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Lucille Clifton Reading Features Joseph Ross – Why We Can’t Wait: Poetry of History and Justice

Joseph Ross launches his new book of poems, Raising King, introduced by E. Ethelbert Miller in a virtual presentation.

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HoCoPoLitSo opens its literary season October 2 with “Why We Can’t Wait” featuring Joseph Ross and the debut of his new book of poetry, Raising King.

The 2020 Lucille Clifton Reading Series provides an opportunity to deepen and extend our understanding of the experiences of others and ourselves as Ross explores through verse the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ross based his poems on King’s own writing in Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can’t Wait, and Where do We Go from Here. Ross will read and discuss his work beginning at 7:30 p.m. in a virtual presentation.

Advance registration is required and donations are appreciated.

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Ross says Raising King “invites readers to journey with Martin Luther King, Jr., from Montgomery to Memphis. These poems, some in Dr. King’s voice, some in other voices from his time, offer the reader a new way to understand the compassionate and prophetic life of Dr. King.” Joseph Peniel, author of The Sword and the Shield: Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. writes: “Raising King is a groundbreaking poetry collection that helps to rescue the radically compassionate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Joseph Ross brilliantly reminds us that King’s power derived from the way in which he forced American and global citizens to confront uncomfortable truths about race, poverty, citizenship, war. A must read.”

Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Meeting Bone Man (2012), Gospel of Dust (2013) and Ache (2017). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Southern Quarterly, Xavier Review, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. His work appears in many anthologies including What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump, edited by Martín Espada. He served as the HoCoPoLitSo’s 23rd writer-in-residence and teaches high school English is Washington, D.C. He is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his poem “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. Raising King will be available from Willow Books in mid-September.

Joseph Ross and E. Ethelbert Miller

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist and author of two memoirs and several poetry collections. He hosts the WPFW morning radio show On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller and hosts and produces The Scholars on UDC-TV which received a 2020 Telly Award. Miller’s latest book If God Invented Baseball (City Point Press) was awarded the 2019 Literary Award for poetry by the American Library Association’s Black Caucus. Click here to view the E. Ethebert Miller Collection at GWU.

Zoom attendance is limited to the first hundred registrants. Additional virtual attendance will be available through live streaming on Facebook.

Click here to register for this online event.

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This Week’s Poetry Moment: A Party in Verse by E. Ethelbert Miller

Here’s how I began my recent interview with E. Ethelbert Miller for this summer’s issue of Little Patuxent Review: “Interviewing E. Ethelbert Miller is like trying to keep track of everyone’s names at a crowded cocktail party after downing a couple of glasses of something potent. Miller’s fifty-year immersion in the poetry world means that he befriended and interviewed people like Sterling Brown and Amiri Baraka (and does spot-on imitations of them) and gave a boost to writers such as Elizabeth Alexander, Ta Nehisi Coates, Charles Johnson, Dwayne Betts, and Cornelius Eady. Faster than one can jot them on a soggy napkin, Miller throws out names and titles and conferences and institutions and acronyms, punctuated with his trademark giggles.”

Watching Miller read his poem, “Is Eric Dolphy Coming or Going?” in this week’s episode of HoCoPoLitSo’s Poetry Moment is a similar experience, a poetic party that he guides his audience through, throwing out names and ideas thick and heavy. Miller is such a polymath that it helps to have a glossary to his poetry, since there are so many references to his fifty-two year history in the poetry world, as well as his lifelong devotion to jazz, Black culture, and baseball.

Though I’m sure I’ve missed many references he’s made, below is an attempt at a glossary of his poem, in order of appearance. Listen to the poem, read some of these notes, listen to the poem again, drown in Eric Dolphy’s music, marvel at some photos of Roberto Clemente sliding home, then listen to the poem again.

