Saturday, October 31, 2009


2009-2010 Widener University Men's Basketball Team
Chris Carideo Head Men's Basketball Coach

Ian Simon Assistant Men's Basketball Coach
Bill Leahy Assistant Men's Basketball Coach
Louis Becht Jr. Assistant Men's Basketball Coach
Nyere Miller Assistant Men's Basketball Coach





It might not matter what President Obama decides to do about Afghanistan in the next few days or weeks. It's no longer about troops and numbers. That's just something to keep the media interested in the topic. Obama has already made one very important key decision. It's the process he has decided to use. Just listen to McCain and you get a glimpse of old American thinking. Mac wants to just surge ahead and put more troops are the ground as quickly as possible. What Obama has done is introduced a new concept of time into the war. He has slowed down the decision making process. Americans like to rush into things believing a war will end with a snap. The world however doesn't operate that way. People move slow and wars can last for decades. We tend to change our clothes every year and get bored too quickly. We want victory like sex. Get in and get out. No, Obama's ears are listening. Don't you just love his ears?

Several days ago I ran into the photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson coming out of Busboys. Jason slipped me a flyer about his new project. I've been walking around with this information. Time to post it in E-Notes.

Jason is working on his SWEETER THE JUICE project. A traveling photographic exhibition and cultural discussion about the darker complexion. You know who you are...

Dark and lovely - no need to hide. Here is a link to Jason's site:

New book of poems out:

FALLIBILITY by Elizabeth Oness
$ 13.95
New Rivers Press.


Washington Performing Arts Society will be presenting Sonny Rollins on Wednesday, December 2, at 8 PM.

Kennedy Center - Concert Hall

Tickets: WPAS.ORG
202 785-9727.

"By the People: The Election of Barack Obama" airs Tuesday at 9 PM on HBO.

A 2 hour documentary made by filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams.
Yesterday I spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Leisure World(Maryland). My friend Mary Marcoux extended the invitation to me. We met at the 2004 F. Scott Fitzgerald Writer's Conference. At the Kiwanis luncheon I spoke about the upcoming Poet Lore birthday bash (November 14th) and I shared excerpts from my memoir - The 5th Inning. I think my comments about the 5th inning connected with people who were in their 7th, 8th and even 9th inning. I shared with them this excerpt from my memoir:

When June Jordan was fighting illness, I remember her taking a pile of pills. A line of pills on the table. A foul line. An indication that you're on the other side of your health. Pills keeping you in the game. Pills moving the pain into the corner and giving you another chance to catch your breath.
Yes, breath. This is what keeps you going. Breath. Stop and pay attention to the air going in and out of your lungs. Breathe. Think of the moment. Mindfulness.

On my table right now there is just one pill. I will be able to measure my decline by how many more pills I place on the table. Playing the colors and size is what I'll be doing if I make it into the sixth and seventh innings.

Yes, that 6th inning - it's next year. I turn 59 on November 20th. I look at my career and maybe I'm protecting a slight lead. If things become too difficult in the months ahead - I'll have to pray for rain.

My friend Shyree sent me the following link:

We are just beginning the new century - what's going to happen next?

Are you now or have you ever been?


Please go to:
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

An Easy Connection with Life

We all know what it's like to get trapped in dark, constricting states of mind—and how useless it is, in terms of awakening, to dwell there. That is exactly what the Buddha taught: we don't need to stay stuck in greed, hatred, and delusion. Life can be lighter, more workable, even when it's challenging. This lightening up, which I see as an aspect of joy, is the fruit of insight into anatta, the selfless nature of reality, and anicca, the truth of impermanence. When we are not attached to who we think we are, life can move through us, playing us like an instrument. Understanding how everything is in continual transformation, we release our futile attempts to control circumstances. When we live in this easy connection with life, we live in joy.

- James Baraz, from “Lighten Up!,” Tricycle, Summer 2004


Read the information posted below and then go back and read my E-Note from yesterday.

There will always be two sides to a story. Yet, there has to be a concern about cultural and political changes taking place within the African American community. One would just assume the US would place informants within a "radical" community. That's just textbook. We also have a "tradition" within the
African American community around the issue of political prisoners. There are cases that are political - but there are many cases in which "politics" is simply mixed into a criminal brew. It's difficult sometimes to obtain all the facts when a black man is killed. Where there is a history of police brutality within a community or a distrust of law and order, every black person suddenly becomes Fred Hampton sleeping in his bed. But what is the bigger issue in this most recent case? For me it's the "butterfly" that was in the New York Times article I read. I want to know more about the movement to create a separate community within the U.S. that is going to practice Islamic law. Here is where I think we begin to encounter some problems. If groups or individuals are going to separate themselves from the rules and government of the US, why are they here? This seems to move beyond the issue of religious tolerance, which is protected by our founding documents. It seems we are back to debating human law and divine law. What year is this? To be continued?


The International National Council for Urban (Formations) Peace, Justice and Empowerment

Statement On The Fatal Shooting of Imam Luquman Ameen Abdullah

We, as members of the International Council for Urban (Formations) Peace, Justice and Empowerment are appalled by the raids on Masjid Al-Haqq and a halal meat packing plant that left Imam Luquman Ameen Abdullah dead. We are demanding an independent investigation into this action that is clearly the result of a climate of Islamaphobia fed by law enforcement and a media bent on sensationalism. This complaint and the resulting raid are nothing more than government sponsored terrorism against a group that was working to help the community. This action is inconsistent with statements by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder which call for mutual respect for Muslims in the United States.

The inconsistencies in this investigation are glaring. The case is based on the sworn statements of informants. These informants were convicted criminals who were paid by the federal government for their “work”. These criminals were used to engage and entrap law abiding citizens.

We have seen the media statements that Imam Abdullah was the head of a separatist group called Ummah, which means Brotherhood. Ummah means community--not brotherhood. Al-Ummah is not now, or has ever been, a Black Separatist and radical group, as any discrimination on the basis of skin color is forbidden in the Koran. We as an organization have never heard Imam Abdullah make any statements consistent with the statements in the complaint. We have never seen any actions that would be consistent with the allegations in the complaint.

The media has stated that there is a sign at the mosque that states that “There is no God but Allah”. There is only one god, who is known by many names in many cultures. Why was this statement even mentioned?

The FBI has stated that this was not a terrorism case. However, the investigation was conducted by a counter terrorism unit. They mention threats against the government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Is this a terrorism case or not?

