Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random Photos

Bouncer throwing drunk man into the gutter
A bouncer throwing a very drunk man
into the street on 3rd Avenue
(I'd never seen this happen in real life until this night - several people nearby had already called the police before I could. The extremely drunk man, covered in snow and filthy water, nevertheless kept dragging himself along the sidewalk because he couldn't stand. Finally the cops, followed by an ambulance, showed up.)

Fashion student, examining her portfolio, Manhattan
Young fashion student, examining her portfolio at a West Village copy shop
Snow, West Village
Snowy evening, E 13th St.
Patrick Rosal, Jessica Hagedorn, and Jayne Anne Phillips, @ Rutgers-Newark
Patrick Rosal, Jessica Hagedorn, and Jayne Anne Phillips,
at the first MFA reading of the spring semester
Through the gold screens, NYU's Bobst Library
Bobst Library's atrium, from the 8th floor,
behind the suicide-proof gilded screens
(which weren't in place when I was a student there)
Squash court, Grand Central Terminal
Temporary squash court,
Grand Central Terminal
Voguer, Union Square
Voguer/performer/dancer, Union Square Park
Two skateboardres, watching the light rail preacher
Two skateboarders, watching
the light rail preacher, Newport Station
"The Ultimate Sacrifice"
"The Ultimate Sacrifice"
42nd Street
Lenox Ave, Harlem
Food cart, 135th Street, Harlem
Gold Man, in the subway
Gold man, with his ATM radio
50th Street station
Mae Ngai, delivering her talk at NYPL
Columbia University professor Mae Ngai,
lecturing on trans-Pacific Asian diasporas
at the New York Public Library
A common sight in Manhattan
A hungry, homeless man (a common
sight all over Manhattan, especially in Midtown)
Gotham!
Gotham, on a rainy day
photo
A temporary oil tank, West Village
Repairing the Fulton St. station
Workers repairing the ceiling,
Fulton Street station
Young man with mohawk
Young man with a mohawk,
3 train heading uptown

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize Launch + Clifton Gachagua Wins Sillerman First Book Prize

For those in Chicago, a wonderful event I've been involved with that you don't want to miss:

The Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize Launch is this Thursday, January 31st at 7:00 p.m.. We will host an evening of poetry, song, and dance at The Poetry Foundation's auditorium (61 W. Superior St., Chicago) to celebrate our first annual Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize for emerging poets of color. Kristiana Rae Colón (our prizewinner) and renowned poet Ed Roberson will read from their new chapbooks, entitled promised instruments and Closest Pronunciation. Their readings will be punctuated by a vocal performance of songs from the tradition of African American spirituals by Timothy McNair, bass at the Bienen School of Music, and original dance choreographed by Devin Buchanan from Giordano Dance Chicago.  The event (like all our events) is free and open to the public.

______________________
Ed Roberson, Distinguished Artist in Residence, taught from 1990-2003 at Rutgers University, and from 2004-2006 at Columbia College in Chicago. He was the recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America in 2008, and was one of three writers honored at the recent Literature, Culture, & Critique conference, organized by Callaloo magazine.Roberson is the author of To See the Earth Before the End of the World (2010); The New Wing of the Labyrinth (2009); City Eclogue (2006); Atmosphere Conditions, winner of the 2000 National Poetry Award series; Just In: Word of Navigational Change (1998); Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In, winner of the 1994 Iowa Poetry Prize; as well as earlier books, including Lucid Interval as Integral Music (1984); Etai-Eken (1975); and When Thy King Is a Boy (1970).

Kristiana Rae Colón is a poet, playwright, actor, and educator living in Chicago. She has been featured on the HBO television series Def Poetry Jam and on WBEZ’s Chicago Public Media. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize honoring the best writing published in small presses, and it has been anthologized in Not a Muse (2009), Best of the Web 2010, and the upcoming collection Chorus: A Literary (Re) Mixtape, an anthology of poetry by young people edited by Saul Williams and Dufflyn Lammers.

Devin Buchanan is a dancer with Giordano Dance Chicago. Trained at The Ailey School in New York City in a variety of dance techniques, including Horton, Devin also created "Winter’s Bleu" and "Do You Trust Your Friends," works that were performed by his colleagues in The Ailey School’s "Global Harmony" and "Fall Fest." In May 2010, he was accepted into "The Fraulein Maria Project," which gave him the chance to continue his work in modern dance and tour the USA. This is Devin’s second season with GDC.

Timothy McNair is a vocalist and Eckstein scholar at Northwestern's Bienen School of Music. He began his acquaintance with music through his studies of saxophone and double reed instrument, but began singing in the choir at the age of 17. He has studied with Mezzo-soprano, Victoria Livengood as a vocal major at East Carolina University and received further training at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts with Dr. Marilyn Taylor, where he was the 2008 University of North Carolina Fletcher Scholar.

