Wednesday, July 31, 2013


My copy of The Black Scholar (TBS) came in the mail today. The journal has a very nice look. I feel honored I was invited to join their editorial board.This new issue (Vol 43, Number 1/2) is a special Jayne Cortez one. Cortez passed away last December. The Pan-Africanist poet and activist influenced many people around the world. One of my first poetry readings around 1969/1970 was with her at Dingane's Den on 18th Street. After hearing her read for the first time my head was never the same. Jayne read with a hot intensity - yeah a real firespitter. The latest issue of TBS features praise for Cortez coming from Jodi Braxton, A.L. Nielsen, Harryette Mullen, Keith Gilyard, Tara Betts, Evie Shockley and others.

"...this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity."
        - Jay-Z
 When I heard the above statement I knew I was living in the wrong era.
 Now I understand why the Pope was washing feet in Brazil.

Howard University

The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) has produced an exhibit to honor Nelson Mandela and his legacy as a persistent and committed South African freedom fighter. The Nelson Mandela Exhibit - curated by Howard University Republic of South Africa Project graduate assistant and MSRC student processor Sonja Woods - is currently on display on the ground floor of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, in Founders Library. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, call 202-806-7480.


Now and then I go out looking for a good burger. The other day I had an exceptional one at Black and Orange located at 1300 Connecticut Avenue, NW. I had been there before but maybe I ordered the wrong thing on the overhead chart. Learn from my mistakes. Next time you're in the area order a Ciao Down (with provolone). This burger placed the yummy sign on my belly.


Yesterday my day ended sitting in Pleasant Pops (1781 Florida Avenue, NW) with buddy Michon.
A chance to talk about everything (yes we did play with our IPads together).
Fun to rub elbows and not just exchange phone conversations and text messages.
Find time to visit with a friend.



It's just a matter of time before we reach a point where virtual relationships are not seen as being destructive to real-life relationships. Why must worlds collide?  It seems we are still trying to regulate sex by using  old codes of conduct. When will we give birth to the new?



June Jordan:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

David Macaray
July 26, 2013
Sigal, in a wonderfully idiosyncratic style, nimbly summarizes each of Hemingway’s novels and stories. While Sigal is busy cataloguing Hemingway’s body of work, he adroitly disposes of the persistent myth that this man was some sort of misogynistic, anti-feminist ogre. Read this account of Hemingway’s complex rendering of various female fiction characters. When you finish, you’re going to wonder how on earth Papa ever got that rap of being “anti-women.”

, ,
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
—Ernest Hemingway
Of all the celebrated male novelists inhabiting America’s literary pantheon, none of them (not Hawthorne or Twain or Steinbeck or Fitzgerald or Faulkner) have a more glamorous persona, a more readily identifiable writing style or, for that matter, a more recognizable face, than the bearded, middle-aged Ernest Hemingway.

Moreover, ever since Hemingway’s death by suicide, in 1961 (his family had a tragic history of multiple suicides), there have been, literally, hundreds of books, articles and monographs written about him. Hemingway’s life and literature have been picked over by every manner of acolyte, academic, professional biographer, motivated layman, and literary Boy Scout to come down the pike. That being the case, why do we need another book on him?

The answer is that, with Hemingway Lives!, noted screenwriter and novelist (and frequent CounterPunch contributor) Clancy Sigal not only presents us with something entirely fresh and revealing, he hits the trifecta. This compact book is thought-provoking, packed with useful information (some of it standard bio material, but much of it wonderfully idiosyncratic), and is lively enough to be described, accurately and without exaggeration, as an old-fashioned “page-turner.”

Ernest Hemingway’s life is presented chronologically, beginning with his birth (in 1899) and childhood in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Not surprisingly, as a boy he developed a love for rigorous outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing—activities he embraced all his adult life. After high school, to the disappointment of his parents, young Ernest chose not to attend college. Instead, he landed a job as a newspaper reporter for the Kansas City Star, a decision that Hemingway scholars maintain is what set him on the path to becoming who he became.