Much is also being made of the fact that many of the members of the Masjid Al-Haqq converted to Islam while in prison. The inference is that, while they served their time in prison, sought to change their lives by developing a practicing faith--they have not really changed. Much is also being made about Imam Jamil Al-Amin being the leader of Al-Ummah. Various articles state that he is serving time in a federal prison facility for federal charges after murdering two police officers. The fact is that those were state charges and he is being housed in a federal penitentiary on state charges.

All of the facts--not just the words of paid informants--need to be brought out in a clear and unbiased manner. The fact is that Masjid Al-Haqq, under the direction of Imam Abdullah, fed the hungry, housed the homeless, worked with gangs and the formerly incarcerated to turn a crime ridden and drug infested neighborhood around to becoming a productive community. The fact is that a complaint is not an indictment. The fact is that the media is engaging in an Islamaphobic feeding frenzy. The most disturbing fact is that a religious leader who reached out to his people and his community is dead, the victim of a society that sees anyone who is different as dangerous.

Amir El Hajj Khalid A. Samad and T. Rashad Byrdsong

On behalf of the International Council for Urban (Formations) Peace, Justice and Empowerment


Contact information;

Amir El Hajj Khalid A. Samad (216) 322-6059 or (216) 538-4043
T. Rashad Byrdsong (412) 371-5197

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977
From Michon:

A Significant Moment posted by Michon at Eclectique|916

Friday, October 30, 2009


Disturbing but predictable. The shape of things to come.
First -sightings. Second- evidence. Third- contact. Fourth - Abduction.

What should be given more attention within black intellectual circles is a small article that was in yesterday's New York Times. It's about the radical Muslim group leader who was killed in a Michigan shootout with the F.B.I. I had never heard about Luqman Ameen Abdullah. Have you?
What the newspaper article revealed is that this guy was an advocate of a group that wanted to establish a separate nation within the United States governed by Islamic laws. Whoa...hide the wine and cover the girls.

Abdullah was a Sunni Muslim so this claim for a separate nation is not taken from an old Elijah Muhammad textbook. Remember when the Nation of Islam wanted to take the Southern US states and create their own place? Can you see me whistling in Mississippi right now? Taking some of the US States for ideological purposes is not new. It's the old Blackbelt Communist theory. Give us several states if we can't find Haiti on the map or have no idea where Africa is.

What I found interesting in the New York Times article is that Abdullah's Ummah's group see themselves as followers of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. I remember when his name was H. Rap Brown. I'm waiting for a black scholar to proclaim him as one of our original spoken word artists.
But back to the news. It's just a matter of time before we learn about more radical Muslim groups in the US - that are primarily African American. Our prison cells are going to brew this problem for many years.

It's going to get funky by the time this century's terrible twos arrive. Jihads from the cells are coming. There are many African American men who will depart from U.S. prisons with new names and an attitude. They will have "new" values shaped by their faith in Islam. Look for Islam in America to come with a black tag. It's how we do. If you think we have a million ways to read and understand the bible on Sunday - wait until you hear some of these brothers explain Islam. Concepts of peace and brotherhood will take a backseat to race and revolution. As in many parts of the world the Islamic movement will come with a side order of organized crime.
Anyone can learn salat but some of us will bow and say our prayers with open eyes. If we see a brother's wallet sticking out - we will take it. One will hustle Islam in the same way we have folks trying to hustle Jesus on a Sunday morning. Sinners beware. Someone will catch you. My concern is how we will fail to catch ourselves.

There is such a void in our intellectual lives - there is such cultural destruction taking place in our literature and music - one can almost see a ban coming. It appears very likely that East will clash with West inside the African American community. I'm afraid the first "Pork Chop" battle might be one of bloodshed. The problem of the 21st Century is the veil - it's no longer the Colorline. Someone wake DuBois and get Malcolm on the phone. This is going to get a tad crazy.
The shootout in Michigan might be another shot heard around the world. Somewhere a young Rosa Parks is being told to move to the back of the bus. This time the bus driver isn't white - his name just might be Brother Abdullah to you.

Norman Kelley is on Target:

The Curious Case of the Missing Black Liberal Thinkers - norman kelley - Open Salon
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

Letting Go

The spiritual journey, then, is a journey of detachment, a process of learning how to let go. All of our problems, miseries, and unhappiness are caused by fixation - latching onto things and not being able to release them. First we have to let go of fixation on material things. This does not necessarily mean jettisoning all our material possessions, but it implies that we should not look to material things for lasting happiness. Normally, our position in life, our family, our standing in the community, and so forth, are perceived to be the source of our happiness. This perspective has to be reversed, according to spiritual teachings, by relinquishing our fixation on material things.

- Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, from “Letting Go of Spiritual Experience,” Tricycle, Fall 2004

Listening to STITT PLAYS BIRD this morning. That's the old Atlantic recording (1964) by Sonny Stitt. It was Parker who once said to Stitt - "You sure sound like me."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The last couple of days I've been reading P. Anna Johnson's memoir - AUSTRALIA YEARS: The Life of A Nuclear Migrant. Anna once owned Open Hand Publishing Company and published my book of poems - WHERE ARE THE LOVE POEMS FOR DICTATORS? (1986). Her life is very interesting. The following is taken from the preface:

At the time John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960, the United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of a nuclear war that could have destroyed both nations, and most of the northern hemisphere. Atomic testing produced such high levels of strontium 90 in the atmosphere that nursing mothers in the United States were advised not to drink cow's milk.

When Americans started building fallout shelters in their backyards, then mounting machine guns on top of them to keep the neighbors out, I began to search for a place to move where life was more peaceful. After migrating to Australia, it was a surprise when I met others who had also come to escape the threat of nuclear war. Thousands of people arrived from North America and Europe, and we came to be known as nuclear migrants.

"BERT DAY" returns to New York on November 20th.

Celebration details will be posted soon. Watch for them. Bert is watching YOU!


"The Portent: John Brown's Raid in American Memory" is on view through April 11th at the Virginia Historical Society, 428 North Boulevard, Richmond, VA.

"John Brown: The Abolitionist and His Legacy" is on view through March 25th at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, at 77th Street.

Kulturas returns to DC:

A MASTER HAS LEFT US :Roy DeCarava, photographer, dead at 89.

It doesn't have to be pretty to be true. But if it's true its beautiful. Truth is beautiful.
And so my whole work is about what amounts to a reverence for life itself.

