Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Morning Reading: "Summer seemed to bloom against the will of the sun"

John Crawford.
The Tradition
- Jericho Brown

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer.
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath.
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.


(thanks to Kazim Ali for bringing this one to me.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Morning Reading: "I don't mind standing a little longer"

Julian Bond, 1940-2015

- Julian Bond

[As published in the first issue of The Student Voice — SNCC's newsletter, summer, 1960.]

I too, hear America singing
     But from where I stand
I can only hear Little Richard
    And Fats Domino.
But sometimes
I hear Ray Charles
     Drowning in his own tears
     or Bird
Relaxing at Camarillo
     Or Horace Silver doodling,
Then I don't mind standing
     a little longer.


SNCC = Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

In the New York Times:
Julian Bond, Former N.A.A.C.P. Chairman and Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 75


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Victoria Patterson: "The Little Brother"

Summer is nearly over and among the many readings coming up in Orange County, residents should be especially interested in  two by Victoria Patterson, who in her fourth novel, The Little Brother, returns to familiar territory.  Unlike the recent Sunday New York Times reviewer, OC denizens will recognize  the real life roots of Patterson's latest as one of the county's most notorious scandals, the Haidl gang rape case.  Orange Coast magazine profiled Patterson in its August issue:

She grew up here, a daughter of privilege—with country clubs and private tennis lessons, and weekends in Catalina on a classmate’s family yacht. As a novelist and short-story writer, Patterson has spun literary gold from her insider access, but also because of her ambivalence about it.
Gilded Age New York had Edith Wharton, and contemporary Orange County has Victoria Patterson. Like Wharton, she explores social hierarchies and class prerogatives with a penetrating and critical eye. And like John O’Hara, another writer to whom she has been compared, she sees herself as a truth teller, and writes with a chip on her shoulder.

To read the rest, click here.

Check out details about her readings on the calendar to the right.


Friday, June 5, 2015

The Morning Reading: "this 9-times-folded red-white-striped, star-spotted-blue flag"

The Lowering
-May Swenson

The flag is folded
lengthwise, and lengthwise again,
folding toward the open edge,
so that the union of stars on the blue
field remains outward in full view;
a triangular folding is then begun
at the striped end,
by bringing the corner of the folded edge
to the open edge;
the outer point, turned inward along the open edge,
forms the next triangular fold:
the folding continued so, until the end is reached,
the final corner tucked between
the folds of the blue union,
the form of the folded flag is found to resemble that
of a 3-cornered pouch, or thick cocked hat.

Take this flag, John Glenn, instead of a friend;
instead of a brother, Edward Kennedy, take this flag;
instead of a father, Joe Kennedy, take this flag;
this flag instead of a husband, Ethel Kennedy, take this flag;
this 9-times-folded red-white-striped, star-spotted-blue flag,
tucked and pocketed neatly,
Nation, instead of a leader, take this folded flag.
Robert Kennedy, coffin without coverlet,
beside this hole in the grass,
beside your brother, John Kennedy,
in the grass,
take, instead of a country,
this folded flag;
Robert Kennedy, take this
hole in the grass.


Friday, May 15, 2015

The Morning Reading: "You are neither here nor there"

-Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Morning Reading: "All sons sleep next to mothers, then alone, then with others"

The History of Mothers of Sons
by Lisa Furmanski

All sons sleep next to mothers, then alone, then with others
Eventually, all our sons bare molars, incisors
Meanwhile, mothers are wingless things in a room of stairs
A gymnasium of bars and ropes, small arms hauling self over self

Mothers hum nonsense, driving here
and there (Here! There!) in hollow steeds, mothers reflecting
how faint reflections shiver over the road
All the deafening musts along the way

Mothers favor the moon—hook-hung and mirroring the sun—
there, in a berry bramble, calm as a stone

This is enough to wrench our hand out of his
and simply devour him, though he exceeds even the tallest grass

Every mother recalls a lullaby, and the elegy blowing through it


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Morning Reading: "somewhere on the earth, freedom is learning to walk, trying not to fall"

du bois in ghana

- Evie Shockley

at 93, you determined to pick up and go—
and stay gone. the job nkrumah called you to,
to create, at last, your encyclopedia africana
            (encompassing a continent chipped

like wood beneath an axe, a large enough
diaspora to girdle the globe, and a mere four
thousand years) was either well-deserved
            sinecure or well-earned trust

that your health was as indestructible as
your will. my mind wrestles with possible pictures:
the victorian sensibility, the charcoal wool
             formality of your coats and vests, the trim

of your beard as sharp as the crease of your
collar—how would these du boisian essentials
hold up to sub-saharan heat? would
             your critical faculties wilt in accra’s

urban tropics as i’ve read that westerners’
are wont to do? dr. du bois, i presume
you took the climate in stride, took to it,
            looked out your library’s louvered windows

onto a land you needed
neither to condemn nor conquer,
and let the sun tell you what you already knew:
            this was not a port to pass on.

your 95th birthday photo found you bathed
in white cloth, cane still in hand, sharing a smile
with a head of state who knew your worth—joy
            that this nation’s birth occurred in time

for you to step out of a cold, cold storm
into outstretched arms. would your pan-
african dream have survived a dictatorial
          nkrumah, an nkrumah in exile? you took

the prerogative of age and died without telling,
without knowing. a half-century later, here
in the country where you were born, i look
          into a screen and watch as, near and far, a pan-

demic of violence and abuse staggers the planet.
we seed the world with blood, grow
bleeding, harvest death and the promise
           of more. when i turn bitter, seeing no potential

for escape, i think of the outrages you saw—wars,
lynchings, genocide, mccarthy, communism’s
failure to rise above corrupting power
          any better than capitalism had, the civil rights

movement’s endless struggle—and how
you kept writing and walking, looking
for what you knew was out there. your memory,
          your tireless radiant energy, calls me

to my work, to my feet, insisting
that somewhere on the earth, freedom is
learning to walk, trying not to fall,
           and, somewhere, laboring to be born.

Originally published via Poem-A-day by the Academy of American Poets
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