Al Young title

Archive for March, 2010

Ai | October 21, 1947~March 20, 2010 | In Memoriam

Monday, March 29th, 2010


ai Who took this photo?

Ai © Nancy Fewkes

Born Florence Anthony (October 21, 1947 – March 20, 2010), Ai was a National Book Award winning American poet and educator who legally changed her name to Ai Ogawa. Ai, who described herself as ½ Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Black, Irish, Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche, was born in Albany, Texas in 1947, and she grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Raised also in Las Vegas and San Francisco, she majored in Japanese at the University of Arizona and immersed herself in Buddhism. (See Wikipedia)

yellow light andrew ferguson
© Andrew Ferguson



We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don’t tell me, I say. I don’t want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you hear the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life
is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands,
and beginning to rise heavenward
in their confirmation dresses,
like white helium balloons,
the wreathes of flowers on their heads spinning,
and above all that,
that’s where I’m floating,
and that’s what it’s like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?


Ai, a Steadfast Poetic Channel of Hard Lives, Dies at 62 ~ Margalit Fox, New York Times; March 27, 2010

National Book Award winning poet Ai has died ~ Carolyn Kellogg, Jacket Copy, L.A. Times; March 24, 2010

The poet Ai joins the ancestors ~ this black sista’s page; March 24, 2010

Books by Ai

cruelty2 ai.htm1


Patricia Spears Jones

It’s a beautiful morning, a Sunday morning the second day of Spring and I am in tears. The poet, Ai Ogawa has passed on March 19. We just lived through a soul killing winter and many people did not make it to Friday’s glorious vernal equinox. Joy Harjo said there was snow in Albuqurque. There was sun sun sun here.

Ai was not a mentor or teacher, she was a friend. One of the wonderful people I got to know in my short time living in Boston. She was a brilliant poet and I remember buying Cruelty in the 1970s and seeing her picture and thinking what a beautiful and incredibly insightful woman. Her personna poems are contemporary classics. She was able to go deep into her subjects-she really could roam the shadow world; she understood the consequences, the brutality of absolute power whether wielded by dictators or some poor woman’s husband. I loved her occasional obsessions like The Wooster Group-esp Willem Dafoe and Ron Vawter who showed off their Johnsons when they performed a hula-yes those guys were sans culottes! She was incredibly bawdy and stylish and occasionally imperious, totally eccentric and witty. I wonder if her cats are okay.

I talked with her earlier this year sharing a bit of my troubles, but mostly we ranked on some poets (lots of laughter), talked about Obama and hoped each other well.

I don’t know what happened, but around this time last year Deborah Digges took her life and I know that other women in their late 50’s and early 60s are really vulnerable. We are the generation that has seen, done many things. Some of us have been rewarded for this, but many of us are just trying to stay vital, disciplined in our work, and gain recognition for for our work, our lives. But we live in a culture that has not learned how to care for women and men aging, evolving if they are not in certain categories. A single woman, even one as celebrated as Ai living in the middle of this country could be poorly treated, but that’s speculation.

Where her soul goes, I know not. But she worked language in amazing ways and I would hope that there’s a really great flea market where she can search for gorgeous fabrics and designer dresses from the 1920s and try them on to her heart’s content.

Lord, what a morning.

— Patricia Spears Jones,
Brooklyn, NY

Sharon Doubiago

Ai:  I go back to G Road North, Albion, California, poems in APR, 1976-7. I was so trying to be a poet out of all the established shit. Her photo. Her incredible Asian American African face. Poems I couldn’t entirely figure (and the anger was harder) but poems of “people” I also was trying to write of. Daughter molesters, mixed racists, killing, the famous icons, American history, violence and love, fathers and the military and US colonialism, family (did she ever write of her own family? intimate poems of herself?) One about Marilyn Monroe that though read and reread and studied, and of whom I knew, it almost seemed, as much as any serious thinker about Monroe, re America (later Joyce Carol Oak’s Blonde???), I could not figure, entirely, this poem–re the history, the facts.  Yet it’s energy was so explosive, so making the read worth it, so the truth I knew even if i still did not understand. (“Kerouac and Monroe on Kalaloch”). There’s her poem from back then, Salome, that’s gone around in the announcements of her death and which I remember reading from then, but which, I still don’t fully understand:  the last line (the mother’s complicity???). Sending this for now. (Last night I decided not to copy it.) but it’s hear:

Many many years later I learned (from Philip Suntree Doughtry) that Ai was in his UC Irvine phd Writing program I received a full fellowship to, but decline so as NOT write the story of my father. I still can’t imagine what would have happened if I had. But I do know, always, that Ai was my sister (as is Philip my brother).

Kisses, Ai, kisses into the ether (especially to your lungs, your breast on top of it).

— Sharon Doubiago,
Berkeley, CA



POLITICAL POETRY | Lyle Daggett | a link to the Winter 2010 issue of Pemmican

Monday, March 29th, 2010



Lyle Daggett

Political Poetry

Copyright © 2010 Pemmican Press and Lyle Daggett


“Political” poetry. All human activity is political because it takes place in a context — the context of history. Sending someone a recipe for crab meat salad is one thing if you work food prep in a restaurant kitchen. It means something else if you’re Nancy Reagan.

Poets have been political, in some sense of the word, from the earliest beginnings to the present. Enheduanna, Sumerian poet, priestess of the moon goddess Inanna, the earliest poet whose name is known. The Chinese government compiled collections of popular folk songs — for example, the Shih Ching, the Book of Songs — as a way of learning something about what the people were thinking. (Did Nixon listen to Bob Dylan or Joan Baez or Pete Seeger? Does George Bush listen to Billy Bragg or Tracy Chapman or rap music?)