- Roy DeCarava

Excerpt from The New York Times (October 29, 2009):
Over a career of almost 60 years, Mr. DeCarava - who fiercely guarded the manner in which his work was exhibited and whose visibility in the art world remained low for decades - came to be regarded as the founder of a school of African American photography that broke with the social documentary traditions of his time. While an outspoken crusader for civil right, he felt that his pictures would speak louder as a record of black life in America if they abandoned the overtly humanist aims of mentors like Edward Steichen.
In the early seventies I happened to be on the Amtrak train with my friend Tom Terrell. Tom, who was a photographer for Howard University's school newspaper recognized Mr. DeCarava.
I didn't know who DeCarava was then, but he was warm and conversational to Tom and I. It was the only time I would see or meet this great man. But being a lover of the poetry and work of Langston Hughes, I soon discovered THE SWEET FLYPAPER OF LIFE. This book published when I was five years old is simply amazing. I love how the words and images of Hughes and DeCarava capture black life. There are levels and degrees of dignity on every page. Here is our urban narrative, our street blues, our joys, pain and endurance. Here is Sister Mary Bradley - our elder and black pillar of life. I love her on the last page standing proud in good clothes and sporting an awesome hat. Take a look - find yourself a copy of THE SWEET FLYPAPER OF LIFE.
Thank you - Roy DeCarava for showing us life - in shadows and light.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have you checked out the consolidated calendar of all things cool and arty in DC at The Pink Line Project?


A Conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Alexander (Yale), Dr. Gregg Carr (Howard), Dr. Tricia Rose (Brown) and Dr. Eddie Glaude (Princeton).



Let fortune smile on you!
Join us for the November 21st Good Omens Gala
to celebrate the Year of Iran at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the exhibition

Falnama: The Book of Omens
(October 24, 2009 – January 24, 2010)

For details, go to:

Ethelbert Interviews Abdul Ali

Abdul Ali is a young talented poet who just might be another Langston learning why DC can be so blue. What happens when a black man walks these streets? What happens when he misses the bus to the subway? Abdul Ali is writing poems that map the space he finds himself in. This is the type of genius Columbus never had. Can one imagine the great discoverer having a Romare Bearden print in his cabin? Abdul Ali surrounds himself with black traditions. If he has trouble sleeping its only because he is the new dreamkeeper who realizes there is much work to do. Ali seems to be everywhere these days—The Writer’s Center, WPFW, Busboys and other places where we gather and try to name the earth beneath our feet. I nicknamed him A2 because it has that futuristic sound—like maybe he's a Noah with secrets and the rest of us might need tickets.

What places (and individuals) shape and define your literary community?

Howard University for sure, this is where I took my first steps as a writer and later an editor. I resuscitated The Amistad will a couple of friends.

And right around the corner is Bus Boys and Poets where so many different kinds of conversations happen. It’s how I like to view poetry that lyric hidden inside noise. It’s almost like going to Church, you stay away for a minute then go to hear someone you know read and you see the whole gang and it’s as if time never stopped.

But those are just structures that facilitate community. You cannot have community without people. There are so many poets who make wonderful contributions to this fraternity that we call poetry. There’s yourself of course: always availing yourself to me and so many others. There’s Kim Roberts who edits the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Teri Cross Davis who does a stellar job bringing different kinds of voices to share their work at the Folgers, not too far from my apartment and my good friend Carolyn Joyner who shares books with me and we read each other’s work on a regular basis. And, there’s Thomas Sayers Ellis whose annual summer visits always add something to the atmosphere.

Is there a black literary establishment? What do they do? Do you share their politics and aesthetics?

Yes, I do believe there’s a black literary establishment just as I believe there’s a white literary establishment. I want to say, though, at the outset that my view of these establishments is informed by the fact that I am a child of the 80s. If I were of your generation, I would answer this question differently.

I believe the black literary establishment—that would included folks like Third World Press, Black Classic Press, literary institutions such as Cave Canem, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Callaloo to name a few—functions as mitosis does in microbiology—that is to multiply the number of black writers who are doing meaningful work, mixing up the canon, putting a different spin on those universals. But also giving a voice and legitimacy to the beauty of the black condition lived here in the states or throughout the world, which sometimes gets forgotten that this is also part of the human condition.

I’m not sure if I share the aesthetic of any particular black (or white) literary establishment as I don’t feel that closely tied to any one in particular to share politics per se. However, I do believe in creating work that secures a place in the American narrative which the black experience is intrinsically part of.

Is there an “art” to fatherhood? How does being a parent influence your approach to reading and writing?

Hmm…To say that there’s an art to fatherhood implies that everything is premeditated and considered. Fatherhood for me is a lot like jazz, very improvisational. Though, I do look at models and traditions of fatherhood inside and outside of my family.

As for my reading and writing, I pay more attention to relationships. I look to for the story off-book, the tensions in the voice, the layers. I feel my life is much more layered than it was before I became a father.

Becoming a father has also illuminated a lot of rough patches that I didn’t realized existed between me and my father. And, I’m also very curious about genealogy, who was my father’s father. And what kind of men were they? My mother has done an awesome job of finding so many members on her side. So there’s an imbalance between knowing who you are and not knowing.

How difficult was it to write “When Sundays are Unseasoned” which appears to be very autobiographical?

The hard part came in the re-writing. I took a one-day workshop with poet Terrance Hayes and he had us read Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” and we had to write a poem that was thematically similar. The images, memories flowed easily. The thing about writing about your family is that you don’t want the sappiness to swallow the poem. Above all, you want to write a poem that happens to be about one’s family history. I hope that’s what I achieved in “When Sundays are Unseasoned.”

How does color, space and texture shape the poems you construct on the page?

I believe that language should be interesting so I tend towards color. White space is something that I study when I read poems. It always fascinates me how poets make different choices with white space. I’m still experimenting with this. Shape is something that happens organically. Rarely, do I tell myself, I want this to be a prose poem and it will look like a brick…lol

Does the urban landscape ever prevent you from writing about nature?

I don’t think so. I believe the urban landscape is just the filter through which I view nature at this point. But, I try to challenge myself to see other things. Add to that, the writer’s voice is always changing so I could very well get accepted to one of those New England writing colonies and write about the different shades of green, and write Walden-esque essays.

How does cultural memory shape your individual voice?

Memory is one my preoccupations. In several of my poems, I engage history and try to unveil assumptions we have about what we are told is true.

What risks are you taking as an artist?

I’m beginning to open up to more painful and personal themes. For instance, I’m beginning to pepper some of my poems with Arabic words. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write a poem about what it was like growing up Muslim pre-9/11 and to find myself totally lost from that changing narrative. Another theme is fatherhood at-large: how I view myself as a father and a son who didn’t grew up with my father. I have reunited with my father in the past few years. So there are all these layers I’m dealing with.

