary Journal, Prism, and The Ampersand, among others.

In March, Monica will be a featured reader on a creative nonfiction panel at the Northeast MLA, and she will spend May 2007 at the Virginia center for the Creative Arts revising her memoir manuscript currently titled Woman with a Bottle and Flames.

February 28 will have local poets Kathi Wolfe and Ann Becker sharing their work, and March will bring lyric essayist and Georgetown University faculty member Norma Tilden to A Space Inside.

A Space Inside provides a space where developing writers, lesser known voices, and the work better-known writers create between books can be heard. Monthly readings alternate between poetry and prose, but all readers will be DC-based writers.

All readings will be hosted by Riverby Books with a reception following.

All events are free and open to the public.Riverby Books is located at 417 East Capitol Street, SE, just north of Eastern Market and four blocks east of the U.S. Capitol. A seller of used and rare books, Riverby is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and staff can be reached at (202) 543-4342. Please call for directions, if needed.
Piles of things to do on my desk. Whew. Maybe I'm doing too much reading and not enough writing. It's not even the end of January and those New Year resolutions are cracking. I hope you're doing better than me.

A number of meetings before the week ends. More E-Notes tonight. I'm off to a meeting with Sarah B.
Well, well, something I've been waiting to read is out today. Check the interview with NBA Commissioner Stern in The Wall Street Journal. Can you imagine this guy running a country?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama is serious about running for president? Hmmm. He seems like the new President Palmer on the television show 24. Young with no experience for handling a crisis. It's amazing how we are electing our presidents as if they were finalists on American Idol. Look good and talk good. When will this end? I can't vote for the guy.
Why Airlines Keep Losing Your Luggage.

A good explanation is given in today's Wall Street Journal. Did you know the lost-bag rate has increased every year since 2002? About one U.S. passenger in every 150 had a mishandled bag last year. That's up 11% from 2005. Put the blame on baggage handlers and bad equipment.


Don't check things you might need within 24 hrs. Did you know the bar-coded tags put on baggage at the airport are only for sorting luggage and identification?
Quote of The Day:

"Recently, some scholars have argued that the human female orgasm has no function. It only exists, it is argued, because selection has favored males who find ejaculation pleasurable."

- Dr. Amy Parish "Apes, Orgasms, and Us" in Center for Feminist Research Newsletter.
(Fall 2006, Volume 17, No.1)
Good morning meeting at Busboys to organize our IPS salons. We are looking at doing something in the next couple of months with Barbara Ehrenreich and Josh Rushing. More about the IPS salons in future E-Notes.

While at Busboys I purchased a copy of ANGELS FOR THE BURNING by David Mura. I'll be doing an interview with him on May 23rd for HoCoPoLitSo.

Don't forget the "POETS AGAINST THE WAR" forum at IPS tomorrow. It will begin at 6:45 PM. IPS is located at 1112 16th Street, NW. Suite 600.

INFO: washington, dc--artists forum on the Iraq war.

Please join us for a forum on the Iraq war and ways that poets and other artists can work for change. The panel will be moderated by E. Ethelbert Miller and will feature, from IPS: Marcus Raskin, Phyllis Bennis, Emira Woods, Sarah Anderson, Karen Dolan, Miriam Pemberton, Saif Rahman, and Nate Kerksick and from DC Poets Against the War: Sarah Browning and Melissa Tuckey.

DC POETS AGAINST THE WAR- AN INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES FORUM for artists and activists. January 17, 2007. 6:45 P.M.IPS Conference Room1112 16th Street, Suite 600Join D.C. Poets Against the War ( for a forum on the war in Iraq.

