Friday, February 22, 2008

Reading in D.C. with INSPIRIT Dance, March 8th and 9th

Something very cool has happened--I've been asked to be a part of a performance with INSPIRIT Dance Company in the next few weeks. Big ups to poet John Murillo ,who put me in touch with Christal Brown, the founder of INSPIRIT, after I made a trip to NYC last year.

The Company is using a few of my poems--about womanhood and sensuality, I believe--from my book, Conversion, in their new piece. I'm so excited to finally get to meet them and see the words come to full-bodied life. Needless to say, I am thrilled :-)
If you're in D.C. or will be there the weekend of March 8th and 9th, please come out to the performance. Details about the location are below:

Dance Place
3228 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20017
Ticket Prices: $20 general admission;
$15 members, students, teachers (Pre K-12), professional artists & seniors;
$7 for children
For more information and directions, call 202-269-1600

It's only appropriate to end this post with a poem about dance that dances...

American Smooth

We were dancing – it must
have been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride—such perfect agony
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
By the effort of
Keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
Just enough to gaze out
Past your ear and always
Smiling, smiling),
I didn’t notice
How still you’d become until
We had done it
(for two measures?
Four?) – achieved flight,
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.

--Rita Dove

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tina Turner and Beyonce -- Grammy Awards 2008

Tina Turner will be 70 years old next year. She was born in Nutbush, Tennessee. She wears four-inch stiletto heels and silver lame'. My mother and I agree that we both want to be Tina Turner when we grow up...or at least get personal trainers now and hope for the best.

How does staying up until 11:30 watching the Grammys help one to write??? Well, I am still inspired by this performance and am thinking the eternal questions. How do you reinvent yourself (in song)? What are the extended metaphors in the Turner catalog? I always imagine that singing "Private Dancer" was especially painful for Tina, so she'd beat that song down every time she came to it. How did Ike's being gone, really gone, affect the way she showed the stage no mercy last night? Where are the odes for Tina? What line(s) can I use to write her Bop? Plenty of inspiration in tradition and history, the melding of classic and new.

Oh, and stop hatin' on Beyonce. She worked it, too. And girlfriend had to work pretty hard to keep up with Ms. Turner.

Something poetic from Tina:


All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names
You don't think of them as human
You don't think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
And any old music will do

I want to make a million dollars
I wanna live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer, a dancer for money
And any old music will do

Deutch marks or dollars
American Express will do nicely, thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you wanna see me do the shimmy again?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Few Things I Learned...

at (or from) the AWP Conference last week:

  • Forest Hamer is a brilliant poet with a day job that can teach you a thing or two about your own psychosis if you listen long enough.

  • Jericho Brown's book Please, soon to be released from New Issues Press, might just change the way we think about the standards for great poetry, especially if he's in front of us reading the poems aloud.

  • Tupelo Press publishes some fantastic boks and you will spend an hour (and all your money) at their table in the bookfair if you are not careful.

  • Inside joke: Truth or dare is as much about the mafia as it isn't, at three o'clock in the morning, with a bowl of steaming chili, in a cute apartment in Harlem.

Here's a poem by one of my teachers, the beloved Ed Ochester, who was there, and who taught me to laugh and cry in equal measure whenever necessary:

What the Frost Casts Up

A crown of handmade nails, as though
there were a house here once, burned,
where we've gardened for fifteen years;
the ceramic top of an ancient fuse;
this spring the tiny head of a plastic doll--
not much compared to what they find
in England, where every now and then
a coin of the Roman emperors, Severus
or Constantius, works its way up, but
something, as though nothing we've
ever touched wants to stay in the earth,
the patient artifacts waiting, having been lost
or cast away, as though they couldn't bear
the parting, or because they are the only
messengers from lives that were important once,
waiting for the power of the frost
to move them to the mercy of our hands.