Explain your use of white space in the poem “Burying the N-Word.”

I believe this to be my attempt at a language poem. I was interested in the gamut of negative implications of N-Words (e.g. Napalm, New Orleans, Nappy, etc.) and for me the white space represents that place where we process, engage, examine the spoken and unspoken. It was very satisfying, and probably one of my riskier poems.

Do you believe there is such a thing as visionary art?

Sure, if the artist is visionary and his/her art communicates a vision.

What is your favorite place in Washington DC? Have you written about it?

Right now, I love going for walks in the Capitol Hill area where I live. I love Lincoln Park where Ab Lincoln rests on one extreme and Mary McCloud Bethune the other. There’s a poem somewhere in there. I adore the brownstones of Capitol Hill. They remind me of New York City, the home of my imagination. And I especially like how it feels like a suburb tucked away in a city. I also like how WDC is relatively small. It can take a lifetime to get to know a place like New York City. But with DC so small you have to pay attention to the unique characters and shades of each block. One turn can put you into another quadrant or country.

October 24, 2009 Posted by poetscorneronwpfw | interview | | 2 Comments


Even before I was too young to go steady, Pittsburgh Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski broke my heart. I can still remember listening to the radio as he hit his home run to win the 1960 World Series over my beloved New York Yankees. This was my introduction to heartbreak, the blues and the loss of innocence. It was also my realization that dreams do come true. How many times did I imagine myself hitting a home run to with a World Series in a seventh game? Today Bill Mazeroski's old baseball care is displayed in my home office next to sports figures I admire. I have a Jackie Robinson and a Mickey Mantle card, and yes - there is space for Michael Jordan and Joe Montana.

What I like about October is not the turning of leaves and the changing of seasons. What I enjoy about this month is the World Series. I like how new unlikely heroes emerge and how the most talented strike out and surprise themselves with failure. The World Series gives meaning to our lives. It's a reminder that championships are never predictable or guaranteed. Winning demands hard work and maybe luck. This is how we live our lives. Between prayers we hope for happiness, we desire to win as much as we wish to be loved.

Baseball was my introduction to romance. The game perhaps encouraged me to look for poetry in my life. Now that I'm older and hoping to survive those personal late innings, I find nothing more comforting than timely double plays, acrobatic catches and clutch hits. I think there will always be a child inside of me listening to a portable radio, cheering for the game to end - or maybe never end.
Quote of the Day:

The future is not something you acquiesce to , it's something you create.

- Andy Hunter, editor of Electric Literature

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Listening to Jug Handle by Gene Ammons.

This number will get you going.
Maybe I should call this poetic form E-Tones. I started writing them as a way to end emails.
It was a way to provide a personal signature to correspondence. The first one I wrote was:

I would have loved you like Ellington loved jazz and Bearden loved scissors.

Poet Elizabeth Alexander was the first person to write back using the one line form. All my comparisons in some way related to well known African American personalities and historical figures. When the novelist Alexs Pate married the lovely Soojin, I pulled together a number of one line stanzas to create the poem "Divine Love." In many ways this poem has become my signature poem. I use it to end poetry readings in much the same manner Sterling Brown always read "Strong Men."

Earlier today the poet and critic Becky Thompson sent me an E-Tone that I really liked:

Miss you--like my yoga mat misses prayers.

Quote of the Day:

U.S. newspaper circulation has hit its lowest level in seven decades, as papers across the country lost 10.6 percent of their paying readers from April through September, compared with a year earlier.

- The Washington Post, October 27, 2009

Writer Dwayne Betts sent me the link below. It confirms what I was saying in a previous E-Note. The problem within the African American community today is an "intellectual" silence when it comes to cultural deterioration. We are perhaps losing a degree of critical mass when it comes to spirituality within black music and literature. It's good to see student leadership trying to change the "rudder" of our race. Failure to do this will result in a Lost Generation. We are witnessing the birth of a new century. Next year marks only our 10th year. My fear is that the terrible teens are ahead. We might have to invent blackness all over again.

"Bring Back Basketball's Little Big Men: by Buzz Bissinger

This is an amazing essay. I didn't know that 60 percent of N.B.A. players ultimately go broke.
Here is an excerpt from Bissinger's article:

The frequent argument that players drafted straight from high school are more prone to quickly get into trouble because of their age has also proved wrong. According to a study by McCann in 2005 of the most recent 84 arrests of pro players, more than half the arrestees had spent four years on a university campus but only 4.8 percent never went to college (even though players without any college experience made up 8.3 percent of the league population).

It's interesting to note that many of the kids who go straight from high school to the pros become stars. Among them are Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal and Tracy McGrady.

Maybe it was ironic that prior to last night's Redskin's game, Brian Mitchell was honored. He was inducted as the 44th member of the Redskins' Ring of Fame. I love this guy. If Mitchell was playing today - no way the Washington football team would be 2-5. No way. Mitchell was the warrior-player. If you want to know why the Redskins are losers - just look at the sideline during a game. This is a team that has lost its soul and have no leaders. Portis throwing his helmet is another example of why I want to bring back the funnel hat as a style.

Oh, and it was Snyder (the beloved owner) finally confessing that he was wrong to believe Mitchell was expendable when he took over the Redskins. I wonder who else might be expendable...
we say of him:
he was broken off
like a stone from the mountain,
he was separated
from the cities of men
and goes his own way
like water
which runs
to its grave.

from the poem "terrorist" by Myra Sklarew

Monday, October 26, 2009


Afro-Cubanidad: A Symposium on Afro-Cuban History, Culture and the Cuban Revolution

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
3:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Blackburn Center Forum

Moderator: Dr. Quito Swan


Algris Bolton
Sandy Waters
Dr. Ian Smart
Dr. Quito Swan

The symposium is held in conjunction with the production of Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Anna in the Tropics at the Ira Aldridge Theatre, Howard University.

Listening to Frank Sinatra - GREATEST LOVE SONGS.

What is This Thing Called Love?

I'm Getting Sentimental Over Your

Come Rain or Come Shine

I remember when Brett Favre couldn't beat the Dallas Cowboys. No one seems to talk about those days. Brett is more often lucky than good. Give me Tom Brady on any given Sunday. Yesterday I was just waiting for Brett to throw an interception or fumble. I saw both. One destructive turnover came after a fantastic run by Adrian Peterson. Gosh - he has to be the best running back out there.
The Minnesota Vikings need to drink disappointment right now. Look for Brett to get his team to the playoffs and then make some bonehead play that makes you want to punt your head into the television.

