“A poem is not so much a thought, as it is a mind: talk with it, and it will talk back.”
The approach of World Poetry Day and National Poetry Month always inspires me to celebrate the different ways literary culture has enriched and empowered both the global community and my individual being. I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to celebrate this year on the personal level. Then, in the midst of honoring a new year’s resolution to become better organized, I came across my text for Portrait of a Poet: The Noble Night of Joy, an address delivered October 19, 1995, to open the Poetry Society of Georgia’s 1995-1996 literary season. Rediscovering and reading it was an eye opener––even for me–– when seeing how candidly I spoke about early influences on my poetry.
The program was an exceptional one only partly because it allowed me the honor of delivering a presentation before one of the oldest literary organizations in Georgia. It was also special because as author and actress Dufflyn Lammers pointed out in her article about it, the event was a multimedia one that also featured original music (composed for one of my song lyrics) by the extremely talented Adam Traum and art by Luther E. Vann. In addition to the introduction below, the program included a recital of some 7 poems with introductions providing background information on each. The poems, minus the individual commentaries, are listed following the Portrait of a Poet: Noble Night of Joy introduction with links to some of the ones currently posted on the Internet.
(continues after photo with text of presentation)
The PEN American Center turned all of 90 years old in 2012 and recently decided to give itself a very useful digital face lift With such cases like that of the Qatari poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega still rocking international headlines, the PEN American Center’s mission in conjunction with PEN international ––to defend the right to freedom of expression and promote the values of literature and literacy––has never been more valuable than right now.
As much as I’m enjoying its swagging new style, the upgrade came with a price to which I, and other authors who maintained blogs on the site, now have to adapt. My primary reason for joining PEN American Center last year was to participate in and contribute to the legacy of literary camaraderie first established by C A. Dawson Scott and John Galsworthy––and then later sustained by such luminous literati as H.G. Wells, Willa Cather, Richard Wright, Arthur Miller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and many others.
But I also joined to provide an online home for two important series launched last year: Paradigm Dancing and Guerilla Decontextualization. Housing the series at PEN American Center is no longer possible. Most of the articles from the series are still available as part of my Examiner column but I will have to decide on a new home custom-designed for them outside that location. To those who have been visiting the page on PEN to check them out: please accept my apologies for the unexpected interruption.
Both series to some extent addressed the volatile dynamics that characterized the U.S presidential race last year but both also extend quite a bit beyond the realm of politics. The Guerrilla Decontextualization sequence in particular is one that proposes a framework in which to examine cultural trends that appear to be as deadly as they are popular. Paradigm Dancing looks at how deftly we do or do not negotiate the inevitable transitions molding our 21st century lives–– so very much the way sculptors mold clay or the way genetics and wombs mold flesh. As many know already, there is a website designed to document the Guerrilla Decontextualization project so it may very well provide the new digs for the mutually complementary series.
Although the PEN American Center profile no longer hosts an individual blog, it does allow for an RSS feed that will publish headlines and/or excerpts from a blog posted elsewhere. I will probably experiment with a couple of feeds before settling on one. Or maybe even two. Consider it part of the necessary adjustments that come with working out the bugs and glitches after any major website upgrade.
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.