***

Clifton Gachagua
Also, another wonderful project I'm delighted to have been involved with has resulted in a wonderful book of poetry that will soon be available for readers:

Kenyan poet Clifton Gachagua’s manuscript Madman at Kilifi has been selected by the African Poetry Book Fund & Series for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. As the winner of the First Book Prize, Gachagua’s Madman at Kilifi will be among one of the four books to be published by the African Poetry Book Series in 2014.

The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is awarded to African poets who have not previously published a book-length collection. The prize includes a $1000 cash award and publication with the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Publishing in Senegal.

Kwame Dawes, Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Fund & Series, notes that Madman at Kilifi was selected because, “Above all, there is a distinctive voice here. This is a difficult trait to define, but when it emerges as it does here, it is striking for its originality. There is a fresh and adventurous intelligence and delight in Gachagua’s poems. The judges are all thrilled with this manuscript and we are expecting great things from Clifton Gachagua."

Clifton Gachagua is a writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based in his native city of Nairobi, Kenya. Gachagua’s poetry has appeared in Kwani? 06, Saraba, and on his blog “The Drums of Shostakovich.” His prose has appeared in the online journal Storymoja, the anthology AfroSF, and a collection of science fiction writing from Africa. He has recently completed a novel and is currently developing a French-Nigerian feature-length film. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences.

The Sillerman First Book Prize is named after philanthropists Laura and Robert F. X. Sillerman whose contributions have endowed the establishment of the African Poetry Book Fund & Series. The African Poetry Book Fund & Series promotes the writing and publication of African poetry through an international complex of collaborations and partnerships. The Fund and its partners offer support for seminars, workshops, and other publishing opportunities for African poets.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal Prairie Schooner manages the annual Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets as a partner in the African Poetry Book Fund & Series.

In addition to Dawes, the Series Editor, who is of Ghanaian birth, the editorial board for the African First Book Fund is comprised of the South African poet Gabeba Baderoon, the American novelist John Keene, the Nigerian poet and novelist Chris Abani, the Egyptian-American poet Matthew Shenoda, and Bernardine Evaristo, award-winning novelist and poet from the UK.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Lunch Hour NYC" Exhibit @ NYPL

photo
Depression era sign, Lunch Hour NYC (NYPL.org)
I spend at least one or two days of almost every week at the New York Public Library's Research Branch (the Schwarzman Building, soon to undergo a monstrous transformation), but so narrow and routine are my tracks there that it took a post on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York to draw me to the "Lunch Hour NYC" exhibit on the library's first floor. It is a delight, and if you're in Manhattan and anywhere near 42nd St. and Bryant Park, devote a half hour to seeing it. The gist of the exhibit is that in many ways New York City differs from the rest of the country, but in terms of lunch, a word whose definition the exhibit accords its own display, New York has often been very distinctive, as well as a pacesetter for the rest of the USA. From oyster carts and pretzel venders, to bagel-brimming delicatessens, to the Horn and Hardart automats that gladdened not only numerous city dwellers' stomachs but Hollywood screenwriters' imaginations as they dreamt up scenarios and settings, to that American culinary staple, peanut butter, as a lunchtime nutritional staple, to sumptuous power lunches where the city's (and often the country's and globe's) most important people made sure to be seen, the exhibit casts a wide net and offers many pearls.

photo
All about peanut butter for lunch (NYPL.org)
photo
Fr. Divine, immortalized by Ralph Ellison (NYPL.org)
Lunch, it turns out, first appears in 16th century English as a rendering of the Spanish lonja, meaning a slice of ham (from the Oxford English Dictionary: R. Percyvall Bibliotheca Hispanica Dict. at Lonja de tocino,  A lunch of bacon, frustum, lardi.), while its supposed derivative, luncheon, appeared a decade or more before, with the same meaning. As the meal following breakfast, lunch, the more popular term, was considered "a vulgarism or a fashionable affectation," in the early 19th century (from the Oxford English DictionaryH. D. Best Personal & Lit. Mem. 307
The word lunch is adopted in that ‘glass of fashion’, Almacks, and luncheon is avoided as unsuitable to the polished society there exhibited), and still in its salad days if salads hardly made any menus but those of the penniless, but by the end of the century it had gained currency and become the name of the midday meal all English-speakers know today.

photo
The automat case handle (NYPL.org)
photo
The automat case (NYPL.org)
photo
Opening one of the doors, with free
recipes inside (NYPL.org)
There's a little section devoted to the Algonquin Hotel and its legendary "round table," with drawings and photographs of notable attendees, including Alexander Woollacott and Dorothy Parker. There is a section devoted to African American lunchers, with an immense reproduction of a cafeteria packed with black diners. I grew up hearing "Why don't you go sell an apple?" as a snide remark, and the exhibit includes materials, like the poster above, detailing how this was for the most destitute of the destitute in the city (and others), at least temporarily, an employment option. Another wall features archival material and historical documents on dieting, which gained in popularity in the post-World War II era. Not only New York-based magazines, especially those geared towards women, but some restaurants attempted to capitalize on the growing interest in growing thinner and more svelte. At the exhibit's end perch artists' books, which show how great a subject lunch food can be in the right creative hands. Across from it, a multi-screen wall flashes images recent lunch-takers in the city, capturing and underlining the diversity and commonalities that have marked New York mid-day dining habits for nearly two centuries. The exhibit is one of the few free (visual, tactile, intellectual) lunches you can get in New York, and you won't gain a pound enjoying it.