The Washington Redskins have a chance to turn their season around tonight. With New York only winning baseball last night things are getting tighter in their division. A win would put Washington right behind Phillie. All they would have to do during the second part of their season is defeat the teams in their division. Maybe these guys will play hard for Zorn. How interesting to have a team take the play calling out of the hands of a white coach and give it to a black person. It's like turning the country over to Obama with a bad economy and two wars. Can a Nobel Prize equal a Superbowl ring? Stay tuned.

Yankees are back in the World Series - with their best fielding first baseman ever. Tex - is a joy to watch around the bag. Wednesday the fun begins. I can't wait. Yankees in Four? I might have to cheer Pedro M when he throws for the Phillies. Dominicans Rock!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

FROM OBAMA BACK TO ORNETTE: The shape of things to come.

It's interesting how we look at today's changing world often forgetting that we are witnessing the birth of a new century. It will be 2010 soon. We are a world moving out of diapers and getting ready soon for the terrible teens. If you had problems with your own teenagers, imagine a world in which a nation wants to borrow a nuclear weapon instead of a car. Think about about a nation experimenting with genocide just for kicks. Yep, this is what we can face as our century matures.

But if we begin to think about the next 100 years and not simply next year - new possibilities emerge from the shadows of our ignorance. Might we even be living on this planet?

Our technology is forcing us to make small leaps in terms of how we perform our work. But why should humans be working in the middle of this century? Might working humans become outdated? What happens ( to us) if this new century is going to be shaped by robotics?Do we go back and watch old Terminator movies and search for clues? What happens if our old world has to be destroyed in order to give birth to the new?

I feel the need to play some Ornette Coleman this morning.
These are serious times.

It's always fun to monitor the words, terms or expressions that suddenly slip into the media.
Here are two:


Was the above on any one's tongue two months ago?

Saturday, October 24, 2009


If death was sold on a screen people would buy it. I never understood Tyler Perry. Sometimes we are a black community in need of funnel hats and a wall to look at. How can we continue to consume so much nonsense and not suffer from cultural obesity? Too many bad movies and television shows are harmful to one's health. I'm glad Spike Lee decided to speakout. I have problems with some of his flicks but at least the guy can make a good documentary. What will Tyler do with Ntozake Shange's colored girls. Join them? Should I import blindfolds from Iran?
The Playoffs Continue - Comment on THE 5TH INNING:

I've read most of the book, I have to say. It is beautifully dark & depressing. At times I end a paragraph & start to gasp for air. Ayman watches me in the process & says I don't think I'll ever read that book! You're scaring me! I told him to start with Fathering Words, it is a lower dose.

I love your depiction of subtle human emotions & the way you relate them to mundane things that everyone could related to. In a morbid way, I love the book & its gloominess, the way you let a joke slip into the dreary realm so naturally, then out again as if it was never there.
Way to go E!

- Ms. Wissal Al-Allaq
Abu Dhabi

This morning (unlike other mornings)
a poet crossed the street to kiss
the lips of another poet.

The light was green
as hearts stopped to love
in autumn.

Two poets became leaves
falling into each other
embracing the wind of the moment -

the brief breeze of their lives.

- E. Ethelbert Miller

So the entire Balloon Boy incident was a hoax. How many of us wanted to believe there was a boy in the balloon? What if Falcon had made the trip? What if the young kid had emerged from the grounded balloon with a big smile? For the rest of his life he would be known as BALLOON BOY. Falcon - his name, would be used to sell products. Balloon Boy would be hired to drop into the stadium just before the kickoff at the SuperBowl. Balloon Boy would be on Oprah explaining about how he dreamed of having his own wings one day.

But now we won't have these moments. We will become critical of Falcon's parents - who will be viewed as hustlers. Folks will also laugh at their belief in UFOs. Even though their recent behavior explains why no alien wants to talk to them.


Yesterday I sat in my wife's class in Douglass Hall listening to Dwayne Betts talk about his life and read from his memoir A QUESTION OF FREEDOM. Betts recently donated 8 years to the US prison system. I use the word donated because it seems so many of our young people are giving themselves over to prison life. But what I like and admire about Betts is his moral vision. Here is a man who is able to look back at his life and attempt to understand the puzzle of it all. Listening to Betts one immediately becomes impressed by his sense of values. The man knows the difference between right and wrong. He knows what failure is and he can chuckle when someone talks about redemption. Betts was not accepted to Howard University. He writes about this in his memoir. So yesterday during Howard's Homecoming it was funny to find him on campus lecturing to Howard students. Outside tents were being opened on main campus. A stage had been erected and young people were gathering just to gather. Howard's Homecoming has always been about being seen, standing around and waiting to learn where the party was going to be. Now and then the crowd listened to musical groups that have been invited to perform. Didn't Biggie get his big start here? But now it's Betts talking in Douglass Hall and I suddenly realize I need to become a cultural pioneer. I need to move away from all the Hip Hop and the belief that what I'm witnessing is the future of black America. It isn't - and someone needs the courage to say it. When I left work yesterday afternoon the campus was packed. The sky was overcast and yes - there were clouds of what can only be described as thug life. If the people surrounding me were the children of the black middle class, then that class is quickly becoming a lost generation. Betts was inside Douglass Hall talking about how he survived prison life. Outside on the campus Howard students seem to want to embrace it. It seems to define hip and cool and freedom and - yes-the world has changed - and "every generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it." Yes - yesterday I witnessed another Fanon Moment.
Let's be honest with ourselves we have betrayed our mission. We can't ignore it. As I left the Howard campus yesterday and walked down Georgia Avenue to the Metro, I passed many young black people who were not Howard students but were attracted to the sugar of the moment on main campus. You don't have to be E. Franklin Frazier to understand class in the black community. Back in 1970, Kwame Ture spoke on Howard's campus and talked about having an undying love for black people. I embraced that concept which I felt was as important as King's search for the Beloved Community. Yet today I know that I cannot love my community the way I would love to love it. I cannot love my people without crying. I took the Metro over to Teaism near DuPont Circle. There I met with my friend Karen, a lovely woman who once worked for the New York Times as well as Nightline. I confessed to Karen that if I was Noah, I would only have taken 2 from Howard's campus - one would have been Dwayne Betts - who just happened to be in the right place - where everything seems to be so wrong in the world and we don't want to say it. So I've become a cultural pioneer - a poet who needs to see the new frontier and listen to the new music. As I write this E-Note, the plaque with Mordecai Johnson's name on it is falling from the wall in the Howard University Administration building. Will the Jericho Generation repair this or will they let it crumble too?

