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Here we are in the early days of Black History Month, churning steadily towards Women’s History Month, & chugging heartily towards National Poetry month; it is 2010. We are ending the Year of the Ox, charging headlong to the Tiger’s year; Valentine’s Day will, for some of us, be (wonderfully) subsumed by Chinese New Year. It is 2010 and Brooklyn has finally gotten its “blizzard”. Years ago, when I lived in Binghamton, I thought the fog was lovely, the snow was lovely, all of that weatherly white was lovely. Until I stepped from the dense white of fog, the soft fur of white snow, into a town filled with a severe whiteness. It wasn’t so much the faces as the attitudes. Twice a year, when I head to Vermont to teach, I am reminded of those clouded white faces of Binghamton, faces like flowers, closed to perceived darkness & waiting for the bright white light of sun to open to, towards, to lean into. Sometimes I didn’t care. Sometimes I wrote a poem. Sometimes I went to the gym and put on my headphones and ellipticalled my thighs off. It is 2010, and it is, once again, Black History Month. I’m teaching a class called African American Literature; I’m learning about various faces in Black Female African American arts thanks to the lovely Facebook updates of Valerie Jean Bailey. I am happy. The Poetry Society of America has plastered the faces of 21 Caucasian, one Japanese German American, and one Chicano poets as children all over their website. The lack of inclusion of faces of color has made some folks unhappy. I look at the photos and think of those white cartons of milk and faces of missing children. What’s so genuinely lovely about a child’s face? What would the posting of a Black child’s face tell us about the Poetry Society of America? What does the posting of a child’s face—as tribute—tell us about how the PSA views poetry, poetics? I understand the clear articulation of race in the nonarticulation of race. I get it. And I’m bored to death by it. It’s Black History Month. It’s 2010. We’re in the shortest month of the Western calendar; this month is shared with, oh Groundhog’s Day, 100th day of school day, Charles Dickens’ Day, Thomas Edison’s birthday, President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. Did you know that Pluto was discovered in February? Well, you’re missing something to celebrate in February, in which you can also celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Yes, February is a month of celebration, so let’s celebrate something. I’m celebrating poets who have charged my mind, spirit, heart. Black poets? Sure. Caucasian poets? Sure. Vietnamese poets? Sure. Flamboyantly heterosexual poets? You betcha. Poets who refuse to check a gender box? Sure. Cablasian poets. Of course. What can each of us do to celebrate the child face that promised poetry, the adult face that licked poetry? Me? I’m reading, I’m typing, I’m teaching. I’m looking for graceful raw energy, that makes me happy. I’m looking for the funky disposition of an innocent finger that makes me happy. I’ve a lot to say about the faces of poetry’s future, but I’ve more to say about Arisa White’s Disposition For Shininess, which has been whooping waves into my brain for eight and a half fucking months; and I’ve curry simmering on the stove, curry turning my silver spoons yellow; I can’t get the cayenne out of fingertips, and I’m rummaging in my brain for a childhood photo of me that I’d share. The weather outside is frightful; salt is chomping into the asphalt; a kid wants to clear my stoop for a few measly bucks, and my laptop is burning a pattern in my thigh. I’m going to  re-listen to this child read Herb Scott’s poem “The Grocer’s Children“, & some of more of Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal: A Project for Future Children & pretend I’m in Chicago helping little Omar celebrate his second birthday with a snow cake.

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  • joe weil February 14, 2010, 11:43 am

    I’ve never thought of myself as a poet so much as a person who enjoyed reading, was known in my working class neigborhood as a weird kid great at “talking shit” and who was intellectually formed by a bunch of frequently drunken Cuban friends who came over in 1967 and exposed me to the crazy Idea that I might be an artist. We hung out over a florist shop on Elizabeth Avenue, ate empinadas and chili dogs, drank gallons of wine, listened to Charlie Parker, Rubin Blades, Thelonious Monk, while papering the walls with Mondrian, Braque, Kandinski, thirties depression art as well as Goya, Diego, Gorky, Pollock, Jasper Johns. We read Rilke and Ceasar Vallejo, and wept. I was the only musician, (they were painters, sculptors, or philosophers) and they’d come by my house and listen to me play tunes on a crummy old upright piano. My first exposure to the arts was primarily Latin American because my hometown was over half Latino. I feel as strange up here sometimes Metta as you did, and I’m so white the old Cuban grandmothers in my neighborhood called me “El Blanco,” They liked me, and would rub my red hair for luck (now I’m bald). I miss Ruben Blades. I miss weeping over Vallejo. When Monk died, we went to his funeral, and my friend Marco almost spilled coffee on Miles Davis. Marco: “Man, I’m sorry Miles.” Miles: “Don’t be sorry kid; be careful.” The Poetry Society of American doesn’t have to be careful. That’s their problem. And they ain’t sorry, either. They’re smug, and, to tell you the truth, I have a hard time caring about them. They don’t care about me. Not one of them has ever made out with me, or offered me a ride, or loaned me money, or given me an empinada. Someone ought to kidnap them all and take them to a florist shop, and get them drunk on cheap wine, and recite Machado, and Vallejo, and make them listen to Monk until they falll down from their boring pantheon, and weep over Goya’s Maja, and eat chile dogs with empinadas and make out with me! (most of them don’t look so hot though—too skinny, too grim, and I’m afraid to see their children’s pictures). I think we should make them do a swim suit issue. Oh well… They aren’t careful, and they aren’t sorry, and I miss those empinadas. I want some snow cake, too. I’m going to check out the reading list. Thanks.

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