Monday, May 30, 2011

Abdias do Nascimento RIP

Checking tweets before bed, I saw Tara Betts' note about and link to the New York Times obituary for Abdias do Nascimento (1914-2011, at left, photo by Bia Parreira), one of the extraordinary figures in Brazil's contemporary history. Nascimento advocate for the rights and cultural of Afro-Brazilians, and major contributor to that culture and the society.  A playwright, poet, scholar, teacher, artist, activist, and politician, Nascimento had never softened his voice in calling out Brazil's racism and countering its prevailing ideology, still dominant despite major intellectual and cultural shifts, of itself as a "racial democracy."

Among his many social, political, economic and cultural interventions were his founding of the Black Experimental Theater in Rio de Janeiro, in 1944, which became a site for the production and celebration of Afro-Brazilian dramaturgy and culture; his participation in the first Congress of Brazilian Blacks, in 1950, sponsored in part by the acting troupe, which staged one of Brazil's best known exports of the mid-century, Vinicius de Morães's Orfeu negro (Black Orpheus), which Marcel Camus adapted into the award-winning movie of the same name; and his role in the 1945 founding of the Afro-Brazilian Democratic Committee to free political prisoners held by the right-wing Vargas regime. Later he established the Ipeafro (Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Afro-brasileiros), the Institute for Afro-Brazilian Research and Study.

Nascimento spent nearly 20 years in exile after Brazil's 1964 military coup, living in the United States, where he taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and in Nigeria, returning in the 1980s. Yet while in exile, he helped found the Democratic Labor Party of Brazil, and after the resumption of democracy he served as a federal deputy and senator, and as the Secretary for the Defense and Promotion of the Afro-Brazilian Populations in the State of Rio de Janeiro in during the 1991-94 term of Leonel Brizola.  As the New York Times writes, Nascimento gave one of his final interviews to Henry Louis Gates Jr. as part of Gates's Black in Latin America series on PBS, which I wrote about a few weeks back. You can watch the Brazil episode here.

A native of Franca, São Paulo, and a graduate of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Higher Institute of Brazilian Studies, and the Oceanography Institute, Nascimento authored many works, including Africans in Brazil: a Pan-African perspective (1997); Orixás: os deuses vivos da Africa (Orishas: the living gods of Africa in Brazil) (1995); Race and ethnicity in Latin America - African culture in Brazilian art (1994); Brazil, mixture or massacre? Essays in the genocide of a Black people (1989); Sortilege (1978); and Racial Democracy in Brazil, Myth or Reality?: A Dossier of Brazilian Racism (1977). He also founded the important journal Quilombo. If you read Portuguese, O Dia has posted an obituary here. Scholar Molefi Kete Asante wrote a tribute posted on Dialogues.

One of my great hopes was to meet Nascimento before he passed. I nevertheless have a small link to him; a few years back, I came into possession of several copies of K. Anthony Appiah's and Gates's magisterial Encyclopedia Africana, and it so turned out that a Brazilian correspondent mentioned that Nascimento might be interested in one, so I sent it to him and he brought it down to Nascimento. It was a small (but heavy) gift of tribute to an amazing figure, and I have always hoped that he had the opportunity even to flip through it once or twice, to see Aaron Myers's fine entry on him.

Memorial Day's Origins + The 50 States (Stereotypes & More)

What are the origins of Memorial Day, during which we as a nation honor those who've fallen in wars past and current? I always thought I'd known, and would readily have stated it publicly if asked. Yale historian David Blight, however, enlightened me--and thousands of others, perhaps millions--with his article in today's New York Times, "Forgetting Why We Remember," on the holiday's origins and likely earliest celebration. It, as I have repeated several times on here about the Times's Disunion pieces, moved me mightily.

As it turns out, the first Memorial Day celebration probably took place in the South, amidst the ashes of the defeated Confederacy, in Charleston, South Carolina, ironically and poetically, as that was the political and cultural headquarters of the states' plantocracy, who pushed secession from the Union, and the vantage from which soldiers under General P. T. Beauregard first the shots at Fort Sumter, launching the war.  The celebration occurred in, on and around a race track that the Confederates had transformed into a prison and eventual morgue for Union soldiers. Blight writes:

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s [Charleston's] Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
Note for a second the presence of ritual here--the whitewashing of the fence, and the renaming of the race course, a sports site transformed in a site of horror, and now, a place of remembrance, grieving, and honor. (The 1864 map of the Washington Race Course above comes from the Preservation Society of Charleston's website.)
The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.
Note here more significant elements: the cross-racial union to make the celebration possible, in defiance of the very grounds on which the Confederacy was founded; the presence of teachers, another countersignifier in relation to what African Americans had been subjected to under slavocracy's tenets; children in the forefront of the march, a recognition of their role as the future and vanguard, of the race and nation; the singing and evocation of abolitionist John Brown, a freedom fighter and pre-war martyr whose memory was well known to and not lost on these newly freed people; and then the freedmen followed by, not following, the Union troops, some of them African Americans, as Blight notes. Then come the celebrations of patriotism and, alongside them, religion.

Blight goes on to note that after the processions and tributes, the blacks and whites then began picknicking--sharing food and drink, enjoying each others' companies--and watching military drills by the African-American regiments, including the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first official all-black Union regiment in the war, the subjects of Edward Zwick's 1989, Academy Award-winning film Glory. (At the top of the article is a detail from Augustus Saint-Gaudens' famous Robert Gould Shaw memorial, which sits at a corner of Boston Common, at Park and Beacon Streets, and which Robert Lowell memorialized in his famous poem "For the Union Dead." The second image is an 1890 lithograph by Kurz and Allison of the 1863 storming of Ft. Wagner in South Carolina, the battle at which Shaw died.)