Friday, October 23, 2009

2009 VCCA International Programs:

Applications are now available for the 2010 International Exchange program and the Moulin à Nef, France program.

Postmark deadline for applications is December 1, 2009.

For more information please visit and click on 2010 Workshops.
Dan Snyder knows the entire nation is going to dog him on Monday Night when the Redskins play the Eagles. He can't fire Zorn right now. Zorn is a nice guy with no players. Where can Snyder hide this team next Monday night?
Look at this site:
And if the Eagles do lose to Washington - what will it mean? Didn't the Eagles just lose to Oakland? Yipes!
Maurice Jackson has a new book out:

AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION: Selected Essays and Historical Documents.

Edited by Maurice Jackson and Jacqueline Bacon
Routledge Press:

I was talking with my daughter this week and she told me about this site:
Poet Lore reader:

Dear Editors,

I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying the new issue of Poet Lore. I'm able to read it like a book on the subway and am finding that I'm missing stops so I will stop this at once. Kudos to you all!

Abdul Ali


Media Contact:
Kyle Semmel
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815

Nation’s Oldest Continuously Published Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, Celebrates 120 Years in Print

BETHESDA, MD (Oct 14)—Poet Lore, the nation’s oldest continuously published poetry journal, marks its 120th birthday on November 14th at The Historical Society of Washington. Editors E. Ethelbert Miller and Jody Bolz—along with the journal’s publisher, The Writer’s Center—welcome three premier poets who published in the journal early in their careers—John Balaban, Gary Fincke, and Myra Sklarew—for an evening of celebration and poetry. Complete bios for each poet are listed below.

When: Saturday, November 14th, 2009. 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Historical Society of Washington, 801 K Street, N.W. at Mount Vernon Square, Washington, DC 20001
This event is FREE and open to the public.
Poet Lore’s Web site:
For information, please contact The Writer’s Center: 301.654.8664 or
A champagne and cake reception will follow the reading. Guests should RSVP to Caitlin Hill at

At a time when many literary journals (and the publishing industry of which they are part) are struggling, Poet Lore, with its distinctive historic look, has remained true to its core value— bringing great poetry to light—and created a proven and lasting nationwide identity. E. Ethelbert Miller and Jody Bolz carefully read every submission they receive, and their work reaffirms the value of poetry in a landscape that often devalues the written word. “Poetry may not be regarded as culturally central,” Jody Bolz explains, “but it's still what people turn to at the most important moments in their lives. At every life-cycle ritual—from naming ceremonies to funerals—the language of poetry speaks to us and speaks for us. As editors, our role is to connect poets and readers, building upon Poet Lore's 120-year-long record of literary discovery.”

Let's hope the Yankees can close the deal and get to the World Series. They should have won last night's game.

In DC the Washington Nationals are looking for a manager. Don Mattingly, a former Yankee star and now a bench coach for the Dodgers might get the nod. I guess Ethelbert will be overlooked again. Will he be invited to read a poem on opening day?
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, you have to go with someone.

-African proverb.

Basketball season is getting ready to start. The player I plan to follow this season is the rookie Stephen Curry on the Golden State Warriors. How good will he be? Curry is the player I would have selected if I worked for the Wizards.
Dr. Mohsine El Ahmadi is speaking at the Hudson Institute on Wednesday, November 4th. 12:30 - 2:00 PM.

His topic is "Islam in the Public Space: the Case of Morocco.

Hudson Institute
1015 15th Street, NW. 6th Floor
Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Opulent hunger, Opulent rage by Leslie McGrath

Psalm of The Sunflower by Antoinette Brim

McGrath is one of my former Bennington students. She recently edited with Ravi Shankar, Reetika Vazirani's posthumous poetry collection RADHA SAYS (Drunken Boat Press, 2010. McGrath is managing editor of Drunken Boat online journal of the arts.

I wrote the foreword to Brim's new book of poems. Here are my e-words:

In some ways Brim's work seems to follow and uphold the tradition given to us by Jean Toomer and Lucille Clifton. What one expects from these writers is not a simple examination of racial identity but instead a testimonial of what is righteous and spiritually instructive.


Heading down to the Corporation for National and Community Service today to do a reading. They are located at 1201 New York Avenue, NW. I need to put my "stuff" in order.

Yesterday I gave a talk on the campus of the University of Maryland (College Park). I was invited by Prof. Michelle Rowley in Women Studies. It was part of their "This Too Is Women's Studies! Series." My topic was "Masculinity and Memoir Writing." I began my talk by reading poetry and discussing specific themes in my work that dealt with the issue of masculinity. Since I was on the campus of the University of Maryland I also read work by Essex Hemphill and discussed his contribution to black male issues. Hemphill edited the anthology BROTHER TO BROTHER: NEW WRITINGS BY BLACK GAY MEN back in 1991. His work is also used in such film as LOOKING FOR LANGSTON and TONGUES UNTIED. Hemphill died on November 4, 1995.

Along with reading poems from my own collections, I read excerpts from my memoir FATHERING WORDS and spoke about THE 5TH INNING. I also talked about August Wilson's plays and how he handles his male and female characters. I read that wonderful exchange between Citizen and Black Mary that takes place in GEM OF THE OCEAN.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE LITTLE e-NOTE: The 1 Question Interview

Kristy Anderson, filmmaker - Zora Neale Hurston:Jump at the Sun.

The Question: Why did you want to make a film about Zora Neale Hurston?

I have a journalism degree and after working in television stations for 10 years, I started making documentary films in 1985. Those films focused on the culture, history and environment of Florida, where I live. I first learned about Zora when I read Robert Hemenway's book, "Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography". At that time, I had yet to read Zora's books but I thought she was a fascinating character -- witty, smart, beguiling. Because she was a Floridian, her background was familiar to me. She was very photogenic and many photos had been made of her (this helps with the filmmaking). And because she herself had been a filmmaker of sorts, shooting ethnographic films as part of her anthropological fieldwork, her body of work provided me with materials that would help to tell a filmic story. I loved her bravery and her spunk, and the fact that she embraced her culture in the 30's and 40's when the prevailing popular opinion was that it was not a culture to be embraced. And yet that culture, evidenced by the films that Zora shot and the books that she wrote, was very much embraced in the 1990s when I began the film.