photo
A menu from 1954, I believe (NYPL.org)
photo
Ladies who lunch, in 2012 (NYPL.org)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spring Semester Classes Begin


This post is of zero interest to anyone beyond my students and me, I know, but Spring 2013 semester classes began today, first thing this morning to be exact, and I'm excited about both of them, but especially about my undergraduate literature class, which incorporates some material I've taught before but many new texts as well. That class is officially an English and African American Studies class on The Black Arts Movement, satisfying two distinct registrations (and I thus have two Blackboard sites, which is a little disorienting), and covers not only aspects of the movement itself, but several antecedent moments (The Harlem Renaissance, Négritude, Black American poetry of the 1950s) and successors (a Spike Lee film, Public Enemy's music, and Kia Corthron's play Force Continuum). At the core of the course we'll be delving into a great deal of Amiri BarakI've included a good deal of  scholarly, critical and theoretical material (by figures from Alain Locke and W. E. B. DuBois to more recent scholars and authors like Cheryl Clarke, Howard Rambsy II, Cherise Pollard, and Lorrie Smith, as well as primary), including some primary documents by Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka and others. It's a decent-sized class (anywhere from 18-26 students, depending upon how many stay enrolled, and smaller is always better for the students and their professor) and thus manageable. The second course is one all members of the African American and African Studies teach in rotation, Introduction to African American Studies (Part II), which spans the period from Reconstruction through today, and which draws a pretty sizable enrollment. Right now I have about 45-50 students, but one asked about the amount of reading (up to 200 pages a week, from an array of texts, including historical and critical studies in a range of fields, primary documents by the likes of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and creative works), so perhaps the numbers will slim down by next week. As with my fall classes my students come from a range of backgrounds, though the majority are black (African American, African, Caribbean, mixed race, etc.), latino (many Afro-Latino), and Asian-American (South Asian and East Asian), which I learned quickly lent a very different cast to the conversations we had about the course material. I expect no less this semester. We begin with Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, a book I haven't read in many years, and rereading it in preparation for the class has reminded me why I enjoyed it so years ago, and how rich and complex our history--black history, American history--truly is.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy MLK Jr. Day & Inauguration Day + Inaugural Speech & Poem

What an auspicious day, in an auspicious year! Today, as we honor the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose vision and courage and sacrifice and martyrdom, alongside so many others whose names we know and do not know, made possible the freedoms we enjoy today, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., will be publicly sworn in, for the fourth time, and reinaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America.

President Obama, being sworn in today, January 21, 2013
(Doug Mills/New York Times)

President Obama's second inauguration occurs during 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary year of the March on Washington, which marked one of the most important events in the modern push for equality for African-Americans and all Americans, and one of Rev. Dr. King Jr.'s greatest speeches. How fitting that President Obama was reelected, and that as I write these lines, this country continues to change and improve in ways even I never would have imagined, for the better.

Dr. King, on the Mall, 1963

In honor of Rev. Dr. King, Jr., all the heroines and heroes of our history, and President Obama, I am posting the President's 2nd Inaugural speech, which was so progressive that it probably would have brought tears to Dr. King's eyes and joy and amazement to his heart, and after it the poem that poet Richard Blanco, the first latino, first openly gay and first immigrant inaugural poet, delivered today!

Congratulations to the President and Vice Presidents, their families, our nation, our newest inaugural poet, and here's to the next four years!

***

President Obama, delivering his Second Inaugural Speech
(Chang W. Lee/New York Times)
PRESIDENT OBAMA's SECOND INAUGURAL SPEECH (JANUARY 21, 2013):


MR. OBAMA: Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.
For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
© President Barack H. Obama, Jr.
***

And Richard Blanco's beautiful poem, with its many rhetorical flourishes, including its mention of his father's hard work, its use of repetition, its invocation of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, and final, open-ended and thus echoing conclusion, "together"...:

Richard Blanco, reciting his inaugural poem,
"One Today" (Getty Images)

ONE TODAY

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper —
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers or save lives —
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for 20 years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of 20 children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind — our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me — in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country — all of us —
facing the stars
hope — a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it — together.

Copyright © Richard Blanco, 2013.