Black Union soldiers, US Civil War, from Civil War Academy
This history somehow got lost to the wider world, though, interestingly enough to me, the Preservation Society of Charleston does mention it, noting it to be the first Memorial Day celebration, on their website at the link above.  Blight does not tarry over the process by which this history has evanesced or its implications, though I would imagine that like so much of our national history, especially anything involving African Americans, cross-racial alliances, and so on, it has suffered both active and passive omission until, voilà, it has been waiting for someone to bring it to wider attention. It is, as I said, on the website above and perhaps on many more too. [I should note that while I have read a great many books of and on American history, I have never heard of this event, though historians very well may have written extensively about it. I have many times heard about the various early Northern and Southern commemorations of the war and those who died in it.] At any rate, as we go about our business today and on every memorial day hereafter, we might keep a kernel of this re-membering of the our polity, led by these brave freed people after the worst war US soil has ever known (and I hope will ever know), fastened to our memories.


On a lighter note regarding the states, I was reading Huffington Post's Comedy page and chuckled at author Chuck Jury's "50 State Stereotypes in 2 Minutes" video, which is a promo for his new book of the same name.  He's tagged some of the states perfectly, though with others it appears he just tossed out whatever he could think, anything he could think of, quickly.  Cf. Indiana. (I also love that he probably filmed the entire 50 entries in California, but chose landscapes that mirrored (or not) those of the states he invokes.

Jury certainly has Illinois down, I'll give him that. (But is he talking about Governor Pat Quinn or Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Hmm.)

With a far different aim, last July I posted an animated tour of the 50 states, primarily for children to learn their years of entry into the United States. Of course I did not advertise it anywhere, so it has gotten about 10 viewers or something, but anyways, after the laughter above, check this out, with your little ones if they haven't already learned this information. It's quite rough, but then I'm no pro at this stuff. But it was fun to do!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quote: Christine Smallwood

"Art trains perception. It works by signaling what is important and what can be ignored or forgotten. This is a skill we need to live, and one that the many people I see with hands fused to their camera phones, who indiscriminately photograph their friends, themselves, and their food, are clearly confused about. I sympathize. Self-surveillance is not just about vanity. It’s motivated by fear, a fear that we will not know which things we are living through will turn out to be the ones that mattered. So we take photos of all of them, just in case."
-from "Claire Denis," by Christine Smallwood, in n1fr Issue 1

Thursday, May 26, 2011

End of the Year Congrats + Philip Roth Controversy + What My Students Read

I'm hurtling towards the end of the quarter, thus the absence of posts, but I will try to post more soon.  On Monday, two of my undergraduate mentees participated in the university's Undergraduate Research Symposium and acquitted themselves very well, one presenting a poster presentation on his process of appropriating, translating and adapting an alternative rock band's song lyrics into a short story, while the other one both read his own honors-worthy fiction and acted in a short Beckettian play by a fellow student. Today the departmental held its annual prizes ceremony, and a number of the students I have taught received prizes, including my honors creative writing advisee, who received the department's and creative writing's top prize for his fiction thesis. Congratulations to him and all the students on their excellent work!


While filing away materials for the approaching summer transition, I came across two note cards, one inexplicably torn to smithereens yet saved, in its shredded state, from different fiction classes over the last few years. As I do whenever I teach a writing workshop each I'd written down the authors that students stated they had read most recently (before the class) and enjoyed the most, and the ones they'd recently read enjoyed the least. When we discuss these choices, the students often speak passionately about both, though their distaste for their least favorite writers and texts often exceeds their enthusiasm for their favorites.

Rereading these tallies made me recall the recent reaction by the 2011 Man Booker International Prize judge Carmen Callil, an author herself and publisher of Virago Books, to the Man Booker committee's decision to award the £60,000 ($98,765) prize to American fiction writer Philip Roth. Callil, who in passionate dissent withdrew from the panel, initially and quite harshly stated her thoughts about Roth being this year's laureate, saying that

"I don't rate him as a writer at all. I made it clear that I wouldn't have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn't admire – all the others were fine....Roth goes to the core of their [Cartwright and Gekoski's] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
I think the answer to that is yes, without question. As to the others that she did admire, the shortlist for the biennial award included other English-language writers such as Philip Pullman, Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson, and non-Anglophone writers like "Chinese authors Wang Anyi and Su Tong, the Spanish Juan Goytisolo, Italian Dacia Maraini and Lebanese Amin Maalouf," all of whom Callil thought a better choice than to honor than "yet another North American writer," as the previous winner, in 2009, was Alice Munro. Albanian writer Ismail Kadaré received the 2005 prize, followed by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in 2007.

Callil elaborated on her position in a May 21, 2011 Guardian essay. She stated

The Man Booker International prize allows for a separate prize for translation. If applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000. Of the four awards given thus far, only one has been given to an author not writing in English, the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadaré. And now, with the choice of Roth, this money continues unused. I hope the sum is accumulating.

About Roth she continued:

There are great moments in Roth's work. He is clever, harsh, comic, but his reach is narrow. Not in the Austen, Bellow or Updike sense, because they use a narrow canvas to convey the widest concepts and ideas. Roth digs brilliantly into himself, but little else is there. His self-involvement and self-regard restrict him as a novelist. And so he uses a big canvas to do small things, and yet his small things take up oceanic room. The more I read, the more tedious I found his work, the more I heard the swish of emperor's clothes.

I think she's using a mill when gentler critique would suffice, though I do agree that one can gather the subject of nearly all Roth's novels from just one.  Roth is not alone in doing this, but it is the case that again and again he covers the same ground, with considerable skill and stylistic panache.  He has, however,  even critiqued his own self-obssessiveness, in and through the Zuckerman novels. He has also ranged a bit more widely than Callil suggests, having addressed history more than once, and it's fair to say that while he is not a philosophical novelist, he has posited a personal philosophy of the world, and made clear his ideological compass. Roth is an ideological liberal.  One area where Roth is perhaps less inventive is in the form of the novel itself, though he has played skillfully with novelistic genres.  To offer a comparison, contemporary peer writers like Milan Kundera, J. M. Coetzee, or Roberto Bolaño have essentially written the same novel multiple times, yet in the case of these three, there is tremendous formal variation and daring, something that one cannot say of a great deal of Roth's work. Another way of stating it is that he puts the arts of fiction and storytelling themselves, in play, in the ways that some of the other authors in the shortlist have.  This is not to say that Roth shows no formal or generic variety; books like Operation Shylock (my favorite Roth novel) and The Plot Against America (which I have not yet read) attest to this.

