RIP Nicanor Parra, Chile’s anti-poet

Nicanor Parra always had the last laugh. By living to 103 and winning the Cervantes Prize – the highest award for a writer working in Spanish – he became “eminent” when all his life he’d been a contrarian. Parra dragged Latin American poetry into the streets. Rejecting all Romantic and flowery sentiments, he fashioned a…

“The Crown Ain’t Worth Much” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

This debut collection sings. Forged in the fires of Columbus, Ohio, the poems are about childhood memories and community. If much of the work feels autobiographical, the collection transcends individual experience and speaks to anyone who’s ever watched friends fall apart, or got nostalgic over a piece of music, or been cheek to cheek with…

10 Martin Luther King Quotes for MLK Day

From the tradition that led to Barack Obama, Martin Luther King was among the most lyrical of leaders. He combined the tones of a preacher in the black southern tradition with the rhythms of a poet. Especially for MLK Day, here are some of his words.   1. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is,…

“In the Wake: On Blackness and Being” by Christina Sharpe

Part memoir, part thesis, and part lyrical examination of what it means to be black in the 21st century, In The Wake is simply a great, great book. It bridges so many fields – social justice, poetry, fiction, Critical Race Theory, semiotics, semantics – yet retains complete coherence. It is beautiful, ingenious and tragic. In…

New Books on Race in the United States

  Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie (Beacon Press) This book by Black feminist legal scholar, writer, and activist Andrea Ritchie looks at the ways black and indigenous women are affected by racial profiling, police brutality, and immigration enforcement. The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison…

“Feeling the Unthinkable: Essays on Social Justice” by Donald Gutierrez

If Donald Gutierrez were alive today, what would he think of the USA now? He’d be horrified. And disgusted. Gutierrez, who died in 2013, shortly after this collection was published, was a social conscience. He passionately confronted inequity and government abuses, particularly that of his own country, the United States of America. Here, 48 of…

“My Mother and I, We Talk Cat” by Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart’s terrific new memoir is unorthodox. As a former Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County, she includes poems at scattered intervals, which illustrate the events and emotions of her youth. Her tale, while sequential, glosses over some years and characters and lingers on others. For example, we barely get to know the…

“Damnificados” wins Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction

The 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards were presented on October 20, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington D.C. Over 200 people attended. There were poets, novelists, academics, essayists, editors and publishing icons. It was a superb event. Three legendary figures were honored: the long-time civil rights activist-turned-bestselling-author Congressman John Lewis; poet and publisher Haki Madhubuti; and…

“Hatred and Pity”: James Baldwin in “I Am Not Your Negro”

Anyone interested in race and civil rights needs to see this film. It’s based on thirty pages of notes compiled by James Baldwin for a book about the most famous of the slain martyrs of the Civil Rights movement: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. The book was never written. “I Am Not Your…