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Friday, April 18, 2014

Ramcat Reads #2

Ramcat Reads #2



Ake, David. Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time Since Bebop. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. Ake makes a useful contribution to cultural studies  by showing “how the actions, interactions, and interests of a wide range of participants ---musicians, naturally, but also journalists, scholars, listeners, teachers, record company executives, politicians, recording engineers, and others ---result in an ongoing process of reclaiming and reshaping the practices and values of the art form call jazz”(2). Ake’s discussion of the history of post-World War II jazz within a larger history of humanity provides evidence that efforts to divorce art from its social functions are wrongheaded.


Bernstein, Robin. Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights. New York: New York University Press, 2011.  Bernstein makes a noteworthy contribution to the “invisible history” of American racial ideologies by using literary and visual analyses to document the extreme efforts to exclude African American and other non-white children from the orbit of “childhood innocence” during the long journey from slavery to the triumph of the civil rights movement in the twentieth century.  The book is a model of how archival research can be used to expose dimensions of racial formation that are too often overshadowed by preoccupation with the hegemony of the vocal in considerations of social discord in the United States.  Another seminal text for examining racial formations is Kimberly Wallace-Sanders’s Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008). Both books pose crucial questions about deep structures in the evolving of social imaginations in America.


Duffy, Susan.  The Political Plays of Langston Hughes.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.  Duffy’s contextualized analyses of Scottsboro Limited, Harvest, Angelo Herndon Jones, and De Organizer cast a fresh light on Hughes’s socially responsible creativity.


Ferris, William. The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.  This companion volume to his folkloric study Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (2009), The Storied South is an engaging compilation of his photographs of Southern writers, painters, scholars, photographers, and musicians along with transcripts of their speeches or brief conversations with Ferris.  As we look forward to celebrating the 2015 Margaret Walker Centennial, it is useful to have in this book a conversation “drawn from a presentation Walker gave at Yale University in 1978 and an interview [ Ferris ] did at her home in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1982”(94). A slightly different version of the conversation was published as “Margaret Walker Alexander: ‘My Idol Was Langston Hughes’: The Poet, the Renaissance, and Their Enduring Influence.” Southern Cultures (Summer 2010): 53-71.


Harper, Hill. Letters to an Incarcerated Brother. New York: Gotham Books, 2013. The powerful theme of brotherly obligation that is central in A Lesson Before Dying (1993) by Ernest J. Gaines moves from mimetic representation to the actual use of literacy in Harper’s riveting, unapologically masculine chronicle of letters between a young inmate and himself.  The book poses very tough questions about intervening in the life of an incarcerated stranger and confirms that intervention, however well-intentioned, is not the equivalent of “saving” anyone from the implacable viciousness of the American criminal justice system.



Hersch, Charles.  Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.  Hersch’s good scholarship would have been even better if   Freddi Williams Evans’s masterpiece Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans (Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2011) had been available when he was doing his research.


Hord, Fred Lee. Reconstructing Memory: Black Literary Criticism.  Chicago: Third World Press, 1991.As a Lenten exercise, it is valuable to abstain from the excesses of post-whatever criticism and to minimize cultural amnesia by reading Hord’s grounded and penetrating essays that attempt to de-colonize the mind.  Houston A. Baker, Jr. hits the target dead center in his foreword for Hord’s essays when he asserts: “Hord’s pedagogical model could not have arrived at a more auspicious moment.  In an era of transnational, multi-media colonization of the Other’s mind, we desperately require voices such as Hord’s.  His book comes to us now as a timely and necessary gift in a dangerous hour of forgetting (ii).”