As soon as I read the shortlist, the author on it I thought most deserving was Juan Goytisolo, one of the greatest living writers in the Spanish language and the author, in 1970, of a landmark book in Hispanophone, European and contemporary literature, La reivindicación del conde don Julián, known in English as Count Julian. It is the second in a trilogy of novels, under the rubric of the Álvaro Mendiola trilogy, and comprises an unrelenting attack on Spain, Spanish history and culture, its hypocrisies and traducements, its blindness at the heart of its self-regard. The speaker, ostensibly viewing the southern coast through blinds (if I recall correctly) from northern Africa, unleashes his mesmeric torrent, and sustains it for 200 or so pages. When I read it, having been astonished by its 1966 predecessor Señas de Identidad (Marks of Identity), I did not know even how to process it; how, I wondered, could someone have written the previous remarkable book and then ramped things up by several orders to write this one?

Goytisolo's oeuvre continues, and he is now in his late career, having published a number of books of poetry, essays, autobiographies, and so forth, but a few years back, in 1997, he astonished me again with a strange little novel that goes to the very heart of storytelling. I have not found a class in which to teach it, but one of these days I will. It is called La semanas del jardín (The Garden of Secrets), and, on the English-language cover of the book, Goytisolo's name is nowhere to be found. For the book takes as its central principle the very question of authorship, of orature and literature, and explores this in an inventive and refreshing fashion. I have thought for some time that Goytisolo would win the Nobel Prize, but instead it has gone to authors who I would not put in his rank: J. M. G. LeClézio, Elfriede Jelinek (I still cannot figure out this one), Herta Müller, and the most recent laureate, admitted a superb storyteller but problematic on many levels, Mario Vargas Llosa.

One of the other judges, Rick Gekoski, has now made it clear in his own Guardian essay of May 25, 2011, that because he cannot read in other languages and thus ascertain the quality of the prose in the original, all of which he conveys through a rather garbled discussion of the difficulties of translation, the authors in translation had no chance. As someone who translates from several different languages I take aspects of his commentary to heart, in that translation is always a fraught process resulting in a new work rather than a direct approximation of the original. On the other hand, he essentially ruled out all the non-English texts from the beginning. This was neither ethical nor fair, especially for someone charged with awarding an "international" book prize, especially one so lucrative. I should add that while Spanish for someone who does not speak or read the language is hardly easy, it is also not impossible, with a dictionary at one's fingertips, to at least attempt to gauge a few passages of the prose to see what the author is up to. Doing so might have given him a sense of the genius of Goytisolo's work, at least the very best of that work, in comparison with Roth's.

And so, Roth is the winner. His name, however, rarely if ever turns up on my students lists, affirmatively or negatively. When I have mentioned his work, they will nod with recognition at the name, but when I query, only a few of the undergrads appear to have read his work, and are not partisans either way, and perhaps half the graduates have, and may like one of his books over another, but rarely does he emerge as a top choice. I have not yet ever had a student cite Goytisolo's work either way; I have never had a student, at least in a creative writing class, who has mentioned reading Goytisolo, and on those rare occasions when I have mentioned him, no one has ever heard of him. Among the other shortlisted writers, students have mentioned several of the Anglophone ones (James Kelman, Philip Pullman, Marilynne Robinson, and Annie Tyler) but never John LeCarré, David Malouf or Rohinton Mistry, and not a single student has ever mentioned Wang Anyi, Amin Maalouf, Dacia Mariani (whom I admit I'd never heard of), or Su Tong (whom I also was unfamiliar with).

That brings me back to those notecards I found. Who are my students reading (outside my classes) and enjoying and not enjoying? Here you go, straight from their mouths to my notecards:

Class #1: Authors the students had most recently read and enjoyed:
George W. Bush (!-this student was not able to register for the class, though)
Paulo Coelho
David Eggers
Jonathan Safran Foer (2x)
E. M. Forster
Barbara Kingsolver
Jon Krakauer
Nicole Krauss
Toni Morrison
Orhan Pamuk
Marilynne Robinson
David Sedaris
Robert Louis Stevenson
Kurt Vonnegut
David Foster Wallace
+The Bible

Least Favorite Author Recently Read
Emily Brontë
Dan Brown (2x)
William S. Burroughs
James Conroy
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ernest Hemingway
Zora Neale Hurston
Gary Kowalski (- I had never heard of this author before)
Erik Larson
Herman Melville
Lorrie Moore
Salman Rushdie
J. D. Salinger
Robert Louis Stevenson
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Mark Twain

Class #2: Most Favorite Recent:
Dan Brown
Roald Dahl
Jonathan Safran Foer (2x)
Nicole Krauss
Gabriel García Márquez
David Mitchell
Toni Morrison (2x)
George Orwell
David Foster Wallace

Least Favorite Recent:
Emily Brontë (2x)
Joseph Conrad
Charles Dickens
Thomas Hardy
Nathaniel Hawthorne
James Joyce
Madeleine L'Engle
William Shakespeare
George Bernard Shaw
H. G. Welles

About these lists I'll say only a few things. Roth appears on none of them, but then neither do other authors that many literary scholars and journalists frequently cite as enduringly popular, like Jane Austen and Franz Kafka. Non-Anglophone authors are rare. Pre-contemporary authors are more common on the disfavored than favored list, and I strongly suspect the students read them in English and American literature classes rather than of their own volition. (I try to make a case for all of these canonical writers and their works.) Though my classes usually consist of more women than men, more male authors' names appear on both lists. The students, male and female, tend uniformly to love Jonathan Safran Foer, an author whose fiction I do not like, and abhor Dan Brown, an author whose fiction I do not like. From both lists in my fiction workshops, in which we primarily read short stories, I only regularly assign Hemingway and Joyce, but in literature classes I have taught these two authors as well as Hurston, Morrison, Orwell, Robinson, Shakespeare, and Wallace. Finally, as much as my experience teaching literature classes has demonstrated to me that students (except poets) tend to like reading poetry in literature classes far less than fiction, creative nonfiction or plays, no poets (save Shakespeare) appear on the dislike lists, but several playwrights sit amidst the fiction and nonfiction writers. Poets, for once you are spared--or, I hate to say it, not being read as much--so I do what I can!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CAC Digital Arts First Publication + Chicago's New Mayor + Congrats, Rey Andujar

Earlier today, my partner C's company made two major announcements, both of which are worthy of the heartiest congratulations: formerly named CAC-IT, the company has now officially changed its name to CAC Digital Arts, to reflect its new projects in the digital and electronic publishing fields, and, as part of this shift, released its first e-Book, Maggie da Silva's The Real Family Camping Cookbook (2011), now available for Kindle on Amazon, the Nook on, and soon to be available for purchase on Apple's iTunes store!

