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journal, personal essays, reading, writing life

Catching My Breath

ReadingatBordersIt feels like a week since I’ve had time to post.  But there’s good reason, I’ve been busy. I started a new gig with Split This Rock working with Sarah Browning & company (Melissa, Katherine, Jaime, Alicia, and Reggie), activist-poets based here in Washington. Here’s a short interview I did with Sarah on a previous blog, Poetic Notes, some years back.

Aside from all of the enthusiasm associated with landing a new gig, I’ve been reading a lot. I must have five or six different books spread across my bed. There’s Carolyn Forche’s Country Between Us which is growing on me. I’m not sure if I’ve encountered a narrative poet with this kind of force and beauty and high drama in my reading life.

There’s also Michael Harper’s Dear John, Dear Coltrane. His poems are sexy, not all cerebral like so many “name” poets. I found his poems about the death of his son especially touching. For some reason, I’m drawn to poems written by male poets, especially black male poets, that we often don’t read or hear about. I like those vulnerable poems that we once thought was the exclusive soverign of female writing. Also, there are new and fresh subject positions that Harper creates for this voice. This is also important. So many poets are writing from their own voices and not necessarily creating voices in the traditional way.

Oh, and I finally read for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf. Shange has an awesome ear and command of the language. Yet I found it a chore reading the text. The idea of this choreopoem is exquisite and it gave me some ideas for my own dramatic writing. I’d like to see this staged. Plays are truly meant to be seen up on stage. And since there are so few stage directions, the director has free reign in producing this work. It’ll be interesting to see what Tyler Perry does (or doesn’t do) with this play.

I also read most of Best African American Essays 2009. I found the collection to be satisfying, particularly the essay written by Walter Mosley about his mother, Gray Shawl; and I thoroughly enjoyed James McBride’s Hip Hop Planet.

 My reading gets scattered and all over the place but this is how it is when I’m not writing. I need to draw every source that comes my way. When I browse the shelves of my neighborhood library, I grab what catches my eye. And usually I strike oil between the pages.

I just started reading Tara Bett’s Arc & Hue and plan to post something in the next few days about the book as Ms. Betts will be in town soon. I’ve also solicited things from a few friends so stay tuned. If you’d like to write for Words Matter, drop me a line. The numbers have been really good. My only regret is that I don’t have more time to ensure more regular posts.

Thanks for your patience as I catch my breath.


About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.


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