Kiuchi, Toru and Yoshinobu Hakutani. Richard Wright: A Documented Chronology, 1908-1960. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. By providing an elaborate record of Richard Wright’s daily activities, this reference book supplements the information one can gather from several Wright biographies and from The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008).  It is a fine resource for teachers and students who desire to be more than superficial in their examinations of Wright’s poetry, fiction and nonfiction. On the other hand, it provides a stimulating challenge for Wright scholars, Biographical studies and a large body of critical commentary have secured Richard Wright's status as a major twentieth-century American writer, but the documented chronology painstakingly compiled by Kiuchi and Hakutani challenges us to admit that much remains to be discovered about the growth and development of Wright's mind, about how his friendships and engagement of political concerns, and about the special relevance of his imagination as a catalyst for dealing with the unfolding of global histories.. For scholars who are dedicated to ongoing assessments of Wright, the book bids us to undertake refined investigations of his life and his published and unpublished works, seeking to match the sustained work that Eugene E. Miller did in Voice of a Native Son: The Poetics of Richard Wright (1990). In short, fresh inquiry about Wright's day to day life promises to reveal a richer portrait of the man and his works. Kiuchi and Hakutani succeed in exposing the methodological difficulties of discovering the narrative arc constituted by a chronological arrangement of facts. As is the case with all writers, the facts of daily life as temporal items demand to be located in spatial contexts and literary, aesthetic, and ideological contexts. The book is an essential resource for generating questions that may reward us with a more holistic vision of why Wright's legacy is priceless.



McBride, James. The Good Lord Bird. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013.  Swimming with expertly tuned humor and supersubltle racial critiques, McBride’s novel is an invitation to read serious historical narratives about John Brown and radical abolitionist efforts. After savoring the wittiness of The Good Lord Bird, it is redeeming to discover that Frederick Douglass believed “John Brown was therefore the logical result of slaveholding persecutions” and verified in Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892) what McBride transformed into the fictional eyewitnessing of Henry Shackleford. Levity is one pathway into remembering the gravity of what must not be forgot.


Meredith, James with William Doyle.  A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America.  New York: Atria Books, 2012.  With William Doyle serving as the help, Meredith has written an example of apocalyptic literature that rivals the strident jeremiahs of Old Testament prophets. One is reminded of the ancient proverb that those the gods would bless they first make mad. To better understand part of the life history that informs A Mission from God, read Aram Goudsouzian’s Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and The Meredith March Against Fear (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).



Norris, Keenan.  Brother and the Dancer. Berkeley, CA: Heyday, 2013.  This first novel by a very talented scholar and writer introduces us to a fresh mindscape wherein two young African Americans who do not share the same class origins struggle to affirm the validity of their dreams.  It is reassuring as we think about a future for black fiction that Norris seamlessly connects some of the gritty features of street literature with an informed understanding of hip hop psychology and the aesthetic dimensions which have distinguished African American narratives of being-in-this-world. Like Olympia Vernon, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Dedra Johnson,  Attica Locke, James Cherry, and T. Geronimo Johnson, Norris provides proof that Kenneth Warren’s speculations about the death of African American fiction are prevarications of the first water.


Plumpp, Sterling D. Home/Bass. Chicago: Third World Press, 2013. Plumpp’s most recent collection of poems confirms that he is the best living blues poet in the United States, a master poet who continues to teach us why it is essential that we weld ethos (African American lore from the crying barrel) and craft in efforts to hear and understand what the sign/sounds of the world are trying to say to us..


Taulbert, Clifton L. The Invitation. Montgomery, AL; New South Books, 2014.  Best known for his first book Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored (1989), Taulbert continues his serial autobiography in The Invitation.  His story is dramatically atypical of the narratives we might expect  African American males from Mississippi to tell.  By challenging our expectations, Taulbert forces us to think about why some writers elect to spin tales regarding what ought to be while others decide to build spirit houses of what, to echo Etheridge Knight, “damn sure is.”


Vincent, Charles. Black Legislators in Louisiana During Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1976; Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2011.  It is good to have Vincent’s book back in print, because we do need to know the roles black women and men played in designing the post-bellum South.


Ward, Jesmyn. Men We Reaped: A Memoir.  New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.  This book is brutally honest treatment of how systemic racism breeds a refusal to resist nihilism among young males and females in one section of the State of Mississippi.  Placed against the overblown optimism of Clifton Taulbert’s The Invitation (2014) and the James Meredith’s dreadful jeremiad in A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America (2012), Ward’s memoir suggests that life histories in the State of Mississippi swing between the poles of dream-infused fairytale and abject tragedy.  Given that Ward’s title is culled from a statement by Harriet Tubman that ends “and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped,” readers might become more attentive to how contemporary life is rooted in a history that repeatedly negates the value of the audacity of hope. Ward’s memoir brings a crucial difference to the writing of Mississippi life history and the writing about the deaths of young Black males, because it seems her sensibility is more at home in the superhighway of rap than on the dusty roads of the blues.  In Men We Reap one does not find the defiance of Richard Wright’s Black Boy, the womanist testimonials of Anne Moody’s classic Coming of Age in Mississippi and Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s From the Mississippi Delta, the sweetness and light of Clifton Taulbert’s Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, or the photograph-inspired quest for resolution in Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Ward does incorporate some recognizable blues strategies in her writing, but they are a far cry from the negotiations with reality to be heard in the voice of Koko Taylor or in the blues poems of Sterling D. Plumpp. Ward is brave enough to endow her writing with the amorality of Nature itself, to give us a book that is exceptionally relevant for young adults in our contemporary State of Mississippi.