It was at the Star where he learned to express himself in those short, economical sentences that so define his literary style. Short, concise, powerfully evocative sentences. No redundancies, no sugary flourishes, nothing superfluous, nothing ostentatious. In fact, in an early chapter, Sigal treats us to a sample of Hemingway’s newspaper copy, written when he was 18 years old. Taken from a Kansas City Star item called, “At the End of the Ambulance Run,” we see undeniable evidence of early “Hemingwayese.”
The night ambulance attendants shuffled down the long, dark corridors at the General Hospital with an inert burden on the stretcher. They….lifted the unconscious man to the operating table. His hands were calloused and he was unkempt and rugged, a victim of a street brawl near the city market. No one knew who he was, but a receipt, bearing the name George Anderson, for $10 paid on a home out in a little Nebraska town, served to identify him.
The surgeon opened the swollen eyelids. The eyes were turned to the left. “A fracture on the left side of the skull,” he said to the attendants who stood about the table. “Well, George, you’re not going to finish paying for that home of yours.”
War, personal nobility, physical courage, and overcoming adversity were among the dominant themes in Hemingway’s writing. Accordingly, the idealistic Hemingway quit the Star after seven months and, in 1918, lured by World War I, volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy, having been turned down for military service due to poor eyesight (one of his eyes was defective). In Italy he was close enough to the front to be seriously wounded by an exploding mortar shell.

The years following Italy were auspicious. In 1921, Hemingway moved to Paris, where he was not only influenced by the “modernist” atmosphere of the city’s art colony, but where, at age 22, he fell in love and
married Hadley Richardson, his first of four wives. In 1926, Hemingway published his debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, which got a rousing reception. That book put him on the map. At age 27, the ambitious young novelist was off and running.

Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe that a man of letters could have lived so exciting and eventful a life. It’s almost as if Hemingway were a character in one of his own adventure novels. There were the Paris years, his second novel, A Farewell to Arms, in 1929 (which made him financially secure), the birth of a son, Jack, a divorce from Hadley, another marriage, this one to Hadley’s best friend, the wealthy Pauline Pfeiffer; leaving Paris, moving to Key West, his father’s suicide, and, in 1933, the safari to Africa with wife Pauline.

And when civil war broke out in Spain in 1937, Hemingway immediately traveled there and joined up with the anti-fascist Republicans (his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is based on the Spanish Civil War). Then there was another divorce, another new wife (the noted journalist Martha Gellhorn, portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the recent HBO movie), more children, the move to Cuba, submarine hunting on his private boat, earning the antipathy of J. Edgar Hoover, and then, in 1944, landing with D-Day troops in France. Even if the man had never written a single word, his non-literary life would’ve made one heck of a movie.

Although Sigal addresses Hemingway’s many personal demons and character flaws (the alcohol consumption, the life-long bouts of depression, the jealousies, anxieties, infidelities, et al) straightforwardly and honestly (including Hemingway’s vulgar insensitivity to race and ethnicity), he avoids the temptation to over-emphasize or wallow in the lurid details. It simply isn’t that kind of book.

There’s an agreeable amount of boilerplate biographical material mixed with a generous serving of idiosyncratic personal anecdotes. For instance, Sigal notes that as a young boy, Ernest’s mother, Grace, regularly dressed the poor kid and his older sister as boy-girl twins. This macho, uber-masculine icon used to wear frilly skirts and dresses, a circumstance which, as Sigal wryly notes, provided the Freudians with enough gas to fly to the moon.

In another anecdote, the 19-year old Ernest wrote his family from New York City (where he’d stopped on his way to Italy), announcing that he was engaged to be married to Mae Marsh, the famous silent screen movie star. That must have been a real thrill for the folks back home in Oak Park. Years later, Ms. Marsh, now an elderly woman, said that she regretted not having met Hemingway in real life. Apparently, young Ernest had already discovered a flair for “fiction.”

Arguably, the most impressive part of Hemingway Lives! is the “scholarly” part, the purely “literary” part, the part where Sigal steps up to the plate and nimbly summarizes each of Hemingway’s novels and short stories. It’s an impressive performance. In this eloquent tour de force, he takes Hemingway’s books and stories, one by one, and concisely analyzes and rates each of them.