Da Silva, a writer, producer, artist, and publisher of Gooch! magazine, has written, at least from what my minimal research suggests, is the most thorough e-Book compendium of camping recipes you'll find online.  The recipes range from the foolproof to more artfully elaborate options, all campsite ready with a little advanced preparation, and many designed, it seems to me, to bring as much aesthetic delight to campers of all ages as satiety. Many probably would probably also make great backyard option throughout the spring, summer and fall. Another treat are da Silva's line drawings, and the quotes that follow each of the recipes. As one Amazon reviewer notes, "It's like having a bibliography to download and bring along on your camping trip as well!"

I'm especially proud of and amazed by C for taking his company in this exciting new direction, and look forward to more e-books (of fiction, photography, travel nonfiction, and many other areas), iPhone/iPad apps, and other digital products in the future. I also highly recommend his fast news Reader (fnR) (only 99¢), which aggregates a number of popular centrist and progressive sites, like GoogleNews, Reuters, BuzzFeed, Gothamist, Wonkette, DailyKos, and Crooks and Liars, but also allows you to add any site with RSS/Atom feeds (it's extremely easy, and I added Eschaton in a matter of seconds), bookmark pages, access sharing tools, and easily forward articles.


From the moment Rahm Emanuel, formerly a senior advisor to former President Bill Clinton, US Representative from Illinois, and most recently President Barack H. Obama's Chief of Staff, announced that he was stepping down to run for the Chicago Mayor's seat occupied for the last 22 years (1989-2011, or roughly 1/2 my life, it feels strange to say!) by Richard M. Daley, I knew none of his opponents had a real chance. I predicted he'd Rahmbo Chicago, and he surely did. The money and momentum, along with the Democratic Party and the President, were Rahm's from the beginning, and the weak field he faced, which included former US Senator Carol Moseley Braun, who proceeded to self-destruct as quickly as possible; Aldermen Gerry Chico and Miguel del Valle; Carol Van Pelt Watkins; and William "Doc" Walls III, posed little challenge.  Emanuel received 55% (323,546) of the vote, tallying more than all his opponents combined.  He is now the 55th Mayor of the City of Chicago, and was sworn in today at the Pritzker Pavilion at Chicago's famous Millennium Park (Grant Park), the same site where President Obama celebrated his 2008 victory.

I'm not a fan of Emanuel's. I see him as a conventional contemporary Democrat, a centrist pragmatist who will sell out his constituents--Democrats, Republicans, independents, anyone, including the Democratic Party's union stalwarts--as quick as a lipsmack if the demand or dollar requires, and more concerned with fundraising and entrenched wealthy interests than the people who put him in office.  This struck me as his ideological orientation during his stints both with Clinton and Obama, and I see little changing, though he faces serious challenges as Chicago's mayor at a time of economic uncertainty and constrained public financial resources.  I see no sign that his promulgated reformism will go any further than cosmetic changes, at least at the beginning; if anything, the city will probably see more of a continuation of Daleyism, though with fewer--we can and should hope--of the endless scandals, and the same level of city boosterism, which under Daley included beautification, at least in some places like The Loop, that admittedly helped to transform Chicago from a shrinking metropolis to the booming Midwestern capital it is today.

Emanuel is known for being tough, sometimes to the point of thuggishness, but this might come in handy in a city like Chicago where toughness is required, especially in politics. He has already declared he's cutting $75 million from Daley's previous budget, and has been able to effect some changes concerning the Board of Aldermen, who were under Daley's thumb.  He'll likely end up using his wiles and knuckles to wring concessions and accomodation from any opposition, though the city's many problems can be screamed or threatened away. He also faced vocal hostility when he campaigned at times on Chicago's predominantly black South Side, so it remains to be seen how he will win those residents over.  Emanuel's larger vision of the city, remains unclear, at least to me, but if he can do something about the potholed streets, which have kept my car in the shop these last few years; the school system, which doesn't need any more fashionable but ineffective reforms, but a greater focus on what has led to increased NAEP scores for black and latino children around the country; and bring more jobs for middle and working-class people back to the city, he will have done more than I, at least, envisioned.


Finally, congratulations to a writer I have mentioned before here, Rey Emmanuel Andújar, whom, my friend Herbert Rogers wrote to tell me, has been named the winner in the General Story category of the Youth Poetry and Fiction Prizes for the International Festival of the Book (Feria Internacional del Libro), which I was very fortunate to have attended back in 2006. His story was entitled "UGDU."

Rey, who entered the contest under the name "Emeterio" (referring perhaps, as Herbert suggested, to Puerto Rican nationalist Ramón Emeterio Betances, whose family origins were from Hispaniola, but perhaps also playing on the resonances of the word "emeterio"), is an exceptional young writer of poetry/hip hop, fiction and plays, and will continue to be a writer to watch, follow and read.

Quoting Redaccion:

El Ministerio de Cultura de la República Dominicana, a través de la Dirección General de la Feria Internacional del Libro, anunció los ganadores del Premio de Poesía y Cuento Joven como parte de las actividades celebradas en el espacio ferial de dicho país.

