Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Poetry of Ali Znaidi

Recently two students in my Introduction to Creative Writing, Poetry class reviewed Tunisian poet Ali Znaidi's chapbooks.  Tonight I'd like to post some of Ali's poems so that you may read them for yourself.  He, by the way, writes in English.

The Poems:
there ain’t such a metaphor
everything is an image
everything is a gallery
but why on earth
there ain’t such a metaphor
that blends the body of a scorpion
w/ the grains
of barely?
words are not dead
this isn’t nonsense
this isn’t detour
this isn’t deviation
this is just dawn that smashes darkness
into an ethereal light
this is just a neon red light of the streetlamps
this is just a doorway asking me to write
my own sighs
all that glitters is worthy of words
all that is dim is worthy of experimentation
Feminine Blues
a dolphin w/
a hydrated skin
on the screen
of the  plasma TV
those girls in
the beauty salon
start sighing
Older Tweets I Didn’t Tweet
A schemata of the hummingbird’s snorting.
—I begin to compete w/ fetishized voices.
An echo of the consummated sounds
of a migratory thunder.
—I begin to lament this melancholic existence.
A butterfly has landed on my frigid fingertip.
—I need to mend the broken strings of the violin.
map of a dream
a stone that would cover
a ditch
as foundation would cover
the dark spots on a face
let the colours wade into
an oily canvas
this is your last chance
to piece together
those staccato notes
this is your last chance
to sketch a map for your dreams
because everything belongs to a map

Contributor’s Bio:
Ali Znaidi (b.1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia, where he teaches English. His work has appeared in various magazines and journals worldwide. He authored four poetry chapbooks including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems (Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), and Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014). He also authored a fiction book titled Green Cemetery (Moment Publications, 2014) which is in fact the first Tunisian flash fiction collection originally written & published in the English language.
Some of his poems have been translated into German, Greek, Turkish and Italian.
You can see more of his work on his blog at  aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

To get us back in a jazz frame of mind, I am going to play some Jason Moran.

First is his "Ringing My Phone": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpHq_cRKGyw

Here he is playing with Robert Glasper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2OOwoN5GuI

Moran also wrote the soundtrack to Selma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg8r_A30gyE

Finally, he is playing Monk's "Friday the 13th": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqiTZhVvX18

Enjoy!  I hope to be setting up the spring schedule this weekend.  So if you've sent in work, you will hear from me soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

More from Miss Kiane....

Youngsters Cool Off With Fire Hydrant Water On Chicago's South Side In The Woodlawn Community, 06/1973. John H. White for Project DOCUMERICA. US National Archives.
via "Joys of the Public Domain," Copyright Librarian, 25 July 2014.

In the little bit of time I have tonight, I would like to post two more pieces by DC poet and performer Miss Kiane.  The next piece is older and more light-hearted.

For No Reason At All

I rode my bike down a quiet street reducing my speed to observe the d├ęcor and take in the ambiance.  The houses were still like sleeping corpses but they were much alive. Alive with aged class and modest pride. For no reason at all, I rode my bike down this quiet street recalling the memories of birthday parties, graduations, births, career moves, deaths….recalling the memories of survivors, storytellers, love givers….For no reason at all, I rode my bike down a quiet street making their story my story even if for a brief moment.

I overheard a little girl with cornrolls in her head and bubble gum in her mouth tell her big brother how lucky he was because she was born.  I listened intrusively while she presented her case with sassy conviction. “If I wasn’t born, we wouldn’t be having a party!” she said.  I eavesdropped with a smile and within myself I sided with her.  For no real reason at, I sided with her.  Aren’t we all lucky that she was born?

I sat in the corner of a lively park away from it yet in it.  Like a punished child sitting in time-out.  But I wasn’t being punished.  In fact, quite the contrary. I sat in the corner for no reason at all enjoying the breeze on my sticky skin…the sun peeking at me through the arms of protective trees.  For no reason at all, I sat in the corner of a lively park.

I listened to the fountain water falling…almost rhythmically, soothing, lulling.  It seemed to command a calm from every surrounding thing from feather plucking ducks to red-tie businessmen.    For no reason at all, I listened to the water fall with pen pressed to paper and I recounted the events of my day….the bike ride, the little girl, the lively park and now the fountain….

I smile…one side of my mouth turned upward minimizing the size of my left eye as my cheek skin pushes up into it.  Trying to hold at least half of my composure, I bow my head in a bashful concession.  I smile for no reason at all. 

