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Archive for January, 2008


Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008



Click on the picture-frame to view an old-fashioned photo-collage (assembled by Diem Jones) of Al Young with such friends and acquaintances as Toi Derricotte, Ernest J. Gaines, Lawson Fusao Inada, Wallace Stegner, Nikki Giovanni, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Amiri Baraka, James D. Houston, Jane Hirshfield, Quincy Troupe, blues great Charles Brown, Ishmael Reed, Elmaz Abinader, John Handy, Dana Gioia, and Wynton Marsalis



Look and Feel of Dreams Remembered

  Justin Desmangles

Eugene Redmond and Al Young, circa 2008 | Koret Auditorium, San Francisco



With Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger | Sacramento, 2006


With novelist and sculptor Barbara Chase-Riboud at the American Academy in Rome, 2004. We hadn’t seen one another since Paris 1992, when she hosted a gala crowd at her atelier to honor that year’s International Conference on Richard Wright at the Sorbonne.


Al wraps up an after-dinner talk on poetry, technology and democracy at the American Academy in Rome.


Rome in rain, Spring 2004 |   Al Young


Side street, Naples, 2004
Al Young



Gemini in Naples, 2004 Al Young



Signage, Cagliari, Italy 2004 | Al Young


Two Paolas: Paola Pierini and Paola Boi in Cagliari (Casteddu in the Sardinian language), 2004
Al Young


Coastal restaurant, Cagliari
Al Young


Morning by the sea with Paola Pierini.


Dinner in Cagliari, 2004


Scholar Radhouan Ben Amara (co-editor and husband to Paola Boi), Paola Pierini of the U.S. Embassy, Rome, and Professor of English and African Americanist Paola Boi. Yet another lovely meal with caring friends.


Salerno snack | Al Young


With author Mei Nakano at Santa Rosa Junior College, 2004


Al “Hassan” Wardlow (1937-2011) at his Mission District digs in San Francisco. The former Sun Ra and salsa band trombonist had just flown in hours before from his residence in Guangzhou, China to play the gig with me at Santa Rosa Junior College. Zooming home from Italy, I’d barely beaten my old high school buddy back home to our beloved Bay Area.
Al Young


Poet and former Howard University professor Sam Hamod at the San Francisco Book Fair and University of Poetry, 2004 | Al Young


With Sonia Sanchez at the SF Tenderloin Book Fair and University of Poetry


Sonia Sanchez inset photo: Indigo Moor


With Amiri Baraka at the San Francisco Tenderloin Book Fair and University of Poetry


With former student Chittra Divakaruni at the 20o5 Sun Coast Writers Conference |  St. Petersburg, Florida


With Nashville songwriter Rick Carnes at 2005 Sun Coast Conference


With Norman Mailer (1923-2007) at Sun Coast Writers Conference


Things about to disappear | Al Young

Sharon Doubiago, Carolyn Forché, Al Young relaxing at Split Rock | Duluth, Minnesota 1994
Original photo: Harry Mattison | Re-take: Al Young (Courtesy of Sharon Doubiago); postcard preview from Al Young’s America, a project-in-progress.


Photo: Charles Washington

Al and Arl Young at play in the heyday of payphones | Berkeley, 1965


C-SPAN AIRS 27th ANNUAL AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS (Before Columbus Foundation)

Monday, January 21st, 2008


Watch Now


C-SPAN Book TV Weekend will air the 27th Annual American Book Awards, which took place December 2, 2007 at Laney College Theatre, Oakland, CA. Emil Guillermo hosts the event. Among the guest speakers: Playwright (“Domestic Crusaders”) Wajahat Ali, author Carla Blank, Before Columbus Foundation co-founders Ishmael Reed and Gundars Strads, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, and California poet laureate Al Young.

Upcoming Schedule

Saturday, January 26, at 4:00 PM Pacific Time
Sunday, January 27, at 9:45 PM Pacific Time
Monday, January 28, at 3:15 AM Pacific Time

Times listed above are Pacific Time | U.S.A.
(Add 2 hours for Central Time; 3 hours for Eastern Time)

About the Program:

Winners of the 2007 American Book Award read selections from their work. Participants include: Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads, Michael Eric Dyson, Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, Rigoberto González, Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, Reyna Grande, Across a Hundred Mountains, Ernestine Hayes, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, Patricia Klindienst, The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans, Gary Panter, Jimbo’s Inferno, Jeffrey F.L. Partridge, Beyond Literary Chinatown, Judith Roche, Wisdom of the Body, Kali Vanbaale, The Space Between. The ceremony was held 2 December at Laney College Theatre in Oakland, California.

