Party People, Party People: Friday Good News Roll Call!


Hey Y’all:

It’s Friday morning, and I’m up far too early. Alas, I did not just get paid. (That’s an Old School Jam reference. Y’all young’uns don’t know what I’m talking about.) But since I’ve been writing steadily, I get up with the proverbial chickens. Also, I try to get in at least one Yoga practice a week, so I don’t cuss people out. (Don’t act like y’all don’t know what I’m talking about.)

But I’m also up early because I’m pretty excited since this has been a good news week for me: I was included in two new books on poetry that just came out!

Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen

Here’s an excerpt from the description of the book:

“Whether you want a quick exercise to jump-start the words or multi-layered approaches that will take you deeper into poetry, Wingbeats II is for you…You will find exercises for collaborative writing, for bending narrative into new poetic shapes, for experimenting with persona, for writing nonlinear poems. For those interested in traditional elements, Wingbeats II includes exercises on the sonnet, as well as approaches to meter, line breaks, syllabics, and more..”

I have an essay called “The Happy Blues” included that talks about how to write this usually sad poetic form with a twist.

You can order Wingbeats II here!


Poems of the American South, edited by David Biespiel.

Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword to the book:

“This anthology begins with the hymns and rhythms of enslaved people who were shipped to this continent four hundred years ago against their will. Enslaved Africans brought with them the roots of American poetry and, as a consequence, there’s been an ingrained sensibility about the tragedy of human bondage in Southern literature; as William Faulkner famously said, “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.'”

I have a poem included called “Portrait of Unknown Provenance of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, the Child of an Unknown African Woman and Admiral Sir John Lindsay,and Her Cousin, the Lady Elizabeth Murray c. 1779″ 

You can order Poems of the American South here!

Thank y’all for sharing in my good news! I’m always so grateful for my work to be supported and acutely aware of how blessed and lucky I am.

Have a great weekend!


Phillis Remastered

This Bridge Called My Back: The Mothers, The Daughters

Dear Readers:

I am so pleased to welcome my second guest blogger, Asha French! She is a brilliant poet and literary critic.

Because we’re both Black feminists, for her first post, I asked Asha to focus on some aspect of the history of feminism for Black History Month. She decided to write on The Bridge Called My Back.

No, this is not a “Black book,” per se, but rather a multicultural collection of writings by Native American, Latina, Chicana, and African American feminists. But this is my blog, so I get to “Afropalooza” the rules for Black History Month!  (Remember, it’s a verb as well as a noun!)

I know you will love Asha’s writing as much as I do!

Amor et Pax,



This Bridge, My Mother

…… Asha French


This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherrie Morega and Gloria Anzuldua, is one of the most cited feminist texts by women of color, best known for its incorporation of multiple voices: scholars, poets, artists, and home-grown activists are given equal weight in this book that is more concerned with truth than jargon. For many of the writers, mothering is a bridge between women, the planks that connect the world that is to the world that should be.

Although mothering is not the central concern of the collection, authors trace the roots of their feminisms through their motherliness, to the first women to touch American soil, the first to experience the matrixes of classism, racism, and sexism that existed long before their forced or chosen migrations.  They write about the tensions of this mothering bridge– the ways their mothers sometimes perpetuated sexism by preparing their daughters for the world as it was– but they also write about the tools their mothers gave them to imagine and shape the world as it should be. Last year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the original publication of This Bridge. It was also the thirtieth year since I made a bridge of my mother, and a little over a year has passed since my daughter made a bridge of me.

In reading the pages of This Bridge, I saw my mother clearly for the first time. For years, I have been content with my distortions, content to remember her wild-eyed and belt swinging, her full lips pursed in a thin, grim line. I was content to remember her most frequent admonition to my brothers and me, “You will respect me in my house” and the closed door when I did not. I’d traced my self-loathing to her disciplinary approach, the one that generations of mothers adopted to prepare their children to survive a racist America. She was the daughter and granddaughter of women who’d plucked switches from branches that could potentially bear black bodies. Born in the generation of couch therapy and Dr. Spock, I felt compelled to judge them all.