While Sigal is busy cataloguing Hemingway’s body of work, he adroitly disposes of the silly yet persistent myth that this man was some sort of misogynistic, anti-feminist ogre. Read this account of Hemingway’s complex rendering of various female fiction characters. Read it carefully. When you finish, you’re going to wonder how on earth Papa ever got that rap of being “anti-women.”

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.

Quote of the Day

People may no longer give Obama suspicious glares in department stores or clutch their purses when he enters an elevator, but they have typecast him according to their own fears and expectations of a black man in the White House. They are still profiling Barack Obama

   - Bill Keller, The New York Times, July 29, 2013



October 11-13, 2013


Monday, July 29, 2013

After one has discovered what he is called for, he should set out to do it with all of the power that he has in his system. Do it as if God almighty ordained you at this particular moment in history to do it.

       - Martin Luther King, Jr.

So there I was at Busboys this morning having my regular weekly meeting with Andy Shallal. How serious should we take his interest in running for mayor of Washington? What comes with a Shallal system of government? What's on his plate?  I asked Andy a number of questions today. I wanted to know what issues would be important to him. At the top of the list was campaign reform. Andy felt no candidate running for the top job in the city should take more than $100 from an individual. Well, we know this was not the case in our last election.

Andy and I also discussed the need for our city to undertake a conversation on race. What better way to get us all on the same page before the page turns and we don't recognize the city or the book.

So what's next?  One would have to establish a Shallal exploratory committee. All hands on deck?
It looks as if History might be departing from the station.

ANDY SHALLAL photo by Ethelbert

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Victoria Law, Truthout: As the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike enters its third week, over 30,000 prisoners throughout the state have joined the fight, refusing to take meals as a form of protest against the inhumane practice of prolonged solitary confinement.
Read the Article


With Idris Elba in this movie it has to be good.


In case you have time and would like to be at a poetry program hosted by The Word Works remembering Reetika, here are the details:
August 5, 2013
B.K. Fischer @ Serena Fox with tribute to Reetika Vazirani.
Friendship Heights Village Center
4433 South Park Avenue
Chevy Chase MD 80815
Directions: 301 656-2757
Café Muse
The program is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. with Michael Davis playing classical guitar.
Featured readings at 7:30 p.m.
Open poetry mic & book signings follow.
Please feel free to inform interested friends and family.
For further information you may contact
Voice Male

The Untold Story of the Pro-Feminist Men's Movement
edited by Rob A. Okun; foreword by Michael S. Kimmel
published 2013 • 6" x 9" • 288 pages

Available Options:
Here is a stunning new book that succeeds in doing nothing less than chronicling the social transformation of masculinity over a three-decade span. Through thematically arranged essays by leading experts, Voice Male illustrates how a growing movement of men is redefining masculinity.
Emerging from below the radar of an inobservant media is a growing movement of men who have embraced feminism as the basis to create a new, healthy masculinity. In this collection, longtime editor of Voice Male magazine Rob Okun directs a chorus of pro-feminist voices, introducing readers to men examining contemporary manhood from a variety of perspectives: from overcoming violence, fatherhood, and navigating life as a man of color, a gay man, or a boy on the journey to manhood. It also provides a critical forum for both male survivors and GBTQ men to speak out.

Far from being “the end of men” as some would have it, Voice Male presents the script for men’s second act, a time when words like “compassionate” and “nurturing” describe men as accurately as do “competitive” and “isolated.” This inspired book is evidence of a new direction for men, brightly illuminating what’s around the bend on the path to gender justice.

Rob A. Okun is a widely published writer addressing issues related to men and masculinity. Editor of Voice Male magazine, he is former executive director of the Men’s Resource Center for Change, one of the oldest men’s centers in the U.S. A member of the board of the New England Center for Women in Transition, he maintains a psychotherapy practice in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Advance praise for Voice Male

“Finally a book for women to feel hopeful about men. Longtime editor of Voice Male magazine Rob Okun and a chorus of contributing writers chronicle a movement of men standing with women in the struggle to end violence against women and girls. But this brave book does more than that, revealing an emerging new man culture where men are reclaiming their tears and their hearts as they join women in creating a world where we are all safe and free.”
—Eve Ensler, playwright of The Vagina Monologues; author of I Am an Emotional Creature and In the Body of the World.