Wilderson, Frank B., III.  Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile & Apartheid. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2008.  Ngugi wa Thiong’o was on target in identifying Incognegro as “a gripping story of racial politics and a biography of his [Wilderson’s ] soul.” The book is a touchstone for deracinated autobiography.


Young, Kevin.  Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Young’s seventh collection of poetry is a noteworthy experiment with American abolitionist history and African American memory.  It reminds one of the opening words of Mississippi: The View from Tougaloo (1979) by Clarice Campbell and Oscar A. Rogers, Jr.: “In good biblical style one might say the Amistad begat the American Missionary Association, and the American Missionary Association begat Tougaloo College, and her five sister institutions: LeMoyne, Talladega, Straight, and Tillotson colleges and Fisk University.” It reminds one also that Hale Woodruff painted “The Amistad Murals” for Talladega’s Savery Library in 1939 and that the Amistad Research Center moved from Fisk University to Dillard University to Tulane University. Ardency places an accomplished revolt into the current need for resistance and positions us to ask what is accomplished in the revisionist historiography of  Marcus Rediker’s The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (New York:  Viking, 2012). The literary aspects of Ardency intersect with the structure of Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama and the collage features of Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage.”  What works best in this collection are such individual persona poems as “Lawd’s Prayer,” an irony-drenched rewriting of Christian hypocrisy. Perhaps the key for unlocking Young’s poetics is The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Minneapolis: Greywolf, 2012), his reinvention of himself and other poets who interest him.



Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Henry Dumas

Henry Dumas: Visible Man/Invisible Art


Leak, Jeffrey B. Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014.


He was brilliant.  He was troubled.  He was dead at the age of 34.  Like many males of his class and generation, he was a death-bound-subject, a player in the game regulated by the racial contract of the United States of America. “While he certainly should be understood in the context of the cultural and political movements of the 1960s –Black Arts, Black Power, and Civil Rights---,” according to the in-house promotional statement from the University of Georgia Press,” his writing, and ultimately his life, were filled with ambiguities and contradictions” (University of Georgia Press Spring/Summer 2014 catalogue, 6).  The 1960s, a transformative decade in our history, was also pregnant with other movements not begat by black Americans, and that fact is unavoidable in constructing a biography of Henry Dumas (1934-1968).

In “Confessions of a Burned-Out Biographer” (The Seductions of Biography. Ed. Mary Rhiel  and David Suchoff. New York: Routledge, 1996), Phyllis Rose reminds us that “the school of literary biography, whether or not the subject is a literary figure, tends to see all facts as artifacts and to see context and argument as co-partners of fact” (131).  The public, Rose claims, prefers “objective biography” to the artistry of literary biography.  Jeffrey B. Leak seems to have embraced the alleged preferences of the public sphere in writing Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas.

Leak’s signifying on the title of Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece in his own title is a signal, a red flag: subject the biography of Henry Dumas to very critical “close reading.”  Doing so yields a discovery.  When a literary figure is encased in “object biography,” the subject becomes overwhelmingly visible, but the sterling values of the subject’s contributions to the republic of American letters become muted or downright invisible.

