Saturday, March 30, 2019

My Appearance on State of the Arts NJ

Last fall, Susan Wallner of the wonderful TV program State of the Arts New Jersey contacted me about possibly producing a short clip about my work and me. I am always a bit wary about such efforts, as I would always rather have my work do the speaking for me, but since there was a possibility that SOANJ would feature my students, teaching and Rutgers-Newark, I thought I'd go along with it. The filming occurred in early November, and again in late February, and I can say without hesitation that Susan and her crew were a pleasure to work with, from start to finish.

Many, many thanks to them and everyone at State of the Arts New Jersey who made this possible. Many thanks also to superb critic and writer Julian Lucas, and to Poet Laureate of the US, Princeton professor, poet extraordinaire, and my former Dark Room Collective compatriot Tracy K. Smith for their kind, insightful comments on my work and me. Also a very hearty thank you to my MFA students, who agreed to be filmed, and sparkled (as they always do) on camera, and to everyone at Rutgers-Newark who greenlighted the filming. 

I am so shy and self-conscious I could not initially bear to look at it (I needed but did not get a haircut before the February filming), but C told me it came out very well, and pointed out that Susan and her team had even threaded a Bob Cole tune through the video, a lovely touch, of course, and tribute to one of the artistic figures I explore in Counternarratives. The show aired last week, and though we've been DVRing the episodes and keeping an eye out for it, we also missed its debut airing! Here, for those who do not regularly watch State of the Arts New Jersey, is the short video. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

14th Blogiversary

Photo by Lamont Hamilton

Fourteen years ago, on February 27, 2005, I began blogging at J's Theater. I was regularly reading the blogs of friends and writers, artists, political commentators, and others I'd never met but felt a desire to be in conversation with, and so I started this blog. I viewed it as a creative and cultural space, with far less emphasis on politics and responsive to the news cycle--which has sped up incalculably more these days now that Facebook and Twitter have taken off--than it has assumed at various points. More than anything, however I wanted it to be a site where I could try thoughts and ideas out, imperfect as they might be, without the usual concern of perfection or even the struggle, customary as well, to get them into print. (My entire writing career has entailed a struggle to get my work into print.)

From writing about poetry and poets, like Jay Wright, as I did in my first post, to my life and experiences at the university (which has become a new university over the years I've blogged), to reviews of books and films, to snippets about Black history, art and culture, and history, art and culture over all, to translations from Portuguese, Spanish, French, and, I sometimes am amazed to admit, Dutch and German, to posts about rugby, track and field and other less popular (in the US imagination, at least) sports, my iPhone and iPad sketches, and on and on, J's Theater has provided an ideal space for me to explore, (mostly--haha!) pressure-free, as I see fit. It also has served as a site of documentation at times for cultural activities, and especially was so during my decade in Chicago, which wasn't even a decade ago but feels like a lifetime has passed between then and now.

I've repeatedly debated whether to keep blogging or to quit. One great frustration after the earliest years (2005-2008 or so) was the sharp drop off in comments, which were for a while replaced by spam, which disappeared (thanks, Blogger?), only to reappear in recent years with a vengeance. It thankfully is very easy to delete these days, but that requires its own dedicated attention. Far more pressing were my academic responsibilities, which have grown to include 12-month administrative duties that devour more mental space and energy than I ever imagined. I don't think it's any surprise that before this year, 2014, the first year I became a department chair (acting during that year) and 2017, just before my last sabbatical, saw the fewest posts. It was not for lack of interest, but time and vigor.

Not so long ago, we were told that blogging was dead. No one blogged, everyone had moved to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. And Tumblr, which was and is a blogging platform that in essence mostly deprioritized words. (It also has banned not just pornography, but nudity in general, that's another matter.) And Instagram, which is all pictures (for the most part). And Snapchat, of course. Now there's Tiktok, and other walled gardens. One thing I loved and still do about blogging (though to its credit, Twitter also is almost fully public) via Blogger, WordPress and similar sites is that whatever you published was and remains visible to all; a private company does own this platform, but the blog remains more a public square-style venue than many other options out there. For good and ill, of course. The dazzlingly brilliant Kegur'o M, who continues to blog at Gukira: Without Predicates, is a stellar example of the good that can come from a blogger at the top of their game.

But that public aspect is one that I cherish, and one reason I hope to continue blogging. I also wish some of my old blogging friends, many listed on the blogroll to the right, and other bloggers I never interacted with but who've given up blogging, would start up again. No shade against Medium, but before ideas are fully polished, why not bounce them off readers on a blog? You can always--well, so far--revise as you go.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Random Photos

It has been a while since I posted anything beyond holiday greetings; the end of last year was particularly busy and the new one is turning out to be even more so. Nevertheless, here are some photos from the end of 2018, and, I hope, a sign of more new posts to come.