American Book Awards honors writers at Laney


Photo: Felix Solomon

Jack Foley: TWO POEMS

Monday, January 21st, 2008


For those who don’t remember the great George Herriman comic strip: Krazy Kat (who is sometimes male and sometimes female) is madly in love with Ignatz Mouse. Ignatz regards Krazy as—crazy, and tosses bricks at him/her in anger. When these bricks connect, as they usually do, Krazy takes it as a token of Ignatz’s love and is in ecstasy. Offisa Pupp (a dog policeman) is in love with Krazy but never declares it. He tries (usually in vain) to prevent Ignatz from throwing a brick. Once the brick is thrown, Offisa Pupp hauls Ignatz to jail. Ignatz is a married mouse. Krazy often speaks in a kind of Yiddish accent: “ket” for “kat.”

Dearest Ignatz,

Think of me as a small
Round, white ball
Sitting on a little
White stick call-
Ed (I am ignerint why) a tee
Then you should SWING,
Little Dollink, and HIT ME
As if I suddenly got WINGS
I ZOOM into the skies
Dunt worry, you won’t flub,
Dearie, just hit me with d club
Lil Angil! Up to your old tricks
But with golf you dunt need bricks!
Up into the skies!
O Hippiness!
Sitting on d tee,
I’ll be d spouse
Of Swinging Sammy Tiger Ignatz Mouse!
(Lil Angil)

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pluck image


Django Reinhardt

the illiterate
(the illiterate)
speaks with his guitar
(speaks with his guitar)
he is a dark gypsy
(he is a dark gypsy)
with mustache and sly smile
(with mustache and sly smile)
he is speaking farrrrum farrrrrum
(he is speaking farrrrum farrrrum)
on a subject of the most
(on a subject of the most)
immense, immediate, life-changing
(immense, immediate, life-changing)
and his chords tell us
(and his chords tell us)
what we can do
(what we can do)
what we can do
(what we can do)
Improv / improves sings the guitar
(Improv/ improves sings the guitar)
to a classroom masquerading
(to a classroom masquerading)
as a night club
(as a night club)
or a concert hall
(or a concert hall)
the professor
(the professor)
rat a tats & riddles
(rat a tats & riddles)
roars & rambles
(roars & rambles)
tells us with superb intelligence
(tells us with superb intelligence)
of Charlie Parker
(of Charlie Parker)
and of wild
(and of dark)

Jack Foley
Copyright © 2008


Sunday, January 20th, 2008

She was working the summer topless
when some fool outloved by flesh
walked right in, sat right down
front, and strained and beamed.

Pretty titties stood for all the beauty
he could see. He strained to try to guess
who she was or where she’d been
coming from. Something was shining
out of her that he wasn’t set to get.

From the stage she saw him googling
her hard, so when he stepped out
to smoke, she made sure she showed
up in front of the club. One sidewalk leap
was all the presentation she could stand.

For years the stories he’d told himself
about how their kiss had played went out
one ear but never came out the other.
They would’ve put his grandchildren to sleep.

For years the memory of how she’d felt
when she asked him to never call or
email again would bubble up then burst.
Who outside the palace would listen or care?

Fruit matures, leaves drop, memory sweeps up
stuff that happened long before it happens.

Al Young
Copyright © 2008


Sunday, January 20th, 2008

for Quan Yin 

By 1:27 a.m., with bets still off, you get your message
out to me in one sly, smoky, clockless Vegas smile —
and from a corner of my head so thick with thought,

so crowded with accordions that memory gets no let-up.
It’s all come down to here and now again and breath.
Come take my hand and let us walk the sea.

A dash of pepper, a pinch of salt, a garlic clove, some gold
to the tune of $16 billion locked away in Geneva
— it all boils down. You never could shake your blues

the way you rock & rolled your heart. I did.
I shook it for the world, Miss Beautiful, I shook
the coliseum’s columns blind like Samson

and the walls came powdering down. O Quan Yin,
it didn’t make Newsweek, not even the local papers
or blogs, but on such sweet neglect we thrive.

And yet by 1:40, in this same take, my heart still
trembles with the starkness of my recluse pianist
brother’s death. Crying, I crack the door for light.

Al Young
Copyright © 2008