This 2-hour session will bring together IPS Fellows with poets and activists who have been outspoken against the war in Iraq. It will be an opportunity to obtain information and analysis of the current crisis. Come hear progressive ideas for ending the war and repairing the damage of the past four years. Suggested readings:D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology, edited by Sarah Browning, Michele Elliott and Danny Rose. (Argonne House Press, 2004).Special Beltway Poetry Quarterly Wartime Issue:
Homeward Bound: Chris Webber will be playing for Detroit. A good move.
Dumb news. The New England Patriots celebration in San Diego is a not a major thing. If Tomlinson can make tacklers miss, he should slip pass this nonsense too. Getting one's butt kick and losing will always make someone whine. Do we need the media to tell us someone is unhappy on the loser's side? I love the Brady Bunch! Next week they will put the Colts back in the barn.
Where's the love?
Lovie Smith (Chicago Bear's coach) wants to downplay the significance of two African American coaches having their teams in the NFL final four. He is still looking forward to the day we don't focus on things like this. Really? So we shouldn't celebrate King's birthday in the distant future too? Let's be real. Race matters and it always will. Loving other people who are different, and fighting for a society that upholds freedom and equality is an ongoing struggle. Laws can always change, so we have to fight so that no one attempts to turn the clocks back. Oh, and how much is Lovie Smith getting paid? I believe it's one of the lowest salaries of any NFL coach. I think this still matters too. Right Lovie? I think maybe you should be "King" for a day.
It would be a shame if Eddie Murphy's Saturday Night acting overshadows the work of Forest Whitaker. Both received Golden Globe awards. Whitaker "must"get an Oscar for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. I would also give an Oscar to Meryl Streep for her work in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I was never a fan of Streep but this last film made me a fan. Jennifer Hudson gets my vote too for best supporting actress in a film.
Quote of the Day:

"Now, where the maps showed only ice, a band of fast-flowing seawater ran between a newly exposed shoreline and the aquamarine-blue walls of a retreating ice shelf. The water was littered with dozens of icebergs, some as large as half an acre; every hour or so, several more tons of ice fractured off the shelf with a thunderous crack and an earth-shaking rumble."

NY Times article by John Collins Rudolf - "The Warming of Greenland" (1/16/07)

This is serious stuff. We are talking "glacial earthquakes" and the melting of ice that will raise global sea levels by 23 feet.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Africa in vogue? Movies? Books? Adopt a child or a continent?
What does this all mean? It might mean more broken countries. Somalia today- Nigeria tomorrow? What about Kenya? Zimbabwe?
The search for militant Muslims in Africa might serve as test runs for new satellite equipment and robotic "soldiers." No need to place forces on the ground. The sad news is that Africans might simply be used as target practice for high technology. So we destroy a complete village claiming that we are looking for one person? What type of logic is this?

Check the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine (February 2007). See the piece ("Blood Oil") Sebastian Junger wrote about Nigerian militants. See the photo on page 56. Behind Junger is a guy wearing just his underwear and a gun. I'm sorry but I don't think I can discuss Marx or Cabral with this guy. Someone needs to study the impact of films like Rambo on developing nations. Gun Cults - let's not try and place a political mask on this violence. Let's not place it on the big screen either. Cut!

Lost generations reduced to a beat we might no longer be able to dance too.
This afternoon I went with the poet Anne Becker to the Kefa Cafe (963 Bonifant Street in Silver Spring). What a lovely place run by Abebe and Lene Tsegay. They have been around for 10 years. I didn't know that. It's located on the street with the Silver Spring Used Bookstore and a couple of interesting restaurants (Thai, African, Ethiopian...). I need to get me a pair of Lewis&Clark sneakers and start exploring this part of Silver Spring. I've been primarily going to area near the movie mall. Around the Kefa Cafe is a nice community of small shops. I can see myself spending spring and summer Saturdays here.
Happy Birthday Dr. King. I received this information from Yvonne Bynoe (


Well I'm weeping like Romo after my Ravens lost to the Colts. But hey - look at dumb Marty in San Diego. Ha Ha...what did I tell you. Look at the numbers:

LaDainian Tomlinson only touched the ball 1 time during the final two San Diego possessions.
He only carried the ball 9 times in the second half.

Marty Ball? Dumb Marty is 5-13 in the postseason.
I knew New England was going to win the game as soon as Marty put his headset on.

