Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Sekou Sundiata - Making Common Meaning

The title of the panel discussion last night was, Writers in a Time of Empire: What is to be Done? And I was honored to be wrestling with that question in the company of the greats, Sekou Sundiata and E. Ethelbert Miller.
Among the many wise responses to that question from those two, was Sekou's call to artists to explore ways to make common meaning. He spoke of the renewed call to conscience and citizenship for artists after the terrible events of September 11, asking what it means to be an American. I loved a term he used: first person plural, that we are all deeply implicated personally in these questions, but they are also public questions. This for me is a new working definition of what I try to do in my own poetry, explore the first person plural. That history and the world press on us personally, but also publicly. Or maybe AND also publicly.
Ethelbert asked about our country's founding documents, which set off a discussion of the Declaration of Independence and how other groups have adopted and adapted it. Sekou recommends the book, We The Other People, a collection of these adaptations.
The discussion was in conjunction with Sekou's show, the 51st (dream) state, playing at the University of Maryland this weekend. Go to: for more info and to buy tickets.
Here's the promo on the show: "Sekou Sundiata’s poetic and personal alternative to the State of the Union address explores America’s character in the current era of unprecedented global influence and power. Co-commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, “the 51st (dream) state” brings an extraordinary, multi-cultural ensemble of vocalists, musicians and production artists who convey a provocative program of spoken word, jazz, world music and projected imagery. Music and text credits include Sundiata, Cornel West, Abbey Lincoln, Ani DiFranco, Jacob Needleman and other prolific voices."
If it's anywhere near as thoughtful and gorgeous as the man in person, it will be a knock-out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Droves of poets, a surge of poets, poets everywhere walking talking for peace

Saturday's march and reading were spectacular. The sun was out, the poets were out, the people were out -- in the streets, in the cafes, in the public life of this country. See some early photos (most by my son Ben) here: Full report with more pix later today or tomorrow.

While you're browsing, check out this new review of the DC Poets Against the War anthology at Eclectica Magazine:

Monday, January 08, 2007


Hilary Tham's Tin Mines Reviewed

Check out Judy McCombs' review of Hilary Tham's Tin Mines & Concubines in the Montserrat Review. It's a marvelous book of stories, available at Busboys & Poets Books.


The inky blue that invades a blackened eye


The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs,
the inky blue that invades a blackened eye,
the eyeball that bulges like a radish,
that incarnadine only blood can create.
They asked the young taxi driver questions
he could not answer, and they beat his legs
until he could no longer kneel on their command.
They chained him by the wrists to the ceiling.
They may have admired the human form then,
stretched out, for the soldiers were also athletes
trained to shout in unison and be buddies.
By the time his legs had stiffened, a blood clot
was already tracing a vein into his heart.
They said he was dead when they cut him down,
but he was dead the day they arrested him.
Are they feeding the prisoners gravel now?
To make them skillful orators as they confess?
Here stands Demosthenes in the military court,
unable to form the words "my country". What
shall we do, we who are at war but are asked
to pretend we are not? Do we need another
naïve apologist to crown us with clichés
that would turn the grass brown above a grave?
They called the carcass Mr. Dilawar. They
believed he was innocent. Their orders were
to step on the necks of the prisoners, to
break their will, to make them say something
in a sleep-deprived delirium of fractures,
rising to the occasion, or, like Mr. Dilawar,
leaving his few possessions and his body.

- Marvin Bell
The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Beltway Poetry features Dargan, Livingston, Davis, Cabico, and Goldberg

The latest issue of Beltway is up and it's a charmer. I've only just browsed so far, but of what I've seen, I can highly recommend it, especially "In Bed with James Tate," by Regie Cabico. Have fun!


January 27 March for Peace - Join the Poets, Your Help Needed

From Melissa Tuckey, DC Poets Against the War Events Coordinator:

Dear Friends,

Wishing everyone a peaceful and productive new year! Hope you've had a restful holiday, or if not, time to recover.As we move into the new year, one of our resolutions is to keep finding creative ways to protest the war in Iraq and to not allow the momentum of November's elections to be lost in doublespeak and committees. We need your help!

January 27th, United for Peace & Justice ( is organizing a national march in DC, and we are organizing a DC Poets Against the War contingent. Those of you who joined us last year remember we were greeted by a lot of enthusiasm as we marched with poetry instead of slogans -- someone even asked if they could buy one of our signs!

With support from the national Poets Against War, we hope to bring together an even larger, even more diverse contingent...We need your help to make it happen. Last year, Esther did a great job finding lines of poetry for us to carry from the DC Poets Anthology. (You can see some of the signs we carried at

If you have a favorite line from a anti-war poem, or can spend some time reading poetry (!) finding some good lines, let me know.

We will also need some help making the signs and transporting them to the protest. With help, this can be done in a couple of hours, one evening before the protest.

