Saturday, September 19, 2009


Poetry Vanishes from the Print Post - My Letter Ran!

Poets had gotten used to not being considered part of the "Arts" by The Post, e.g., the Sept. 13 Fall Arts Preview: Art -- Film -- Music -- Theater -- Dance. After all, we had the Literary Calendar on a Book World page and the marvelous Poet's Choice column: an actual poem in each Sunday's paper that acted as a small window into another way of seeing, amid the journalistic and opinion pieces. Now the stand-alone Book World is gone, and in its place are a few reviews in the Outlook section and a sadly foreshortened Literary Calendar. Poet's Choice is only on the Web, with a bare reference on Page B8.

Read the letter, which they ran in full, here:

Then consider writing your own letter to or post comments on this letter. Thanks!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Exciting news of the week - John Murillo's Up Jump the Boogie Forthcoming

by John Murillo
Cypher Books /
310 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

Cypher Books will release Up Jump the Boogie by John Murillo, with a foreword by Martín Espada, on February 23, 2010 ($12.95, Paperback, 112 pages). Publication date: April 6, 2010.

Up Jump the Boogie is a series of lyrical dispatches from worlds hidden or denied. Murillo has survived every difficult scene in this book, transmuted each torn scrap of life into song with his skilled and compassionate alchemy. Meanings are woven from poem to poem as Murillo creates memories in his reader and then deftly evokes them, teaching her to feel what he has felt.

And his ambitions are no less than epic. He tells on one page of tragedy spanning continents and eras, and on the next plumbs the depths of personal loss, locking it all inextricably together in the 12-canto "Flowers for Etheridge," an ode to his poetic ur-father whose chant he carries on: "We free singers be." Murillo is a man who's been saved by poetry, and this is his book of rescue.

"Up jumps the boogie. That's almost all one needs to say. Murillo is headbreakingly brilliant. I didn't have a favorite poet for this year: Now I do. But with this kind of verve and intelligence and ferocity Murillo just might be a favorite for many years to come." – Junot Díaz

"The feel of now lives in John Murillo's Up Jump the Boogie, but it's tempered by bows to the tradition of soulful music and oral poetry. The lived dimensions embodied in this collection say that here's an earned street knowledge and a measured intellectual inquiry that dare to live side by side, in one unique voice. The pages of Up Jump the Boogie breathe and sing; the tributes and cultural nods are heartfelt, and in these honest poems no one gets off the hook." – Yusef Komunyakaa

John Murillo is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. A graduate of New York University's MFA program in creative writing, he has also received fellowships from the New York Times, Cave Canem, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachussetts. He is a two-time Larry Neal Writers' Award winner and the inaugural Elma P. Stuckey Visiting Emerging Poet-in-Residence at Columbia College Chicago. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Callaloo, Court Green, Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, and the anthology Writing Self and Community: African-American Poetry After the Civil Rights Movement. Up Jump the Boogie is his first collection.

AUTHOR: John Murillo
PRICE: $12.95, Paperback
PAGES: 112
ISBN: 978-0-9819131-4-8
DISTRIBUTOR: Small Press Distribution • 800-869-7553 •

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Disappearing Acts: Poetry and the Washington Post

I've been home from Italy a total of six Sundays. With the loss of The Washington Post's Book World while I was gone, we are now to content ourselves with the back pages of the Outlook section on Sunday mornings, including a ridiculously foreshortened Literary Calendar. It was rare that the old Book World would review poetry in its pages, but at least our events would be listed in the Calendar.

Apparently that is no longer the case. Each of the six Sundays I have been home I have scanned the Calendar in vain for a single listing of a poetry reading. It is as if DC's entire vibrant poetry scene had disappeared. I was particularly sensitive to the question this morning, as next week's Sunday Kind of Love, September 20, will be a special one: readings from the new anthology Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy, edited by Joanne Gabbin, the director of the Furious Flower Center for African American Poetry. I sent the listing to the Post weeks ago. But no, again, week 6, no poetry event listed.

I checked the Poetry News at Beltway Poetry Quarterly for comparison and found eight poetry events for the coming week, eight listed for last week.

If you dig around on the Post's website, you'll find a longer version of the Calendar, here. I counted six events listed there that include poetry. But how much traffic does the online calendar get, do we suppose? The link listed in the print version wasn't even correct. (, listed in the paper, doesn't exist. The correct link is:, then you scroll down and click "Washington Literary Calendar" in tiny type half-way down the page.

Nor do poetry readings seem to rank with their cousin art forms as "going out" destinations, as I've never seen one listed in the Going Out Guide, the Style section listing that seems to have replaced the late, lamented Style On the Go. I've filled out their form with Sunday Kind of Love listings and haven't even made it to the online calendar, let alone the print version. I even wrote a letter of inquiry, but didn't hear back.

What's up? I know it's a favorite pastime of organizers and event planners to complain of inadequate coverage in the Washington Post (I can imagine the howls of protest from yesterday's teabaggers over the Post calling their numbers in the tens of thousands, when the organizers had been predicting a turn-out of 400,000...)

But on behalf of the whole poetry community, I protest our complete effacement from the Post. I think it's time for an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign. Will you join me? Letters to the editor guidelines are here:

Or you can post a comment to the Literary Calendar: But you'll have to create an account and log in first. I'll write a letter myself and post it here soon. Also coming up: Why Poet's Choice should return to the print version of our city's paper of record.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Split This Rock on YouTube

With support from the Humanities Council of Washington, we've posted 15 clips of Split This Rock's inaugural poetry festival on YouTube. Watch readings by Naomi Ayala, Kenny Carroll, Mark Doty, Carolyn Forche, and Galway Kinnell, as well as a short piece on the culminating event of the festival, the march to Lafayette Park where 132 poets and activists each contributed one line to a Cento poem, a gorgeous patchwork of voices calling for social justice and peace.

Watch Split This Rock on YouTube here:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


The Poetics of Labor Reading Series @ The Smithsonian

From the marvelous Francisco Aragón, Director of Letras Latinas and Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2010 featured poet:


@The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

To mark Hispanic Heritage Month, the Smithsonian’s National Museum Of American History presents two Latino poets who will performing selections from their works. These special readings are on the occasion of the Museum’s special exhibit

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942 – 1964”

which will be on display this fall until early 2010

The poets are DIANA GARCÍA, who is from California’s San Joaquin Valley and author of the collection, When Living Was a Labor Camp (University of Arizona Press), and QUIQUE AVILÉS, a native of El Salvador who graduated from D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts and has been writing and performing in the U.S. for over 20 years

There will be four opportunities to hear these poets read from their work:

Saturday, September 26: 11 AM and 2 PM

Sunday, September 27: 12 noon and 3 PM

The readings will take place in the exhibition space, 2nd floor, West

For my information about “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program,” please visit:

The museum is on the National Mall, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

“The Poetics of Labor” reading series is a collaboration with Letras Latinas, the literary program of Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

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