As a documentarian, I did not want to put my words into Zora's mouth because documentary filmmakers generally let their subjects tell their own stories. Unlike many people who spend their lives searching for themselves, Zora seemed to have known all along who she was and so her strong "voice" and sense of humor provided me with a strong script.
Howard on My Mind?:
I was always curious as to when Howard University began calling itself "The Mecca." When did the expression "Capstone of Negro Education" become no longer the words in vogue? I just picked up the school newspaper - The Hilltop and read the editorial in which students were complaining about dorm conditions. This seems to be ongoing. What was sad (today) was to exit the HU Administration Building and notice the plaque for Mordecai Johnson beginning to slip from the wall. Let's hope someone repairs this soon. Meanwhile I'm thinking about selling a few prayer rugs.

BUILDING COMMUNITIES: One college at a time.

Poetry for Community Colleges
October 21, 2009

It would hardly be news, at this point, to say that 2009 has been a big year for community colleges. In many ways, it seems their day has finally come: for example, President Obama has made them a key part of his plans to aid the country's economic recovery and increase the number of Americans with at least some college education, and NBC's lighthearted (if not entirely laudatory) new sitcom "Community" is off to a strong start.

But for Kay Ryan -- for decades a community college teacher, now 16th Poet Laureate of the United States -- that's all more or less background noise.

Today marks the official launch of Ryan's project "Poetry for the Mind's Joy," an initiative through which she hopes to draw national attention to community colleges, as well as drawing the colleges' attention to poetry. She plans to do so in a variety of ways: for starters, by reading her poetry at community colleges across the country -- and this she has already begun, with a reading at the College of San Mateo, in California, last month.

She'll also have her own Web page on the Library of Congress's poetry pages; Ryan's page will have a community college focus, and should launch in early 2010. Further, she'll collaborate with the Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) on a poetry competition for community college students.

Finally, the project calls for the establishment of April 1 as National Poetry Day on Community College Campuses. On April 1, 2010, with help from the CCHA, Ryan will speak to participating colleges via live Webcast; she'll also hold a conference call with representatives from various campuses. "I’m going to be circling in a satellite," Ryan jokes. "Kind of like Santa Claus, you know. I’m going to come down all the community college chimneys on the same morning."
David Berry, executive director of the CCHA, says that if all goes well, the event won't be a one-off. "We’re going to try to reach as many community colleges as possible ... to build involvement in this day. I hope it’s going to continue."

While the timing of her initiative coincides with a period of heightened recognition of community colleges, Ryan says her decision to highlight them isn't related to that -- although she is gratified by Obama's call for additional spending on two-year colleges, and "excited" to watch "Community." For her, however, the issue is "very, very personal."

Until her selection as Poet Laureate in July 2008, Ryan was a part-time, adjunct instructor at the College of Marin, a midsized community college in the San Francisco Bay area. For over 30 years, while writing the poetry that eventually brought her national recognition, Ryan was also teaching basic English skills: “Really basic English skills, like developmental reading and writing; you know, our ambition would be to write a paragraph -- a good paragraph, with a topic sentence and supporting points." (Ryan's own writing is characterized by brevity, wit and linguistic dexterity, as well as a tendency to subvert the reader's expectations; her many famous poems include "Turtle" and "Home to Roost.")

But community colleges were part of Ryan’s life even before she began to teach, for she herself is a graduate of Antelope Valley College, in Lancaster, Cal., at which she got an associate degree before transferring to the University of California at Los Angeles, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

"I couldn’t wait to get to UCLA," Ryan says, "to get away from the community college, and it took me a number of years to have it truly dawn on me that I’d been treated much better at community college than I was at UCLA … [where] I was in classes of 300, and … I didn’t ever talk to my professors, I talked to the TA, and often my papers were graded by a whole rotation of TAs. If I had three papers, they would wind up graded by three different TAs, and there’s no coherence, there’s no relationship.… And at community college, all of my instructors knew my name; I had a personal relationship with them. Which is beyond price."

Still, it wasn't just her own history with community colleges that inspired Ryan to take on this project: "The most pressing reason," she says, "is the death of my partner, Carol Adair." Adair, Ryan's partner of 30 years, died of cancer this past January. She, too, was an instructor at the College of Marin, but full time. "Carol’s life was just extremely occupied with her teaching," Ryan says. "It really was her art."

Adair, Ryan continues, "was massively important in my ever getting anywhere" (Adair's efforts to get her partner's poetry career off the ground have been described elsewhere), and it was Adair who urged Ryan to accept the position of Poet Laureate, which she was initially reluctant to do. After her spouse's death, Ryan decided to stay on for a second term as Poet Laureate (Poets Laureate are appointed to a one-year term, but may be offered a second) to keep busy at a time when she knew she "was going to be unhappy." And the idea behind calling attention to community colleges has much to do with Adair, and her own, far less celebrated career.

"I’m the Poet Laureate; that’s the credit that I’ve gotten for my work," Ryan says. "Carol got a whistle on a lanyard. You know, it says 'Teacher of the Year.' That’s what she got. That was the reward for her brilliant lifetime of -- life-changing for so many students -- work. She got a tin whistle on a lanyard."

Ryan hopes that by focusing her attention on community colleges, she can help them get some of the respect -- and even celebration -- to which they have long been due. And if that celebration were to be accompanied by greater financial support, so much the better. In an ideal world, she says, "I would like to see them funded on par with four-year colleges... to receive equal funding."
Failing that, she wants to see them recognized for "the excellence of the instruction, the promise of the students, and the usefulness of the institutions."

Of course, for a community college instructor, herself a community college graduate, to be the U.S. Poet Laureate at all -- well, that's no small thing in itself. "I’m doing the project without having to do anything," Ryan laughs, "just by shouting from the rooftops, 'I spent my life teaching community college, I graduated from one, and I think they’re great!' "

Ryan will be giving three readings in conjunction with the launch of her project: tonight, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; October 30, at the Community College Humanities Association's national conference in Chicago; and December 8, at Antelope Valley College, her alma mater.

Serena Golden

© Copyright 2009 Inside Higher Ed

THE PALIN WATCH: Hoodwinked Again?

Alaskan Homegirl Sarah Palin will be on the Oprah Show - November 16th.

Maybe this was the goal after all - just to be on Oprah's show. If more people would just write books the world would be a better place. Right? You betcha!

Is it possible Oprah's interview will be longer than the amount of time it took Palin to write her book?

