This day was near the end of yet another year. As I was walking down the cold streets during the coldest day of the year so far, I saw two young men standing near the Community College that is a few blocks from where I live. I immediately recognized who they were. They were Mormon Missionaries and were freezing their young, white asses off.
“Elders,” I said, stopping to talk to them, “what the heck are you two doing with such light jackets.”
One said, “I’m from Texas. I am not use to this.”
“Well, you should tell those folks in Utah that it gets cold up here.”
They both laughed, and one quickly pointed to the poster they had. What was written on it was very simple: “What do you have to be thankful for?”
“And sir,” he said politely, “what do you have to be thankful for.”
It didn’t take me long to answer that question. “The fact that I am still walking on the face of this earth.”
They nodded their heads in unison. As I walked away from them, I first congratulated them for being so worldly. “You guys probably have the biggest mental map, and a better insight into peoples of the world than most, because you are everywhere. We have people here in New York that want to run the world and have never left Brooklyn. Just one word of advice, please go and buy heavy coats. It’s only going to get colder.”
As I walked toward my apartment, I thought about something else that I was thankful for: Neworld Review, and the readers that keep flocking to us. In the past year we have added robust poetry, short fiction, theatre and visual art columns. Next year we plan on expanding to dance, music and film.
So, I have a lot to be thankful for. It feels great to be alive.
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The purpose of art is to reflect life. With that said, Broadway’s American Son, accomplishes that, as it puts on it a rubberstamp that says, “American Made in Today’s America” and tells the story of the life and risk of the everyday realities for young black men in America. Playwright Christopher Demos-Brown, who is making his Broadway debut, has created a compelling story that will touch your soul, make you cry and will give you a reality-check. He has skillfully and thoughtfully addressed this serious situation in a way that gives you in small portions, until you are filled, the racism that openly exists in our society against young black men who dress in a certain way, drive expensive cars and run from police.
The play starts off with Kendra, stressed and worried in a police station, as she is trying to find her son Jamal, who left home in his birthday Lexus and was picked up by police. The young white Officer, Paul Larkin, questions her about her son, asking questions like if he has tattoos, gold teeth, a street name or any distinguishing scars? He asks her about his being arrested. She sees that he is trying to profile her son and lets him know that is not her child. He is intelligent and loves Emily Dickenson. He’s over six feet tall and wears glasses.
Frustrated, she loses her patience when he doesn’t give her information, telling her that she must wait until 8 a.m. for Lieutenant Stokes, who will update he. When she asks for water Officer Larkin, in this precinct in Miami, directs her to two water fountains down the hall and explains there are two water fountains side by side, because they remain there from segregation times, and there’s a plaque commemorating racist White men from the South that supported Jim Crow.
Sitting in the audience you feel every scintilla of frustration, anger and stress that Kendra feels. Kendra is an educated black woman, who simply wants to get information about the whereabouts of her son and to see him, to make sure he’s all right.
When Kendra’s, white FBI husband, Scott, comes in things get interesting, as Scott can get information from Officer Larkin without much effort, something that was a slap in the face to Kendra and something she points out. When Officer Larkin gives Scott a little information and goes to get him coffee, that’s when the audience knows the troubled relationship of this family and learns about the privileges that Jamal has had, education-wise, and what a high IQ he has. It also finds out about the strained relationship he has with his father and his issues trying to find his identity as a young black man.
A sensitive black young man, who is severely affected emotionally whenever a black man, like Eric Gardner, is murdered by the police. You find out that his mother, like countless black mothers in America, worry about their sons’ well-being every time they walk out of the door. They worry about racism and hatred finding their young, strong son. Black mothers that have nightmares in which they are targeted.
Demos-Brown’s play is gripping; it brings out many emotions in its audience. People could be heard crying as this poignant indictment on the racism and police brutality against black men in this country carefully unfolded on stage.
Kerry Washington plays Kendra and is completely absorbed in the role. Sometimes she doesn’t need to speak; her wounded and anxious facial expressions convey it all. She represents black mothers with to a T! Steven Pasquale is superb as Scott, a white FBI agent.....Read More
It was an apropos moment to be pondering the power of stories—October 2018, campaign-for-life-or-death-of-democracy time in America. Cummins, best known for her visual art, was in the midst of a performance piece of sorts.
For most of the month, she sat behind a bay window of a restaurant in Saugerties, NY, part of the Hudson Valley town’s second annual Shout Out Saugerties festival. Here the artist was the installation, there for passersby on the old-fashioned main street to watch. She kept her back to the window, but the accoutrements made the mission clear: Cummins was writing a memoir about her own family’s stories.
Sometimes she pounded on an old manual Smith-Corona, sometimes on a laptop, at a battered table full of carvings from previous owners. (“It’s from another era, when people wrote letters. I could go on a tirade about the loss of letter writing.”) Stacks of research books were piled up around the window. Above her, Cummins had strung scraps of paper and envelopes containing quotes she’d written down over the years.
To her left was a quote from Elie Wiesel flapping ever so slightly on the line: “He who hears a witness becomes a witness.”
Cummins was working on a book about the stories behind some of her own family secrets, while symbolically offering a transparent look at the writer. The poet and performance artist Mikhail Horowitz, a Saugerties resident, pointed out that she was operating within a noble tradition: “think of Scheherazade, or Cervantes, or Calvino.”
While Cummins wasn’t ready to reveal all, suffice to say she intends for the book to be a “resettling of accounts” about her life growing up on Staten Island and her mother’s story. The restaurant, the Pig Grill and Bar, didn’t open until 5:00, and Cummins was there only from 10:00 to 3:00, six days a week (Sundays off), but anyone could knock on the window or the glass door and add themselves to her public statement.