UPDATED to reflect the standard version of this poem. The version I originally featured came directly from The New York Times's website.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Poetry Makes Something Happen + Poem: Marianne Moore

"Poetry makes nothing happen," or so writes W. H. Auden in his famous elegy, "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," though he went on to qualify this oft-quoted fragment with a much cannier and profounder understanding of poetry, noting that

                                it survives
     In the valley of its making where executives
     Would never want to tamper, flows on south
     From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
     Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
     A way of happening, a mouth.

That is to say, by its very existence and presence, by our engagement with it, poetry creates a reality--or many, aesthetic, discursive, imaginative, material, social, historical, ontological--that is significant, that does make something "happen," though we usually don't credit it beyond its immediate effects on us as listeners and readers.  Poetry is a "way of happening," a "mouth"--processual, sensuous, truth-telling, connected to the root sources of our understanding of the world--that we would do well to listen to. It is a means of knowledge, sensuous and real even as it foregrounds its artifice. It cannot offer the only truth or means to reality, but it provides one of them. Thus Plato feared it, and Aristotle lauded it. About it "men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there," the speaker in William Carlos Williams's "Asphodel, that Greeny Flower" astutely notes; the "new," the real "news" lies in those "despised poems": the deeper truths, a deeper awareness not just of language, but of the world, the self, ourselves.

But all of this sounds like a poetry advocate trying to make the case for why we ought to read poems. Like lemons for the kidneys, or cucumbers for the skin, or whole oats for digestion, or apples for combatting colds and staying thin, this verges on a prescription, which doesn't make poetry so palatable. Especially because it often seems like it should be simple, but, as the quote from Auden above makes clear, it often isn't. Especially when it is doing the many things poetry can do all at once. What I am saying about poetry, also applies to fiction and other literary forms. For poetry it is language, its use and arrangement, for prose fictional forms it is language and the various tools and techniques of narrative, but in both cases, as well as for related and analogous genres (drama, creative nonfiction, narrative cinema and video, long-form narrative TV, etc.), more goes on that mere entertainment. They are "good" for us, not just in the cathartic sense, as Aristotle suggested, but they have specific effects on the mind that we still have not fully reckoned with.

In the past I have blogged before about psychological and cognitive scientific research showing that fiction can provoke feelings of aggression and empathyfictional narratives create powerful physical virtuality for readers; nonsensical and syntactically difficult texts providing important spurs for thought; mirror neurons are a key factor in our processing embodied reality; embodied cognition is so powerful that our bodies even respond with movement to certain metaphorical cues; poetry itself slows down our eye movements as we read it; and that, at a more holistic level, neuroaesthetics is a growing field, and Nobel laureate Eric Kandel has written an important book about it. I even reviewed James Geary's excellent book on metaphor and how it is considerably more potent on our brains and bodies than most of us imagine. Now comes another article showing the yet more powerful effects of literary texts, or certain ones at least: poetry by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T. S. Eliot, and other canonical Euro-American Anglophone writers.

According to Julie Henry, an education reporter for the Telegraph, Liverpool University literary scholars and cognitive scientists working together have found that poetry and dramatic texts by Shakespeare, Wordsworth and others has "beneficial" effects on the mind, in part because of the complexity of the texts' linguistic organization arrests and holds the reader's attention, even if briefly, provoking self-reflection as a result. As with many of the other studies, the brain researchers used scanning devices to monitor brain activity while conducting a series of tests, and they found that when they presented the test subjects with the poetic and dramatic texts versus more straightforward prose versions, the poetic texts triggered more electrical activity in the brain, particularly when the test subjects encountered "unusual words, surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure."

Yet this temporary electrical activity did persist beyond the initial flicker, leading the subjects to continue reading the texts. Poetry in particular increases activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, Henry states, "an area concerned with 'autobiographical memory,'" suggesting that poems aid readers in thinking about and understanding their own lives in relation to what they have read. One of the researchers, English professor Philip Davis, will reportedly tell a conference this week that "Serious literature acts like a rocket booster to the brain," reorganizing it in vital ways. "[Poetry] is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive." (This appears to be true of fiction as well.) Yet Henry adds that the researchers claim this means that classic literary texts were more valuable than self-help books, though this appears to be a bit of scientism running amok, and she doesn't give evidence for this. Davis's assertion appears to be borne out by many of the studies I point to in the links above, and in overviews by writers like Geary, George Lakoff, Steven Pinker, and others. But what about a self-help book written using the techniques of poetry or fiction, or written as poetry or fiction (cf. Thomas Traherne's deeply meditative work, or John Ashbery's semi-parodic, playful version in Three Poems)? Perhaps the researchers' claims go a bit too far, or are simply not precise enough.

Nevertheless, Henry's article underpins the reality that we ought to read Auden's fragment not just more carfully, but ironically at the very least, for he, like every poet of worth, certainly has been aware, at least at some point regard her or his own poetry, as well as regarding the poetry they admire, that poetry, and literary language and texts more broadly do make things happen, even if not in the immediate sense that some poets--and writers in general--might like. Or that tyrants and philosophers might not. You might even point to one of the world's most poetic books, The Holy Bible, especially the King James version, which, for anyone who has (had to) read it, has decided cognitive effects, sometimes hypnotic, and these cannot all be chalked up merely to social, cultural and sometimes political and economic traditions and contexts. Reading certain sections of the Bible can be entrancing; I would imagine they spark the same sorts of electrical activity, and effects that Davis describes above.