Homer was political. (George Bush on the walls of Troy.) The Bhagavad Gita (which J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted as he watched the first atomic bomb explode in the New Mexico desert) was and is political. The plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripedes were defining forces in Greek society. Dante and Shakespeare and Milton were all political. (If Dante were writing today, who would he consign to the ninth circle of Hell?) The great flowering of art and culture in medieval Spain grew originally from the founding of a new Umayyad dynasty in exile by survivors of the conquest of Damascus by the Abbasids. The trouveres and troubadours of medieval France lived in a time of constant upheaval and displacement and continuously shifting political alliances, in which most if not all of them were intimately involved. (Many died during the wholesale slaughter that took place during the Albigensian crusades, following which troubadour poetry essentially came to a halt.)

Chaucer was political, Tu Fu was political, Murasaki Shikibu was political. Andrew Marvell, William Blake, Shelley, Keats, Byron, Whitman, RubĂ©n DarĂ­o, JosĂ© MartĂ­, Yosano Akiko. Political, in at least some sense of the word …

To read the rest of Lyle Daggett’s pronouncement, follow this link to the Winter 2010 issue of the online journal Pemmican


THE LACUNA ~ a socialist review of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel

Monday, March 29th, 2010


frida kahlo diego-rivera leon trotsky sen. joseph mccarthy

The Lacuna, or what’s missing

By Sandy English
© World Socialist Web Site
27 March 2010

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver,
New York: Harper, 2009, 507 pages

The Lacuna cvr

Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, The Lacuna, was recently nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Before that, it appeared on US bestseller lists for several months.

The subject matter of the book is compelling. Kingsolver recounts the life of a fictional writer named Harrison Shepherd, mixing his story in with those of such historical figures as the Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, in the late 1930s. She describes the persecution Shepherd faces for his left-wing associations during the anti-communist witch-hunts after the second world war …

To read this passionate review in its entirety, go to the original



Thursday, March 25th, 2010


March 23, 2010

s-SHERMAN-ALEXIE-large War Dance Alexie small

Washington, DC—Sherman Alexie’s War Dances (Grove Press) has been selected as the winner of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.  The announcement was made today by the directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Susan Richards Shreve and Robert Stone, Co-Chairmen.

The judges—Rilla Askew, Kyoko Mori, and Al Young—considered close to 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2009 calendar year. Submissions came from over 90 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit a book.

The honored book, War Dances, is a collection of structurally inventive pieces on the themes of love, betrayal, familial relationships, race, and class.  The stories are interspersed with poems which refract their themes or topics. About this collection judge Al Young says, “War Dances taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion vs. native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don’t live now—this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book.”

Winner of a 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and additional honors including, most recently, the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, Sherman Alexie is the author of four novels, three prior short story collections, numerous books of poetry, documentaries, and films. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

The PEN/Faulkner Award is America’s largest peer juried prize for fiction in the United States.  As winner, Alexie receives $15,000.  Each of the four finalists—Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (Harper); Lorraine M. López for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories (BkMk Press); Lorrie Moore for A Gate at The Stairs (Knopf); and Colson Whitehead for Sag Harbor (Doubleday) —receives $5,000.

All five authors will be honored during the 30th anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located at 201 East Capitol Street, SE, on Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $100, and can be purchased by phoning
the Folger Box Office at 202. 544.7077,
or online at

The PEN/Faulkner Award was first given in 1981. Past winners include last year’s winner Joseph O’Neill and E.L. Doctorow, Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, John Updike, and John Edgar Wideman, among others. A full list of winners is at

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation is committed to building audiences for exceptional literature and bringing writers together with their readers.  This mission is accomplished through a reading series at Folger Shakespeare Library by distinguished writers who have won the respect of readers and writers alike; the PEN/Faulkner Award, the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States; the PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the short story; and the Writers in Schools program, which brings nationally and internationally-acclaimed authors to public high school classrooms in Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Kansas City.

For More Information, visit

WAR DANCES reviewed at BlogClogCritics along with a meaningful discussion of Alexie’s gift

Sherman Alexie’s website





Thursday, March 25th, 2010


five stars

ss What a great little bookstore! You can really see how much thought goes into the selection of the inventory. I was stoked to find such a great selection of Iceberg Slim books. There’s also an amazing selection of ethnic poetry. The owner puts on cool events like book signings, open mic nights, kid’s events (there’s a neat kid’s room in the back of the store) and poetry readings. She also sells mugs, key rings, bumper stickers, and stuff like that. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check it out. It’s fun to look around in there. You’ll most likely find something you’ll want. Like, Trick Baby by Iceberg Slim. — Rebecca R. (

Mary Ann Rebecca Bks

Courtesy photo

Owner and manager Mary Ann Braithwaite — who always wanted to own a book store — named Rebecca’s Books after her late mother.


Saturday, March 27, 2010
10 am to 6 pm

hosted by

avotcja icon


(members of the Wordwind Chorus)
(piano & vocalists)
(deep performance poet)
(open verse poet)
(poet/spoken word artist)
(La Curandera)
(Alison Fletcher, Muteado & Marc G)
(hip hop poetry)
KPFA poets/playwrights)

guest appearances by

Saturday, March 27th

(specializing in ethnic poetry)

3268 Adeline Street
Berkeley, CA 94703

(½ block North of Alcatraz &
2 short blocks South of Ashby BART)



10 am to 6 pm
$3 – $20 Sliding Scale