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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nadhiri's digital poetry

Asili Ya Nadhiri's Digital Poetry and Performance


After both reading and listening to Nadhiri's tonal drawing "wandering here in this dark where it eating up the light" (, I observed:

This double-voiced rendering of the tonal drawing is an example of what might occur when a poem escapes the prison of print and page and becomes an item in digital poetry.  In a traditional live reading, it would not be possible to have the overlay of sound without the help of some time-delay mechanism. This digital tonal drawing allows us to hear subtle differences in emphasis of inflections in voice 1 and voice 2 as well as echoing that produces a state of "rendered-ing" or "rendering-ed."  Nadhiri's conceptualization sends us to performance theory to find language to discuss self-reflexive echoes.

Good models for such language abound in Black Performance Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), edited by Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez.


Nadhiri replied on his website  to the observation on July 25, 2015 at 10:21 p.m. ---"Jerry, you are making me consider extending this manner of expression more presently."   My observation was concerned with poetry and physics, but Nadhiri's email to me (also July 25) redirected me to philosophy and poetry.  He had written that "perhaps the form birthing in 'wandering here in this dark...' might be suggesting one in which the universality impliciting in my latter work might be made more expliciting."  This remark seems related to a thesis Reginald Martin and  I will elaborate in our book Words and Being:

Although common sense is not immune to deconstructive critiques, it is our most powerful tool in efforts to minimize confusion in studies of African American and American cultures and cultural expressions.

Martin and I are not philosophers, but the thesis will make our book  philosophical by accident, especially in our commentary on poetry. Nadhiri's proposition regarding form coming into being can be shifted from the conditional to the declarative.  The aesthetic impact of his tonal drawing is present progressively universal, and it is an occasion for grasping uncommon knowledge. In its digital manifestation, a tonal drawing can initiate deep, common sense thinking about why innovation in  African American poetry matters as we perform literary and social positions.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.    July 26, 2015


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

When Classmates Die

When Classmates Die


We think your life was spent

environed by thugs, roses, dogs, fried chicken,

jackasses, mashed potatoes, violence, and buzzards---

all ill-intended to bend your mind,

twisting and breaking off your goals.


Cold, the world-womb, bleeding quick, pregnant

trash-grown ideogasms the young and gifted

are fed daily  by the crazy and the dead.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            July 21, 2015


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Harper Lee's Moral Reckoning

Harper Lee's Moral Reckoning


After reading the Wall Street Journal review by Sam Sacks  of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, I wrote on my Facebook timeline:  This novel obviously upsets some people because it sets the record straight about Southern literature.  A much better novel that deals with a white woman's discoveries about her racist father is Minrose Gwin's The Queen of Palmyra.

According to Sacks, Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is "the most beloved novel in American history ---more popular than even the Bible in numerous polls."  It would be a waste of time to correct Sacks's sense of American history or to argue that some other American novel is more beloved than Lee's.  I doubt that the unnamed polls reveal what Mr. Sacks claims, but I do not dismiss the possibility that they tend to confirm that  the fictional Atticus Finch did "become a symbol of the nation's moral conscience." In that case, we can say with confidence that Finch replaced William Faulkner's ambiguous Gavin Stevens (Intruder in the Dust, 1948) as the white male unambiguous heroic figure and moral voice in Southern fiction.  Who defines what is ambiguous, however,  remains a question to be answered.

Sacks clears his throat so as "not to damp the enthusiasm of expectant readers but to introduce a friendly word of caution. 'Go Set a Watchman' is a distressing book, one that delivers a startling rebuttal to the shining idealism of 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'  This story is of the toppling of idols; its major theme is disillusion."

Truth is like oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  It upsets animal, plant and human ecology.

Tough-minded readers should applaud Harper Lee for striking an iconoclastic blow from an assisted living home in Monroeville, Alabama.  At age 89, Lee is rich (her net worth is estimated at $35 million) and on the brink of having to explain herself to a Supreme Being.  She obviously wants to do the right thing, to be on time in Time.  Thus, she is forcing naive readers who relish and consume American idealism to savor Southern realism; with Go Set a Watchman, she is obligating readers to give moral bankruptcy a name.

President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.  President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts in 2010.  It is just that she should thank her country for these honors by telling a truth before she dies.  It was no accident that she helped her friend Truman Capote with his research for In Cold Blood. In 2015, blood in the United States of America is an ice cube for all of us who are waiting for Godot or watching to see who has an eye on the sparrow.


Jerry W. Ward, Jr.    July 12, 2015

for BK Nation

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Note on "Poem 72"

A NOTE ON "Poem 72"

July 9, 2015


In order to write "Poem 72," I had to begin with the following cluster of words:


tissue  somewhere peril peripatetic biopolartics filmic collusion of neoliberal bondage

(e)lucid sex synergy symbolic ecology disappear violence intimate detachment

allegory glue of privacy token autocritography omniscient freak ground of never -colony

antimimetic mother witch rebeling woman a pink banker of niber hate narrative ethics

causalities unnaturals middle objects reformance eschatological

It has become increasingly difficult to write a simple poem.  It may be that the cluster of words is the interpretation for "Poem 72."


Poem 72

who is neverlonger

a question


jokejester asked

for an answer


for a reason

deemed autocritographical


who mother(out)witted

a black whole of how





Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

July 6, 2015


Sunday, July 5, 2015

From an Open Letter

From "An Open Letter to a Writer"


July 5, 2015


Since we talked back in May, our world has made good progress in collapsing.  When I was much younger, my spirit would have trembled.  Now it laughs, because one can laugh freely if one is Roman Catholic and not Christian, if one is faithful trickster.  Thus, I smirk when African-descended people "forgive" a Satanic thug in Charleston for murdering their relatives and friends in church  ---  a church associated with Denmark Vesey.  We deserve nothing better than to celebrate July 16, 1822 in 2015 by recalling that Christian black folk are insanely good.  They trash the sacrificial intentions of black revolutionaries and walk into the genocide of salvation.  We no longer laugh to keep from crying.  We laugh to keep from killing.


I remember the moral disengagement hatred demands and maintain some distance from it.  As I mentioned to one of our fellow-writers, I write to prevent my becoming a serial killer.  Killing people rarely resolves the systemic problems which encage us.  I write to assassinate time.




Stay well and stay strong in this eternal battle we have to fight.




Jerry W. Ward, Jr.