This got me thinking about a poem fragment that Geoffrey Jacques sent in a recent email, which brought back almost immediately thought not with complete clarity the following poem, which I hope some enterprising brain scientist studies in relation to the topic above. If you have never read it, you are in for a treat. Many of the poems I've posted on here would also be worthy of study in this regard, but I am posting this one since Geoffrey cited it and it is does promote a decent amount of mind work. Read it aloud and see if you can do so without stumbling, listening to the words as you do so, before you begin analyzing it, if you can. I can assure you that it's doing something (good) to and for your brain, even if just making you more attentive to words, sounds, and language's power. But of course it's doing far, far more than that. Eliminating the need for self-help texts, analysis and therapy or more, I can't say. But a boost--or several kinds--is occurring.

The poem, a sonnet, by Marianne Moore (1887-1972, and native of Kirkwood, Missouri), "No Swan So Fine":

NO SWAN SO FINE

"No water so still as the
   dead fountains of Versailles." No swan,
with swart blind look askance
and gondoliering legs, so fine
   as the chintz china one with fawn-
brown eyes and toothed gold
collar on to show whose bird it was.

Lodged in the Louis Fifteenth
   candelabrum-tree of cockscomb-
tinted buttons, dahlias,
sea-urchins, and everlastings,
   it perches on the branching foam
of polished sculptured
flowers--at ease and tall. The king is dead.

Copyright © Marianne Moore, from The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore, New York: Penguin Books, 1982. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three From Kluge & Richter in NYRB

Alexander Kluge, Germany's living avatar of analytical fiction (and a cinematic pioneer in the l950s and 1960s), and Gerhard Richter, one of its most important living visual artists, have collaborated on a book entitled December, which Seagull Books, distributed by the University of Chicago Presspublished early last year in English translation. (Seagull posted an pre-publication interview with Kluge  in December 2011.)

There are few fiction writers who can pack as much critical thought into condensed, vivid narration as Kluge, and in December it appears he is still working at at the level of adamantine economy he displayed with prior books such as The Devil's Blind Spot (New Directions, 2004) and Cinema Stories (New Directions, 2007).  The 80-year-old author's 39 calendar-based narratives here, as in prior books dating back to the 1960s, draw from German, European and global histories as well as from his lively imagination, and sometimes run no longer than a page or two, in concert with Richter's 39 beautiful, enigmatic photographs of wintry landscapes.

The Decembers in these stories, however, bear little of the holiday cheer we associate with the winter holidays or the conclusion of the calendar year. Instead, one story--or prose poem, so brief and clipped is its unfolding--concerns German children collecting scrap metal in 1941. What is not said--the fascist state, brutal war, the Holocaust--looms behind this and other narratives, as it does the tranquil but ominous images of nature. A few presents in fictional form realist flashes of Kluge's life; born in 1932 in Halberstadt, in what is now the German state of Saxon-Anhalt (formerly part of East Germany), he likely would experienced circumstances not unlike these. Most, however, transmit the theoretical and emotional clarity that Kluge's work so often offers, whether he's writing about the near death in 1931 of Adolf Hitler or an obscure monk whose sense of time upends our own sense of temporality. Kluge's prose pieces always come pierced, as Rilke might have written, with rays of wisdom and feeling, usually through metaphors and aphorisms, that most other writers would take sentences to achieve.

Last month, The New York Review of Books published three Kluge excerpts, alongside three Richter images. I found myself rereading the Kluge pieces several times despite their brevity, and studying the Richter photographs, which grew more ominous with each view. You can read the pieces at the NYRB link above. (You can download some of his movies here.) Below is one of the photographs. If you were to compose a short prose piece for December to accompany this image, what would it be?

© Gerhard Richter


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Poem/Translation: Xavier Villaurrutia

For a long time I've loved the poetry of Xavier Villaurrutia (1903-1950), one of the greatest poets in Mexican and Latin American literature, and I've read translations of his work that I liked, but I've only tinkered with translating one or two poems of his, publishing none of them on here. Back in September 2005, however, I did publish one of Rachel Benson's translations, of his poem "Love Is an Anguish, A Question," and also posted my typical potted biography of the poet as an introduction.

Recently during this tiny breather between classes I decided to tackle one of his masterpieces that I mentioned in that post, the haunting "Nocturno de Los Ángeles," one of a group of poems in this genre, the "nocturne," that Villaurrutia published in his collection "Nostálgia de Muerte" in 1938. He had previously published an entire collection in 1933 entitled "Nocturnos." This exceptional example of the form is, as you will see, more openly homoerotic than its predecessors, though all of the ones he wrote, as well as many of his other poems, possess a queer thematic undertow.