"Little Favela": Graffiti on a construction barrier
 surrounding part of NYU's campus,
Silver Towers in the background
In the downstairs sanctum (I got permission before taking the photos)
at James Laughlin's home in Norfolk, CT, with first
editions of countless New Directions Books
(Daniel Javitch, a longtime NYU professor and Laughlin's
son-in-law, is the on the right)
"All Those Ships That Never Sailed," one of
my favorite Bob Kaufman poems, which I recited
many years ago at a remarkable tribute to Kaufman
that the Dark Room Collective held for him in
Cambridge; this was the first poem he recited
after ending his multiyear vow of silence
"My heart is in my / pocket
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy,
from Frank O'Hara, "A Step Away
from Them," Lunch Poem (New
Directions, 1954)--probably the
edition depicted here
The beautiful Norfolk, CT public library's interior
The Richardsonian Romanesque exterior of the
Norfolk Public Library
Construction in Jersey City, or Can They
Fit Yet Another Glass Tower into a Tiny Footprint?
At Newark Airport (when the metaphor
becomes the objective correlative, just saying)
On the campus of the University of Virginia,
where I read in the fall, and where I spent
two eventful years in the early 1990s
Workers spiffing up the walkway
on the Lawn dorms, University of Virginia
Updating the Lawn walkways to make them
disability-compliant
The walkway into my former workplace
building at U.Va., Bryant Hall (the English
Department has since moved to a newer,
larger building)
The rear of Bryant Hall, where, on my first day back in 1993,
the professor in the office next to mine learned I was
the new employee and loudly proclaimed, "It's Hell!"
There are signs and warnings that we should always
pay attention to, and that most certainly is one....
A fascinating exhibit on a historical homesite owned by
free African Americans in the very area near where
part of U.Va.'s campus now sits
More images from the exhibit about this
free Black family
Artifacts from the era
More about the history of the area,
racial relations, and the University of
Virginia in the exhibit, U.Va.
Sculpture in front of the New Orleans
Museum of Art
Mercer Street, West Village
Workers, at night
Manhattan
The fields and treeline near
Meadow House, James Laughlin's
estate, in Norfolk, CT
through a windowscreen
At the new World Trade Center
 stop on the 1 (I think), with its graphic
white wall
A talk at the New Orleans Museum of Art,
during the ASAP/10 Conference, New Orleans
One of the striking art works on exhibit,
"Eleventh," 2018, by Lina Iris Viktor, 24 carat gold,
acrylic, ink, gouache, copolymer resin,
print on matte canvas,
New Orleans Museum of Art
With my formers Northwestern colleagues, Brian
Edwards, now a dean at LSU, and Andrew Leong,
now at the University of California-Berkeley
Some of the books on display at the
ASAP Conference
Daphne Brooks delivering her keynote
at the ASAP Conference in New Orleans
In Brooklyn, near Pratt Institiute
C, in Manhattan
Outside the Leslie-Lohman Gallery,
SoHo
The Trump balloon sculpture at the Downtown for
Democracy Protest Factory event, at
Jeffrey Deitch in SoHo

Dale Peck, reading at the Downtown for
Democracy Protest Factory event he organized, at
Jeffrey Deitch in SoHo
The deflated Trump balloon
Remember the 2018 elections?
They turned out pretty well,
all things considered.
Tisa Bryant, delivering the Leslie Scalapino Lecture
in Innovative Poetics, "In Search of a Free
State: Black Womanhood in the Archive
of Dreams," at Pratt Institute

At the University of Iowa, participating
in a conversation on translation with Bruna
Dantas Lobato and Katrina Dodson
(amazing translators!)
So bizarre; New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was on
my flight to Newark but it turned out she was headed
to Anaheim (or somewhere near there in southern California),
yet for some strange reason she was allowed to
board our plane, and had to be escorted off when
she realized she was headed in the wrong,
completely opposition direction
Eric M. B. Becker of Words Without Borders
in conversation with Brazilian journalist Isabel Lucas
on her multi-genre book Journey to the Heart
of the American Dream: America By the Book
at the Pessoa International Festival, NYC
Signing the Swedish contract for
Counternarratives (the translation
will soon be done!)
At the Fire Ball 2018: "Wakanda Forever," in Newark

On the 1 Train, with a "Respect" sign
honoring Aretha Franklin, at Franklin Street
With the fellows in the 2018-19 Lower Manhattan
Cultural Council program, where I gave a talk
on the Emotional Outreach Project
In the studio of the one of the artists
n the Lower Manhattan
Cultural Council's fellowship program
The Oculus and atrium,
at the World Trade Center, NYC
Lower Manhattan, with One World Trade Center,
with seagulls in the foreground, in Hoboken
Robert DeNiro, introducing Angie
Thomas's The Hate U Give
People feeding the gulls and other seabirds,
at the Hoboken Station



A homeless encampment (under that black
cloth), downtown Jersey City
(luxury towers are just steps away)
Late winter Washington Square Park
piano performance
Scrumptious homemade butternut
squash soup (with lots of grated cheese!)
for cold December
C making pasta at home (it
was absolutely delicious)