En el género cuento el escritor dominicano Reynolds (Rey) Emmanuel Andújar, resultó ganador con su obra titulada “UGDU”, sometida bajo el seudónimo Emeterio.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Coming Out: Don Lemon & Will Sheridan

Today brought the news that CNN anchor Don Lemon has come out as a gay man.  In some eyes, given that this is 2011, a handful of states have or recognize same-sex marriage, and the Congress and president repealed the odious Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) law, Lemon's step might seem passé, but Lemon is nevertheless a pioneer: he becomes the first major national African-American anchor, and only the third newsperson employed by a major broadcast or cable channel, to have come out in recent years. (Thomas Roberts and Rachel Maddow are the others.) He chose as his venue his first book, a memoir entitled Transparent (Farrah Gray Foundation Press, 2011), in which he discusses his trajectory as a journalist, as well as some of the personal struggles he has faced over his 45 years. These include his having grown up without a father, and having survived childhood sexual abuse, which he had previously spoken out about. Lemon has CNN's full support and apparently was out to his peers and, but according to news reports, he particularly feared the repercussions he might face from the black community, citing cultural expectations of black men and religious attitudes. I personally would not deny either of these, though I would say, from personal experience, that black people are no more homophobic than any other group, despite the general caricatures, and that it depends upon whom your dealing with, your class background, and so on. From the little I've seen online, most of the commentary on black websites or from black commenters has been very to at least fairly positive, matching the postings of non-black posters on sites like Huffington Post, or Yahoo!, whose boards can be particularly vitriolic and puerile at times.  I would venture that in general, Lemon will be as heartily embraced by black people as by anyone else, particularly among younger people, who have far fewer issues around sexuality than their elders, and that his courageous step, like those of many others in the spotlight who have come out, particular men and women of color, will have a salutary effect on and for many people, of whatever age and race, but especially for the young and for African Americans, who are struggling with their sexual orientations and identifications, social rejection from peers and family members, and related crises. It's a net plus, for Lemon and everyone else.

Also today came news of another public self-outing (h/t, that of Will Sheridan, a former Division 1 basketball player for Villanova.  According to Outsports, Sheridan is only the second Division 1 male basketball player (and interestingly enough, the second African American) after John Amaechi, to have come out. (Ex-Division 1 player Travon Free, also African American, came out as bisexual earlier this year, and is now a comedian in Los Angeles.)  Outsports cites an ESPN article stating that Sheridan was out to teammates--as more than few gay athletes probably are these days--and was "privately dat[ing] a man from another Philadelphia school"--and also was involved in various artistic activities while at Villanova, including "spoken-word performances." The piece also mentions that he ran on his "tip-toes," which is to say, that he ran "funny," which provided "ammunition" for opposing fans. (Excuse me, but this verges on the stereotypical and homophobic....) While the usual discussion about queer male athletes coming out centers on the fear teammates may have (and have expressed) about being in the locker room with a gay man, what seems to be more at issue is the brouhaha the coming out may provoke from others not on the team--fans, boosters, the media. In fact, the coming and being out may come to overshadow everything else. Even taking that into account, I think doing so is a good thing, even in light of the complexities and politics of queer visibility and outness, especially for people of color, and I believe we'll soon see the day when more gay male athletes, including men of color, on team sports, will come out while still playing, and it won't be a big deal, at least to most of the people around them. Sheridan, now out, is a budding musician, and tweets here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quote: Ian Buruma

From Ian Buruma's "A Free Spirit," a New York Review of Books review essay on Janny Scott's A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother (Riverhead Books, 2011):

"In fact, Ann Dunham [Barack Obama's mother] did not actually live in Kansas for more than a few years in early childhood. Her father, Stanley, a happy-go-lucky furniture salesman with a louche grin and dark slicked-back hair, took his family to Oklahoma, Texas, California, and Mercer Island, near Seattle, where Ann spent most of her youth. Stanley and his wife, Madelyn Payne, were anything but conventional. The grinning man who 'looks like a wop' was not considered suitable by Madelyn’s parents. So the young couple ran off to marry in secret. Madelyn saw herself as “a Bette Davis type.” Her brother, Charles, noted that she had wanted to get out of small-town Kansas ever since they visited the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934, where they were exposed to “art, anthropology, intellectual stuff.” Their daughter was named Stanley, not only after her father, but after the role played by Bette Davis in John Huston’s In This Our Life, a movie about drunkenness, suicide, and racial discrimination in the deep South, which was barred from foreign release by the wartime Office of Censorship. But she was generally known as Ann."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Henry Louis Gates's Black in Latin America