-Dinahsta “Miss Kiane” Thomas

© 2005

Her second poem is a tribute to the beloved writer Maya Angelou.

Tribute to Maya

You are the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be
So many things I ever wanted to be
Like a collector of rainbows, a spot of sun shared between foes
an open field where wisdom grows.

You are the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be
So many things I ever wanted to be
Like a modern day Moses making demands and moving the masses…
A post-historic Harriet harnessing hope and holding freedom passes.

You are the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be
So many things I ever wanted to be
Like a singer whose voice moves like sound waves with pinnacles and valleys
Weaving the world together from soul to soul through riffs, scats and harmonies.

You are the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be
So many things I ever wanted to be
Like a poet whose words transcend inequitable woes
transforming lives and opening eyes
yet dives deep into man’s dark and guarded soul

You are the epitome of everything I ever wanted to be
So many things I ever wanted to be
Things I didn’t even think I could be.
Until one day, I could’ve sworn I heard you say to me,
“Chile, don’t you know? Bein’ is free!
Don’t cost nothin’ to graffiti the world with your smile
Ain’t no hidden fees just to sit here and chat for a while
There’s no mark up on generosity
No such thing as retail value for authenticity
Open your heart and let the world feel your sun
After all everyone has to give an account for what they’ve done
Being the epitome of me….well that was my job
So, chile, be who God made you be
Cause bein’ is free!”

Written by Dinahsta “Miss Kiane” Thomas in honor of the late Dr. Maya Angelou, my poetic hero and mentor

I'll finish with something a little different, a link to some of Dr. Angelou's performances, starting with "And Still I Rise":

Here is her "Phenomenal Woman": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egrQH2UTaWE

To close this entry, I am posting two pieces by Regina Carter.  The first is her version of "Mood Indigo," and the second is "Carnival."


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Miss Kiane!

Photograph by Miss Kiane Thomas

This evening I am proud to present the poems of Miss Kiane, one of the stars of the D.C. Poetry Project.  "Grass Don't Grow in the Ghetto" and "In Route to Metro" are both strong, powerful additions to the Mourning and Memory contest.  I am also proud to present Lloyd Wolf's photograph from his D.C. Shrines blog.  When I was looking for images to accompany Miss Kiane's poems, I knew that I had to ask Mr. Wolf for permission to post this photograph here.

Photograph courtesy © Lloyd Wolf / http://dcshrines.blogspot.com

You may read more about the circumstances of the murder that this shrine memorializes here: http://dcshrines.blogspot.com/2012/12/selina-brown-1700-block-of-minnesota.html

And now here are Miss Kiane's poems!

Grass Don’t Grow in the Ghetto

Glass glistens where grass is supposed to grow.
Gruesome grooves pierce the ground jutting upward
Like black fists punching stale air.

Sharp petaled flowers memorialize
Dreams, wishes and whispers of hope

And for the life of me I can’t figure out why grass don’t grow in the ghetto.

Gaping glok gashes sets his face aglow
In the afterglow of a grappling with the Po Po.

Gory glimpses of faded glory is merely
A glimmer in his flittering eyes.

Groping for remnants of his vitality,
It slips through his fingers
His mother curses the fingers
That pulled the trigger.

THEY SHOT MY SON! Mowed down like blades of green grass
Growing toward a glaring sun. MY SON!

His spirit pierces white clouds, thrust upward
Like a black fist punching stale air.

Still can’t figure out why grass don’t grow in the ghetto.

His homies pour libations
“1 sip for you….10 gulps for me”
Believing that the blood stained tree roots next to the yellow tape and chalked silhouette
Would serve as his esophagus and deliver liquid resurrection power

But before he could rise from the dead,
His homies would wash away urban poetry
With hawk spits and hot piss
Leaving nothing behind but
Shattered liquor bottles and the stench of dreams deferred.

Still wondering why grass don’t grow in the ghetto?

Our sprinkler system spews putrid defeat
We fertilize our seeds with
Maggot-filled cow chips and
Avaricious dung
AKA a bunch of real stinky SHIT.

We eat our young and throw up our old.
Killing our future while immortalizing our past.

We excuse hate when the hater is the hunter
And a little black boy is the bate.

Grass CAN’T grow in the ghetto as long as
The grass stays greener on the other side.

As long as economical, medical and educational divides
Are wider than the spance between my eyes.