“When our children and grandchildren ask us what men were doing when women were changing the world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we can tell them to pick up this book. Voice Male accomplishes what The New York Times and virtually every other mainstream media organization has regrettably failed to do: telling the story of men—across class, race and sexual orientation—who responded to feminism not with defensiveness and hostility, but with support, solidarity, and a recognition that all along part of the program was about transforming men’s lives, relationships and health for the better. Voice Male deserves to take its place alongside such classics as Sisterhood is Powerful and The Feminist Papers as both a living document and a social history of these consequential times.”
—Jackson Katz, Ph.D., author of The Macho Paradox and creator of the award-winning film Tough Guise

“This book is a critical tool in dismantling what’s oppressive in male culture.”
—Renner Wunderlich & Margaret Lazarus, producer/directors of the Academy-award winning Defending Our Lives, Rape is and Rape Culture

“This rich compilation will inspire men from a range of backgrounds to think more deeply about what it means to be a man. From working to end gender-based violence and challenging destructive media messages, to examining their roles as fathers and partners, Voice Male is an invaluable tool for removing the obstacles that keep men from claiming their full humanity.”
—Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves

“We are unaware of some of the most powerful ideas that shape our lives because they seem second-nature and obvious, which is all the more reason to hold them up for scrutiny, to turn them upside-down and inside-out so that we can see what they really are. Masculinity is one of those ideas, and anyone looking for a place to begin this journey of discovery can do no better than the rich collection of voices contained in this book.”
—Allan Johnson, author of The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy and Privilege, Power and Difference 

Morning yard work and house cleaning. In the afternoon I watched Haren finally win a game for the Nats. A slow Saturday...long talk with Grace about cultural projects. I'm looking forward to doing the Fulbright program with her. I also had a good Skype talk with Joanna in Israel. The conversation was about how and where to place poems in a manuscript.Meanwhile I'm putting together another E-box. This one will be for Shakeema Smalls.

A little more than a month until my daughter's wedding...
My next "E on D.C" column is about her.

I received my son's basketball schedule. It's his second year of being a head coach at Salem Community College in New Jersey. He is raising money for his team. Anyone interested in making a contribution to help the Salem Oaks basketball team with the cost of travel and equipment - write to Nyere Miller at:

Nyere link:

Friday, July 26, 2013


I want to see who the culprit is. I want to hear the explanation behind this type of nonsense.
Might it be a former slave upset with Lincoln's Emancipation?


I reconnected with music critic Eugene Holley Jr this week. He reminded me that 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Blues People by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). This book is a classic and essential reading for any student of African American Studies. This morning I went back and read Ralph Ellison's critical review in his collection of essays Shadow And Act. Ellison made the following statement first published in The New York Review, February 6, 1964:

Perhaps more than any other people, Americans have been locked in a deadly struggle with time, with history. We've fled the past and trained ourselves to suppress, if not forget, troublesome details of the national memory, and  great part of our optimism, like our progress, has been bought at the cost of ignoring the processes through which we've arrived at any given moment in our national existence. We've fought continuously with  one another over who and what we are, and , with the exception of the Negro, over who and what is American.

The Holley Link:


The above picture of Pope Francis says more about spirituality than it does race. In a world where images seem to control our lives the above picture is one we should return to again and again. Pope Francis is playing a key role in the paradigm shift away from materialism and the recognition of poverty. Embrace humility. Touch the stranger next to you. Begin to love with your heart.

From Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer by E. Ethelbert Miller

The day after my brother died, Carmen, one of his neighbors, said she saw him walking his dog.
My brother Richard, who had changed his name to Francis, loved animals and so he took the name of the saint he loved.  