Most importantly, let me know if you can join us and carry a sign! We'll send further details and logistics as soon as we have them.

And don't forget the IPS forum on the war, especially designed for poets and artists, coming up on January 17. See for details.

Peace and Love,
Melissa Tuckey
DC Poets Against the War Events Coordinator


Rigoberto Gonzalez and Scott Hightower: January 20 workshop, January 21 reading

I am excited to announce that, thanks to a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Sunday Kind of Love in 2007 will be featuring prominent poets giving readings and offering workshops throughout the year. The goal of the workshop portion of the program is to give D.C.-area poets the opportunity to study with some of the most dynamic and important poets writing today. Workshops will be limited to 12 participants, ensuring an enriching experience.

Our first featured poets come to town this month: Rigoberto González and Scott Hightower. Please scroll down for information on how to register for the 3-hour workshop - only $25! (Scholarships available - see below.)

Sunday Kind of Love First Anniversary Weekend
Rigoberto González and Scott Hightower
Two queer poets whose work expresses a fierce and complex love of this world

Workshop: Saturday, January 20, 3-6 pm, Busboys & Poets, $25 - registration required.
Reading: Sunday, January 21, 4 pm, Busboys & Poets, free and open to the public. Cohosted by Sarah Browning, DC Poets Against the War and Regie Cabico, Sol & Soul

Busboys & Poets
14th & V Streets, NW, Washington, DC
U Street/Cardozo on the Green Line., 202-387-POET
For more info:
Wheelchair accessible.

Rigoberto González is the author of So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until It Breaks, a 1998 National Poetry Series selection; a novel, Crossing Vines; and two bilingual children's books. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and of various international artists’ residencies, He is a member of PEN and of the National Book Critics Circle, and he reviews books by Latina/o authors for the El Paso Times twice monthly. González is Associate Professor of English and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Contributing Editor to Poets and Writers magazine

Scott Hightower is the author of three collections of poems: Tin Can Tourist, Natural Trouble, and Part of the Bargain, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award from Copper Canyon Press. He was born on a working ranch in central Texas, lives in New York City, is a contributing editor to The Journal and Barrow Street, and teaches writing at the Gallatin School of New York University.

The Workshop:


"The only freedom's in departure." - Robert Frost

Poetry is a two-headed tradition: a product of the oral and written tradition. Both traditions draw their strength from the power of observation. In this workshop, participants¹ texts are "the departure" for exploring the unique braiding of abstract and concrete language. A workshop for all levels of writing and revision. Each participant is asked to bring a copy of a couple of their poems. Limited to 12 participants.

To Register for the Workshop: Email Sarah Browning at, indicating that you are registering for the workshop. Please include your full contact information. Then please send a check for $25 made out to “DCPAW” to DCPAW, 626 Allison Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20011. Indicate in a note or on the check that you have registered for the January workshop. (First come, first served. If the workshop fills up, I will hold checks as a waiting list until the date of the workshop.) Scholarship slots are also available. To apply, please contact me with a brief summary of your situation.


Breads That Hunger

I make love to a man with a button fetish. Correction: a man makes love to my shirt. He yanks each piece of plastic with his teeth and swallows it, then inserts the cusp of his tongue into the buttonhole. I slip out of the sleeves and off the bed and he scarcely notices. Later, he comes looking for me; my shirt slumped across his shoulder. It looks as if I have shed my skin -- the fantasy of meeting the train on the rusty tracks comes to life. Buttonless, I have been stripped of everything that holds me together. He tells me he can replace the shirt. I tell him he can keep me.

by Rigoberto González



These are not the same orange leaves,
not the same water. Though the door
is open both day and night, these are not
the same black cattle grazing
near the land the living never pass.
Dead moon trumpets, dried
and withered, wrinkle in the clay.
The whole world seems to rush
with tears and mourn aloud.
Not far from here,
we helped each other wind our heads
with elm leaves, honeysuckle, and lilacs.
The falling water purls, "Go back.
For now, you need your comfort
and your heart."

by Scott Hightower

Sunday Kind of Love is a Busboys & Poetry Event. Special workshops and events in 2007 are made possible in part by a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.


New year, back home, and so much going on

Well, three weeks later and I am finally home and trying to get caught up. It's 2007: we have much work ahead of us. Much joy and reckoning, as well, I hope.

First, a few good reads that have accumulated in my in-box while I was away:

Grace Cavalieri's review of Jean Nordhaus' book, Innocence, from Ohio State University Press:

Kathi Wolfe's medidation on political poetry on the occasion of Adrienne Rich receiving the US National Book Foundation 2006 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters:

Rich's own essay, "Poetry & Commitment" on the Poets Against War website this month:

More soon! Including notes on my own travels and the poets I've been reading and hanging with the past month.

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