So next week I have to go with New England over the Colts and New Orleans over the Bears.

But what about making Black history in February?
Bears against Colts? BlackBowl? Two African American coaches trying to win the SuperBowl.
That would be nice too. Remember when we couldn't even be the QB? The journey continues.
It would be nice to knockdown these racial barriers before someone constructs new ones.
King Day.
A time for reflection. A time to think about the word nonviolence which seems to be missing from our vocabulary these days. King Day. Read "A Time to Break Silence" the speech King gave at the Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967. This is the speech in which King linked his opposition to the Vietnam War with the Civil Rights Movement. It was the first time he directly attacked the Johnson administration's war policy.

Is it time to break your silence on the war in Iraq?
What would King do?
Translinear Light.
Alice Coltrane dead at 69. Her Hindu name was Turiyasangitananda. She was the founder of the Vedantic Center located in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Difficult to believe this woman is gone. A friend of mine was just visiting her in California.
Alice met John Coltrane in 1962 at Birdland. They were married in 1965.

My favorite Alice Coltrane album is "Journey to Satchidananda."

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Treve de blues
- Leon Damas



# 1

Hey, folks. Many amazing things are happening for me right now. My publisher (Moyer Bell) would be upset if I failed to mention that my book of poems, Stellar Places, is out. So cop that if you like what I’m doing. The other thing I’ll let you all know about is a Black writers’ conference that I’ve started, which will open in Ghana during the summer of next year, 2008.

For some time now I’ve been trying to finds ways to get us speaking to one another, to do my part and get us, get writers vibing, conversing and exchanging ideas, travelling similar paths, supporting the community of the word of people, and supporting community. One thing: I’m working on a book of interviews/conversations with some of the best Black fiction writers in the world who write in English. Two days ago I interviewed Abdulrazak Gurnah, the brilliant novelist from Zannibar, who teaches at the University of Kent at Canterbury. (I’m in England through next week.) Other writers to be included in the book are John Edgar Wideman, Chimamanda Adichie, Agymah Kamau, David Bradley, and Caryl Phillips, just to name a few. The book will present twenty-five novelists and short story writers from around the globe--Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe. And it will have an accompanying anthology of selected fiction.

And I’ve long wanted to do a major conference of some sort, something which will bring Black writers from around the world together. Last month, December, I decided that now is the time. I was invited to teach at the Kwani Writers’ Conference in Kenya, and spent more than two weeks in Nairobi and on the island of Lamu in the Indian Ocean. The conference is done under the auspices of Kwani Trust, an important organization, based in Nairobi, and one of a kind in East Africa. It was started a few years ago by Kenyan writer Binavanaga Wainana, winner of the prestigious Caine Prize. Binavanga is an amazing guy, a brilliant writer, and the brilliant editor of the journal Kwani?, the only literary publication of importance in East Africa. As an organizer and editor, Binavanga is, among other things, trying to expose developing Kenyan writers and other writers from East Africa, to the larger international community. Please support Kwani? And Kwani Trust in whatever way you can.

In Kenya, I met some amazing people, and many amazing things happened to me. (More about both some other time.) In short I had a life-changing experience there, one which pushed me to realize that now is the time. I approached novelist and literary hoo doo man Arthur Flowers with the idea of starting a conference. Arthur was down from word one.

Arthur came up with the idea of calling the conference the Pan African Literary Forum. So we are moving ahead with the logistics of time, place (Accra), faculty—Sapphire, so far, Ethelbert, so far—the program and vision, etc. Importantly, the conference will happen, opening in Ghana next year, and moving on to other locations, by as early as 2009. The first circuit will follow the route of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Ghana, the Caribbean (Cuba), Latin America (Brazil/Guyana), and Europe (Portugal). After the initial circuit, we will go on to other places in the world: Nigeria, South Africa, etc. We will eventually branch out into publishing: an anthology, a magazine, and a line of original books.


