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Stories I Like To Tell April 26, 2011: There are a few stories that I like to tell about writing. Here is one: I tell the story of the poets who tell me that they don't read other poets because they don't want to be influenced. I ask them what do they want from me. They tell me they want me to read their work. I call them evil. They ask me why I would say that. I ask them if [...] by

Facts and Truth April 19, 2011: Recently I have been contemplating and speaking about the relationship between truth and fact. Most people, I realize, do not make a distinction between these two things. Much of my talking lately has been with people who are not necessarily a part of the world of poetry — people, I believe, who would at least give lip-service to the concept of [...] by

“Middle Passage”–Robert Hayden April 15, 2011: Robert Hayden wrote “Middle Passage” in the nineteen forties, when, he said, no one was really writing about these subjects. To hear him read this poem is to experience the strange way that poems echo sounds I have already heard. I am making my way back to Hayden. And it occurs to me that the echoes I hear in Hayden betray what cannot be [...] by

The University as the Poet’s Community April 15, 2011: There is a tantalizing thought that has been eating at me for a while and I still am not sure I have worked it out fully yet. It started to get at me in the middle of my tribute of sorts to the community of African American staff folks at the University of South Carolina who helped to make me feel valued as a professor and as a necessary part of [...] by

Haitian Fragments April 14, 2011: Five months after the earthquake of January 12, 2011, I sat in an elegant art gallery on the upper slopes of Petion Ville to talk to a gathering of Haitian poets. I was moonlighting while reporting on HIV AIDS in Haiti after the earthquake. I did not want to miss the chance to find out how the poets were responding to the earthquake. We talked, [...] by

Vulnerability April 13, 2011: The last two spring semesters, I have had an interesting teaching opportunity. I have been teaching Fourth Year Medical Students at the Medical School of the University of South Carolina Creative Writing. We have met on a weekly basis in a very comfortable conference room over in the VA complex off Garners Ferry Road in the late afternoon to read [...] by

We Got Your Back April 11, 2011: I am a poet living in the South and teaching at a venerable southern university with as complex and sometimes embarrassing a history as the South itself bears. This place has given me books of poems, it has given me a way to see and understand the world, it has helped me articulate the continued presence of both injustice and grace in our world. [...] by

God-Breathed April 9, 2011: Interviewers like to ask, “What inspires you as a poet?” Generally I don’t like the question because as soon as I start to answer the question, I seem to be inventing a rationale for my work, and in the process, I pretend to know what may have prompted every single poem that I have written. I really don’t know. More importantly, I really [...] by

Thinking of Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) April 8, 2011: Wanda Coleman’s eloquent post “To Fill the Absence” made me think of ways in which remembering can teach us so much. And Rigoberto’s inimitable combination of cheerleader and reprimanding school ma’am in his piece, “Casa Pequeñita”, reminded me of the importance of giving thanks. For some reason, my mind went to Toni Cade [...] by

UNMENTIONABLE MATTERS April 7, 2011: People whose concept of themselves is largely dependent on their racial identity and superiority feel threatened by a multiracial person. The insistence that one must align oneself with this or that race is basically racist. And the notion that without a racial identity a person can’t have any identity perpetuates racism…I wish I could say [...] by