Wednesday, December 22, 2021

First Reviews Are (Coming) In for Punks

Punks has been out roughly two and a half weeks, but it has begun to receive some very good, thoughtful reviews. They include 

If you had asked me back in January or June what I thought might be the response, I'd probably have said I'd be happy if it sold through the first printing. This isn't false modesty but my earnest acknowledgement of the (years') long and arduous process it took for this book to make it into print. As it also turns out, however, it is Small Press Distributor's BEST SELLER for the month of November! Many thanks to all of the publications, reviewers and readers so far!

Please consider purchasing a copy ($20), from The Song Cave (it ships internationally too) or other retailers, and do recommend it to others if you think they might be interested and ask your local bookstores and libraries to order copies if you can! 

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Punks' Official Debut

It's official! Punks, my new book of poems is officially in the world! You can order a copy directly from my publisher The Song Cave, via Small Press Distributors, and from bookstores (such as Barnes & Noble to, etc., as well as the behemoth) around the country!

This collection, which includes a selection of collaborative poems with the late poet Cynthia Gray, experienced many false starts over the years on the way to publication, but once I connected with The Song Cave editors, talented poets in their own right Alan Felsenthal and Ben Estes, Punks was on the road to publication!

Please consider ordering a copy or at least urging your local bookstores--very important to support them--and your local libraries to order copies if you can. If copies are in bookstores people will see them and consider buying them and if libraries purchase them far more people have the opportunity to read them!

Many thanks to everyone who helped me and this book along the way, and enjoy! 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Abdulrazak Gurnah Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Abdulrazak Gurnah on Gravel Heart

I haven't blogged much this year, for a variety of reasons, but I did want to post a brief item about this year's Nobel Laureate in Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah. A native of Zanzibar (now a constituent part of Tanzania) who emigrated to the UK in his teens, Gurnah (1948-) is a fiction writer, critic and emeritus professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent. The Swedish Academy praised Gurnah for his "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fates of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents," which is an excellent and concisely encompassing description of Gurnah's short fiction and ten novels, which include his debut, Memory of Departure (1987), the highly acclaimed Paradise (1994), By the Sea, which was listed for the Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Book Prize), Desertion (2005), and his most recent, Afterlives (2020). 

In being named Nobel Laureate last week Gurnah becomes the first Black Nobelist in Literature of the 21st century, the Black literature prize winner first since Toni Morrison in 1993, and only the sixth African writer over all to receive the Literature Prize. He also is the first ever native of what is now Tanzania to receive a Nobel Prize. Congratulations, Abdulrazak Gurnah!

As some J's Theater readers may recall, in the lead-up to each year's Nobel Prize in Literature I used to post my thoughts, speculations, critiques, etc., but after the award to Bob Dylan back in 2016 and the scandals that led to the temporary cessation of the award a few years later, I thought to myself, why bother? Clearly the Academy, which was and perhaps still riven by internal issues, remains Eurocentric in its outlook, has made some dodgy selections in recent years (cf. the last two laureates (2019 and 2020)), is determined to go its own route, whatever the damage the public's feelings about its legitimacy and judgment. 

The Gurnah choice seems like a very good decision on the merits and in light of the recent flubs, and while there are numerous other figures, not least Ngugi wa Thiong'o, whom I might have selected first, I believe Gurnah is an important and vital writer and critic--one of the greatest of his generation--and gilds the Nobel Prize with his receipt of this international honor.

