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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Problems of Underdevelopment by Nicolas Guillen

Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989)
Problems Of Underdevelopment

Monsieur Dupont calls you uncultured
because you cannot say who was
Victor Hugo’s favorite grandson.

Herr Müller has started to scream
because you do not know (exactly)
the day that Bismarck died.
Mr. Smith,
and Englishman or Yankee, I cannot tell, 
exploded when you write Shell.  
(It seems that you eliminate an l
 and, what is more, pronounce it chel.)

Who is that?
When your turn comes,
tell them to say Huancavelica,
and where the Aconcagua’s found,
and who was Sucre,
and in what spot on the planet
Martí died.

(And Please: have them always speak to you in Spanish.)

   Nicolás Guillén

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Audre Lorde reading in 1979

Audre Lorde reading her poem "Between Ourselves" in October 1979 at the Third World Conference at Howard University the day before the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Audio courtesy of Rainbow History Project archives.

Between Ourselves      Audre Lorde

Once when I walked into a room
my eyes would seek out the one or two black faces
for contact or reassurance or a sign
I was not alone
now walking into rooms full of black faces
that would destroy me for any difference
where shall my eyes look?
Once it was easy to know
who were my people.

If we were stripped of all pretense
to our strength
and our flesh was cut away
the sun would bleach all our bones
as white
as the face of my black mother
was bleached white by gold
or Orishala
and how
does not measure me?
I do not believe
our wants have made all our lies
Under the sun on the shores of Elimina
a black man sold the woman who carried
my grandmother in her belly
he was paid with bright yellow coins
that shone in the evening sun
and in the faces of her sons and daughters.
When I see that brother behind my eyes
his irises are bloodless and without colour
his tongue clicks like yellow coins
tossed up on this shore
where we share the same corner
of an alien and corrupted heaven
and whenever I try to eat
the words
of easy blackness as salvation
I taste the colour
of my grandmother’s first betrayal.

I do not believe
our wants
have made our lies

Monday, February 16, 2015

Philip Levine in Conversation with Grace Cavalieri

Phil Levine by David Shankbone
"It required daily decisions. 
This is what I am going to do."

Philip Levine on The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress from 2011:
Listen to the AUDIO PODCAST (56:33 minutes) Transcript. 
Philip Levine was the 18th U.S. Poet Laureate. He was born in Detroit in 1928, and educated at Wayne State, the University of Iowa, and Stanford University. He is the author of more than twenty collections of poetry, and his honors include the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, and two National Book Critic Circle Awards. Levine's first book of poems, On the Edge (1963), won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. Levine's other prizes include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Frank O’Hara Prize and the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, an award of merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award, and the Golden Rose from the New England Poetry Society. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997, elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2000, and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.  He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Levine taught Literature and Creative Writing at California State University, Fresno from 1958-1992. In 1970, Levine was chosen Outstanding Professor at the University, and the following year he was chosen Outstanding Professor for the California State University System. He also taught or served as a writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley; Vassar College; Vanderbilt University; Princeton University; Tufts University; Columbia University; the University of Houston; New York University; and elsewhere. He divided his time between Fresno, California, and Brooklyn, New York.