I wasn’t alone in Mama-blaming. Since Patrick Moynihan’s first invitation, mama-bashing has been the response to decontextualized, black “pathology.” It has been the conditioned response of pundits, intellectuals, and trained psychotherapists. (“Moynihan and Freud walk into a bar…”). Mothers are even blamed under the pretense of absent father blaming (see all of the anti-single mother campaigns). It is always easier to blame Mama than to look at the systems of oppression that created her.

This Bridge Called My Back gave me that vantage point- a way to see my mother as a connection—a vertical line connecting her to systems of class, gender, and racial oppression; a horizontal line connecting her to her generations, past and future.

In “La Guera,” Cherrie Moraga writes about the importance of these lines in the development of her own identity. She remembers her mother’s life of labor, that her mother was “pulled out of school at the ages of five, seven, nine, and eleven to work in the fields,” and that she “[walked] home alone at 3 a.m., only to turn all of her salary and tips over to her mother, who was pregnant again” (24).

Max Wolf Valerio writes about the cultural clashes she had with her mother, who spoke and lived Blackfoot while she was westernized in the white school. She remembered dismissing her mother’s story about a visiting spirit, “I say, ‘My, that’s something weird.’ Weird?… A shadow flits across my mother’s eyes… only a non-Indian would say that.” (43).

Aurora Levins Morales remembers the advice that her grandmother, aunt, and great aunts gave her about sex and men. They made sex something profane, something that a woman had to “lie down” and bear, “because there’s no escape.” She writes, “And yet, I tell you, I love those women for facing up to the ugliness there. No romance, no roses and moonlight and pure love. You say pure love to one of these women and they snort and ask you what the man has between his legs and is it pure?” (54).

Merle Woo, in “Letter to Ma,” walks us through the steps to see her mother as a third world woman in America, not totally determined by her social conditions, but also not disaffected by them. She acknowledges her mother’s own sexism, interrogates her mother’s distrust of feminism, and thanks her for giving her the resources she has to live life on her own terms, “Because of your life, because of the physical security you have given me… I saw myself as having worth; now that I begin to love myself more, see our potential, and fight for just that kind of social change that will affirm me, my race, my sex, my heritage. And while I affirm myself, Ma, I affirm you” (157).

In all of these examples and others, I recognize the woman who loved me enough to raise me, give me pieces of her story and trust my discernment to choose which parts are empowering, which parts cautionary.

Like Moraga, I recognize my mother’s life of labor to which she at times felt both beholden and disconnected. She was just two generations removed from forced labor, only the third generation in her family of women who actually had legal rights to their children (although the prison industrial complex also challenges those).

Like Valerio, I remember the moments in which the cultural gaps were painfully clear between my mother and me, though we were just one generation apart. She’d grown up in the generation of racial uplift, in which assimilation was a defense against denied humanity. I’d grown up in the post- Black Aesthetic Movement, Afrocentric era and, emboldened as I was by the Swahili name she’d given me, declared my right to “natural” hair in the fifth grade.

Like Morales, I remember and appreciate much of the gendered advice that was reflective of her upbringing and experiences with men.  I replay her cryptic counsel my freshman year, when a boyfriend denied me the option of consent– “You can’t play with fire and not get burned.” I know now that rape culture creates perpetrators and ministers of its gospel. I no longer condemn her for her ordination.

Like Woo, I am still grateful for the opportunities my mother afforded me, for the choices she made to prepare me for the world she knew. I have a better appreciation for her complexity. My mother taught me the power of the written word; although a wrong look could send her to the belt closet, I was never punished for the content of the letters I slipped under her door.

She is the woman who sometimes silenced me, but also told me to speak up when I dared to defy her authority. She was open palm to face and gentle, back hand to a warm forehead. I believe that she has always tried to be her best self. She taught me to dream, to question, to wonder, to read.

My mother doesn’t see herself in my feminism, but I know it is her face I have always been chasing. Her model of grown womanhood is a dress I still can’t fit, but I wear it anyway, squaring my shoulders to carry its weight.


Asha French is a poet and literary critic. She holds degrees from Howard University and Indiana University and currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University.


Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes!

Today, I want to say Happy Birthday to Mr. Langston Hughes. I think there’s something very appropriate about his birthday starting off Black History Month/Afropalooza and I hope you do, too.