The ultimate sadness after the Martin/Zimmerman case is that black people might begin to look at the American judicial system with distrust. If we can no longer view the legal system as "ours" then we will once again question how American we are. This larger question of belonging comes with philosophical quicksand. How long must we struggle to free ourselves from sinking?

Thursday, July 25, 2013





Nuclear contaminated Pacific Ocean may become global threat --Alarming rate of Thyroid cancer in Fukushima while tourism continues 24 Jul 2013 It has been officially confirmed. The crippled Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan is leaking highly contaminated [aka radioactive] water into the Pacific Ocean. This is continuing by the minute causing great concern not only for Japan, but for all nations bordering on the Pacific Ocean, including the United States, Canada, Russia, and most Pacific Island nations. Officials finally admitted this alarming news for the first time. Earlier this month, the tourism industry in this Japanese regions seemed to be doing fine. A new scheduled Asiana Airlines Charter Flight arrived with Korean tourists at Fukushima Airport on July 13.

TEPCO admits radioactive groundwater is leaking into the sea at Fukushima 23 Jul 2013 Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear power facility, has admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater may be seeping out of the nuclear plant area and out into sea. In tests earlier this month, the embattled utility company said that groundwater samples have shown an increase in levels of cancer-causing cesium-134, but that the contaminated groundwater was contained at the current location by concrete foundations and steel sheets. TEPCO has changed its assessment of the situation on Monday. "We believe that contaminated [aka radioactive] water has flown out to the sea," a TEPCO spokesman said on Monday.

More steam reported at Fukushima nuclear reactor no 3, says TEPCO 23 Jul 2013 For the second time in two weeks, workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have reported that steam was rising from the building that houses reactor no 3. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that the reports came in at around 9:00 am Tuesday, but that no changes in the levels of toxic substances were detected by their monitoring equipment. Workers spotted the steam coming out of the same area as last week, which is the fifth floor of where reactor no 3 is, near the pool storing machinery of the building. The building’s roof was blown off during a hydrogen explosion a few days after the March 2011 nuclear meltdown and up to now is still dangerous to approach.

Fukushima nuclear clean-up to cost $58 bn 24 Jul 2013 The clean-up after the Fukushima nuclear disaster could cost five times more than estimated, figures have revealed, as Tokyo Electric Power said on Wednesday that steam had been seen again in a reactor building. It is the third time steam has been observed in the battered structure over the last week. The government-backed National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said decontamination work in Fukushima prefecture will cost up to 5.81 trillion yen ($58 billion), far more than the 1 trillion yen the government has so far allocated.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reflections on Peace from Gandhi to King
Join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Reflections on Peace from Gandhi to King, a free multi-cultural concert experience of sacred classical music, traditional Sri-Lankan and Indian sacred songs, traditional hymns, and African-American gospel songs Saturday, August 10, 2013, 8:00 PM-10:00 PM at the MLK Memorial. The concert will be headlined by internationally-recognized Sri-Lankan concert pianist and music director, Soundarie David Rodrigo. Performances will include: classical solo piano works rendered by Rodrigo, sacred songs performed by Indian artists Vidya and Vandana Iyer, and inspirational selections performed by the Washington D.C. based chorale, Nolan Williams, Jr. and the Voices of Inspiration. Other artists joining this tribute include Vidya and Vandan Iyer; Shankar Tucker with Jon Batiste; POEM-CEES, Christylez Bacon and Nistha Raj.

Saturday, August 10, 2013
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
1964 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003





Grace A. Ali and E. Ethelbert Miller  will be speaking at the Fulbright Association 36th Annual Conference.

October 3, 2013 at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Washington, D.C.

The title of our panel:  Transformative Arts & Humanities: An Intergenerational Conversation between E. Ethelbert Miller and Grace Aneiza Ali.

Grace A. Ali

The Wild Wild West

Here is another example of "gumbo thinking" once again. Throw everything into the pot and stir.

Charlie Parker

Stanley Crouch and Charlie Parker:

Crouch's new book is Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hey everyone,

I don't usually write emails like this, and we don't usually send messages like this to this list. But I just finished reading the draft of a speech the President plans to deliver on Wednesday, and I want to explain why it's one worth checking out.