The very idea of a poem invoking and celebrating the night and nocturnal life suggests and opens up queer possibilities for a gay poet, especially one such as Villaurrutia, who wrote before the more widespread acceptance, in Mexico and elsewhere, of LGBTIQ literature. In the poem "Nocturno," he offers a definition of sorts, beginning "Todo lo que la noche/dibuja con su mano/de sombra;/el placer que revela/el vicio que desnuda" (Everything that the night/draws with its shadowy/hand;/the pleasure it reveals/the ugliness it lays bare." There is Villaurrutia's thematics of the "nocture" in a stanza. Turning darker in tone and imagery towards the end of life, they also point to his chief strategy for revealing and concealing at the same time his interests, as a man and poet, among them an abiding cosmopolitanism, a probing interest in metaphysics and the deeper realities behind and beyond the surface of things, and, rather obviously, queer desire and sociality.

Often in Villaurrutia's poems the rhetoric and discourse cut, at differing angles, through the abstractions; what is not said, "the secret" he broaches below, "shatters" into revelation nevertheless through its presence and invocation. We know it; he chooses to share it with by not sharing it openly. Except below, and in a few other poems. He did not need to hide among his circle of friends, the important group of modernist poets centered in Mexico City, nor was he hiding much when he was translating foreign writers including André Gide and Langston Hughes. His student Octavio Paz, among others, was in on the secret. As all of us who read his poems eventually are.

"Nocturno de Los Ángeles" is one of his most beautiful. It is as strange (with angels, no less) as Rilke, but distinctly Villaurrutia's gem. I recommend reading the English and Spanish aloud, to get the fullest sense of what he's doing. The Spanish, unsurprisingly, casts a greater spell than (my workmanly) English (translation) ever can, at least to my ear. Still, enjoy!

NOCTURNO DE LOS ÁNGELES
to Agustin J. Fink

You could say the streets flow sweetly into the night.
The lights are not so bright that they actually reveal the secret,
the secret that men who come and go know,
because everyone is in on the secret
and nothing would be gained by shattering it
     into a thousand pieces
if, on the one hand, it is so sweet to keep
and share it only with the one you choose.

If each one were to say at a given moment,
in only one word, what he thinks,
the six letters of DESIRE would form
an enormous, luminous scar,
a constellation more ancient, more brilliant
     than any other.
And that constellation would be like a sex organ burning
in the deep body of the night,
or, better, like the Gemini who for the first time
     in their lives
saw themselves brow to brow, eye to eye,
and then took each other in their arms forever.

Suddenly the river of the street peoples with thirsty beings,
they stroll, they pause, they walk on by.
They exchange glances, they dare smiles.
They improbably couple up.

There are shadowy bends and banks,
edges of indefinable and bottomless forms
and sudden blinding shafts of light
and doors that give way to the slightest pressures.

The river of the street stands deserted for a moment.
Soon it seems to rearrange itself by itself
longing to begin again.
For a moment it stays paralyzed, mute, yearning
like the heart between two orgasms.

But a new pulsation, a new beat
casts into the river of the street new thirsty beings.
They cruise, intermingle, lift off.
The fly above the earth.
They swim on foot, so miraculously
that no one would dare to say they were not walking.

They're angels!
They've come down to earth
by invisible ladders.
They come from the sea, that mirror of the sky,
in ships of smoke and shadow,
to find themselves, conjoin themselves with mortals,
to surrender their brows to the thighs of women,
let others feverishly caress their bodies,
as other bodies search for theirs until they find them
as they find them when closing
their lips on the same mouth,
wearing out their mouths unused for so long,
setting free their tongues of flame,
chanting the songs, the pledges and the cursewords
in which men concentrate the ancient mystery
of flesh, blood and desire.

They take assumed names, divinely simple.
They call themselves Dick or John, or Marvin or Louis.
In no way way beyond their beauty can they be
    distinguished from mortals.
They stroll, they pause, they walk on by.
They exchange glances, they dare smiles.
They improbably couple up.

They smile maliciously ascending
the hotel elevators
where they can still practice slow and vertical flight.
On their nude bodies are heavenly marks--
signs, stars, blue tattooed letters.
They fall back into bed, drown themselves in pillows
that make them recall, for a moment, the clouds. 
But they close their eyes in order to give themselves up
to the pleasures of their mysterious incarnations,
and, when they sleep, they dream of mortals, not angels.

Los Angeles, California

Copyright © Estate of Xavier Villarrutia. All rights reserved.
Copyright © Translation by John Keene, 2013.


NOCTURNO DE LOS ÁNGELES
a Agustín J. Fink

Se diría que las calles fluyen dulcemente en la noche.
Las luces no son tan vivas que logren desvelar el secreto,
el secreto que los hombres que van y vienen conocen,
porque todos están en el secreto
y nada se ganaría con partirlo en mil pedazos
si, por el contrario, es tan dulce guardarlo
y compartirlo sólo con la persona elegida.