The other thing, smaller conferences are already happening in Gambia (sponsored by Sable, the Black British literary magazine), the Caribbean (Colin Channer’s Calabash Festival), and over here of course through forums such as Voices of Color, the North County Institute Retreat for Writers’ of Color, Hurston/Wright Writers’ Week, etc. I see these other conferences as sister to the Pan African Literary Forum (PALF), and PALF as sister to them, and these conferences as sister to the Kwani conference. And there’s a cat who is trying to set one up in South Africa. Eventually, we hope that everyone, all of us, will be moving through these various locales.

I really think that it's important for talented writers of African descent anywhere in the world to have access to both training and the literary community (those publishing connections and such). The Pan African Literary Forum comes out of that vision, which, of course, comes from W.E.B. DuBois. (Circles, connections, circles, connections.)

Charles Rowell and Callaloo will come on board officially as part of this thing. So, you all will hear more, and more soon. Anybody want to holler at me, hit me at: Peace.

Bio Note: Jeffrey Renard Allen is an associate professor of English at Queens College. He is also the author of RAILS UNDER MY BACK which won the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize for fiction. Allen has also won a Whiting Writer's Award.



I read in an interview that the novelist Isabel Allende commemorates writing the first pages of a new book by lighting a candle, and she honors other rituals—beginning the work at the new year, for example—a way perhaps of summoning her muse or welcoming the full unfolding of creativity into the room and onto the page. It can’t hurt. I find myself drawn to this practice in January 2007, a new year of so much potential (lucky 7, an infinite number of possible words); so I’ve started lighting a candle at my desk whenever I sit down to write.

I try to think of this as a simple gesture, just mood-setting, discipline-inspiring, reminding myself that this is time to focus. I don’t want to take myself too seriously, but I’ll admit I completely believe in the magic. I want a little bit of it.

Judging by our good fortune in the past week at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation where I work, 2007 may be a year of promise fulfilled. To our reading series Friday night we welcomed E.L. Doctorow, winner of the 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel The March. The reading was held across the street from Folger Shakespeare Library in a Lutheran Church where we host particularly large gatherings.

Doctorow read a short story, “Walter John Harmon,” from his collection Sweet Land Stories to a good audience of over three hundred people. He then took a number of questions from the audience before heading back to the Folger Exhibition Hall for a beautiful reception and book signing.

The reading was terrific. People asked good questions; everyone had books signed, had something to drink and eat, a chance to gather and talk. The bits of conversation I caught as I passed through, saying hello, thanking people for coming, all seemed energetic. People appeared to be really happy.

Earlier that day, E.L. Doctorow visited about forty students at Cardozo Senior High School as part of our Writers in Schools program. Their amazing teacher, Frazier O’Leary, had prepared the students well.

PEN/Faulkner provided the kids with copies of Ragtime. Students read the book, wrote papers and made visual displays. After a short reading by the author, the visit took the format of questions—very smart, in-depth, not run of the mill questions—by the excellent students, and then lengthy, incredible answers by Doctorow. He was so impressed with the kids’ questions that he gave truly generous answers.

I took a lot out of what he said. For example, Doctorow talked about his method of working intuitively, honoring the spirit of the book as it develops, making research fit the demands of the book instead of starting with facts and trying to force a structure or form. In response to another question he also described the historical figures in Ragtime as ‘portraits,’ the way an artist would paint an individual rendering of an historical figure: representative but interpreted, not limited by or attempting to be true to life. This was a very stimulating Writers in Schools visit. Gifted kids.

On my own, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the creative process and the role or influence of other people on one’s work. I recently read Francine Prose’s The Live of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired, a completely fascinating, gorgeously-written study of love and inspiration and obsession and inspiration, or the intersection of these powerful interpersonal dynamics on the creativity of various artists.

And before that I’d read Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story, which is a lovelorn, hypnotic novel about the end of a failed romance and the way we remember/misremember key moments in a relationship and write about them, transforming them into narrative. What I loved about this novel (and found equally disturbing) is the way everything is about the language. I’m interested in the way words shape our sense of what’s real.

