Sunday, February 27, 2022

Cave Canem's Tribute to Russell Atkins

This afternoon Cave Canem hosted a celebration for the great 20th century African American poet Russell Atkins, who had turned 96 just a few days earlier (February 25), and who wonderfully was able to be present, via Zoom, to experience the tribute to and for him. Hosted by Cave Canem's own Dante Micheaux, a gifted poet in his own right, the event featured thrilling readings and performances by Julie Ezelle Patton, Janice Lowe (who read one of Atkins's seemingly unvocalizable poems in marvelous, enthralling fashion), Daniel Gray-Konter, and Milena Gilgić, the first three of whom are, like Atkins, native Clevelanders, and all of whom were able, in various ways, to convey Atkins's profound originality and his abiding influence on their own work.  It would not incorrect to say that Atkins is one of the most important Black experimental writers of his generation and of the last 100 years, and yet his work remains far too little acknowledged. One of the highlights of the event was seeing Atkins onscreen and witnessing him wave and acknowledge all present.

Russell Atkins, 96 and watching
via Zoom

From Cave Canem's press release: 

Russell Atkins’ collections of poetry include the chapbooks and small-press books A Podium Presentation (1960), Phenlomena (1961), Objects (1963), Objects 2 (1964), Heretofore (1968), The Nail, to Be Set to Music (1970), Maleficium (1971), and Whichever (1978). He also wrote two verse-plays or “poems in play forms”: The Abortionist and The Corpse, both published in Free Lance. His only full-length collection, Here in The (1976), was published by the Cleveland State Poetry Center. Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master (2013), was edited by Kevin Prufer and Michael Dumanis, and included a large selection of Atkins’ previously published work and essays from poets on his continuing influence. World’d Too Much: Selected Poems of Russell Atkins, edited by Kevin Prufer and Robert E. McDonough, was published in 2019.

Some screen captures from the event:

Host Dante Micheaux, with the sign-
language interpreters

The wall of attendees

Russell Atkins

Saturday, February 26, 2022

17th Blogiversary

Somehow, some way, I've made it to 17 years on here. Barely. As post tallies from the last several--7 especially--years have demonstrated, my blogging has dwindled almost to nil, but this period has coincided first with my increasing university workload--I have been a department chair or acting chair now for roughly 8 years, among all of my other duties--alongside all the life itself, so blogging has taken a back seat to all else. 

From 2005 or so, during a trip to DR

When I think back on those early years, which were certainly quite full with teaching, mentoring, writing, some administration, and commuting (between New Jersey and Chicago, for ten straight years!), I fill with amazement that I blogged as frequently as I did. There were, of course, days I missed, but I believe I set for myself the task--the regimen?--of blogging at least one thing every day, with my focus on arts and culture of all kinds (and politics less so because there were, I felt, already so many great political bloggers at the time). It was another form of work, but a labor, unremunerated financially at least, but spiritually and socially to a great degree, of love.

Sometimes what emerged were just announcements for events, but other days produced reviews, translations, reportage, basic documentation, my random street photos, and so on, but it has constituted a (partial) record of my life during those years. I also think of the people I was in contact with, especially early on; the community of bloggers, some friends, some acquaintances, some of them people I'd never met in person and still haven't met in person, but whom I was--and still feel, however ghostly the links today, I am still--in dialogue with, I learned and learn from, I collaborated with, and whose influence I continue to feel, in various ways. I do miss that blogging community, those blogging communities, bloggers, readers, commenters, all--what a time that was!

In recent years I have blogged very infrequently and mostly about my own work, if at all, but I do hope to find the time to blog a bit more, and to find new possibilities for this medium, especially as the net is increasingly a walled off, highly monetized and specialized world, with entire platforms in which words in particular are a second thought. So to blogging, and the future, and I hope to make it to 20 years, and more!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Two Poems for Black History Month

It has been a while since I posted poems for Black History Month, but this year Rutgers-Newark made it fairly easy by inviting me to tape several of my poems for their annual Black History monthly commemoration, with the understanding that they would create videos for them. 

Here are the two poems with videos we taped, featuring my poems "Jackie Robinson in Sportsman's Park, 1949," and "Martin de Porres." 

The first invokes the pioneering Black baseball player who needs no introduction, and the second brings to life the Black Peruvian saint who particularly fascinated me in childhood. Both appear in my collection Punks: New and Selected Poems (The Song Cave, 2021).

I've attached two images, both copyright © Rutgers University-Newark, from the videos, which you can find at the links.

"Jackie Robinson in Sportsman's Park, 1949"

"Martin de Porres"