Si cada uno dijera en un momento dado,
en sólo una palabra, lo que piensa,
las cinco letras del DESEO formarían una enorme
      cicatriz luminosa,
una constelación más antigua, más viva aún que las otras.
Y esa constelación sería como un ardiente sexo
en el profundo cuerpo de la noche,
o, mejor, como los Gemelos que por vez primera en la vida
se miraran de frente, a los ojos, y se abrazaran
      ya para siempre.

De pronto el río de la calle se puebla de sedientos seres,
caminan, se detienen, prosiguen.
Cambian miradas, atreven sonrisas,
forman imprevistas parejas...

Hay recodos y bancos de sombra,
orillas de indefinibles formas profundas
y súbitos huecos de luz que ciega
y puertas que ceden a la presión más leve.

El río de la calle queda desierto un instante.
Luego parece remontar de sí mismo
deseoso de volver a empezar.
Queda un momento paralizado, mudo, anhelante
como el corazón entre dos espasmos.

Pero una nueva pulsación, un nuevo latido
arroja al río de la calle nuevos sedientos seres.
Se cruzan, se entrecruzan y suben.
Vuelan a ras de tierra.
Nadan de pie, tan milagrosamente
que nadie se atrevería a decir que no caminan.

¡Son los ángeles!
Han bajado a la tierra
por invisibles escalas.
Vienen del mar, que es el espejo del cielo,
en barcos de humo y sombra,
a fundirse y confundirse con los mortales,
a rendir sus frentes en los muslos de las mujeres,
a dejar que otras manos palpen sus cuerpos febrilmente,
y que otros cuerpos busquen los suyos hasta encontrarlos
como se encuentran al cerrarse los labios de una misma boca,
a fatigar su boca tanto tiempo inactiva,
a poner en libertad sus lenguas de fuego,
a decir las canciones, los juramentos, las malas palabras
en que los hombres concentran el antiguo misterio
de la carne, la sangre y el deseo.
Tienen nombres supuestos, divinamente sencillos.
Se llaman Dick o John, o Marvin o Louis.
En nada sino en la belleza se distinguen de los mortales.
Caminan, se detienen, prosiguen.
Cambian miradas, atreven sonrisas.
Forman imprevistas parejas.

Sonríen maliciosamente al subir en los ascensores de los hoteles
donde aún se practica el vuelo lento y vertical.
En sus cuerpos desnudos hay huellas celestiales;
signos, estrellas y letras azules.
Se dejan caer en las camas, se hunden en las almohadas
que los hacen pensar todavía un momento en las nubes.
Pero cierran los ojos para entregarse mejor a los goces
     de su encarnación misteriosa,
y, cuando duermen, sueñan no con los ángeles sino con los mortales.

Los Angeles, California

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"The Black Female Body in Art" Panel at the Brooklyn Museum

"How has the black female body been idealized and misread in visual culture?" And: "How might these tendencies affect black women today?"

Tisa Bryant, Isolde Brielmaier, Deborah Willis, and Carla Williams
Tisa Bryant, Isolde Brielmeier, Deborah Willis, Carla Williams
These were just two of the many provocative questions posed yesterday at a Brooklyn Museum of Art panel discussion entitled "The Black Female Body in Art," which took place in conjunction with the museum's superb current exhibit, Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe. The exhibit, featuring a range of Thomas's (1971-) current work, includes a mural, large scale paintings, smaller mixed-media works, photographs, a room-sized multi-part installation, and a video, and is located in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, on the museum's 4th floor. It runs through January 20, 2012. The panel comprised four distinguished participants, each of whom brought distinctive perspectives to their viewings of and discussions on Thomas's work, and on the broader topic: visual artist, photographer, curator, historian, and NYU professor Deborah WillisIsolde Brielmaier, Chief Curator at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar; Carla Williams, coauthor of The Black Female Body: A Photographic History; and my very good friend, writer, art and cultural critic and CalArts professor Tisa Bryant.

The conversation, which ran for about 2 hours, somewhat skirted the very open-ended questions I noted above, yet did provide insightful context for and readings of Mickalene Thomas's show, and of topics and themes related to and deriving out of it. One of the issues the panel spoke about involved Thomas's revisioning and reappropriation of imagery from the European art historical tradition. The very title of her show, "The Origin of the Universe," derives from Gustave Courbet's controversial 1866 painting of a nude, head-and-limb-obscured white woman's genitalia, "L'origine du monde," though as Tisa and other panelists queried, what happens when the artwork and the gaze implicit in it is a woman's, a lesbian's, a black woman's, a black lesbian's (and Thomas is a black lesbian) how does that resituate the image, as well as its relation to Courbet's image? (No one noted that Courbet was a committed ideological and political leader of the French avant-garde, and how that underpinned the vision, gaze and gestures implicit in his work, including this one.) Moreover, Tisa pointed out the metonymic resonances in Thomas work, among them black physicality, sensuality, reproductive agency and power, and an invocation of Lucy/Dinknesh, the first human mother/female ancestor. (Other figures Thomas riffs on, directly in terms of images and styles, include Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and David Hockney, though I also saw a bit of Richard Diebenkorn, the Cubists, and Romare Bearden in her collagistic compositions.)

