Friday, June 27, 2014

Larry Brown/His South and Mine

[By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.]

Should America become adult enough to read Southern literature, become wise enough to call out Southern mythology for the honeycomb of prevarication that it is, and become intelligent enough to take the blood pressure of the real thing in a Southern story ----- should that improbability occur, America will value Larry Brown more than it currently does. It will value the exercise of dealing with his South, my South, and our South.

Larry Brown is a natural part of my Mississippi mindscape, that perplexing geography which has more talent per square inch than most of the United States has per square mile.  Exaggeration has a purpose.

BCALA Announces the 2014 Literary Awards Winners

BCALA Announces the 2014 Literary Awards Winners

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc. (BCALA) announces the winners of the 2014 BCALA Literary Awards during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association in Philadelphia, PA. The awards recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors published in 2013, including an award for Best Poetry and a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Publishing. The recipients will receive the awards during the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in Las Vegas, NV.

Monday, June 9, 2014

#MayaAngelou: From Gravity Comes the Grief

[By Jerry Ward via]
There is a language in silence you must use in communing with the living, the dying, and the dead. Time ordains that you deal with the gravity and brevity of manifest being. Humility demands that you accept legacies from word spirits with grace and respect. Time appropriates words from Amiri Baraka’s 1987 eulogy for James Baldwin, forcing out of your mouth “the intelligence of our transcendence” and forbidding you to traffic with bad faith in “retelling old lies or making up new ones, or shaping yet another black life to fit the great white stomach which yet rules and tries to digest the world.” Time and Baraka ignore your reluctance to speak and the dread in your saying the world is not white but pale brown pink. You have no choice but to close your eyes, open your mind, and let your fingers play respect for Marguerite Annie Johnson (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014). Baraka smiles at you wisely and says “I know your parents reared you to stay more in the tradition than that!”

Returning to Narrative

Hidden neatly in the hyperbole of Thomas Sayers Ellis’ “All Their Stanzas Look Alike” (The Maverick Room. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2005. 114-115.) is a truth of sorts. There is a boring “sameness” in a substantial amount of contemporary “canonized” American poetry.  Perhaps the alleged excellence of how MFA programs teach the making of poetry is partially to blame. MFA is an acronym for an unprintable phrase.  In my scandalizing opinion, MFA programs promote craft as technical excellence and ego-interiority, minimizing the option of craft to speak with engaged boldness of the painful messiness of life and world affairs.  To be sure, aesthetics can evoke bright moments of pleasure or eargasms, even a bit of knowledge.  But the best poetry uses aesthetic properties to intensify the pragmatic, the always present need to deal with how people manufacture horrors for themselves and others. Jazz counts as some of our best poetry, and certainly John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor and other jazz people direct our minds to the “sound” science and physics of existing. Metaphysics for real. How refreshing it is to read John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) edited by Leonard L. Brown.  Abstain for a time from the sameness of poetry and look for practical and critical stimulation in the differentness of fictional and non-fictional narrative. Find alternative spaces where furious flowers bloom. We do not need to construct and deconstruct a bogus war between poetry and non-poetry, because in certain remarkable instances it is poetry and poetic equations that cut a pathway to narrative. Consider the importance of how poets Brenda Marie Osbey and Honoreé Fanonne Jeffers excavate histories, of how Rudolph Lewis employs the poetics of orality to craft fiction.

A Book for Your Library: Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems

[By Simone Savannah]

Don’t you just love that feeling of buying or receiving a book? Oh, that feeling of wanting to get home to cuddle up with it and a cup of roasted dandelion tea? Okay, just me? Last week, my professor gave me a copy of Zora Neal Hurston: A Life in Letters, and I knew that I had to pass on the favor. So, I am sharing a title in the hopes that you’ll run to your nearest bookstore or library, then home with it and a cup of tea.

A Book for Your Library 

Beacon Press published Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems on April 1, 2014. It includes an introduction by poet, Nikky Finney who examines Baldwin “as poet” and reveals the significance and power of his poems.

James Baldwin, as poet, was incessantly paying attention and always leaning into the din and hum around him, making his poems from his notes of what was found there…James Baldwin, as poet, was forever licking the tip of his pencil, preparing for more calculations, more inventory, moving, counting each letter being made inside the abacus of the poem.