Gates talks with
Brazilian rapper,
MV Bill

Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s 4-part PBS series Black in Latin America, which ran for each of the last four Tuesdays, has concluded, and all of the episodes are available free online. I have deep respect for Gates as a scholar, intellectual leader and institution-builder, but I must admit that I was a bit wary about this series after I saw some of the pre-broadcast clips on The Root's website. Based on these trailers, my two main fears were that Gates might oversimplify things and that he would allow some of his presuppositions to overwhelm the discussion. For example, in the Brazil trailer, Gates, who has written extensively about race and racism, fails to disarticulate the differences between between Brazilian names for skin colors and racial categories and identities in Brazil, while also failing to historicize these categories or broach contemporary discussions of them. He even denies that the lighter-skinned man can be negro (black). Here we go...I thought. But this thankfully was only a snippet.
Musicians perform at the Toro de Patate
In fact, Gates's discussion of race, and in particular, of blackness and black people in 6 Latin American countries--Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru--turned out to be one of the best, concise introductions to the topic I've come across in a while. He not only did not oversimplify, but he repeatedly challenged some of his own assumptions. In the background for me always as these episodes unfolded were magisterial overviews like the late Leslie B. Rout Jr.'s The African Experience in Latin America (Cambridge, 1976; Wiener, 2003), John Thornton's Africa and Africans and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (Cambridge, 1998), and George Reid Andrews' Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 (Oxford, 2004), as well as numerous excellent historical, sociological, and other kinds of studies on the specific countries.  Given how little many Americans know about our own national history (histories)--given how much I myself am always learning about moments that I have previously studied, like the US Civil War, from the New York Times's Disunion Series--I did not expect even a handful of Gates' viewers to know much of what could be found in these or similar books, and it was clear that he didn't either. This lack of knowledge included, it was refreshingly clear at times, himself.
Gates in Cuba with the son music group, Septeto Típico de Sones
Each of the episodes ran for an hour, so Gates had to shoehorn quite a bit into a small slot, and given the long histories of each of these countries (Hispaniola's going back to 1492, let us not forget). In the cases of the DR and Haiti, and later Mexico and Peru, he split the episodes in half.  I still believe Haiti alone deserved an hour, and that this particular episode did not take into account more recent and popular racial self-representations among younger Dominicans. That said, Gates' overall presentation of the processes and dynamics of historical development, the role of economics and politics in racial and cultural formation (incluing discursively), and the effects of US hegemony, particularly in the Caribbean, illuminated a great deal about each of these countries and their societies.  He thoughtfully consulted scholars, archivists, and activists from each of the countries, sometimes bringing to light, through minor details, what 1000 words might not fully convey. To give one example, in visiting a museum that housed the late Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo's effects, he and the curator examined a large pot of white (rice?) powder that Trujillo used to whiten his skin. The pot was still nearly full, and its contents blindingly white--as I glimpsed it I thought of the well of racial self-loathing this man possessed, of his ghostly, murderous face looming before me, and a shiver ran up my spine as I considered what terror it must have struck in the eyes and backbones of the Dominicans, Haitians and others (like Venezuela's Rómulo Bettencourt, whom Trujillo attempted to assassinate).
Chebo Ballumbrosio and his family with Gates
The Cuban and Brazilian episodes were the best, in that Gates had the time to delve more deeply than most commentators do about each of these countries, debunking something I have seen up close, Cuba's myth of having abolished racism (officially, perhaps, yes, in reality, no) and Brazil's "racial democracy." In the case of Brazil, Gates started in Salvador da Bahia, the heart of black Brazil, but traveled to other cities--Rio de Janeiro and, quite surprisingly, Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, the huge, populous interior state built, from the 17th century onwards, on mining--to explore questions of blackness, race and racism.  Anyone watching would have grasped the complexities of Brazil's history, but also parallels with the US in terms of how economic activities, geography, and so on, affected the system and practice of slavery.  Most revelatory for me, perhaps because I was reminded of information I had forgotten, was his episode on Mexico, and its intrinsic but obscured black history. From the slave ports to its maroon societies to the role of black Mexicans in the country's liberation, I think it's fair to say that almost none of this history is known or even mentioned in the United States, and, as Gates suggested, remains obscure even to many (most?) Mexicans, save those direct or semi-direct descendants of the Africans in places like Veracruz and the Costa Chica. One of the many great flashes of insight during this episode occurred when an Afro-Mexican interlocutor suggested to Gates that it would be better for Jesse Jackson to forgo protesting about the racist Memín Penguín cartoon figure and to spend more time taking interesting and advocating for black Mexicans living in the United States! I think most Americans, including Mexican Americans, would be surprised to know that black Mexicans are living in the US, and thus facing the same issues as other Latino immigrants and other black Americans, let alone that there are (not just were) blacks in Mexico.  To moreover hear this uttered on television, to hear someone break the silence about a group over whom a veil of ignorance still lies, was startling in the best way.
Gates talk with Bernard Diederich at Haiti's Fort Dimanche
Seeing the parallels between all these countries is in itself quite illustrative; so too is to consider how far blacks in the United States have come, for a variety of reasons, long before the election of President Barack H. Obama, whose election is the result not only of the long black struggle for freedom but also of its effects on white Americans and, more broadly, everyone in this country.  What Gates' show suggested more than once, however, is that in some cases other countries, like Mexico, were ahead of us in terms of racial attitudes, far ahead of us, in some ways, and yet the struggles that black people are battling in these countries are perhaps now multiple generations behind where black Americans were a while ago. What his series suggested too was the ways in which the slave trade also impacted Africa, especially the western and southwestern regions of that continent, an aspect of our global and hemispheric histories that still does not merit enough attention or discussion.  Unfortunately, I doubt enough people will see these episodes to deepen knowledge either about the presence or experiences of black people in Latin America or change a great deal of public and private discussions about race, racism, blackness, immigration, or anything else. (I can hope, though.) Indeed, I don't think that a sizable enough number of black Americans, or Latinos who are not black, will watch these shows, let alone white people, though we all would benefit from knowing more about the histories of all of these societies, especially given how deeply implicated the US and its political, economic, social and cultural politics and policies have been in many of them (cf. DR, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico).  But I know that's unlikely to happen, and that particularly those in power will continue to speak and act from positions of gross, sometimes willful ignorance about such things, since they benefit from the ignorance and the divisions and diversions it sows. PBS, however, is doing us all a huge favor by making the videos freely available, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. has done us a tremendous favor by producing these informative gems at all.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

An Un-Common Gathering of Poetry @ the White House

What kind of week would it be without a bit of hullabaloo over something the Obamas said or did? Not substantive hullabaloo, say, over his continued use of drones in Pakistan or possibly illegal intervention in Libya or his war on whistleblowers, a direct contravention of his campaign rhetoric, but hullabaloo of the most transparently political and partisan, but also uninformed kind. I am talking about the right-wing hullabaloo over Michelle Obama's invitation to poet and hiphop artist Common to appear at yesterday's White House-hosted poetry event. After the announcement became public, conservative organ Fox News denounced Common in histrionic terms, calling him a "vile rapper," because of his lyrics (rightly) criticizing George W. Bush for his warmongering and, the channel's Fox Nation claimed, calling for violence against police.  Fox News commentators like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin piled on, though none of them seemed to recall that Fox News commentator Jason Robinson had previously interviewed Common and praised him as "really positive." D'oh!

Commentators conversant in hip hop quickly challenged the caricature of Common quickly and conclusively. I did so on Twitter, calling attention to his powerful song "The People," which I think captures the experiences of millions of Americans today better than many poems being written, and found myself tweeting back and forth with Honorée Jeffers, a poet I admire and adore, over her denunciation of the homophobia and misogyny in Common's work. I noted that he had spoken out about his prior homophobia, but I accepted her critiques of his misogyny. I did not reply that if misogyny were a criteria for barring people from the White House or any public venues, a majority of men, not just hip hop artists, and even many women, would not set foot there. But again, Honorée's critique is important. Yet the criticism of Common was not that he rapped misogynistic lyrics or that he had once been a homophobe. Conservative caricaturists described the work as something else that it was not, which to my mind disqualified their criticisms altogether.