"Déjeuner sur l'herbe" @ Mickalene Thomas show, Brooklyn Museum
Mickalene Thomas's "“Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires, Fractured” (2011),
a direct riff on Edouard Manet's "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe"
Some other topics I'm still thinking about include Carla Williams's point about the specifics of Thomas's technique and images, and how, despite the artist's direct engagement with the Euro-American (male) artistic past, one could come to and connect with them without "the history of [Euro-American] art," in part because of their rich, bedazzled surfaces, their inviting and provocative imagery, and the personal histories a viewer, especially a black female viewer, might bring. (I thought as well of Kehinde Wiley, Thomas's contemporary, and his use and appropriation of Renaissance iconography, as well as of predecessors like Robert Colescott and Bob Thompson, just to name a few.) For Tisa, the "bling" of the rhinestones--one of the most arresting aspects of Thomas's work, from a distance and up close--brought to mind associations such as the celestial, cosmology, stars and the star system (of mass culture, the art world, etc.), high and low culture, the earthly and the heavenly. "What shines?" she asked aloud, much as the paintings ask us as we look at them. Mouths, eyes and eyelids, sometimes jewelry, areola, fleshly contours, pubic hair and genitalia: what happens when Thomas focuses our gaze on these aspects of her paintings? Where is the feminine, the queer gaze, and how is she activating it? (My question.)

The topic of black woman's gazes, and black women looking at, seeing, and painting/creating artwork about and for each other, arose several times, including when Deborah Willis asked Tisa specifically about the "diaristic" aspect of the work. Isolde Brielmeier had just noted the "multiple directionality of the gaze," echoing Thomas's own comments, the many "points of entry," the queerness of looking. For Tisa, in the installations was where "subjectivity was most palpable." Carla Williams added that Thomas was one of only a few very well-known and high profile contemporary out black queer female artists, which made even more significant the ways in which she was changing "iconography." I thought about this and about what it means for a black queer woman, especially in an art world that continues to be dominated by white male artists, and which primarily has elevated black male (straight and queer) artists while overlooking many black women, to portray one's mother, one's female friends, one's female lovers, as subjects and objects of love, desire, fantasy, beauty--and manage to shift viewer's expectations, while also not losing your own focus.  This issue of looking led Tisa to note the presence of mirrors in Thomas's work--calling to mind Oshun, among others--and the concept of women, regular women, as sources of inspiration, as "muses," to use Willis term and an idea long known to male artists. As Tisa asked, "Who do we look at?" In Thomas's work, "reverb(erations)"--reappropriations, repurposings, revisionings--she answered, are taking place.

The panel @ Mickalene Thomas show, Brooklyn Museum
The panelists before one of the many evocative images
that accompanied their conversation

Chris Stackhouse's Book Launch @ This Red Door

Plural, artist, critic and poet Chris Stackhouse's first collection of poetry, is now out from Counterpath (November 2012), and tonight he launched the book at This Red Door, the experimental arts collaborative, now running for a rich and exciting month at Kunsthalle Galapagos, in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Chris's book encompasses his interests in visual art and theory, engaging with the likes of John Cage, Alain Badiou, Barnett Newman, Beauford Delaney, and many other mages, as well as deeply personal poems that conjure daily life in Brooklyn. It also includes one  in the lyric genre that famous so confounded the critic Joan Houlihan she had to call it out online.

As part of the launch Chris invited a number of friends--artists, poets and writers in other genres, filmmakers--to read from the book after he did, and to read other poems or texts they brought, if they so choose. Below are some photos from the event. You can purchase a copy of Plural here, on SPD's site, or here, directly from Counterpath.

The author himself, Chris Stackhouse
Chris Stackhouse reading (Zane Stackhouse behind him)
The crowd before the event
The crowd gathering, before the event
Jomar Statkun introducing the readings at Chris Stackhouse book launch, This Red Door
Jomar Statkun introducing the event
Jared Friedman at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Jared Friedman reading
Zane Stackhouse reading at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Zane Stackhouse reading
Tonya Foster at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Tonya Foster reading
Aram Jibilian reading at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Aram Jibilian reading
Tisa Bryant reading at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Tisa Bryant reading
George Positive reading at Chris Stackhouse book launch
George Positive reading
Panoramic photo of final reading at Chris Stackhouse book launch
Panoramic photo of final reading, by Robert Galinsky, at photo's center
Group photo!
Group photo (Chris, Erica Doyle, Tyehimba Jess, Tisa, me, Tonya)