  • Frank O’Hara, leader of the New York School of Poets, wrote personal, conversational, and abstract poems about New York Life, though he was born in Baltimore. A curator at the Museum of Modern Art, O’Hara was immersed in the worlds of poetry, music, and art. He died young and gorgeous.
  • Billy Strayhorn spent nearly thirty years composing, arranging, and playing with Duke Ellington. With compositions that included “Take the A Train,” “Lush Life” (as a teenager), and “Chelsea Bridge,” Strayhorn was a classically trained pianist who died at age 51, also gorgeous.
  • August Wilson was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes and a Tony for his plays. He wrote a series of ten plays — The Pittsburgh Cycle – set one in each of ten decades, which included works such as “Fences,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “The Piano Lesson.”
  • Roberto Clemente was born in Puerto Rico and died in a plane crash delivering supplies to Nicaragua. In between he collected 3,000 career hits and played for years for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won twelve consecutive Golden Glove awards, and after his death, he became the first Latin American ballplayer to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
  • John Ashbery is generally regarded as one of the greatest 20th-century American poets, winning prizes such as the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Yale Younger Poets Prize and a MacArthur “Genius” grant.
  • Eric Dolphy played the bass clarinet, flute, piccolo, and the alto saxophone, for which he is best known. Before he died at age 36, he put out his album “Out to Lunch,” about which the Penguin Guide to Jazz wrote, “If it is a masterpiece, then it is not so much a flawed as a slightly tentative masterpiece.”
  • In a Sentimental Mood” by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, needs no other explanation besides listening to it.

— Susan Thornton Hobby
Producer of The Writing Life

Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II Celebrates 40 Years of HoCoPoLitSo

The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, HoCoPoLitSo, will launch its poetry anthology, Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II, in honor of its 40th anniversary, at a reception on Friday, January 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Howard County Center for the Arts. The launch will be held in conjunction with the Howard County Arts Council and Howard County Tourism opening of two exhibits, Ho Co Open 2015 and Poetic Energetic. The reception will feature a poetry reading, live music and light refreshments and is free and open to the public. Snow date: Friday, January 30. For more information about the event visit: http://bit.ly/1t2ETim

1780643_10152624538113600_1943644175515385836_nThe Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) has been producing live literary events for the community since 1974. Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II contains a selection of poetry from the variety of writers who have visited Howard County between 1994 and 2014, from the world-renowned Paula Meehan to the nationally acclaimed Mark Strand and Rita Dove. Distinguished authors such as Patricia Smith, Edward Hirsch, Mary Oliver and E. Ethelbert Miller have inscribed their words on the hearts of many Howard County residents; their poems are HoCoPoLitSo’s history, detailed in Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II. For more information, call HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or email hocopolitso@yahoo.com.

Joining us and reading will be contributor E. Ethelbert Miller. A frequent HoCoPoLitSo guest E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. Miller is the founder and former chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. He served as a Commissioner for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities from 1997-2008. He is board emeritus for the PEN/ Faulkner Foundation.

specialeventThe author of several collections of poetry, he has written two memoirs, Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (2000) and The 5th Inning (2009). Fathering Words was selected by the D.C. Public Library for its DC WE READ, one book, one city program in 2003. His poetry anthology In Search of Color Everywhere was awarded the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award in 1994.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.

Online sales of Twenty Years, Twenty Poets, Volume II will start after January 23rd event.

Gwendolyn Brooks — Watch a Treasure from HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life Archive Now Online

Gwendolyn_Brooks_croppedIn this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing life, revered American poet Gwendolyn Brooks sat down in 1986 to talk with Alan Jabbour, director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklore division, and E. Ethelbert Miller, poet and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.

Brooks was the Library of Congress’ 29th consultant in poetry, and tells the story in this program of winning the Pulitzer at age 32, and getting the phone call in the dark because the electric company had cut off their power because they couldn’t afford to pay the bill. She recites “We Real Cool,” a poem she says has lasted because of its “insouciance and staccato effect.” She talks about her introduction to black nationalism, feminism and James Baldwin. Brooks says, “I like for blacks to be proud of what they have come from. They need to learn they have much to be proud of.”


HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life archives, featuring contemporary writers in conversation with other writers, are being digitized and put online as a resource for the world over. As with any such project, this effort can use your support. If you are willing and able, please make a donation to HoCoPoLitSo to ensure the continued success of this project and its contribution to the world’s literary heritage. Thank you.