More writeups about Gurnah's Nobel honor:

Guardian UK: Abdulrazak Gurnah wins the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature

NY Times: Abdulrazak Gurnah is awarded the Nobel Prize in literature

All Africa: Tanzania: Nobel Prize Winner Abdulrazak Gurnah: An Introduction to the Man and his Writing

PBS: Watch Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel Prize in literature

The Standard: Gurnah's win of the Nobel Prize raises hope for African writers

Publishers Weekly: Abdulrazak wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature

Cape Talk/MSN: Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah opens up about his books and 2021 Nobel Prize win

Brittle Paper: 10 novels by Abdulrazak Gurnah

The Complete Review's writeup on Abdulrazak Gurnah's Nobel Prize

Friday, September 24, 2021

Translation: Jesús Cos Causse (on's Poem-a-Day)

Today, thanks to poet, translator and critic Rosa Alcalá, who curated the poems appearing on The Academy of American Poets' September "Poem-a-Day" roster, you can read my translation of the late and truly great Afro-Cuban poet Jesús Cos Causse's poem "Mirando Fotos," or "Looking at Photos." 

I will say as little as possible here, beyond thanking Rosa, as well as Kristin DykstraHerbert Rogers and Prof. Jerome Branche, who were invaluable in helping me get in touch with Cos Causse's son Camilo, who provided permission to run the translation, and to MR Daniel, who sent me the poem many years ago (2007), and which I posted on this blog.

It took me 14 years but finally, here is the translation, with short notes about the poem itself and about Cos Causse, as well as me reading it in both English and Spanish (forgive me, Spanish speakers).  

You can find all of this at the link above or here.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

16th Blogiversary

The Translation Project's Black
History Month tweet, from February 21, 2021,
 highlighting my essay "Translating Poetry,
Translating Blackness"

Happy Black History Month and Happy Almost-End-of-February 2021. We are almost a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has been over a year since I posted on this blog. It sometimes amazes me that more than a decade and a half has passed since I first began blogging, back in 2005, during what was a decidedly different time in the online world. Social media platforms as we know them barely existed; blogging was still a somewhat new and exciting activity, though the bloggers who inspired me had been blogging for several years; and people read and commented on blogs, including this one. I have over 2,000 non-spam comments attesting to that. 

16 years later, blogs and blogging do still exist, and the term "the blogs" is often bandied about on reality shows as a catch-all for any site, blog or not. This is the case despite that period perhaps ten years ago when some in the media trumpeted blogging's demise, and despite the proliferation of quasi-blog-like sites, like Tumblr and Instagram, the former of which has done away with words altogether, and both of which are now part of many peoples' daily consumption, even if blogs as they once existed--as they existed in 2005--seldom are. I won't rehearse my blogging history, which is available via a search of this prior blogiversary posts on blog (I started off blogging about poetry and the arts, etc.), but blogging here was, at least for that first year, and certainly for the next decade or so, a vital experience for pondering the sometimes imponderable, conveying some of my enthusiasms and interests, especially across the arts, posting translations, sharing photographs (from daily life, events I attended, my random walks through NYC, Chicago and elsewhere), and just having a scratchpad to play, in written form.

Things began to change demonstrably, I think, in 2014-2015 when I began chairing a department. My free time increasingly disappeared, which meant that that I had to rearrange my priorities, with some things suffering more than others, among them blogging. (A colleague queried whether I had In 2013, my second year at Rutgers-Newark (I was acting chair for part of that year) I blogged 140 times; by 2014 it had fallen to 59. I made an effort over the next few years to blog a bit more and got up to 78 and 71 blog posts, successively, in 2015 and 2016, but my entries plummeted in 2017. In 2018, I again made a strong push to blog, and nearly reached 100 posts, but most of them that year appeared during National Poetry Month, and by the end of the year, I was down to a 1-a-month trickle. Two years ago I only managed six posts, a miracle I sometimes think, in that I had one of my busiest and most draining years in academe, and I think I consciously tried to post something, though the results were, as the total underscores, paltry. 

