Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Somerville Community Access TV Hosts public discussion with two major African-American Poets: Afaa Michael Weaver and Major Jackson

Somerville Community Access TV Hosts public discussion with two major African-American Poets: Afaa Michael Weaver and Major Jackson (click on title to view film)

A public discussion titled from “Do Woop to Hip Hop” was filmed at the Somerville Community Access TV studios, April 2, 2009. The discussion, moderated by Gloria Mindock of the Cervena Barva Press, and produced by Doug Holder of the Ibbetson Street Press, was an exchange between poets Afaa Michael Weaver and Major Jackson. Weaver (58), a professor at Simmons College and Pushcart Prize winner, and Jackson (40), the editor of the Harvard Review and author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection “Hoops”, discussed their lives and influences. Weaver discussed his years growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, the civil rights movement, his mentors, and his development as a writer. Jackson discussed his early years growing up in Philadelphia, his involvement in the city’s vibrant art scene, the strong influences of the family and church, his 16-year relationship with his mentor Afaa Michael Weaver, and other notable poets. Both men revealed much about the struggle to survive amid the turmoil of the inner city and the realization of themselves as artists. The program will be aired on Somerville Community Access TV throughout April and beyond, and clips from the interview will be online in the near future. Bill Barrell (the director of the film), and Wendy Blom, executive director of SCAT, were impressed with the quality and import of the discussion and will be nominating it for a Community Access TV award. Barrell, who has extensive experience in commercial TV in Boston, likened the discussion to a PBS production. He pointed out Mindock’s skilled and insightful queries, and the two poets breadth of knowledge and artistry. This is a program I feel will be of use to students of poetry and literature in years to come and I am proud to have played a part in it.

American Income

The survey says all groups can make more money
if they lose weight except black men…men of other colors
and women of all colors have more gold, but black men
are the summary of weight, a lead thick thing on the scales,
meters spinning until they ring off the end of the numbering
of accumulation, how things grow heavy, fish on the
ends of lines that become whales, then prehistoric sea life
beyond all memories, the billion days of human hands
working, doing all the labor one can imagine, hands
now the population of cactus leaves on a papyrus moon
waiting for the fire, the notes from all their singing gone
up into the salt breath of tears of children that dry, rise
up to be the crystalline canopy of promises, the infinite
gone fishing days with the apologies for not being able to love
anymore, gone down inside Earth somewhere where
women make no demands, have fewer dreams of forever,
these feet that marched and ran and got cut off, these hearts
torn out of chests by nameless thieves, this thrashing
until the chaff is gone out and black men know the gold
of being the dead center of things, where pain is the gateway
to Jerusalems, Boddhi trees, places for meditation and howling,
keeping the weeping heads of gods in their eyes.

Afaa Michael Weaver
Previously published in Poetry magazine

Urban Renewal

ix. To Afaa Michael S. Weaver

Bless your gnarled hands, Sir, and their paternal blues.
Tonight Kala grazes a palm over a battered face,
feeling his new-born features in a Correctional zoo.
The shock is permanent like the caged primate
who suddenly detects he—s human. A HOMO ERECTUS
stands upright on guard outside his cell.
For the record, good friend, tropes are brutal,
relentless, miraculous as a son—s birth. KING KONG—S
memoir gets repeated on the evening news
like a horror flick, and everywhere dark men
are savagely ambushed. So, when a woman strolls
towards a homeless BIGGER, the audience
tenses up involuntarily beneath a cone of light.
This is the work of blockbusters: Kala—s groan
twisting on a steel cot, and by morning—s sunlight,
your cramped hand. Pages pile to a tome
on a kitchen table; its defense is three-fifths
human, two-fifths man. I await its world premiere;
till then, when the soul hears of black guards who strike
harder, the brain goes arthritic, tropes proliferate,
and a wide screen blooms with images of heavy-weights
whose gloved-hands struggle to balance a pen.

--MAJOR JACKSON ( Post Road)

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