Glass will continue to glisten where grass is supposed to grow
Until our so called social services become true human services

Until our equality is no longer a no go
But something we do know going forward

Until our narcissistic greed ceases to be our ladder
And the lives of black boys and girls really do matter

In the meantime, we’ll politic, pontificate and perseverate
The problems that plague the brown people
Ignoring the glass that glistens where grass is supposed to grow
Acting like we can’t figure out
Why grass don’t grow in the ghetto.

Dinahsta “Miss Kiane” Thomas

January 26, 2015

In Route To Metro
8:38 am on a Monday morning,
Work heels scratch the pavement
While $200 Jordans leave elaborate imprints on the dusty sidelines.
School aged children are dragged to their nearby DCPS babysitters
Eager but legs too short to keep up
They wobble when they walk,
Book bags flapping on their tiny backs
                Like prized burdens

8:41 am on a Monday Morning
A nonworking local king
Stands on his littered throne with 2 Pitts on either side
On one side a male who, despite his disposability,
Sits in loyal submission
On the other side a female whose tits are no longer pink with youth
But now a tarnished grey
Camouflaged by the dirt she lays in

8:47 am on a Monday Morning
The local king passes the baton from lips to fingertips
And without an ounce of paternal respect, he expels his poisonous oxygen
Just as young Shaniya and her baby brother Davon walk by
Fortunately for them the Scent of Fresh Weed in the Morning
Was their mother’s favorite fragrance
So the musty sweet aroma did not disgust their nose hairs
It only dulled their brain cells

8:54 am on a Monday Morning
A friendly hola is exchanged with the
Papi who picks up the piles of ghetto potpourri.
I smile and say good morning every morning to the blunt passing, rear end revealing and foul mouth sharing brotha
I smile and say good morning every morning to the painted pant wearing, verbal brick throwing and no esteem having sistah
I smile and say good morning every morning
And honestly my intentions are more than just to be friendly
Something inside of me
Wants to show that we are not just ghetto kings and queens
Who decorate their thrones with
Grey goose bottles, UTZ sour cream and onion potato chip bags, used condoms and blunt wrappers
Something inside of me believes that my good mornings tell them
We can do better than this.
We are better than this.
You are better than this.
Somehow I am convinced that my good mornings hold more than manners taught to me as a child, but possesses the ability to reframe the perception of a race.
I am convinced that my good mornings are like intravenous injections of inspiration and courage.
I am persuaded that my good mornings bridge the gap of an intra-cultural divide
My good mornings are changing the world!

Until that good morning when he said to me
You look sexy, Mommy
Until that good morning she whispered Bitch as she thought of me
Then it dawned on me; it may take more than a good morning to reverse the ramifications of the Fall
That this pendulum of social pandemonium was missing the power of a wrecking ball
And it was possible that my good mornings weren’t changing the world at all
It was possible that I was blinded by my optimistic gall

8:59 am on a Monday morning
I disappear into the ground, pay my fare and wait.

Dinahsta “Miss Kiane” Thomas

I am going to return to jazz for my music this evening.  The first piece that comes to mind is Miles Davis' "On the Corner."

Here is his "Frelon Brun" from Filles des Kilimanjaro:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMQIxw0xwgc

I'll finish with his "Right Off" from his tribute to Jack Johnson:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEBKksupBVA

Friday, March 20, 2015

Now that the votes have been counted....

let's announce the prize winners!

Thelma's Prize was a close contest, but Regina A. Walker pulled it out for "Hiraeth."  Pijush Kanti Deb was a close second for "Me and My Poorness."

Despite his doubts, Catfish McDaris won Monk's Prize for "Elephant Tusk Boogie."

Regina also won Clark's Prize for "Hireath."

Amber Smithers won the Local Prize for "A Mother's Lullaby to Her Son."  This poem is also part of the Mourning and Memory contest that will be winding up soon.  It is good to see a poem from this contest represented in the fall.

Regina and Juan Tituana shared Callie's Prize for their work.

Thank you to all who participated!

Below are some of the prizes.  If you won one of the contests, I will be contacting you soon!

And here is some music for you:

We'll start with Monk's "Blue Monk": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_40V2lcxM7k

This version of "Ruby My Dear" also features John Coltrane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6liAgg4SN88

Monk performs "Round Midnight" solo:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6qoDdrkXKU

Next let's go to the title track of Gene Clark's No Other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GilrLIwBJE8

Here is a live version of the same song from 1975: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJFsuXs8s6k

I'll finish with an acoustic version of "Silver Raven" from the extended version of No Other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IydKgkrGc6Q

Thursday, March 19, 2015

While I'm Counting Votes.....

