Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 National Book Award for Poetry

2010 National Book Award for Poetry, Lighthead, by Terrance Hayes...view Hayes' page on

Winter season reads

Some additions to my reading list for the winter...Condoleezza Rice's memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary Lives and Jay-Z's Decoded, plus the fairly recent Brainwashed by Tom Burrell: have heard so much about this contemporary examination of how media manipulates negative images of Black identity; and a few enduring works--Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (it's been a few years since I've read it, and last year I read Rampersad's biography, Ellison, so this winter is a good time to revisit Ellison's classic novel; and Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe: I've never read this 19th century novel that in its time was major influence, so no time like the present.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Library: Just acquired I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson's Autobiography

After doing a bit of research for a piece I wrote on Black achievers recently, I reflected on Jackie Robinson's entrance into major league baseball and the magnitude it had on sports and our American culture.

I was reminded, and also newly informed, about how courageous Jackie Robinson was off the field, advocating fairness and integration within major league sports and speaking out on behalf of social justice in various arenas.

I Never Had it Made 

While researching Robinson, I read a note about his autobiography, I Never Had It Made (1972). I knew of Arnold Rampersad's biography, which I have, in fact. However, I was not aware of Robinson's autobiography, and immediately I had to have it.

So, I am fortunate to have just acquired a clean and beautiful hardback copy of I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography as told to Alfred Duckett.

Can't wait to read it and report my impression.

There was another intriguing aspect to the Jackie Robinson autobiography that I've only had a few minutes to research, and that is "as told to Alfred Duckett." Is this Alfred Duckett also the poet, Alfred Duckett? The Alfred Duckett who wrote one of my favorite poems celebrating the Black master of music, Duke Ellington:

The Duke

Duke Ellington's music
almost came too soon.
A gaunt coyote
Keening the moon.
Mighty organ waters
rushing to the sky
and a great broad,
passing by.

Duke Ellington's music.
A noonday dream.
A secret joke.
Pure cream.

A train gone crazy
on a wide open track.
Bitter-strong coffee,
hot and black.

Is that a baaaad poem or what!!?! "Bitter-strong coffee/ hot and black"!
Oh, yes, I've got to find out about Alfred Duckett now.

Post edited on 4/15/2011.

Schomburg Center in Harlem Acquires Maya Angelou Archive

Maya Angelou’s paper trail includes a rambling, typewritten letter from James Baldwin, dated Nov. 20, 1970, addressed to “Dear, dear Sister” discussing everything from his new book to his feelings about death.

And one from Malcolm X, written on Jan. 15, 1965, assuring her, “You can communicate because you have plenty of (soul) and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground.”

And a draft of her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she recited at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, showing Ms. Angelou’s changing the first line from “Rocks and Rivers and Trees” to the final, stark version: “A Rock, A River, A Tree.”

All of these things and more — a total of 343 boxes containing her personal papers and documents — have been acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The trove has notes for Ms. Angelou’s autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”; a 1982 telegram from Coretta Scott King asking her to join a celebration at the King Center; fan mail; and personal and professional correspondence with Gordon Parks, Chester Himes, Abbey Lincoln and her longtime editor, Robert Loomis.

Read the full article by Felicia L. Lee printed in the New York Times on Monday, October 26, 2010

Tyler Perry and "For Colored Girls"

Mr. Perry is the most successful black filmmaker ever. His nine pictures — from the comedic romp “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion” to the melodramatic “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” — have brought in over $530 million at the North American box office. He also has an enormous business in stage shows and two television series on TBS.

Read full article by Brooks Barnes printed in the New York Times, October 24, 2010