Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Words" on Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day

Today Twitter (naturally) brought some very good news: one of my poems, "Words," which the brilliant poet and critic Dawn Lundy Martin selected for the Academy of American Poet's "poem-a-day,was featured today on the last day in February and thus Black History Month. Many, many thanks to Dawn for contacting me about new poems, and thanks also to Mary Gannon and Maya Phillips at the Academy of American Poets for their work in publishing it on the site!

Though I have been writing and publishing poems for over 25 years, and though I have several books of poetry (two in collaboration with wonderful artists), I have never had any of my poetry featured on any of the US's major poetry organization sites (beyond Cave Canem). Essays? Yes. Biographical notes? Yes. References to my fiction? Yes. But poetry? No such luck. So this is a first and again, many thanks to Dawn, Mary and Maya.

The Academy's site also includes an audio track of me reading the poem, and my brief statement about it:

“I initially conceived this poem while participating in the Vulnerable Rumble, an amazing reading-performance organized by Laura Goldstein, Jennifer Karmin, and Laura Mullen, as part of the Red Rover Series at OuterSpace Studios in Chicago in January 2014. In the midst of the excellent poetry everyone was reading, I thought carefully about where the United States was in 2014 and where we might be heading. I started to mull over how we have been struggling to communicate with and understand one another—even at the level of basic language and art-making. We have misvalued and disvalued the power of words and their social, political, and economic meanings and effects. From this kernel I drafted the poem and, learning quite a bit from an Italian translator’s attempts to wrangle it into that language, I have revised it over the last couple of years.”

It feels especially appropriate for where we are today. I should add that the Vulnerable Rumble ranks amongthe most singular and thrilling readings I have ever participated in, and I wrote it up on this blog shortly after participating. I highly recommend that post and will share this paragraph:

Indication by raising the hand or shaking one's head. Duets and choral readings. Self-halting and disabling. Strategies to encourage reader time. Failure. What principles, and I say that without irony. Oh, if only more poets would internalize many of these! What became clear as the evening proceeded was that many of us did, and rather quickly; there were some who read briefly, some who leapt in and then out, some who paired up more than once but never too long, some who added a theatrical or performative element to change the reading dynamics, and a few who seemed to step right back into the usual holding-of-the-floor at length, as if any other approach would not do. But, as Jennifer [Karmin] said and underlined, even failure at these "codes" was acceptable, so anything went.
Out of that event came "Words"--and more.

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