I knew enough about adults to know that if I did tell them what had happened, I would not be believed. Adults rarely seemed to believe me when I told the truth anyway. Why would the believe me about something so unlikely?
— Neil Gaiman
I’m about to go in on some work summer reading. It’s going to be a mix of professional development leadership texts as well as a good amount of culturally responsive teaching books with an emphasis on anti-racist work. I am excited to get back into my constant learner mode as that takes my mind to an open space of listening, absorbing, and contextualization.
I gotta tell you, it’s going to be a challenge. I find it hard to focus on prose or dense text. My natural inclination to poetry and graphic novels mirrors my tendencies to go in deeper with a condensed text or image over going broad.
My current plan will be to mix it up with a poetry collection in between to see if bridging these two forms of lit can keep me on track.
For now, I share one of many highlights from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have been a fan of Gaiman’s work since his days of writing for DC’s Vertigo line. In fact, Sandman: Season of Mists was the first graphic novel collection I ever purchased. Gaiman has a way of writing myths and memories in direct language while still maintaining a sense of the fantastic.
This all brings me back when my mom passed away when I was thirteen. It was a few months after her passing that I heard whistling in the hallways for weeks after. I recall that no one else heard it in the house but me. I would be studying and all of a sudden this specific whistling would happen and no one else responded. So I would just pretend that I was going to throw some trash out and then hang out in the project hallways waiting for the whistling. I would randomly start whistling back and hear an echo that came from a new place. It was coming from the stairs and that is where I went because I knew for a fact it was my mom. I am not sure what she was trying to say to me. I remember waiting for a while to try to figure that out. Sitting in the stairs listening. Maybe that is when the whistling stopped. When I tried to make sense of it. I think now that all my mom wanted was just to have me to herself.
Favorite passage: “And we earn money. In some cases, lots of it…As Americans, we are led to believe that this in and of itself should be the path toward complete satisfaction. If we make enough money, have enough success, then we should be free from all struggles—or more accurately, our struggles are no longer valid. But what most of us find after a while, and much to our surprise, is that even with all the cash and prizes, the question of purpose remains. Pain and suffering still remain. Anger and frustration still remain.”
Andre was always on of my favorite Warriors and it was a pleasure to read through his memoir. This is a solid book that shares some of the mindsets necessary to go from growing up Black and male in a single mom household in the Midwest to navigating college, settling in the NBA and then becoming a champion and Finals MVP. The read is quick with a spotlight on only a few key moments from Iguodala’s career and even those moments are painted with a very broad brush. You won’t get heavy game-by-game analysis, cheesy trash talking, or inside gossip but you will find the story of a Black man defining his value in and out of US sports culture.
Thirty poetry collections in 30 days. Shout outs to all the used bookstores and library sales where we found so many of these classics. There are more than a few of these volumes that go for ridiculous amounts of dollars (that do not reach the poet or presses) on internet web sites. Don’t fall for it. When bookstores open again it is worth it to take the time to look for some of these treasures. Love to Barb who found so many of these.
Vivas To Those Who Have Failed: Poems, Martín Espada – W. W. Norton & Company – 2017
Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000, Lucille Clifton – Boa Editions – 2008
Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah: Poems, Patricia Smith – Coffee House Press – 2012
Poems, Roque Dalton – Curbstone Press – 1984 Translation by Richard Schaaf
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems, Joy Harjo – Norton – 1996
Revolutionary Letters, Diane di Prima – City Lights Books – 1974
Today’s read: Song Of Protest by Pablo Neruda – Quill – 1985 Foreword and translation by Miguel Algarín
Favorite Algarín line: I focused my entire attention on New York until I learned to survive. Soon, however, I felt dissatisfied. It was not enough to have the new. I needed a history as well. I needed my memories, and for that I needed Spanish back. — from “The Politics of Poetry”
Favorite Nerdua line: I have a pact of love with beauty: I have a pact of blood with my people. — from “Do Not Ask Me”
My memories of poetry and Pablo Neruda are deeply intertwined. Neruda was not the first poet I read and I am not sure if he was even the first Spanish language poet that I read. I do know that Neruda was the first poet where the Spanish and English side of the pages actually spoke to each other and I was the voice. I remember picking up a copy of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair for a friend’s birthday. Before gift wrapping the book, I began to thumb through the pages with every intention of just reading the English translations. I then decided to fumble through some Spanish. (I learned to read Spanish as an eight-year-old; a gift from my mother that is its own story) Soon, I was not fumbling through the Spanish. The Spanish, some broken for sure, was coming through me and making sense as sound and feeling. I gave up on reading the English and stayed focused on the Spanish. I was, as Algarín mused, connecting with a history in myself. It was one of my first decolonizing memories made even more impactful by the fact that I did not even know there was such an act as decolonizing.
Neruda continues to impact me as a poet let me about a Neruda biography that details Neruda raping a Sri Lankan woman. This is powerful information and begins a new chapter of my relationship with Neruda. I have met enough poets in my own life to know that great writing does not make for a great person. I am going to be processing a lot on what Neruda means to me with this new information. I am good with reading old poems again and asking new questions.
I’m feelin monster tired but with not much to show for it. I say this knowin full well that I have helped out at a number of local literary events with everything from watching the front door, putting chairs away at the end, and just coming through to archive the events in my Flickr and YouTube accounts. Aside from that I am still attending my BCC poetry class and (I think) gettin good grades. My jay-oh-bee continues to get more interesting (read: more work, more hours, more stress, more fulfillment) and I feel like it’s just going to keep gettin more interesting.
On the flip side, I haven’t been getting any writing done and it feels like I’m also reading less. This could be just a regular dip in energy level or it could be just a reaction to a lot of negativity I keep sensing in e-world around poetry. Mind you, I’ve never been one to pay heed to all the calls of “Poetry is Dead” or “Poetry Never Does Anything.” I always view these random editorials much the same way I view a person on the corner yelling out, “The end is near… Repent!” But this joyless tone is draining my desire to read up about anything poetry related on the net. So my reaction has been to fold up a little aluminum hat and ignore all my RSS feeds and that includes my own blog which has had little content in the last six weeks or so.
Now that I’ve typed that out, maybe I can turn it around and get more positive about poetics cuz there sure is still a lot of great work out there to read and enjoy. Emphasis on the joy part.