Special Guest Lecturer
Appearing on Howard’s Campus
On Friday, October 23

R. Dwayne Betts


“At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts---a good student from a lower-
middle- class family---carjacked a man with a friend. He had never held a
gun before, but within a matter of minutes he had committed six felonies.
A bright young kid, he served his eight-year sentence as part of the adult
population in some of the worst prisons in the state. “

“A Question of Freedom is a coming-of-age story, with a unique twist.
Utterly alone---and with the growing realization that he really is not going
home any time soon---Dwayne confronts profound questions about
violence, freedom, crime, race, and the justice system. Above all, A
Question of Freedom is about a quest for identity.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear more from this powerful emerging writer/poet
who will share with us more about his life, his experience in prison, what he
learned, and how he is applying this knowledge to his everyday life.

Mr. Betts will be on Howard ‘s Campus on:

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Lecture: 10:00 a.m. --- Douglass Hall --- Room 205
Second Lecture: 12:00 noon --- Locke Hall --- Room 105
Hey - I wonder what Michon is doing. Let's check:
I bet she's waiting for the Great Pumpkin. What about you?
Its been almost a year since we elected Obama. The Great Pumpkin is overdue.


Well, it looks like the N.B.A. will reach an agreement with the Referees Union. Have you noticed that whenever there is a strike it's impossible to find out what folks are striking about. Our news media is not union friendly. Most strikes are covered by the media from the angle of how the public will suffer. But why do folks strike? It's often for better wages and working conditions. It's about protection in the future. The media is often anti-union because they have problems with their own workers.

The Referees Union is dealing with issues of severance and pension. David Stern the Commissioner of the N.B.A. runs a tight ship like most good pirates. Someone should write a big biography of this guy. I can see him trying to fine the author for using words. Somebody has to blow the whistle sooner or later.
Small news:

WR, Joey Galloway was released by the New England Patriots.


War Dances by Sherman Alexie.
Grove Press
Quote of the Day:

We all know the Indians were colonized by the Europeans but every colonized Indian has been colonized by the Indian reaction to colonization.

- Sherman Alexie
Seduced by baseball again?
Last night I watched the entire Yankee/Angel playoff game. A-Rod is in a zone. How long will this continue? Time to clear my schedule for the World Series. Don't call me if I'm on second.
Must Reading:

"The Predator War" by Jane Mayer in the latest issue of The New Yorker (October 26, 2009). Page 36.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New from Malcolm Gladwell:


410 Pages. Little, Brown & Company. $27.99


A Black Woman writer in Israel: My Own Piece of the Middle East
Award- Winning Author Marita Golden talks with E. Ethelbert, Miller, Distinguished Poet and Educator, about her trip as a Literary and Cultural Ambassador to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Direct download: MaritaGolden.mp4Category: Author Talks


Small news:

Recently in the Vatican, African cardinals denounced the cultural imperialism of wealthy countries in their aid, trade and health care policies for Africa. They also claimed that Western influences were destroying Africa's moral fabric.


Rashied Ali was one of the most creative and exciting musicians ever to come on the scene. To play music with him was to rejoice in the exhilarating rhythms he contributed to the music of our time, and his. We hope that more and more, the world will come to recognize the tremendous artistic gifts Rashied Ali has given us.” -- Henry Grimes
On Sunday, October 25th, ‘O9 from 3 to 7 p.m., there will be a Rashied Ali memorial celebration in Philadelphia, w/ Amin Ali, Muhammed Ali (Rashied's brother, also a drummer), Ronnie Burrage, Dave Burrell, Pheralyn Dove, Charlie Ellerbee, Henry Grimes, Greg Murphy, Warren Oree, Cornell Rochester, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, James Blood Ulmer, G. Calvin Weston, & many more, free admission, at the Philadelphia Clef Club, 736-38 S. Broad St. (Ave. of The Arts) at Fitzwater St., 215-893-9912,,


Next Events:
Friday, October 23, 7:30 p.m.
The Writer’s Center is pleased to join with the Mexican Cultural Institute to present writers published in the literary magazine Reverso. Readers include Hernán Bravo Varela, Alejandro Tarrab, Dwayne Betts, Sandra Beasley, and Carlos Lopez de Alba (editor of Reverso). Leare more here.

Open Door Reading Series: Sunday, October 25, 2:00 p.m.
The Writer’s Center features winners of the 2009 Washington Writers’ Publishing House poetry and fiction competitions. Novelist William Littlejohn reads from Calvin, and Jehanne Dubrow reads from her collection of poems, From the Fever-World. Learn more here.

October 19, 2009

Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639,
Public contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692,

Library of Congress Celebrates 400th Anniversary
of “Royal Commentaries” by El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Nov. 19

“The Royal Commentaries of the Inca,” by El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, considered by historians to be the earliest and most important literary work of the Americas, was published 400 years ago, in 1609. The book is a keenly observant account of the Inca Empire, its conquest by Spain and the first years of colonial rule in the Americas.

The Library of Congress and the Embassy of Peru will celebrate its 400th anniversary with a presentation by scholars at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 100 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets and reservations are not needed.

The program—organized by Marie Arana, a distinguished visiting scholar at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center—includes opening remarks by Peruvian Ambassador Luis Valdivieso, followed by presentations by Raquel Chang-Rodriguez and Max Hernandez. Chang-Rodriguez, a distinguished professor of Hispanic literature and culture at the City University of New York, will discuss El Inca Garcilaso’s impact on Latin American literature. Hernandez, one of Peru’s leading intellectuals and social commentators, will discuss mestizo (mixed-race) identity. A question-and-answer session moderated by Georgette Dorn, chief of the Library’s Hispanic Division, will follow.

El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the author of “The Royal Commentaries of the Inca” (or “Los Comentarios Reales de los Incas”), was born in Cuzco, Peru, in 1539. He was the son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca noblewoman. “Royal Commentaries” was published in Lisbon in 1609. In 1688, an English translation was published in London. (The Library of Congress holds the first Spanish edition of 1609 and the first English-language translation of 1688.)

The book garnered considerable attention in Europe when it was first published and went on to be read for many generations as a masterpiece of American literature. Nevertheless, King Carlos III banned it from publication in Spain’s colonies during the rebellious 1780s, because of its “incendiary” content. “Royal Commentaries” was not distributed in the Americas again until 1918, although contraband copies continued to be circulated. There is no doubt that this extraordinary work of history, produced by South America’s first mixed-race writer, marked the dawn of a new culture in the hemisphere.

The presentation is sponsored by both the John W. Kluge Center and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, along with the Embassy of Peru.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 142 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which this nation was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at