Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Events + News Roundup + New Review

More Upcoming Events
From Phebus Etienne
December 8, 2006
Intersection of Poetry and Art: Cave Canem Faculty member Yusef Komunyakaa, and fellows Taiyon Coleman, Phebus Etienne, and Dante Micheaux respond to the African Comics Exhibit. The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York NY. Free.

From Adodi Chicago
Adodi Chicago will have its monthly discussion group
meeting on Saturday, December 2 2006.

The topic for discussion is Picturing Early American
Black Gay Lives: A Reading by John Keene. A detailed
description is listed below.

MEETING LOCATION: Youth Pride Center
637 South Dearborn
Mtg area: The basement
Time: 2pm - 4:30pm

(Downtown-south loop location - Red line to Harrison or
State St. bus to Harrison - street parking available)
I'm excited about this event because it'll be my first time ever reading to Adodi Chicago, an organization whose membership constitutes one of the chief audiences I have been envisioning for my new novel project.

News Roundup
  • The brutal police killing of soon-to-be married 23-year-old New Yorker Sean Bell and the serious injuries to his friends Joseph Guzman, 21, and Trent Benefield, 23, by New York City policemen immediately brought back memories of some of the worst aspects of the racist Rudy Giuliani's years as mayor. Yet Giuliani's successor, Mike Bloomberg, hasn't responded with indifference and disdain; he has met with senior Black political leaders from Queens (which did not placate many critics), and with Bell's family today. He has also stated that there will be a thorough investigation--but if it drags on too long and ends in acquittal, the response could be explosive, because public furor over the killing, particularly among Black and Latino New Yorkers, as well as among human rights organizations, continues to rage. One of the most important underlying issues, the ongoing, systemic racism in the New York City police force, must be addressed. So far, one major piece of news to emerge is that the officer who fired 30 of the 50 shots that riddled the car hadn't fired his gun ever before.
  • Years before Bobby McFerrin plagued the country and world with his Bush 41-era anthem "Don't Worry, Be Happy," I would periodically hear the name Robert McFerrin at home. McFerrin (Sr.) graduated several years after my grandmother from St. Louis's main Black high school (in those days the educational system was strictly segregated by law), and like her was an Arkansas native. What I most often heard about was how in 1955 he became the Metropolitan Opera's first Black male soloist, shortly after Marian Anderson's historic debut, which led to discussions of his marvelous voice and talent. Despite suffering a stroke in the late 1980s, he continued to perform up until recently. He died just the other day at the age of 85.
  • I hadn't heard a thing about a horrific but extraordinarily courageous act of protest, which occurred on November 3, 2006: artist and musician Malachi Ritschler set himself on fire, on an expressway ramp in Chicago, to protest the Bush's Iraq and Afghan wars. In dramatically ironic fashion, he burnt himself up as an act of peace. The Chicago and national media, it seems, have not said much about it, for what I think are obvious reasons, though bloggers and the Chicago Reader have covered Ritschler's clarifyingly significant act.
  • Virginia's new Democratic US Senator, Jim Webb, nearly "slug[ged]" President W in the face after receiving a snippy reply to his response to the president's query about his son, who's serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq.
  • This Alexander Litvenenko poisoning case in London is so convoluted and bizarre I can't stop reading about it. What exactly happened? Was Russian president Vladimir Putin actively involved in the murder of one of his harshest, most dogged critics? How does it tie into the assassination of the investigative journalist and fellow Putin critic Anna Stepanova Politkovskaya? Talk about a John LeCarré novel come to life....

Another Review
Chris hipped me to John Latta's review of Seismosis (and Annotations), which is a bit of a mixed brew.

(Background: a few months ago Latta spoon-tapped in a review of Cave Canem's recent anthology Gathering Ground. (If you know someone who's interested in poetry, it's a great holiday gift!) As I wrote to Chris about the piece (slightly adapted),

With the Cave Canem [review] he seemed to conclude that Black people wrote a lot--way too much; only--about hard things, hard lives, hard luck, the hardness of oppression, its insistently heavy and hot material weight and spiritual labor, and I started to think as I read his complaint in the form of a non-review about hot kitchens and hot combs and hot summer nights and how those are important aspects of our lives and how he didn't want to really touch or smell them, but he still felt burnt.

The CC anthology seemed to be too indissoluble and blue-black a kernel for him to swallow, so he didn't.)

With Seismosis, the issue is somewhat different. I won't summarize it, but I think despite its uninterest in any sort of historicization or grasp of African-American literary traditions it's on to something. I told Chris that even with the criticisms I like it. I also like that he's actually reading and quoting it. "Tintinnabulation," so long as it's not a plague on the inner ear, isn't such a bad thing at all.


  1. John, this was an intriguing review, mixed bag, yes, but more full of praise I thought than anything else, even if it was sometimes begrudging. What he didn't get he could not bring himself to dismiss--he was too engaged. (BTW, there's a problem with the link you supplied.)

  2. Audiologo, thanks for the link clarification, and your point is well taken. "Begrudging"--that's it, in a kernel!