My response to Leak’s Visible Man is ambivalent.  I am sensitive to Leak’s frustration that many crucial documents of fact are beyond recovery at present or were destroyed.  I respect his fidelity to academic rigor and constraints of objectivity.  I am critical of an effort he did not make in writing the biography. Unlike Margaret Walker who dared to take risks in her biography of Richard Wright, Leak hesitates to explore the genuinely literary expression of Dumas’s daemonic genius.  The creative torment which manifested itself in his “giving the Black Experience a core and a basic set of symbols/myths that connect it to the original labyrinth of African thought,” as Eugene B. Redmond, Dumas’s literary executive, argued in introductory remarks for Rope of Wind and Other Stories (New York: Random House, 1979) is the location of Dumas’s primal value for contemporary readers.  If one substitutes “black experiences” for “the Black Experience,” the value rises.  So too does the necessity of enfolding substantive literary analysis with quantitative contextual analysis of life history.  Leak does use references to literary works to buttress and illustrate key points about the life journey. He does not bring into full view the aesthetic features of Dumas’s poetry and prose that could validate our claiming (or seeing why) Dumas was one of America’s most extraordinarily gifted writers and thinkers, a fit companion for such troubled geniuses as John Coltrane, Bob Kaufman, Amiri Baraka, and Cecil Taylor.

How can one bid a new generation of readers to rediscover Henry Dumas without weaving literary analysis of his works, of his uncanny innovations and imagination, with the chronological threads of his life?  Especially if one likens Dumas to Countee Cullen and frames his life and art in the ambience of mystery. Despite the praise in blurbs from Keith Gilyard and Yusef Komunyakaa, Visible Man is troubling in this regard. Leak’s treatment of Dumas’s marriage and extra-marital adventures ----artifacts begging for integration with the facts of art ----is problematic. What leaks from the book is a subjective correlative with the portrayal of Cross Damon and Eva Blount in The Outsider. This draws attention to one of the qualified witnesses for Dumas, namely the equally gifted poet Jay Wright. Wright’s 1969 introduction for Poetry for My People (retitled Play Ebony, Play Ivory for the Random House edition) is evidence of his unique insights about Dumas’s poetics.  Wright exercised ethical prudence in not giving Leak an extensive interview about Dumas.  His silence in 2014 must be accounted an act of integrity and love, one that is rare in a time that has zero tolerance for privacy.

To be sure, we must respect Leak’s scholarship in reaching into an ark of bones and bringing forth a skeleton upon which one can paste fragments of skin. It would be ungenerous to minimize Leak’s achievement.  Nevertheless, literary history demands a supplemental study of Dumas’s art. Leak concludes that “in a sense, the mainstream literary world is finally catching up with this most visible man” (166). The statement is premature.  Imprisoned by its habits of benign neglect, the so-called American mainstream will only botch the job of catching up. On the contrary, it is a critical consciousness of world literature that must reclaim Henry Dumas and pay appropriate tribute.


Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

April 12, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Humanistic Pretense

The Humanistic Pretense of Not Knowing


Despite its eloquence (or perhaps because of it), Marc Bousquet’s essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education will fail to persuade people who discover bliss in orgasms of “moral panic” that they are in denial of time and actuality.  Most of them have never heard of or read The English Coalition Conference: Democracy through Language (Urbana: NCTE, 1989) edited by Richard Lloyd-Jones and Andrea A. Lunsford. Unless they happen to be English faculty members at the University of Memphis, they have never heard and pondered over Professor Reginald Martin’s strong, surgical argument about why the study of language and writing (comp-rhet) is more compelling and pragmatic than the elitist playing that marks traditional literary studies. While Martin’s almost three decade long argument focuses on student needs, teaching as labor, and capitalist imperatives of job markets, the recommendations that emerged from the 1987 conference promoted the ideals of education (kindergarten to doctoral programs), the importance of training American citizens to become critical thinkers, and the shared authority of those who profess the language arts.  In the years since the English Coalition Conference, I have wondered when the Dream of the conference would explode like a raisin into the Nightmare of global realities.  Now I know.



April 7, 2014


The Moral Panic in Literary Studies

By Marc Bousquet


Over the past two decades, most academic disciplines have maintained the numbers of their tenure-track faculty members or added minimally, while hiring a lot more non-tenure-track faculty members, causing the percentage of tenurable professors to fall. But English literary studies is one of the few disciplines to lose actual tenure-track positions, not just as a percentage but in real numbers.

According to the most recent comprehensive report on staffing by the Modern Language Association and the Association of Departments of English, published in 2008, English lost 3,000 tenure-track positions from 1993 to 2004, roughly 10 percent of the total. Even that understates the case, since more than a third of the new tenurable hires have not been in traditional literary fields but in composition, rhetoric, theory, cultural studies, new media, and digital humanities. Combined with evidence of lowered public interest in reading traditional literature and plummeting enrollment in traditional English majors, many faculty members in traditional literary studies have engaged in a backlash discourse against the new or renascent fields, a "moral panic" in defense of traditional literary studies.