The poetry program also included former Poets Laureate of the United States Rita Dove (who served from 1993 to 1995, and was a colleague of mine during that period at the University of Virginia, where she still teaches) and Billy Collins (who served from 2001 to 2003), one of the most popular living American poets; the 2008 Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander (a former teacher of mine at Cave Canem and someone I know personally and hold in highest esteem); Kenneth Goldsmith; and musicians Aimee Mann and Jill Scott, and artist-performer Alison Knowles.  Before the evening's events, Michelle Obama hosted a nationwide student workshop, led by several of the poets, that included a panel discussion of the importance of and necessity for arts education.  I cannot praise the First Lady and President highly enough for hosting this event, and sincerely hope that despite the controversy, which unfortunately forced the White House to have to defend itself, they will continue such programs and, when Obama is reelected, will take them on the road.  Having the First Lady kick off arts and fitness events all over the country represents one of the best forms of advocacy either of these areas might possibly receive.

Here's the official White House video of the event:

Here's Common:

"One King dream / he was able to Barack us."

Mostly missed by the mainstream media was the startling presence of Goldsmith, who is by almost every measure most people writing and teaching poetry today would likely label as one of the most formally avant-garde writers in American or world literature. Goldsmith is a leader in the area of conceptual writing, or post-autonomous writing if I might venture another name, and his work is forbidding on multiple levels. You could even argue whether it constitutes poetry at all, as it fails to satisfy many of the criteria writers and critics have used to define or categorize this genre.  (I believe he is both a poet and conceptual artist of major importance.) Yet someone close to the Obamas, astonishingly to me, selected Goldsmith to participate and he even read from one of his most difficult works, Traffic, which is a vast river of text comprising snippets of weather-related broadcasts Goldsmith recorded over a fixed period. Other Goldsmith landmarks include his stewardship of Ubuweb, the repository for contemporary experimental creative works; his having sung philosophy texts by the likes of Theodor Adorno, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Walter Benjamin; and his hosting the Poetry Foundation's Avant-Garde Poetry/All the Time podcasts.

Not to make too much of Goldsmith's appearance, but one way I read it--and Common's--is as a sign that amid the pragmatism and conventionality of a great deal of Obama's governance, there is a more daring streak that sometimes bares itself, rears its head, but which for obvious reasons he keeps in well-guarded safe. Rita Dove and Billy Collins are two of the best known and now canonical American poets alive, and Dove received the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1987. Elizabeth Alexander, a professor at Yale University, a leading poet in her generation, was a colleague of the Obamas at the University of Chicago and remains their friend. The musicians who appeared also are fairly mainstream, and Jill Scott has spoken-word bona fides. But Goldsmith really is an outlier, so far out--believe me when I say that I have colleagues who would probably hesitate to invite him to read his poetry on campus, let alone profess before a classroom of undergraduate and graduate students as a poet--that his presence suggests, perhaps metonymically I would argue, another aspect of Obama's vision, the sort that perhaps Hannity identified but in caricature: Obama's capacity for the deeply fascinating juke, the more radically avant-garde and progressive but tightly concealed parts of his persona, ideology, policies, what his "politics of the possible" thankfully don't whittle or grind away. Hannity cited Common in this, but that's the obvious choice; Goldsmith's traffic went right over his and his fellow ranters heads, though I doubt Obama's--Barack's or Michelle's.

I'll conclude with a snippet that Reggie H. sent from Obama's speech at the event. You can read the entire transcript here, but catch the grace note of vernacular; I wish we saw more of that on a daily basis, though I recognize it might be too much for many. A little swinging improvisation goes a long way.

"The power of poetry is that everybody experiences it differently.  There are no rules for what makes a great poem.  Understanding it isn’t just about metaphor or meter.  Instead, a great poem is one that resonates with us, that challenges us and that teaches us something about ourselves and the world that we live in.  As Rita Dove says, “If [poetry] doesn’t affect you on some level that cannot be explained in words, then the poem hasn’t done its job.”  Also known as, it don’t mean a thing if -- (laughter) -- it ain’t got that swing.  That’s a little ad-lib there.  (Laughter.)"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Two Videos: Move Your Body

I have watched these two videos at least 20 times. If you feel you need a bit of pep, a smile, anything to brighten your day, here you go!

On May 3, 2011, Beyonce surprises a gym full of schoolchildren at Pedro Albizú Campos School who're dancing to her "Move Your Body"

Here's the First Lady, Michelle Obama, on May 3, 2011, dancing along with schoolchildren at the Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Photos: Road Trip

Here are more photos from the trip:
The hills near USD
The hills near University of San Diego
Beach runner
On Mission Bay beach
Self-portrait in a mirrored pain
Self-portrait in a mirrored pane (Chris Stackhouse on the right)
Flowers, Olvara Street, Los Angeles
A great Cuban singer, El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
A machine made by art students
A portable mural machine, created by arts students
Brothas, LA
Downtown Los Angeles
Spiked hair
At Union Station
Downtown LA
Downtown Los Angeles
A Cuban singer performing in the historic el Pueblo de los Angeles
Frescoes in LA post office
Frescoes, US Post Office Annex Building, near downtown Los Angeles
Union Station, Los Angeles
Union Station, Los Angeles
Sunset Boulevard, at night
Sunset Boulevard, at night
At the Public School, Chinatown
At the Public School venue (Chris Stackhouse on the left)
The Chateau Marmont
Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles

Reading and Roading in California

Once again I'm in the air, in mild disbelief that the driving-reading tour of southern California with Seismosis collaborator Christopher Stackhouse has concluded. As I noted in a prior blogpost, we read on Wednesday at the University of California-San Diego, in their Black Box Theater; on Thursday at California State University, San Marcos, in their Commons Theater; and on Friday at the Poetic Research Bureau's/Public School's reading space in Los Angeles's Chinatown.  I have thanked all of our hosts, meal companions and attendees directly, but let me again say many, many thanks, for the invitations, the meals, the conversations about all manner of things (Afrofuturism,  the crisis and effects of public university funding and the larger societal dismissal of the humanities, translating forgotten poets and trippy Argentinian novels, Hilda Hilst, the diminishing enrollment of free classes on Baruch Spinoza, St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans in Los Angeles, Cheikh Anta Diop, mental colonization and oppressive consciousness, UCLA vs. USC, life without an automobile in Los Angeles, fishing in Key West, the constrained appeal of loquats, the need for higher marginal federal tax rates, Ben Shahn, the genius of Geoffrey Chaucer, etc.), the books, the laughter, and especially the directions!

