Saturday, June 13, 2020

your juneteenth annogram

We begin this annogram with unspeakable sorrow on the death of George Floyd. If you like, take a moment of silence on his behalf before reading, get to know the history behind the upcoming Juneteenth holiday, and consider what you can do to support our African American brothers and sisters at this historic moment.

Damaged Heritage in Conversation

In 2008, J. Chester Johnson read Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s account of a 1919 massacre of more than 100 African-Americans in Elaine, Arkansas, not far from his hometown. Exploring further, Johnson discovered his family’s role in the massacre and reached out to the victims’ descendants—an incredible journey described in Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation. On June 14, join Chester in conversation with Catherine Meeks, executive director, the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing; register here to attend.

Southern Writers Sarah Bracey White and 
Nin Andrews

Sarah Bracey White
Sarah Bracey White, author Primary Lessons, the story of one little girl’s triumph over the Jim Crow South, will read with Nin Andrews, in a special zoom event hosted by CavanKerry Press, on June 15, 8pm ET. Afterwards, the authors will take questions from the audience. Their respective books Miss August, Southern Comfort and Primary Lessons will be 25 percent off Monday with the code augustlessons. Reply "going" to and CavanKerry will send you a link to the event.

Spacex Rockets It

Congratulations to Spacex and NASA on the launch of Dragon 9, the first US space launch since 2011. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will spend 119 days aboard the International Space Station. Doug and Bob’s respective sons chose Tremor the stuffed dinosaur as a zero gravity indicator. Soon enough, we saw Tremor floating in the cabin—now that’s one magical apatosaurus!

Tender and Tough

Herb Hadad launched my own and many writing careers, so it’s a pleasure to announce his second book Tender and Tough. This collection covers stories he wrote as a journalist—from 9/11 and Syria’s Bashar Al Assad, to arrival of grandchildren and insights into a happy marriage. “[Hadad] achieves the sweep of history and intimacy of small moments. Whether exploring Aleppo or Boston, he touches both mind and heart,” praises Jason Kelly, Bloomberg News New York Bureau Chief. Congratulations to Herb, our favorite journalist and teacher!

Regi Claire Up for Prize

Regi Claire
Congratulations to poet and novelist Regi Claire on being short-listed for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem! The Guardian shared the good news, and you can read her powerful poem, “(Un)certainties”, as well as the Forward Arts Foundation’s interview with her. Final awards will be announced in October. Fingers crossed, Regi!

Dogs and Others Beloved

Writer Louis Spirito was kind enough to share this gorgeous 
portrait of his dog Hooch, painted by poet and watercolor artist Linda Simone. Lou is the author of the delightful memoir Gimme Shelter (Flowing Water, 2013), the story of one canine who helped Lou be the best possible human. You too can commission a memorable portrait of a loved one—biped and quadroped! Contact Linda by DM through Facebook.

Poetry and Translation

Hélène Sanguinetti
Gratitude to Bethany Rivers for publishing three poems in As Above So Below Issue 5 (pages 7, 23, 35) and to Two Two One NYC for publishing my translation from Hélène Sanguinetti’s And Here’s the Song—looking for a press! An opportunity to publish a book by one of France’s top female poets.

New Releases

Gordon P. Bois and Bob McNeil, eds. Lyrics of Mature Hearts (Independently published)

Chris Campanioni, A and B and Almost Nothing (Otis Books-Seismicity Editions)

Eric Greinke, Break Out (Presa Press)

Laura Morelli, The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo’s David (Independently published)

Ann Taylor, Sortings (Dos Madres Press)

Creative Opportunities

"Skylight" by Cecily A. Spitzer
Upstream Gallery
Mahopac Poetry Workshop, 6pm, every second Wednesday of the month

New Lightwood Magazine: Life and Arts in the 21st Century welcomes submissions

Norwalk Poetry Workshop, 6:30pm, every third Monday, Zoom ID: 825 0508 8828,
password 189147

Pure Slush anthology call for memoirs in essay, stories, and poetry, by July 31st

Upstream Gallery has reopened and welcomes visitors to its exhibitions

Online Readings and Events

The Books Movie with French poet Jean-Luc Pouliquen

Chax Press Poetry Talks Podcast #1 with Charles Alexander

Through June 14, Dream Loaf free access to lectures and readings from prior Bread Loaf Conferences

June 14, June 16, 7:15pm, Maine Media Workshop Poetry Reading presents Kevin 
Pilkington; register here to attend
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

June 18, 6:30-7:30pm, Ekphrastic Poetry Workshop with Christina Rau, see WaltWhitman Birthplace Association Facebook page for details

June 20, 1:30pm, Hudson Highland Poetry Series presents William Lessard,  Kathleen Williamson and Kathryn Weld; register here to attend

June 27, 11pm-5:30pm, Poets, Writers, and Storytellers Stage at Norwalk Art Festival, register @ for link

Sweet Potato Poon

Sarah Bracey White shares that her mom would make a delicious dessert from sweet potatoes frequently gifted by students at the rural South Carolina school where she taught. “We called them sweet potato poons,” Sarah says, “miniature sweet potato pies without the crust.”

3 large sweet potatoes
¼ cup cream or milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup raisins
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil sweet potatoes until tender. Remove skin and mash. Add cream or milk, butter, egg, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, and chopped nuts. Mix well. Onto a well-oiled pan, spoon two tablespoons of mixture into individual mounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until surface crisps.

ʼRound the Net

Mt. Hope Cemetery,
by Michael Holstein
The sponsors of the Bethpage Air Show for creating an exciting virtual version this year

Memoirist Sarah Bracey White for this video featuring author Kimberly Jones who puts the current unrest into historical perspective

Poet and filmmaker Terry Dugan for reminding us how dogs help us stay normal

Art Historian Beth Gersh-Nesic for this online exhibition of paintings of African Americans martyred to violence

Poet Cindy Hochman for her poem, “Root,” in Redheaded Stepchild

Photographer Michael Holstein on winning Photo of the Year from the Color Camera Club of Westchester

Yorktown Poet Laureate John McMullen for recommending the free Authors Publish newsletter

Author Natasha Nesic on having her book, The Miracle on 98th Street, featured in Snowflakes in a Blizzard

The New York Public Library for its Black Liberation Reading List

Poet Christina Rau on being named Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Poet of the Year

Blues bassist Larry Schwartzman for Muddy Water’s “Rollin’ Stone” (1950)

Filmmaker Frank Vitale on winning fifth place out of 100 at the Saratoga Film Festival for “The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable,” which also was featured at the Brooklyn Film Festival

This has been a wild few months, and I thank our annogram community for keeping in touch, and encouraging one another. I want to end with this poem by Danez Smith which first appeared in Poetry (March 2014).

Until next time,

alternate names for black boys 

1.     smoke above the burning bush
2.     archnemesis of summer night
3.     first son of soil
4.     coal awaiting spark & wind
5.     guilty until proven dead
6.     oil heavy starlight
7.     monster until proven ghost
8.     gone
9.     phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10.   going, going, gone
11.    gods of shovels & black veils
12.   what once passed for kindling
13.   fireworks at dawn
14.   brilliant, shadow hued coral
15.   (I thought to leave this blank
         but who am I to name us nothing?)
16.   prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17.   a mother’s joy & clutched breath