By far the most intense anxiety involves composition and rhetoric, which account for most of the new tenure-track hires. When the term "moral panic" emerged as a keyword of British cultural studies, in the 1960s, it was initially applied to individual outbreaks of irrational mass anxiety, such as those induced by youth culture, drug use, crime, immigration, sexual behavior, and so on. By the end of the last century, however, the sociologist Kenneth Thompson had argued that manipulative talk of crises was the defining feature of the era, which he dubbed "the age of moral panics."

Normally, panic discourse involves real or perceived threats to a group identified with some aspect of the dominant social order (such as literature faculty members facing the declining cultural capital of their work). Reacting with a disproportionate degree of hostility and resentment, the group generates scapegoats and fake solutions intended to maintain its power and influence in the status quo (such as literature faculty members’ embracing "alternate careers" for their doctoral students). As Jock Young and the late Stuart Hall put it, claims of crisis usually aim to whip up support for policing the perceived cause—often in expensive and draconian fashion, as in the "war on drugs."


Last year, at my institution, Emory University, the traditionally trained lit students typically received zero or one invitation to an MLA interview. Most didn’t even come close to winning campus interviews—much less tenure-track jobs—even coming from a top-25 program with support packages that rival those at Yale, Duke, and Stanford.

Some of the Emory students who eventually get tenure-track jobs do so after years of on-the-job retraining in comp-rhet, pedagogy, and new media, commonly in the Brittain Fellowship postdoctoral program, down the road at Georgia Tech. But since 2005, only two in five of those who graduated from Emory with Ph.D.’s in English have landed tenure-track jobs. The research university employing the most English Ph.D.’s from Emory is Emory itself—in staff positions.

One senior member of our English faculty took a look at this situation and published a response in the moral-panic genre, representing feelings widely held by his colleagues. By his account, literary studies is being "devalued and dismissed" as a result of English departments’ being "reconceived as being primarily


in the business of teaching expository writing." Furthermore, he wrote, there’s an insidious rush "to make literary studies an outpost of ‘digital scholarship.’ "

Don’t ask me what that last part means, but it’s clear that the villains of the piece have spent their careers in rhetoric, composition, comparative media studies, and digital publication. The amazing thing about the panic at Emory? Most colleges like it have three to five graduate faculty members in those areas; Emory went a decade without even one, and it grudgingly broke that tradition only on the eve of accreditation and program review.

That a large percentage of tenure­-track hires in English is consistently allocated to composition and rhetoric reflects the rational, reasonable, and growing interest in fields specializing in the conditions of textual production at a moment when textual production is undergoing the greatest shift since Gutenberg. More people are doing more kinds of composition than ever before, and they want to learn to do it better.
Scholars of composition and rhetoric generally teach graduate and upper-division courses packed with students who are passionate about the digital publication and media composition now inevitable in every walk of academic, professional, creative, and community-engaged communication. Comp-rhet scholarship and teaching have revived English studies, not diminished it. Programs featuring advanced writing and digital-publication curricula have soaring enrollments, often rescuing undergraduate and graduate English programs from extinction. Over the border in South Carolina, Clemson University has an active, interdisciplinary, but English-studies-based graduate program in rhetoric, communication, and information design. Its job-placement record: 100 percent.

In the past year or two, in meetings with English graduate faculty members and students at would-be top programs similar to ours, I’ve had innumerable conversations with otherwise rational but anxious people who consider those involved in the renaissance of comp-rhet or digital publication as dullards not good enough to read poetry, as lowbrow opportunists, or—worse—as saintly philanthropists who "should be appreciated for their love of teaching first-year writing."

Sometimes the discourse seems paranoid. Not long ago, a department administrator explained to me why he had declined to cooperate in a search that would have recruited some of the best young scholars in composition: "We just don’t want to hire any of those people who hate literature, who want to come here and tear everything down." Telling him that I’ve never met an actual comp-rhet scholar who hated literature—that most enjoy literature and sometimes teach it—wouldn’t shake his determination.
The odd thing is that one hears little informed discussion from the Modern Language Association or most of its elected leadership about the role of comp-rhet research faculty members in the revival of English majors, minors, and graduate programs.