Langston Hughes is just The Man.  And really, that’s what this blog post is about, how fabulous Mr. Hughes was/is.  This is Black History Month, yes, but this also is a blog for grown people who I hope can do their own reading. But I will say that Langston Hughes—along with Zora Neale Hurston, who I must get to sometime during the course of this month—is the most well known creative writer of the Harlem Renaissance.

To read about the Harlem Renaissance as a literary movement that produced several geniuses—or, I should say, several geniuses produced the Harlem Renaissance—click here.

Because I’m doing a bit of writing on the Harlem Renaissance for my real job, I’m going to focus on some of the figures of that time in the next twenty-eight days. Did you know this is leap year? Not only is Black History Month my favorite month, but leap years are my favorite years because I get one extra day to Afropalooza!

Sidebar: Yes, Afropalooza is both a verb and a noun. When I make up words, they are multifunctional, like pig meat grease. Tell me something.

And if you want to read an extensive biography of him and the gajillion books Mr. Hughes published—I told you he was The Man—please click here. This is the best bio I’ve read of him so far.  It’s really excellent.

So let’s get to why I love Langston Hughes so much.

Like many African Americans of my generation, I learned to recite poetry by memorizing Langston Hughes’s poetry as a child in elementary school. I attended Fayetteville Street Elementary in Durham, North Carolina, a bastion of Black History in its own right.  North Carolina Central University was there—formerly North Carolina College at Durham—and the wealthy Spaldings lived in Durham; they were the founders (in 1898) of the first African American life insurance company, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance. I was in a Brownie troupe with one of the Spalding descendants; my mother was extremely proud of telling people that, too, much to my embarrassment.

And I know that some of my Black readers know at least one Langston Hughes poem by heart. Who can forget “Mother to Son,” the favorite poem of female talent show contestants at predominately African American high schools and colleges across this country? All I need is to recite the first five words, and many Black folks can recite the next eight words.

Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

And I don’t know one Black poet who doesn’t know “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” I can’t recite by memory the entire poem, but I bet you any Black poet can tell you the last lines of the poem.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

By the way, it’s because of Langston Hughes that I developed a fondness for colons in my poetry! I just love a colon in a poem. It’s really cute on the page, don’t you know.

To honor Mr. Langston Hughes Otherwise Known As The Man, I am posting my favorite ever poem by him.  The poem is called “The Weary Blues” and it’s the title of Mr. Hughes first published book.

I could tell you why I love it, but then again, I can’t. I just do. And I don’t want to find reasons. It’s like loving a person. It’s just a feeling inside, and I don’t care if no one else approves. That’s that real love.

And guess what?  I found out that I can actually purchase “The Weary Blues” collaboration of Langston Hughes and Charles Mingus! You know I cannot live any longer without owning that collaboration. My life will not be complete without it.  I’m ordering it today.

Here’s a link to podcast about the Hughes/Mingus collaboration. And here’s the poem below.

The Weary Blues


Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
……I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
……He did a lazy sway . . .
……He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
……O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
……Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
……O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan–
……“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
…….Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
…….I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
…….And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more–
……“I got the Weary Blues
…….And I can’t be satisfied.
…….Got the Weary Blues
…….And can’t be satisfied–
…….I ain’t happy no mo’
…….And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.



PR’s Afropalooza Novel Pick: DESSA ROSE by Sherley Anne Williams

Yesterday, I wrote that I was so excited about Black History Month that I’d decided to celebrate this year by nicknaming BHM “Afropalooza.”  (I’m still feeling pretty happy about the nickname, by the way.)

In addition, I thought it would be really great to read a novel in February. Now, I like brand new novels. Those of you who read the blog regularly or who follow me on Twitter or have “liked” my Facebook Fan Page know that I’m not only a writer, but also, a serious reader as well.

But during Black History Month, I like to return to some of the past books that really made an impression on me. That’s why I chose Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams as the official 2012 PhillisRemastered Afropalooza Novel Pick.

You can find this wonderful novel on in both print and Kindle versions. For those people who prefer another bookstore, you can order from by clicking here. Or you can order from by clicking here, where the book is available in print  and Nook form.

Or, if you prefer to visit a fabulous independent bookstore like The Wild Fig  (in Lexington), co-owned by the fabulous, brilliant novelist (and my good friend) Crystal Wilkinson, and her equally fabulous partner, the arist and poet Ronald Davis, even better! You have nearly two weeks to get your independent bookseller to order Dessa Rose for you.