Chris and a friend of his had previously taken a cross-country road trip a few years ago, and some of my students have sung the praises of long and shorter trips over the years, but the furthest roadtrips I've trips since arriving at the university have been 1) to Milwaukee to read (which isn't very far at all); 2) Saint Louis to visit family members (again, not that all that far); and 3) with C back to New Jersey a few years ago, a trip I always remember fondly because almost immediately upon our arriving on the raceways of the Garden State, a furious rainstorm began, and it was only through C's steadiness behind the wheel and presence of mind that we got home in one piece. I think I still prefer traveling by train or plane more than cars, but this trip has subtly shifted my opinion.

For J's Theater readers from San Diego, San Marcos (are there any?) or Los Angeles, these images may induce leaden lids, but if not, do enjoy.
San Diego from the airplane
San Diego from the airplane
The Pacific!
The Pacific Ocean
Surf school, San Diego
Surf school, Mission Bay Pacific beach, San Diego
On Mission Bay's main beach
Mission Bay, San Diego
On the UCSD campus
On the campus of the University of California, San Diego
Kroc Peace Ctr. reflecting pool & vista at USD
Kroc Center for Peace Studies reflecting pool, on the University of San Diego campus (poet and friend Jericho Brown gave us a brief and enjoyable tour of the campus)
Cal State San Marcos
Main plaza, California State University, San Marcos
Driving north to Los Angeles
Rural southern Orange County, heading north to Los Angeles
The 101, Los Angeles, with zeppelin
101 freeway in Los Angeles, with zeppelin
Union Station, with homeless people sleeping on the grass in the foreground
Union Station in the background, homeless Angelenos in the foreground
From the top of the LA railway (funicular)
Los Angeles railway (funicular)
Nancy Rubens sculpture, LaMOCA
Nancy Rubens sculpture, LaMOCA

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Readings in Cali + Inspired by Seismosis

If you're in or around southern California this week and would like to hear old and new (very new!) poetry by Chris Stackhouse and me, you can come to one of the readings below.  All, I believe, are free.

University of California, San Diego
Visual Arts Facility Performance Space
Black Box Theater
4:30 pm

California State University, San Marcos
Commons Theater
7:30 pm

The PRB @ The Public School
951 Chung King Rd.
Los Angeles, CA
7 pm


and, today, someone forwarded me this. I don't know the person who created it, but it's fun--and fun to know that one's work, especially work of a very formally difficult nature, is inspiring others:

Monday, May 02, 2011

Poetry for Labor Event

Many, many thanks to everyone who came out to the Poetry for Labor reading and commemoration on Sunday, which was International Labor Day / May Day. As I noted in my original flyer, this year marked the 125th anniversary of the Haymarket Square Affair, one of the signal events in US and global labor history, which occurred in Chicago right near the site where we met to read and remember. As I noted in my brief and informal remarks that opened the event, the lives of the striking workers who were killed, the policemen who also died, and the accused bombers who were later hanged or murdered were not in vain. The incident and its aftermath led to many things we take for granted today, including the eight-hour workday, and helped to spark the union movement in this country and all over the globe.  As we find ourselves in another precarious moment in terms of labor and labor relations, with unions specifically under fire, an unemployment rate officially at 8.8% but higher and very high underemployment, and a skewed economic system that is rewarding a very few at the expense of billions of people, it's crucial that we not forget events like the Haymarket Square Affair, that we take time out to commemorate those who fought for what we have, and that we continue to fight for our own rights and for those who'll follow us.

I want to offer especial thanks to Jen Karmin and Laura Goldstein, who read, spoke, brought their incredible presences and commitments to the event, and to their affiliated organizations, the Red Rover Series and the Chicago Durutti Skool, who consponsored the event and put the word out about it.  Many thanks also to my partner C, whose support was invaluable, and whom I even convinced to read a poem (by Frank O'Hara: "A Step Away from Them," no less!), and to my cousin Raquel Stallworth and her husband Walter, who came out to show support. Raquel spoke eloquently about her experiences with the contemporary labor market, making personal, as Jen and Laura did, what can sometimes be discussed in abstractions (and thus, as too often happens in our corporate media, dismissed altogether or sensationalized).  Among the writers we read were Muriel Rukeyser, Charles Reznikoff, Rita Dove, Elizabeth Alexander, Carl Sandburg, Joy Harjo, John Ashbery, Martín Espada, Mark Nowak, and William Blake, and we read poetry and prose.  We talked about poetry as labor, the role of metaphor in the way those in power structure our society and capitalism's systems and how what operates in poetry might offer ways of understanding things better, working-class roots and ancestors, and so much more.

It was particularly encouraging to see that among the first people who arrived at the event were tourists from Norway, and a executive trainee (!) from the Basque country (as he put it) in Spain. Both had learned about the event online, and were determined to pay tribute to the site and to hear poetry. And they did stay and listen, which was wonderful.  We also had a sizable contingent of cyclists who, it turns out, were not only gathering at the Haymarket Memorial Sculpture to begin their tour of major local labor sites, but who also wanted to hear poetry. Rick B., one of the cyclists, also offered a brief and thorough recounting of the Haymarket Square Affair events, pointing out that the alley from which the bomb was thrown was still there, just behind us.

Below are some photos from the event. Many thanks again to C, who snapped some great ones!

The new plaque
The new plaque, dedicated April 30, 2011
Reading at *Poetry for Labor*
During the reading
The visitors from Norway & C
The visitors from Norway (they were there at 8:30 am!) and C
Haymarket Memorial Sculpture
The Haymarket Memoria Sculpture, with our set up
Jen Karmin reading
Jen preparing to read
Laura Goldstein reading
Laura reading Muriel Rukeyser's work
C reading Frank O'Hara's "A Step Away from Them"
C reading
A poet & union member speaking
A poet and union member speaking
Rick B. of the cyclers' group speaking
Rick B. of the cyclists' group
Me reading @ *Poetry for Labor*
Me reading