Friday, August 22, 2014

Poem of the Week: Hermine Pinson



Test for Cognitive Function 


         Don’t bring no ghosts in the front door

                Bessie Smith

Mother


Slipper


July


“ I will ask you to recall these words


at the end of our session”



We  blackberried in barefoot grass and ate


July sandwiches .  


Mama  said,    “Walk together, children” was code for


escaping to freedom,  walking  away.   


Lifting on the ball of the foot, then coming down.


 “ . . . in a straight line, heel to toe, heel to toe.”


  She perished in flames, before she could teach us


the rest.   Gone now. Go on now, 


but not beyond memory’s compulsive reach


or love’s register.


“Steady now.  Again.”



I’m older than she never will be,


shrouded in her youth.


Mama’s  slippers whisper 


over  dreamed banks. 


We couldn’t save her, except this way.


“What am I holding in this hand?”


Neither time nor place   . . .


hold her. 


Mama birthed   me 


 on Cocoa cola,  potato salad, 


scripture, ditties,  and good shoes.  


I went to the river to get baptized


My right foot slipped & I got baptized


 Always, she wishes for me 


love and clarity in the  cunning city 


of language.



Every season she’s gone,  

she walks memory’s winding


corridors


“The words, what are they now?”


for safe keeping.



Hermine Pinson has published three poetry collections, most recently Dolores is Blue/Dolorez is Blues.  Her first CD was Changing the Changes in Poetry & Song, in collaboration with Estella Majozo and Pulitzer-prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.  Her most recent CD is Deliver Yourself with the Harris Simon Trio.  She has performed in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Pinson’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including Poedia Mundo, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia, Callaloo, Verse, The Ringing Ear:  Black Poets Lean South,  African American Review, Common Bonds: Stories by and About Modern Texas Women, and Konch.  Her most recent short fiction appears in Richmond Noir and ragazine.cc. She has had fellowships at Norton Island, Cave Canem, Macdowell Colony, Yaddo, Soul Mountain, Byrdcliffe Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.  She teaches creative writing and African American literature at the College of William and Mary.


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Friday, August 15, 2014

Poem of the Week: Danez Smith


not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black

dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?

not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking

at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.


      \\

think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot

& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships

launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.

it’s never the right thing now a days.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back

no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.


      \\

look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.


Used by permission.

Photo by: Travis Chanter

Danez Smith is the author of the collection [insert] Boy (forthcoming, YesYes Books) & the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship books, 2013). Danez is a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship Finalist. Danez is the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, VONA, & elsewhere. He is a founding member of the multi-genre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, & elsewhere. In Poetry Slam, he is the 2014 NUPIC Champion, a 2011 IWPS finalist, the reigning 2-time Rustbelt Individual Champion & was on 2014 Championship Team Sad Boy Supper Club. He writes & lives between Oakland, CA & St. Paul, MN.


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Poem of the Week: Douglas Kearney


excerpt from THANK YOU BUT       PLEASE DON'T BUY MY CHILDREN CLOTHES WITH MONKEYS ON THEM



Used by permission.
From Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014)
Photo by: Eric Plattner.

Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney’s first full-length collection of poems, Fear, Some, was published in 2006 by Red Hen Press. His second, The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), was Catherine Wagner’s selection for the National Poetry Series. It was also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in 2010. He has received a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Coat Hanger award, and fellowships at Idyllwild and Cave Canem. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in California’s Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Poem of the Week: Morgan Butler, Malachi Byrd, Chyna McCombs & Thomas Hill



"Waters" by  Morgan Butler, Malachi Byrd, Chyna McCombs & Thomas Hill

The DC Youth Slam Team is a program of Split This Rock which uses spoken word poetry to teach and empower teens to speak up about issues of social justice. With free weekly writing workshops, monthly open mics, poetry slams, and annual travel to regional and national competitions, the team provides training and a platform for District youth to develop their poetry and public speaking skills with guidance from mentors and peers. The team came in 1st place at the 2014 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival, where "Waters" was given a perfect score of 30 during the Grand Slam Final competition. 

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Split This Rock Call for an End to the Attacks on the People of Gaza

As an organization whose very existence was born from the global Poets Against the War movement, we at Split This Rock are grieved and outraged by Israel’s attack on the people of Gaza and by the lives that continue to be lost even as we post this blog. We feel an obligation to speak out against the notion that violence can in any way resolve our world’s most pressing conflicts.

As such, we condemn Israel’s murderous attacks. Hamas' use of rockets and other strategies aimed at Israeli civilians – many of whom oppose their nation's aggressive stance – are also a violation of international law. But we do not accept this as justification for collective punishment of the people of Gaza. 