Eight years ago, not long after he was elected to the United States Senate, President Obama went to Knox College in his home state of Illinois where he laid out his economic vision for the country. It's a vision that says America is strongest when everybody's got a shot at opportunity -- not when our economy is winner-take-all, but when we're all in this together.

Revisiting that speech, it's clear that it sowed the seeds of a consistent vision for the middle class he's followed ever since. It's a vision he carried through his first campaign in 2008, it's a vision he carried through speeches like the one he gave at Georgetown University shortly after taking office that imagined a new foundation for our economy, and one in Osawatomie, Kansas on economic inequality in 2011 -- and it's a vision he carried through his last campaign in 2012.

Watch that history here and see why this moment is so important. 

All of these speeches -- Knox College, Georgetown, Osawatomie -- make clear that since day one, the President has had one clear economic philosophy: The American economy works best when it grows from the middle-out, not the top-down.

This Wednesday, almost five years after the financial crisis fueled a devastating recession, and two years after a debate over whether or not America would pay its bills that harmed our recovery, the President will return to Knox College to kick off a series of speeches that will lay out his vision for rebuilding an economy that puts the middle class and those fighting to join it front and center. He'll talk about the progress we've made together, the challenges that remain, and the path forward.

And over the next several weeks, the President will deliver speeches that touch on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America: job security, a good education, a home to call your own, affordable health care when you get sick, and the chance to save for a secure, dignified retirement. They will include new ideas and new pushes for ideas he has discussed before. They'll outline steps Congress can take, steps he'll take on his own, and steps the private sector can take that benefit us all.

The point is to chart a course for where America needs to go -- not just in the next three months or even the next three years, but a steady, persistent effort over the long term to restore this country's basic bargain for the middle class.

Why now? Well, we've made important progress with the Senate passing comprehensive immigration reform and will continue to work with the House to push to get that enacted into law. But the President thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country. Instead of talking about how to help the middle class, too many in Congress are trying to score political points, refight old battles, and trump up phony scandals. And in a couple of months, we will face some more critical budget deadlines that require Congressional action, not showdowns that only serve to harm families and businesses -- and the President wants to talk about the issues that should be at the core of that debate.

As I was reading through his draft, I was reminded what drives this President to work so hard. I hope you'll watch this video showing the context of the last eight years and then tune in on Wednesday to find out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thank you,


Dan Pfeiffer
Senior Advisor to the President
The White House
This email was sent to
Unsubscribe | Privacy Policy
Please do not reply to this email. Contact the White House

The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111
Reading THE NEXT BIG STORY by Soledad O'Brien.

“Live music is it…nothing will transform you like live music and spirits!”
(Henry Threadgill)


Thursday, September 26, & Friday, September 27, 2013
Vision Music & Dance / on tour
w/Patricia Nicholson Parker & William Parker
At The Atlas and Union & Arts Manufacturing

“Dance, words, arts, music, and bringing it all together “
(Patricia Nicholson Parker)

We are all given gifts; the true blessing is receiving the grace to accept the gift” (William Parker)

‘Vision Music & Dance / on tour’ is a special project of  Transparent Productions, The Atlas, and Union & Arts Manufacturing, which presents the heart of the NY-based Vision Festival’s manifestation of ideology and aesthetics as deeply shared by festival founder and dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, and bassist William Parker.  This 2-day project shares their transformative art and ideas with our area communities. 

