I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving. Where did the time go? Well, let's see hurricane season was unrelenting. Virtual school is constantly shifting. And, I'll admit election news took up way too much of my time. Nevertheless, I am here trying to thrive in this craziness just like you. Here's my latest news:
Thursday, November 19th at 5:15CST: Join me at the Words and Music Festival. Watch on Facebook Live
We'll also read from our new books, followed by an interview with local journalist Megan Braden Perry. Drop your questions for us in the comments section.
Bonus: Two Writers, One House by Kalamu ya Salaam
I recently appeared on WWNO's The Reading Life with Susan Larson. Listen to the full interview here.
Book Review by Dr. Jerry Ward
RECKONING IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 Harris-DeBerry, Kelly. Freedom Knows My Name. New Orleans: Xavier Review Press, 2020. In the current discussions of non-hoax mythologies, of art and social justice in the contexts of COVID-19, we are required to think about poetry and crisis or the poetic management of trauma. The measurable outcome of our reading poems is anecdotal not empirical; as is the case with our being chastened by DaMaris B. Hill's A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing (2019), our willingness to be "corrected" is strictly a matter of an individual's tastes. The success of Hill's work indicates she has readers who are alarmed or angry or both regarding America's continuing and historically complex abuse of black women. We don't have sufficient information about American readers to say much beyond that. We are still learning. No matter how much literary success is measured by book sales, we still lack persuasive evidence that reading or listening to poetry produces meaningful changes in the habits of the American heart. Optimistic critics argue otherwise, but I hold fast to pragmatic skepticism. Uncertainty is just that tantalizing. Meaningful changes in our academic and non-academic talking about poetry are more apparent than is our certainty about short-term and long-term effects among readers. Despite ideology-driven attempts have the answer, we are not omniscient and not capable of satisfying our curiosity. This fact is so obvious as to be trivial. Only the tribe of Trump tribe believes omniscience or a reasonable facsimile is available to the human mind. If you have read Candide, you recognize the flaw. Despite our limitations, desire to know abounds. Our quest to know is admirably taken into new space by Kelly Harris-DeBerry's first book of poetry Freedom Knows My Name, which is rewarding in it assertiveness. The first poem in the collection, "Who Will You Say You Are?" initiates our journey through the book by echoing Amiri Baraka's "Somebody is Killing America," just as the title of the collection (re)members James Baldwin's Nobody Knows My Name. Harris-DeBerry's gesture of departing from masculine discourses by altering it reminds us of Alice Walker's well-known distinction between womanist and feminist, of Zora Neale Hurston's take at the beginning of Their Eyes Were Watching God on how women and men remember differently, of primal strategies and tactics in the writings of African American women. We are called to recall necessity. We are called in the words of Maurice Carlos Ruffin to "experience this book." With vernacular humor we can ask "Why do you think freedom can know your name when justice can't?" The question ain't rhetorical. Experiencing this book requires giving equal notice to form and content. We can hazard a guess that the content is the form, the message is the medium. Thus we become aware that Harris-DeBerry might be turning Marshall McLuhan's lightbulb down side up and using minimalist form and existential literary devices to assert womanist agency. That's what I heard in my reading/ experiencing of a book that tutors our ears with Harris-DeBerry's expert control of wit and motherwit. She has much to teach us about the task of knowing our names and knowing what time it is. Jerry W. Ward, Jr. September 29, 2020
Curating Alert: Friday, November 20th at 8PM CST
I have the wonderful task of hosting Poets, Presidents, and Pandemics: A Reading for These Times.
2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner Tyehimba Jess headlines a late night reading with Lupe Mendez, Karisma Price, Justin Rogers, and Jane Spokenword. Watch on FB Live or YouTube: @wordsandmusicNOLA
Free. Donations welcomed.
November 27th 9-Noon. Shop Local. Shop Poetry.
I know times are hard. I'm discounting my book for the holidays. Limited quantities. Delivery is slower but books order on the website will be signed. If you prefer Amazon, order here.
Also, please leave a review of the book on Amazon regardless of where you purchase. Reviews hel amplify the book's visibility on the internet.