Monday, July 30, 2012

Early Review of CONJURO by Xanath Caraza Posted on Amazon! See Xanath Caraza's new book of poetry Conjuro reviewed early on Amazon--first review! The book is also available through (just email ). Congratutlations to her for this excellent book of poetry. Here's a comment from the introduction by Fred Arroyo:
Is there a way to be gone and still 
belong? Travel that takes you home?

Is that life?—to stand by a river and go?[i]

—William Stafford, “Quo Vadis”

In these lines I read filaments Xánath Caraza weaves into her vivid, incantatory, and enchanting Conjuro. Caraza is a poet who travels across languages and geographies, histories and identities, in conjuring a new language that helps her to travel home. Through this poetic journey—part American Indian (Nahuatl), part African, part Midwestern American, and part European—she calls on her readers to experience within poetry’s music the feeling of being gone yet still needing to belong. I evoke Stafford simply because he’s often remembered for growing up in Kansas, where his imagination became rooted and restless, and although he lived a majority of his poetic life outside Kansas, Stafford became the great American poet from the Middle West—and I make this connection in order to read and place Xánath Caraza’s poetic achievement within this heartland, while also considering how Caraza poetically dwells within and travels from the Middle West; navigates rich and strong linguistic currents; and creates a terrestrial tapestry that shares the magical enchantment of her poetry. Xánath Caraza is a scholar, teacher, and activist—a poeta deeply residing in the earth. The speaker of “Of Synonyms, Euphemisms, and Other Figures of Speech” sings:

Freedom and education are synonyms for me.

Professor, teacher, and social activist, are likewise.

Pronouncing ancestral languages of my heritage is resistance.

The voice of the Sun is a euphemism.

The SB 1070 Arizona law is as a shame. A simile.

Wind brings the time of freedom to the silence of the desert. An alliteration. (47)
(Prose from Fred Arroyo's introduction to Conjuro)

[i] The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 1998, p. 38. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Langston Hughes D.C. Residence (1924-26) Is on S St. NW

1749 S.St. NW c. Denise Low

Langston Hughes residence 1924-6
Langston Hughes lived in Washington, D.C. 1924-26. He lived briefly at the YMCA on 12th St., but mostly he was at 1749 S. St. NW. He came to D.C. to live with his mother and brother Kit, but he also aspired to attend Howard University. On S. St., the small family lived in two unheated, rented rooms (DC Writers). Across the street lived the parents of Charles Hamilton Houston, who would be a 1950s law professor at Howard. Hughes also visited Saturday night salons of neighbor Georgia Douglas Johnson, who lived at 1641 S. St. NW. Here Hughes was able to “discuss literature, eat cake, and drink wine” (Mills).  This building has been torn down—1631 remains (see photo). These would have been luxuries to Hughes, who was desperately poor at the time. To raise money, he held a series of odd jobs, including proof reading for the Washington Sentinel and busing tables at the Wardman Park hotel. At the segregated hotel, poet Vachel Lindsay read Hughes’s poetry and gave him his break (Cultural Tourism). Hughes began his career: “While living in DC, he published his first book of poems, The Weary Blues (1926), and wrote most of the poems that would become his second book, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927)” (DC Writers). In his memoir The Big Sea and in the article “Our Wonderful Society, Washington (Opportunity, Aug. 1927), he describes his struggles during these years with class issues. In Lawrence and Kansas City he had a background in popular cultures of the time—blues, early jazz, oral literatures, dance. He continued to seek out arts of the common African American people while he was in Washington D.C. (Mills).
A personal note: in Lawrence, my hometown, many buildings where Hughes attended school, plays, church services, and worked are still standing. A grocery store his grandfather owned in the 1880s is still standing on the main street. See more photos in Langston Hughes in Lawrence, by Denise Low and Thomas Weso, It is a total coincidence that son Daniel Low, from Lawrence, has a house within a block of Langston’s residence, or is it?
Photos all © by Denise Low, 2012.
“Langston Hughes Residence: African American Heritage Trail.” Cultural Tourism  D.C. 1999-2012. Web.
“Langston Hughes.” DC Writers’ Homes. 2012. Web.
Fitzpatrick, Sandra and Maria R. Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington, rev. ed. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999).
Freund, David M.P.  and Marya Annette McQuirter, Biographical Supplement and Index, Young Oxford History of African Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Mills, Paul T. “Langston Hughes.” The Black Renaissance in Washington. June 20, 2003. Web.
Gatewood, Willard B. Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 338.
Rampersad, Arnold. Life of Langston Hughes (2 volumes from Oxford University, 1988, 1986)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Update for "Lenape Code" project: Walking Purchase Treaty turtle signature fits into the puzzle

Here is an update for the “Lenape Code: Explorations in Delaware Arts” project I’ve been working on through USA Artists, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting artist projects

So far I have about 25% of the funds raised through generous, tax-deductible contributions. Individuals may donate, and I also encourage groups and organizations to consider donations. At higher levels ($250-$1000), you can receive individualized lectures and gallery talks. Funds will support travel and research to complete illustrated creative texts, both print and electronic. The print products will include an illustrated, signed poster (broadside) on fine paper. The electronic presentation will includes audio, image, and text. I will post this on a website and approach Plains Indian Ledger Art about hosting this webpage, as well as other organizations. The project will explore the continuity of Algonquian glyphs—Turtle, Spiral, Medicine Wheel, and others. Please see below for more information. Deadline is August 20, 2012.Here is one of the sources I’m working with: a Turtle signature glyph from 1737 Walking Purchase treaty. This is one of the images connected to both the "Ojibwa Rose" motif of beadwork as well as the Medicine Wheel. It appears here in a written document, as a leader's signature glyph. I have also seen stylized turtles in Cheyenne ledger art as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Publishers Weekly likes Julianne Buchsbaum's new poetry collection

The Apothecary's Heir is Julianne Buchsbaum's third collection of poetry and winner of a National Poetry Series award. New from Penguin, and definitely one of the best new books out.

My online review of the book is at this link--another lense for viewing this dense, fine collection. But get the book itself--you can see for yourself.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dinty W. Moore's Book THE MINDFUL WRITER Mentors Writers

Dinty W. Moore is a master writer--he writes textbooks about writing, and he has the tickets for this position as an author and professor. But don't let that get in the way of enjoying his engaging book about the challenges of writing. He is a fellow sufferer in the world of 10,000 writerly pains. In The Mindful Writer, 59 sections begin with quotations from eminent writers, then Moore comments on them. Section 1 begins "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people" (Thomas Mann). Moore illuminates this paradox. Writing is difficult "Because we care about finding the precise word, the clearest expression, and we understand that sometimes a thought needs to be revised tens or hundreds of times before we find the perfect way to say what we really mean." Moore outlines the noble truths of writing. His four sections identify four modes of solving the writer's ongoing koan: "The Writer's Mind," "The Writer's Desk," "The Writer's Vision," and "The Writer's Life." Moore's book The Accidental Buddhist is one of my all time favorites. This book adds to his teachings. I plan to buy extra copies to share with my many suffering writer friends.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ted Kooser Writes about Magic and Anecdotes

I blogged recently about Ted Kooser and his criticism about poetry that is anecdotal without further layering of intensities.

Here is a bit more from Kooser about this issue in his American Life in Poetry selection this week.

So here is the crux: Do you believe in magic? This poem about a fish, literally yes but also something intagibly more.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Reviews in KC Star--Robbins, Buchsbaum, Levering, Brings Plenty

Here's a Kansas City Star review of new poetry books that feature the bizarro mix of real and simulacra in 21st c. media land: