Author Archives: bp

On Moral Leadership as a Political Dilemma – June Jordan

      On Moral Leadership as a Political Dilemma - June Jordan

(audio from pennsound)
(Text from Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan


Watergate, 1973

I don’t know why but
I cannot tell a lie

I chopped down the cherry tree
I did
I did that
I chopped down the cherry tree

and to tell you the truth
that was only in the morning

which left a whole day and part
of an evening (until suppertime)
to continue doing what I like to do
about cherry trees

which is
to chop them down

then pick the cherries
and roll them into a cherry-pie circle
and then
stomp the cherries
stomp them
jumping up and down

hard and heavy
jumping up to stomp them
so the flesh leaks and the juice
runs loose
and then I get to pick at the pits
or else I pick up the cherry pits
(depending on my mood)
and then
I fill my mouth completely full
of cherry pits
and run over to the river
the Potomac
where I spit
the cherry pits
47 to 65 cherry pits spit
into the Potomac
at one spit

and to tell you the truth some more
if I ever see a cherry tree
standing around no matter where
and here let me please be perfectly clear
no matter where
I see a cherry tree
standing around

even if it belongs to a middle-American of
moderate means with a two-car family
that is falling apart in a respectable
falling apart
mind-your-manners manner

even then
or even if you happen to be
corporate rich or
unspeakably poor of famous
or fashionably thin or comfortably fat
or even as peculiar as misguided as
a Democrat

or even a Democrat

even then
if you have a cherry tree
and I see it
I will chop that cherry tree down
stomp the cherries
fill my mount complete with the pits to
spit them into the Potomac
and I don’t know why
it is
that I cannot tell a lie
but that’s the truth


Changeling – Rhina P. Espaillat

      Changeling - Rhina P. Espaillat

Read by Shawna Monson
Audio from Poetry Foundation

I want to tell myself she is not you,
this sullen woman wearing Mama’s eyes
all wrong, whose every gesture rings untrue
and yet familiar. In your harsh disguise
I sometimes need to find you, sometimes fear
I will, if I look closely into her.
I want to tell myself you are not here,
trapped in this parody of what you were,
but love was never safe: it lives on danger,
finds what can’t be found by any other
power on Earth or over it. This stranger
is you, is all the you there is, my mother
whose gentler face is gone beyond recall,
and I must love you so, or not at all.


Not Poetry: David Foster Wallace’s Syllabus

English 102 – Literary Analysis 1: Prose Fiction

UT-Austin houses the archives of author and teacher David Foster Wallace. They’ve made public some of his teaching materials from Illinois State University, including a syllabus and marked up copies of the texts he taught. The files are a bit small so it’s a little difficult to read, but I love the conversational tone of the syllabus – far more interesting than any syllabus I ever read or composed myself. There are a number of interesting lines. I’m struck by the emphasis on reading each text twice, “All reading assignments are two for one”. Perhaps my favorite: “Handwritten corrections on typed work (stuffed crossed out, added, words respelled) are not only accepted but encouraged, since they’re usually signs of sedulous proofreading. Better right than neat (as long as its readable).” If I were to go back into teaching I would have to at least try that rule out to see what results it brought.

Link courtesy of Open Culture where Josh Jones provides some of his thoughts on the materials.

Link Wednesday – @poemotw, National Book Award, Latimer, Kofi Awoonor

quillfox>> It was, in the end, inevitable. is joining Twitter. Follow @poemotw to keep up with updates (at least a few a year), receive interesting links, and banter about poetry in our modern life.

>> The National Book Award has announced its longlist for poetry. Check out the works here. The winner will be announced October 16.

>> Poetry Foundation has posted a fascinating article┬áby Ruth Graham about the life of editor Ronald Lane Latimer. Latimer (born James Leippert) published Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams among many other authors. According to Graham, “he disappeared from the literary scene after just a few years, switching careers, cities, and even religions several times.” Definitely worth a read.

>> There were several articles and tributes written about the Ghanaian poet, scholar, and activist Kofi Awoonor who was among those killed during the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi on September 21-24. Here is one from the New York Times. Another from The Christian Science Monitor. A more personal recollection comes from Paula Kahumbu. An excerpt from his “Songs of Sorrow“:

Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand.
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.