I'd like to post some new poems.  First are four that Catfish McDaris sent me for the mourning and memory contest that just ended.


If I could reach
inside my chest
and rip my heart
out and give it
to you I would

Along with all my
worldly possessions
I would do it gladly

Or turn back the
hands of time and
erase all my faults

If you would forgive
me and speak to me
again after ten long
years of silence

My only child
light of my life
I beg you I need
you I beseech you.


Animal Crackers

The free buffalo are gone, autumn
winds blow gentle whispers of
falling leaves and children laughing

While Quick listens to Norwegian Wood
wondering about John Lennon building a
fire, his daughter left him a tiny circus box
full of tasty bears, lions, and elephants.


 17 Cents A Year

She'd loved her fifteen year
old son to no avail, he was
unhappy with living

She tried therapy, medication,
bribery nothing worked, she
found him hanging from an
apple tree in their backyard

Donating his organs seemed
ghoulish but she did it, a dying
man in Ohio received his heart

They exchanged Christmas
cards for fifteen years, until
his death, he lived long enough
to enjoy his wife and growing family

A few months after the man's
death, she got an official legal
notarized letter with a check
for $2.55, for the heart. 


700 People Dancing Somewhere

Voices from all over
earth come through a little
radio, 35 people dead in
Jerusalem, so far.

Fog rolls in over Scotland,
elections coming in England,
devolution in a fortnight.

Races in Monte Carlo, Sean
Connery front page news.

Building collapses, crashing
onto a wedding in the City of
David, dead being dug out.

51 dead found in graves in Russia.
Oklahoma bomber of 168 dead, to die.
Macedonia minus Alexander battles Albania.

Beirut against Israel.
Japanese lepers apologized to.

What a world, I sit in the
basement and cry in wonder
and ask God why.


Bea Garth also sent me a powerful poem about her late nephew Robert.  He had been shot by the police.  The painting above is part of David Alfaro Siqueiros' mural in Tecpan.  Siqueiros' La Marcha de la Humanidad is below.

by Bea Garth

He was my nephew shot by the police
that year, the day before my birthday.
Two months later I visited his hang out in Blue Lake,
murals painted under the bridge next to his mothers land.
He carried a pole from a rake,
tried to get the vagrant to leave.

The police came
and shot my nephew dead
there by the bridge
on the edge of his mothers land,
shot dead for carrying a pole
and waving it at that man,
the vagrant with a cell phone,
the vagrant who looked less vagrant than he,
my nephew with his long greasy hair
and old smelly clothes,
he and his mother almost never washed,
my nephew, son  of my brother,
the Libertarian Hippy protecting his land and way of life
with his own odd constructions a few miles away.

My nephew never said much,
he just wanted to become an artist
and was: murals under the bridge
a woman and her dog,
protests against the police,
now flowers in a glass jar next to the bridge.

My nephew now lies in an unmarked grave
under a redwood tree
buried by his father,
his grave now graced by stolen flowers
and a garland of magical weeds.

My nephew shot by the police
buried by his father
who showed me his grave
while  he and his girlfriends  dogs barked and peed.

My  nephew: twenty seven years old,
never said much,
just wanted to paint murals
and protect his mothers land
from the hobos and the police. 

 I saved Fanny's "Conversation with a Cop" for this entry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAGQZiADkD4

I'm adding their "Place in the Country" as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGWsrWi8OxY

Wyclef Jean's "Diallo" is also worth posting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9PMCrIcCfk

All of the Mexican art makes me want to post more Los Lobos:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t57_Lk38iEE

I'm closing with Richard Thompson's "I Misunderstood" although it is more emotional than political:

I don't want to be up past one am again tonight.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Which Goodbye and other work by Doug Mathewson

Tonight I'd like to post two flash fiction and one poem by Doug Mathewson.  Thank you, Catfish McDaris, for steering him my way!