We are outraged by our government's continued participation in state-sanctioned violence and will continue to speak out on behalf of the victims of our government's policies here and elsewhere. 

We demand that the US stop all funding of the Israeli military and support the UN call for an unconditional ceasefire and investigation of war crimes. We call for an end to the siege of Gaza and an end to the occupation. Finally, we appeal to peace artists everywhere to raise their voices against all human rights atrocities, no matter where they occur.

Our poetry can name the many ways that violence and war wounds our very capacity for peace. It can build awareness and community and help us reach across our divisions. It often stirs us to take action.

For those who seek more options to respond to the lives being lost daily in Gaza, here are a few ideas:

Learn More. It’s important that we educate ourselves, being mindful that we live in the age of spin. Noura Erakat at The Nation recently offered insight into some of the myths surrounding Gaza. Click here to see what they have to say. Our ally Phyllis Bennis at the Institute for Policy Studies published an excellent piece on Israel’s policy of collective punishment at Other Words yesterday. And David Swanson takes on the larger question of whether war and violence are themselves “war crimes.” It’s a thoughtful piece that has us deep in conversation today. You can read it here.

Call the President and your Representatives. The United States supports Israel financially and with arms. Contact President Obama at (202) 456-1111 and the State Department at (202) 647-4000 to demand a withdrawal of U.S. military aid and funding from Israel. Call your U.S. Senators and ask that Congress demand an end to the siege of Gaza. Find your representative here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Stand in solidarity. Citizens are taking to the streets all over the world to speak out against Israeli aggression. A list of upcoming demonstrations can be found here.
Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS). The BDS movement has a commitment to putting pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and the Palestinian people are provided fundamental rights. For those who wish to endorse a cultural boycott of Israel, a recent statement and sign-on form is here. Click here for ways to get involved.

Sign Petitions. There are lots of them floating around and it can’t hurt to add your name to as many as possible. Click here to sign Amnesty’s petition. 

Donate. If you feel led to send money to help people on the ground in Gaza, we hear that ANERA is an organization with a good reputation. Be sure to do your research before sending funds.

Get Involved. Among many groups doing important work to end the assaults, Jewish Voice for Peace is an invaluable resource. Click here for their Activist Toolkit.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poem of the Week: Ruth Irupé Sanabria


Hija

I am the daughter of doves
That disappeared into dust

Hear my pulse whisper:
     progre-so
  justi-cia
  progre-so
  justi-cia

I have many friends and thirty thousand
Warrior angels to watch
Over my exiled skin.

Look what occupies the four chambers of my heart:
re/vo/lu/ción

You will know me by this.
I am the daughter that never forgets.

Used by permission.
From The Strange House Testifies (Bilingual Review Press, 2013)   

Ruth Irupé Sanabria earned her MFA in Poetry from NYU. Her first full-length collection of poems, The Strange House Testifies (Bilingual Press), won 2nd place (Poetry) in the 2010 Annual Latino Book Awards. Her second full-length collection of poems is the 2014 recipient of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Press Awards and will be published in 2017. Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Women Writing ResistancePoets Against the War, and U.S. Latino Literature Today. She has read her poetry in libraries, prisons, schools, parks, bars, and universities across the USA, Mexico, and Peru. Born in Argentina, raised in Washington D.C., she now works as a high school English teacher and lives with her husband and three children in Perth Amboy, N.J.


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poem of the Week: Deborah Ager


Fires on Highway 192

            After Neruda’s “Disasters”

In Florida, it was raining ash because the fire
demanded it. I had to point my car landward
and hope the smoke would part, but it was a grey sea
absorbing my body. Cabbage Palms were annihilated.
Even the Indian River steamed. Black stalks stank.
The condominiums spit smoke into twilight.
Still, a cattle egret landed, preening, in a pasture
filled with embers – the cattle dead or removed.
And I was hungry; there was nothing to eat.
And I was thirsty and raised the river to my mouth.
And I was alone, and there was only that one egret
searching for a cow. The wind was a whisper on my tongue.
Ash on ash. Slumber shallow. I was a frown
in an unfamiliar city after sundown. Vultures circled
like assassins. I made a bed out of the road. I made a pillow
of misery and slept and had no story I wanted to confess.

Used by permission.
From The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry (Bloomsbury, 2013)

Deborah Ager is founding editor of 32 Poems Magazine. Many poems first appearing in the magazine have been honored in the Best American Poetry and the Best New Poets anthologies and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Ager is the co-editor of Old Flame: The First Ten Years of 32 Poems Magazine and author of Midnight Voices. Her poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Quarterly West, Los Angeles Review and Birmingham Poetry Review and have been anthologized in Best New Poets, From the Fishouse, and No Tell Motel. She also co-edited The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, in which this poem appeared.


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