This past year, the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still very much with us, didn't result in a flood of posts, but rather a feeling of PTSD-style wordlessness, at least in terms of blogging, that I am still trying to process. I had a few blog stubs I began, and I will try to finish some of them, even if they consist mostly of links and images, but I also feel like the silence--the absence of posts--is testimony to what has transpired over these last 17 months (since February of 2020). Most of the people who were blogging when I began or who started during the last 16 no longer do so, at least regularly, though Gukira bucks that trend, with entries that are always rich, subtle, lyrical, and distinctive, however brief. This month he continues his readings of Dionne Brand's remarkable 2018 collection The Blue Clerk. I keep thinking that I will again be able to find the time and focus to blog, but I also increasingly feel, as I pointed out in a blog several years back, reading itself appears  fallen by the wayside, and videos, whether on Youtube or IG's stories--which Facebook, tellingly, has adopted, even though it owns Instagram--or TikTok, accompanied by music and each with its own distinctive set of active participants, have become increasingly predominant, so perhaps even occasional posts, as loose and free as possible, might be the thing to aim for.

One of the many types of blog posts I tried to include over the years entailed reviews, of films, series videos, and books of course, and I feel proudest of some of those, which still hold up. One of my most read posts (4,100 views) is a short review of Christopher Honoré's 2010 feature film Homme au bain, starring the writer Dennis Cooper and the porn star François Sagat. Perhaps its stars drew more readers than most of my other posts, though I think it provided a helpful introduction to the film, the best I have seen by Honoré. I also have been able to write about more recent offerings like Terence Nance's 2018 Afrofuturist masterpiece series Random Acts of Flyness (one of the strangest and most original things I have ever seen on TV), Boots Riley's 2018 film Sorry to Bother You (I dream of more films like this!), and John Trengove's 2018 film Inxeba (Wound), which also spurred a series of typically, thoughtfully dazzling responses from Gukira (Ke'guro). One of my favorite films, which I haven't seen in years, is Tsai Ming-Liang's slow, astonishing Goodbye, Dragon Inn. I remember watching it and thinking, the viewership for a film like this is probably very small, but I most certainly am one of those cineastic people, yet in reviewing it, I tried to make it legible for a wider array of potential viewers. Perhaps if and when I find the opportunity I'll try a few more reviews this year, so keep an eye out.

I'll wind down here, and say that I feel like I've accomplished something just by posting something on this blog today. (I also deleted a slew of spam comments, which also felt like an achievement!) I am still chairing and teaching (including a graduate novel workshop this semester) and supervising theses, all via Zoom (like everyone else), every day of every week feels even more busy than usual (each seems to be triple-booked at a minimum in terms of Zoom meetings, calls, etc.), and my stack of required reading grows and grows, but it feels invigorating even to have gotten this far in this post. It is here. It is done. & I am going to try to post more.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year (2021)!

At the Oculus, WTC, NYC
May this year bring us all much better tidings than the relentless, Covid-19-ridden horrorshow of 2020! Health, prosperity, healing, hope, love & real change!

Happy New Year!

Feliz año nuevo
Feliz Ano Novo
Bonne année
Buon Anno e tanti auguri
Kull 'aam wa-antum bikhayr
Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv
Na MwakaMweru wi Gikeno
Feliĉan novan jaron
聖誕快樂 新年快樂 [圣诞快乐 新年快乐]
Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mise duit
Nava Varsh Ki Haardik Shubh Kaamnaayen
Ein gesundes neues Jahr
Mwaka Mwena
Pudhu Varusha Vaazhthukkal
Afe nhyia pa
Ufaaveri aa ahareh
Er sala we pîroz be
سال نو
С наступающим Новым Годом
šťastný nový rok
Manigong Bagong Taon sa inyong lahat
Feliç Any Nou
Yeni yılınızı kutlar, sağlık ve başarılar dileriz
نايا سال مبارک هو
Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Chronia polla
Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Kia pai te Tau Hou e heke mai nei
Shinnen omedeto goziamasu (クリスマスと新年おめでとうございます)
IHozhi Naghai
a manuia le Tausaga Fou
Paglaun Ukiutchiaq
Naya Saal Mubarak Ho

(International greetings courtesy of Omniglot and Jennifer's Polyglot Links; please note a few of the phrases may also contain Christmas greetings)