Day 1: Thursday, September 26, 2013 @7:30PM
Patricia Nicholson Parker & William Parker
Duet & Discussion
Patricia Nicholson – dance, voice, words
William Parker – bass, donsonghoni, shakuhachi, words
Note: This duet performance will be followed by a moderated conversation about the role of vision in our lives, our art and our community.
At the Atlas Performing Arts Center/1333 H Street NE, WDC

Day 2: Friday, September 27, 2013 @6:00PM & 9:00PM
Patricia Nicholson Parker & William Parker
Workshop & Workshop Performance
A workshop/performance collaboration with local artists.  Dancers and musicians are encouraged to attend. NOTE: The 6PM open dancers and musician’s workshop is followed by a 9PM performance of the workshop participants.  The performances will be a structured improvisation utilizing words, (spoken or sung), movements and tonal structures.  The essential theme of this workshop and performance is that through art and a reverence for life and all that is creative, we can create a world where Peace becomes possible.
At Union & Arts Manufacturing / 411 NY Ave. NE, Wash, DC

Other Fall/Winter 2013 Performances

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - The Roy Campbell Quartet
Roy Campbell – trumpet, Hill Green - bass
Michael Wimberly – drums, Bryan Carrot - vibes

Sunday, October 20, 2013 - Iqua & Steve Colson Quartet
Iqua Colson – vocals, Steve Colson – piano, TBA – bass, TBA - drums
Sunday, Oct 27, 2013 - Kevin Norton's Breakfast of Champignon(s)
Esther Noh–violin, Angelica Sanchez–piano, Ehud Ettun-bass. Norton-drums, vibes

Sunday, November 10, 2013 - Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet
Taylor Ho Bynum-cornet, trumpet, Mary Halvorson-guitar, Tomas Fujiwara–drums
Jim Hobbs-alto saxophone, Bill Lowe - bass trombone, tuba, Ken Filiano - bass

Sunday, November 17, 2013 - The Tracie Morris Group
Morris-poetry/voice, Val Jenty-drums/efx, Marvin Sewell–guitar, Jerome Harris–bass gtr

Sunday, December 1, 2013 - Nemesis
Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes, Roy Campbell, Ted Daniel, Matt Lavelle–trumpets
Asim Barnes-guitar

Sunday, December 15, 2013 - Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys
Pride-drums, Jon Irabagnon,reeds, Alexis Marcelo-piano, Peter Bilence-bass




Treve de blues
 - Leon Damas

Compassion is my art
- Grace A. Ali

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




Q. At the end of your poem " Night Garden" you write, "This world is a mirror glass./How is it we find images/of ourselves in places/we can't bear to see?"

Could you elaborate on this point?  Is this a theme you've been exploring in your poetry over the years?

That last stanza has always been a difficult one, perhaps because of my use of the word “bear” suggesting something burdensome, even threatening, about seeing the alternative to the images “of ourselves” manifested in other objects through identification or projection or, in poetic terms, through the pathetic fallacy. I am suggesting in the poem, and exploring throughout my works, the importance of the imaginary for poets. Without the cohesiveness of the image as an integrated whole (even in dreams), our sense of order would be disrupted and perhaps intolerable to us psychically—we would be lost in the fragmentary, the nothingness of mere imageless flux, and the repression of death or non-being would suddenly surface as pervasive.

There were two sources behind the poem “Night Garden”. My poem is about imagining a garden blossoming under moonlight in the darkness where no one can see it, and how lovely an image can be even if only by the mind.  And I was thinking of a poem by Ralph Emerson called "The Rhedora" typical of his transcendental belief that all things, big and small, in the universe are created by the Oversoul and contain the same spirit.  In his poem, he happens upon the flower in the context of the woods and reflects upon the ontological question of beauty--whether it exists if no sentient being is there to appreciate it--and resolves that beauty does exist because it exists within human beings primarily, who can decipher as well as represent it in language.  Through apostrophe, the speaker addresses the rhedora:

Rhedora!  If the sages ask thee why
this charm is wasted on the earth and sk,
tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing
then beauty isits own excuse for Being.
Why thou weret there, O rival of the rose
I never thought to ask, I never knew
but in my simple ignorance suppose
the self-same power that brought me there, brought you.

So I was thinking throughout the poem of these secret places of the imaginary—of white flowers blossoming to moonlight, and light and darkness are reversed, as in dream life, the world of inferences, and natural hosts, how careful we must be to decipher their signs as if a higher power were speaking through them—even if they are simply manifestations of our own desires to believe that beauty exists out there--correspondent with the beauty we respond to innately. Yet, I live in a postmodern era and the last stanza of my poem contains an essential doubt about that unity.  In current critical theory, objects, as well as the ego, are carried along by language, like driftwood in a creek, are more fragmentary, in flux. Meaning is no longer stable and belief in unity is similarly questioned.