We will have THREE Twitter Chats on Dessa Rose during the month of February, all at 4:00pm EASTERN STANDARD TIME: February 12, 19, and 26.  We will be using the hashtag, “#Afropalooza.” 

On February 12, we will discuss the Prologue and the first section. February 19, we will discuss the second section, and finally, on February 26, we will discuss the third section and the Epilogue.

If you miss one of the Twitter Chats, don’t despair! Because you can always read the timeline later on and catch-up.

Poster of Dessa Rose, the musical


So let me tell you about this beautiful book, Dessa Rose, by Sherley Anne Williams.

I first read the novel nearly twenty years ago when I was in graduate school. I picked it up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the Book Rack, a great used bookstore that was around the corner from my apartment. I only paid two dollars for it, and there was no picture on the cover. I know you’re wondering how I can recall all that. I can’t. I still have the book. (It’s sitting right by me as I type this blog post.)

Set in the 1800s before the Civil War, this novel is based on true stories, and it depicts the unfolding friendship between two women, one Black and unfree and one free and White. Ruth Elizabeth (Rufel) lives on farm and has been abandoned by her husband. Dessa Rose is a runaway slave.  Their friendship is the miracle that defies the racial and social constructs of their time. (Yes, those are my own words.)

As a young, aspiring writer enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, the novel really made an impression on me, because I’ve always been interested in realistically depicted friendships and/or love between Black and White people, and I’ve always admired writers who could successfully get in the heads of all of their characters with a light hand–and an authentic, non-stereotyped understanding.

In Dessa Rose, Sherley Anne Williams depicts her characters with so much grace, and I’ve returned to this novel so many times since. I recommend it to everyone, because Sherley Anne Williams did not get the attention she deserved, though she was a well-known poet.   And she was a respected literary critic as well.

AND there was an Off-Broadway musical based on the novel! It was featured at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

I just love Williams’s work so much, and she modeled to me on the page that I could write whatever the Spirit moved me to write, instead of being pigeon-holed into one literary genre.

So, I hope you will return with me or read the novel for the very first time. Either way, please join me on Twitter on February 12, 19, and 26 at 4pm EST to discuss Dessa Rose by Sherley Anne Williams. And remember to use the hashtag, “#Afropalooza”! It’s going to be completely sassy all month long.

Afropalooza, Baby!–I just had to say it one more ‘gain.



You Gotta Read This: A Podcast w/ Booker T. Mattison on May 31@8pm EST

Booker T. Mattison

I told y’all I was going to try to keep things exciting with my podcasts—even if I didn’t keep the podcasts regular–and y’all know I don’t lie. I’m talking with novelist and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison this evening on; he’s got a new novel out called Snitch and it’s so fabulous.

I haven’t met Booker in person, but I did meet him over the internet when I sent out a totally random plea for someone to find me a copy of his wonderful short film, The Gilded Six Bits.  As anyone who has talked to me more than five minutes knows, Zora Neale Hurston (the author of  the short story “The Gilded Six Bits”) is my most favorite author in the whole wide world.

Well, I was unabashedly begging on the blog for someone to hook me up with Booker’s short film and guess what? Booker himself responded in the comments section of the blog post and sent me his film! (I almost fainted.) Oh, I can’t tell you how happy I was when I received that film in the mail. I watched it over and over.  It is such a wonderful film. I am not playing.

And then I found out that Booker T. was a novelist as well, and I thought, I have to conduct a podcast with this brother. So I decided to beg him again to do the podcast and he generously found the time for me!

So join me TODAY at 8pm Eastern time for a podcast with novelist and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison. You know it’s going to be sassy.

Here’s the link for the podcast on—click it at 8pm to listen live. As always, my podcasts with be archived both on  this blog and on, the host podcast website.

Or you can download all the podcasts, both present and past, on ITunes for free. Just click this link right now or go to the upper right of this page and click on “Podcast” and there’s an Itunes link on that page as well. It’s super easy!

Booker’s bio is below.