“Are you on TV or something?” Maryland Crabs with Writers Edward P. Jones and E. Ethelbert Miller

The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from members of the HoCoPoLitSo board.

I first met Edward P. Jones in 1994 when he accepted an invitation from HoCoPoLitSo to come to Columbia to read for Howard County residents.  His first book, one of short stories about the invisible people of non-tourist Washington, Lost in the City, had been receiving wide acclaim.  It was my job to drive him from his hotel to the reading venue.  He wrote in my copy of Lost in the City, “Thanks for escorting me around.  This has been one of the best days I have had in a long time.”

Our next meeting was in 2005 when he read for us from his ground breaking novel The Known World.  He had read to an appreciative audience on the campus of Howard Community College on a Friday night and stayed over to appear for a taping of HoCoPoLitSo’s literary program, The Writing Life the next day.  He was to be interviewed by poet, E. Ethelbert Miller.

Saturday morning, I picked up Jones at the Columbia Sheraton to drive him to HCC campus for the taping.  On the way, he asked me if I knew a place where we could stop and get some steamed crabs later on.  He said he doesn’t get to visit Maryland often but when he does, he makes it a point to buy some crabs.  So, while Miller and Jones went into taping, I left the studio to call my wife to ask about a crab place.  She told me that there was an excellent place just off Route 1 in Laurel that served the best crabs between Columbia and DC, the Bottom of the Bay.

When the taping was over, Jones, Miller and I got into my car for the trip to Laurel.  We found the restaurant with no trouble.  It was in an unremarkable strip mall and had both a sit-down restaurant and a carryout store which doubled as a convenience store with the usual fare that convenience stores carry – beef jerky, chips, soda, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cold beer and cheap wine.

We placed our order of one dozen crabs and asked that they be seasoned with Old Bay.  While we waited, Jones called our attention to the beef jerky on the display and noted that he had never tasted it and wanted to know if either Miller or I had. We both shook our heads “no” and chuckled.

While we waited for Jones’ order of crabs, two young men perhaps in their late twenties entered the store to buy some beer.  One of the men turned to us and asked, “Aren’t you somebody important, or something?”

Being the “host”, I thought I should be the one to answer, so I said, “This is Edward P. Jones and this is E. Ethelbert Miller.  They’re both poets.”

The other man asked, “Are you on TV or something?”

I replied, “They just finished taping a TV show, but they do not have a regular program.”

The young man followed with, “We don’t see folks around here in suits that much, so I thought you were, like, you know, somebody really important.”

At that moment, the man behind the counter announced our order was ready.

I grabbed the steaming bag of crabs from the counter and said to the young men, “Well, we are sorry to disappoint you.”

We left the store, got into my car, and headed for DC.  Miller asked Jones if he was going to eat all of those crabs by himself.  Jones said, “Not in one sitting; but by Sunday evening they should be all gone.” Miller and I laughed, knowingly and perhaps a little enviously.

By David Barrett
Ex-Officio, HoCoPoLitSo Board

Pictured above at the taping of The Writing Life ( left to right, back row to front): David Barrett, Ellen Conroy Kennedy, Tara Hart, Edward P. Jones and E. Ethelbert Miller.

Streaming This Month at HCC: E. E. Miller Hosts David Mura on HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life

Streaming this month on the Howard Community College’s website is an encore episode of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life where E. Ethelbert Miller hosts a conversation with David Mura.

In the edition from 2007, E. Ethelbert Miller engages award-winning performance poet and memoirist David Mura in a fascinating conversation about the stories, silences, research, and imaginative work that comprise his writing life. Mura reflects on the family legacies of Japanese internment, relocations, and assimilation that influence his double racial identity and consciousness, as well as the influences of photography, jazz, travel, and education on his writing and performance. He reads from and references his poetry, Relocations, The Colors of Desire and Minneapolis Public, and nonfiction, Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto and Mr. Moto, Where the Body Meets Memory, and Turning Japanese.

Click here to view the stream. This particular stream will available online through July (2012). To view more editions of  The Writing Life, visit the HoCoPoLitSo YouTube channel where you will find a growing selection of editions from the archives.

The Writing Life is made possible in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Howard County Arts Council.

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