I thought then more about Lacan's theory of the Mirror Stage ("this world is a mirror glass").  Lacan is the psychoanalyst who stages the development of the human psyche through three orders:  The Real, The Imaginary, and The Symbolic, examining how subjectivity interacts with the world--whether it is in one's integrated being as a part of an ordered universe of correspondent objects, as Emerson would suggest, or whether it floating somewhere else, tangled up in language or in others' views of us.

In the Real Order, the human being from 0-6 months of age is completely entwined with nature and follows its primal needs without any sense of separation between itself and the world that exists beyond it--an oceanic fusion--Freud called it--and it is the state that the Romantics yearned for as ultimate transcendence--merging and fusion of the one with everything. It is the platonic state that is closest one can get the pure and untainted elements of existence including death and non-consciousness.   However, The Real is a state that, after the introduction of language is subsequently lost to the human psyche forever, for it is language itself that bars us as self-conscious creatures from undifferentiated state in which language has no role, since language is about separate parts.  There are no separate increments in The Real.

In the Imaginary Order, which occurs when the infant is 6-18 months of age, the infant has a simultaneous recognition and mis-recognition of its own reflection in the mirror.  The baby sees itself as a whole being, rather than fragmentary as it appears through its own eyes.  The baby sees its image in the mirror and recognizes it as its own self, as “I,” yet this is a misrecognition, however, because what the baby is sees is not its own self, but a mere reflection of the self.  Therefore, recognizing one's own reflection as “I” is like recognizing one's self as other.  It is at this moment that the baby is thrust from the Real into the imaginary:  it is at once connected to and alienated from its corporeal body (what is actually there) and its psyche (what the infant thinks it sees).  Thus the psyche becomes split between the “I” that it is to become and stay present through language, and the me that is doing the representing; that is the haunting presence of our own voices speaking within us. To whom are we speaking? The imaginary stage marks the entrance into language after which the subject can understand the place of that image of the self within a larger social order.  This is the “I” that poets represent as themselves or as speakers through the language that gives them presence.  At this juncture, the infant has irretrievably lost unconscious oblivion of The Real in which language as representation has no role.

When I wrote,  “this world is a mirror glass/ how is it we find images of ourselves in places we can’t bear to see,” I was suggesting that the spectacle of the world as perceived imagery, upon which we, as poets project our own desires, is necessary to our maintaining a sense of order and cohesiveness—for to lose that, even hypothetically, would mean regressing back to The Real where death can’t be suppressed, nor can we live there—since it is a state of nothingness, non-language, non-sentience. I would not be able to “bear” such a state, without dialectical language—which offers imagery that defines beauty and hope.

Both the reflecting Emerson in “The Rhedora” and the baby are doing complex acts of imaging, which is a means of finding order, wholeness, meaning in an otherwise fragmentary, death-veiled realm like Lacan's Real.  This is necessary to our survival as psychic beings against the threat of viewing the world nihilistically. I use the word "bear" to suggest that without our human desire to find meaning, correspondence in the other, to empathize and personify it--as in the flowering night garden, or the images of ourselves that appear as “others” in dreams, we would have to bear the opposite—which would mean the death of language, and presence, and the return of death which is repressed in everything.  Instead, we “bear” our poems, I hope, through language in pursuit of that rhedora-like beauty.

More information about Judith Harris:

Night Garden

You know, some flowers
won't dissolve in the darkness;

instead, they reflect
the surface of the moon,
slender, curved,
opening their pores,

irises, and asphodels,
bathed in lunar whiteness.

Just think,
there are whole gardens
coming alive while we sleep.

When the wind blows one way,
a seed finds a place,
any place, accidentally.

This world is a mirror glass.
How is it we find images
of ourselves in places
we can't bear to see?

   - Judith Harris

Night Garden by Judith Harris can be ordered from Tiger Bark Press