I took today off, and I’ve been reading Calvin Trillin’s About Alice, which is a memoir of his beloved wife, muse, friend, the late Alice Trillin. Beautiful.

Bio Note: Jessica Neely is the Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation.



Ethelbert's guideline teaser when he asked me to guest this blog was that "writers submit work about what they did during the week." It sounded sweet and interesting. I can do that.

This past week, I thought rather persistently about ambition, the first fifty pages, and how Christina Schwarz in her 2000 novel Drowning Ruth (which I read the week before) managed to deliver such a complex, yet simple plot. The topics converge around what I'm doing now, i.e. trying to complete a novel after years of success as a university professor, black feminist literary critic, and poet.

That success required a lot of ambition. I can hear myself laughing with the women of the Combahee River Collective, "Who do you think wants to hear from you? You ain't nothing but a black woman!" And maybe nobody particularly cared about our issues and perspectives, but our righteous vision and idealistic ambition forced folks to listen – and the field of Black Women's Studies was born.

The energy powered me through four books, one monograph, three edited collections, thirty-three articles, and fifteen book reviews. Imagine my surprise when I realized shortly after New Year's day that I would be fine if I never published another word. It was both shocking and exhilarating to have finally reached the place where I didn't NEED to achieve in order to know I was worthwhile.

Chronicling that journey would be a huge challenge and would probably require, if not another book, at least a sizeable essay. To say how I got there/here is a circumstance that reminds me of a conversation I had with beloved master poet, Lucille Clifton. She was talking about how producing a poem required you to bring every bit of who you were and all the experience you'd amassed to that particular writerly moment. "So," she said (I'm paraphrasing), "whenever anybody asks me how long it took me to write a specific poem, I answer forty-five years, or fifty-eight, or sixty-two, whatever I am at the time."

So, now, here I am, in the wonderful position of not NEEDING to have my novel published. But this does not mean that I don't want to see it published. I do. Very much. There's still creative completion, personal satisfaction, possibly being of service in the world. Which brings me back to the fifty pages. It really does seem to be true that if agents and publishers aren't almost immediately hooked into your manuscript, you're out of the game, with about as much chance of being discovered as a lost ball in high grass (to borrow Zora Neale Hurston's phrase).

So, now, I'm second-guessing my first fifty pages. Would they be more sharply focused if I left out Chris until later? But, then, isn't it a no-no to freshly introduce additional major characters midway the book? And that scene beginning on page seventy-nine would really snare attention in a thematically-meaningful way. Can I somehow pull it forward? And what would have to go? Have to come? Have to be condensed? Re-wired? What would get screwed up? Definitely the point of view. I get mad. It shouldn't be like this, this first fifty pages business. But it is. I know (I think) that the novel is good, but the first fifty pages are perhaps not as gripping as the entire novel, cumulatively considered. How does one deal with that?

All I want to do is tell the whole story of my forty-something year old African-American actress named Deneice who has a psycho-sexual breakdown and then struggles to rebuild herself. (And all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, a mocking voice sings in my head.) I'm trying to figure out how to do it such that the work gets beautifully and blessedly published. I'm trying to figure out who can help me. Christina Schwarz and Ruth can't, I don't believe. They'll be great resources, though, for my second novel, the one where I'm going to have to move a cast of characters from the antebellum south to some kind of plotted conclusion.

Bio Note:

Akasha Hull's books include All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave (co-edited), Color, Sex, and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Healing Heart: Poems (called "the voice of a free, fiercesome, sensual and vivid woman of color" by Ntozake Shange and "a total delight" by esteemed critic Stephen Henderson), and Soul Talk: The New Spirituality of African-American Women (Inner Traditions, 2001). Soul Talk was endorsed by Toni Morrison and praised in Publishers Weekly as "powerful, practical and nourishing gumbo . . . of the heart and spirit." Akasha early-retired as professor of literature and women's studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. She can be reached at