Booker T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker who wrote the screenplay for and directed the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime. It starred Chad Coleman (“The Wire”), T’keyah Keymah (“That’s So Raven,” “Cosby,” “In Living Color”), Wendell Pierce (“Treme”,”The Wire,” “Ray”) and Novella Nelson (“The Antwon Fisher Story”). The Hollywood Reporter said of the film that, “Mattison’s direction and feel for her characters match up to Hurston’s sterling piece of fiction. The short is full of atmosphere and strongly developed characters.”

Mattison’s novel Snitch was published May 1, 2011. Publishers Weekly said that, “Author and filmmaker Mattison’s sophomore outing reads like its ready for screen adaptation… Mattison has a superb ear and his skills keep on growing.” His debut novel Unsigned Hype was published in June 2009 and is in its third printing. Producer Stephanie Allain Bray (“Hustle and Flow,” “Black Snake Moan” and the forthcoming “We the Peeples”) is attached to produce the film adaptation of both books.

Mattison received his Master of Fine Arts in film from New York University and his Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Norfolk State University.

Mattison has taught Literary Criticism at the College of New Rochelle in New York, film production at Brooklyn College and Advanced Directing, Screenwriting and Directing Actors at Regent University in Virginia.



"You Gotta Read This": A Podcast w/Tayari Jones On May 17 @ 8pm EST

Tayari Jones

As the song says, “It’s been a long time” since I had a regular “You Gotta Read This” podcast. Forgive me, y’all, please. It’s been a crazy, busy time since last June (when I had my last podcast) and things don’t look like they will calm down anytime soon.  I’m working like a rented government mule, y’all, and that ain’t no joke.

So I decided instead of having a regular podcast every month, I would just try to make sure that the podcasts I did have every now and again were fabulous and memorable.

And in order to (re)start this podcast party off right, I’m coming back strong with the award-winning novelist Tayari Jones! That’s right. Tomorrow evening at 8pm Eastern Time, I will be talking with Tayari about her just published third book, Silver Sparrow. Click this link to listen to us tomorrow.

You know you don’t want to miss this one. Y’all, this book is so extra good and fabulous. I read it a couple of month of ago in only one night–an accomplishment for me, since I’m usually reading five or six books at a time, and so I only read a bit from each one every day.

I cheated on my other books that night with Silver Sparrow and I was just blown away. It’s not only a seriously good read, it is both a book that is well written and that serious readers will love (read: literary), but one that you can recommend to your girlfriends or family members who might not have picked up a book in a long while (read: not boring, not in the least.)

So join me tomorrow at 8pm Eastern Standard Time for my podcast with novelist Tayari Jones! We are going to have a great time, just gabbing away, and y’all know how I do. We’ll be talking about some things you won’t get in the “regular” interviews.

Here’s the link for the podcast on–click it at 8pm. As always, the podcasts will be archived both on this blog and on, the host podcast site.

Or you can download all of my podcasts (past and future) for free–yes free— on ITunes, so you can put them on your Ipod and go. What could be better? The podcasts will be available on ITunes the day after the podcast happends, and y’all know me–I will remind you about that.

Here’s Tayari’s very sassy bio (below):

Tayari Jones was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia where she spent most of her childhood with the exception of the one year she and her family spent in Nigeria, West Africa. Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta, is a coming of age story set during the city’s infamous child murders of 1979-81. Jones herself was in the fifth grade when thirty African American children were murdered from the neighborhoods near her home and school.

Leaving Atlanta received many awards and accolades including the Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction. It was named “Novel of the Year” by Atlanta Magazine and “Best Southern Novel of the Year,” by Creative Loafing Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Washington Post both listed it as one of the best of 2002.

Her second novel, The Untelling, published in 2005, is the story of a family struggling to overcome the aftermath of a fatal car accident. Upon the publication of The Untelling, Essence magazine called Jones, “a writer to watch.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution proclaims Jones to be “one of the best writers of her generation.”

Silver Sparrow, her third novel has just been published by Algonquin Books.  The Village Voice wrote that “Tayari Jones is fast defining black midle class Atlanta the way that Cheever did for Westchester.”  The American Booksellers chose Silver Sparrow and the #1 Indie Next pick for June 2011.

Tayari Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, The University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University. She was named as the 2008 Collins Fellow by the United States Artists Foundation.  She will spend the 2011-12 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her fourth novel.