The moral panic doesn’t exist in the hundreds of programs that have kept up with the changing conditions of textual production.


It has its home in programs that have had enough institutional power to keep themselves insulated from epochal change, the handful of graduate programs that have retained enough prestige and maintained their old-boy network sufficiently to keep placing most of their students. It also survives in places that, like Emory, had that kind of placement muscle a couple of decades ago.

If universities like mine are still offering doctorates in English 10 years from now, the programs won’t resemble the lit-only degrees at Yale or Columbia. They’ll emulate those at lower-ranked institutions that have more success in placing their students, like Clemson or the University of Pittsburgh, where English has tracks in media and comp-rhet, together with top research faculty members selected only for expertise in their fields, not loyalty to a pedagogy from the 1950s.


Marc Bousquet is an associate professor of English at Emory University


Bousquet’s blending of empirical and narrative forms of evidence persuades me to value Martin’s prescience more highly than I did before the coming of the 21st century and to thank Bousquet for his wake-up call. Truth be told, there are hidden contradictions in the position I embrace.  I am a retired teacher of English/American literature and composition, although I do still teach literature at least two months each year in China. During my 42 years of teaching at HBCUs, I never had the luxury of ignoring the centrality of comp-rhet in my work.  Now, I have the luxury of enjoying literary studies with my Chinese students, of being liberated from American nightmares by Chinese dreams. The contradictions are located in my championing literary and cultural studies abroad and my nurturing increasing disdain for elitist colleagues in the United States who engage in “moral panic” as they complain that teaching the “underprepared” to write competently is beneath their dignity. There is little that I can discern in their alleged panic that is genuinely moral. On the contrary, the panic is virtually immoral. It is really a selfish gesture of homo rhetoricus rather than the anguished gesture homo seriosus would make.

 The so-called panic is an enterprise of ego, of fear of unemployment, of scorn for students who reject the myths of “civilization.” It is pathetic that few Ph.D. programs tell students bluntly that they are “The Help” in the global arena.  I displace sympathy for those who are discovering they are “The Help” with laughter.   If that makes me a bad cold-blooded person, I frankly do not give a damn. Now run and deconstruct that!






Monday, April 7, 2014

Writing Break Meditations

Mr. Ramcat’s Writing Break Meditations

April 7, 2014


1)      The soft passivity of a shark makes Jerusalem so Japanese.


2)      Purge the car/pet on your dashboard with hyssop.



3)      When the priest said a White Mass in Sanskrit and Swahili, T. Jefferson had a fit of recognition; his soul fell beneath the dignity of insanity.


4)      Rum and politicians have much in common; they render absurdity lucid and lucidity absurd.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Celebrate April #2

Blurb for Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares




Torres-Tama, José. Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares.  New Orleans: Diálogos Books, 2014.




Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares is José Torres-Tama’s gift of fire, a rich series of poems that admonish: Usted tiene que arreglar sus asuntos con la historia.  His poems burn us into recognitions, giving back to  us interlocked dreams and nightmares necessary for making new worlds in the contexts of the Americas,  His strong poems announce his engagement with life and languages, his wit, his surgical ironies.  They assure us that Torres-Tama is “un hombre bajo la piel de otra tierra” in the tradition of Langston Hughes, Eduardo Galeano, Amiri Baraka and Ernesto Cardenal.  His gift is an epistemology for a needful time.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrate April

Celebrate April.

Go to

and listen to Grace Cavalieri's talk with Jeffers and Jeffers' soul-touching readings from her Phillis Wheatley poems. Your ears will taste the salt of Middle Passage tears.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tribute for Amiri Baraka

Third World Press is sending this “Call for Submissions” on behalf of
the editors of the forthcoming anthology celebrating the life and
legacy of Amiri Baraka.
Brilliant Fire! Amiri Baraka
Poems, Plays, Politics for the People
Haki R. Madhubuti, Michael Simanga, Sonia Sanchez, Woodie King Jr.
We welcome your submission by April 30, 2014. If you would like to
make this Call available to your colleagues, please share this
information with them and forward their contact information to us at:
The submissions office for Brilliant Fire! Amiri Baraka.