Which Goodbye

   The night before my Grandmother died we said our goodbyes in the hospital. We had always been very close, and knew this would be our final parting.
   I said goodbye to my Father many times over the years. First when we sat together in a locked psychiatric ward. He laughed nervously and said
     “I never thought it would be my mind that would go first”.
We repeatedly said goodbyes of one kind or another in different nursing homes, clinics,  and hospitals as he declined. Finally in Hospice, with cancer consuming him we said goodbye daily. We would hold hands and sit together in the sun. Tears would swell in his now blind eyes and he would say
     “I want to die. Please kill me. You’re my son, you’re a good man, you know what’s 
      right. Kill me, please kill me. I want to die”.
If I could have taken his life I would have then and  there. But what I did do was give him permission to go, permission to die, and we said goodbye everyday until he was gone.
   My Mother now is fading. Alzheimer’s and stroke have taken her once sharp mind. Memory is falling away from her so rapidly. Now we find sunny spots in which to sit. Most days she knows me, but not all. She wonders aloud if I am her brother or a childhood friend. 
   Every goodbye between us now is long and lingering. We never know which one will be our last goodbye.
                          by - Doug Mathewson 

Sequenced Dreams

Years ago my mother and I stood side by side watching my newborn son sleep. He startled. She smiled and said “Look... He’s like Cassie”, referring to our family dog, “Thinking about chasing rabbits.” She squeezed my hand and we were blissfully content in the moment.
At Hospice today I sat with my mother, retelling her our family stories. She was wrapped in blue blankets, unconscious in her bed by the sunny windows. Her hand fluttered for a moment within mine and I thought “Mom’s dreaming of bunnies.” 

                                          by-Doug Mathewson 

Woman’s Way

Not a woman’s way, not like that. My deer rifle, and her half-pint.
Both still on seat. 
Way out there by herself. Pills you’d figure or a blade in the tub. 
But not like this. First shot you’d think would’ve spooked her.
Her being alone and taking out the back window like it did.
Must of made a hell of a noise.

But she never would back off, that was probably half her problem.
Other half ran deeper. Old and dark, dark as night. Ran that way all her life.
Troopers found her upstate, out there by the lake.
Her pickup hidden by the trees.

Gotta say, always worried, her being my little sis and all. 
Guess I can stop my worrying about her, use what I got left
for her kids.

                             by-Doug Mathewson

Doug Mathewson has rejected the advice “write what you know” since he knows nothing. Most recently his work has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Cloud City Press, Postcards Prose & Poems, riverbabble, and Jersey Devil.  

This weekend I've been listening to my Los Lobos albums, so I'm going to post a few of their songs for you.  They've been going through my mind as I read Doug's work.

I'll begin with "Someday": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUCPPkaJABU

Here is "Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street" with Bobby Womack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIKEfKJ_zJI

To remind you to vote in the fall contests, I am going to add a song or two by Gene Clark.  First is his "Hear the Wind": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsJ_4f1VP8w

Here is his "Silent Crusade" from Two Sides to Every Story, his album from 1977:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPneXVs21xM

Clark did a version of "In the Pines" on that album, but I think Kurt Cobain's version of the song fits this entry better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOZKz_sPM6U

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In a Place of Memory, Trying Not to Be in Mourning

This evening I would like to post more of a summertime poem, Avis D. Matthews' "Chicago, 1971." However, as Avis noted in her submission, the poem comes from a place of memory, trying not to be in mourning.  The picture above is also from Chicago's 12th Street Beach on Lake Michigan.  It is one of the many taken by John H. White in his 1970s DOCUMERICA series.  The woman on the beach seems to be as life-loving as Avis' aunt was.

 Chicago, 1971
for my Aunt DeWana

She never could stand heat,
and in Chicago on
the Southside that summer,
my first visit,
there was heat.

Please take off that hot blouse!

Milky-cream polyester,
fitted in the seams,
long, soft sleeves …
it was making her hot.

But, how it complemented
my Peter Max hot pants.

Then just take off the bra.

Liberated at 14!

Back home in Maryland,
I didn’t tell my mother
her sister let me go out of the house like that.

Avis Danette Matthews

Here are some other photographs from the DOCUMERICA series.

I'll finish with some music for you.  Last night I was listening to Fanny, and I think that their "Summer Song" would go well here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O63MzT2pPSs

Here is Fanny's "Charity Ball" (albeit with "intro" and "outro" by Sonny and Cher):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTA0PHkZbt0

Fanny was also known for its covers.  Here is their version of "Special Care":

Voting on the fall contests continues until March 15.

Everyone is eligible for Thelma's Prize:

Here are the list for the works that are eligible for the Monk Prize and those that are eligible for the Clark Prize:

Finally, we have the Local Prize for DC-area writers as well as a new prize, Callie's Prize for visual imagery:

Please send your votes to thesongis@gmail.com.