A sign in the window said: “As part of her ongoing exploration of the power of narrative to shape our lived reality, Cummins will be collecting stories about stories. If you have a story about the way in which some shared, discovered, or falsified story impacted your life, family, relationships, or sense of the world, and are willing to be recorded, either anonymously or for the record, please knock on the window to make an appointment.”
Her work has largely centered around other people’s stories, in fact. Now 55, Cummins has a body of prints, works-on-paper and limited-edition artist’s books that are held in more than 100 public collections around the world, including National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Getty Museum in LA, the Brooklyn Museum, Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The artist’s books are particularly evocative of how she views the power of stories. She creates them out of found texts and images that tell stories of short, persecuted, largely invisible lives—narratives about slaves; letters and ledgers pertaining to the business of slave ownership; a love affair between Jules, a teacher, and Ben, “an aristocratic boy” from 1906-09; a tale of native American displacement in the Oregon territory; physicians’ assessments of 19th century mental hospital patients; records from the Salem Witch Trials (a collaboration with poet Nicole Cooley). In recent months she’s also been working with refugees from Syria and other war and strife-torn countries.
Saugerties itself is a place that, on the surface, bears a passing resemblance to the small-town America that existed only in Frank Capra movies
and old children’s storybooks where everyone was white and named Smith or Jones. The Pig Grill and Bar is nestled in a 19th century building downtown, and like other edifices on the block sports the pentimento from its first life, when it.....Read More
After I graduated from NYU in 1971 with my well-earned degree, a yearning came over me. I wanted to get out of New York to see the country, so I could live like the American I was. At that time, I was living with my girlfriend, a smart, curious, beautiful young blond who called herself a “Scan.” She was half Swedish and half Norwegian. She called herself that because New York is perhaps the most tribal city in America, so she had to call herself something, and she was clearly 100 percent Scandinavian.
She would also get very pissed off at me for my saying I was not a minority, as she would sometimes call me. I was an American, I explained to her, and we Americans were the majority in this country.
She would huff and puff and almost turn red, but to no avail.
“You’re too much,” she would finally say
She was right. Nobody was going to call me a minority and get away with it. And, please, I quietly suggested to her, not wanting to ruin the wonderful sex life we had, don’t ever call me an immigrant.
I sometimes drove her crazy, but she loved wrapping her warm arms around me at night as we made love. And, I love her for it—the polemics where quickly forgotten.
We had first met in our Sophomore year at NYU, and she moved in with me, in my small one-bedroom in Chelsea that same summer. She was from New England and was the only blonde I ever saw on campus, mainly because at that time NYU was 95 percent Jewish.
Some black students used to call NYU, NYJEW.
In a funny way, my girlfriend and I both stuck out. I was one of the few blacks in the journalism department, and she was perhaps the only non-Jewish woman in it; furthermore, the only real blonde in the entire school. She got an internship at Newsday in our Junior year, the same year I started Black Creation, and because of her dance background, started covering dance performances, which won her a national journalism student award for best arts commentary.
We played footsie at the award ceremony for her, as our chair, Professor M.L. Stein, sang her praises. These days we would be called a power couple, but back then we had to keep our relationship quiet. Professor Stein had no idea what we were doing as he droned on.
The Civil Rights Movement had quieted down, as well as the Vietnam War, as we neared the end of our stay at NYU. As for me, I thought that the Civil Rights Movement was going to destroy Apartheid, and one could live.....Read More
When I read the review of Ms. Weinman’s book in the Los Angeles Times I wanted to read it because I hold the belief that often great art draws its inspiration from real-life events, or, as is the case with James Joyce’s Ulysses from mythology or other well-known stories; so, I wanted to see to what extent Vladimir Nabokov may have been influenced by the kidnapping of Sally Horner, a widely-published event of which he was aware.
First, I read The Real Lolita and then reread Nabokov’s Lolita.
In March of 1948 11-year old Sally Horner was accosted when she attempted to shoplift a five-cent composition notebook from a Woolworth’s in Camden, New Jersey, by a stranger who said he was an FBI agent but was in fact Frank LaSalle. Later, her mother, thinking he was the father of one of Sally’s friends, was persuaded to let her go on a trip to Atlantic City with him. She then was kidnapped and kept by LaSalle for the next two years. As Lolita had with Humbert Humbert, they traveled cross country together until finally, when they were living in a mobile park in San Jose, California, Sally told a neighbor by the name of Ruth Janisch of her plight, and Ruth alerted the authorities. After she was freed, LaSalle plead guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced to no less than thirty and no more than thirty-five years in prison.
As for Sally she was reunited with her family but tragically died in a car accident with a boyfriend on August 18, 1952, only two years after her release from LaSalle clutches. I couldn’t help but think she might have been spared the worst of the consequences she might have suffered as the result of her kidnapping.
Vladimir Nabokov published Lolita in 1955. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, into an aristocratic family in 1899 that fled Russia in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, making their way to Paris, as did many families of “white” Russians. The family spoke three languages—Russian, French and English. He studies French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched his literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, where he taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977. He dedicated his masterpiece, Lolita, to his devoted wife Vera. They had one son, Dmitri, who became a musician. Nabokov was passionate about lepidoptery; he and Vera took several trips across the United in pursuit of rare butterflies.
Nabokov was toying with the idea for Lolita, the self-told account of a pedophile, before he learned of Sally Horner’s case. He tended to deny the degree to which he mined information from it, maintaining that....Read More
When I travel, I am drawn to bookshops, a practice that threatens to weigh down my baggage and raise eyebrows in TSA lines. So when I visited Foyles in London a few weeks back I limited myself to two smallish volumes: a handsome compact Penguin Great Gatsby anda signed edition of Milkman, Irish writer Anna Burns’s recent Man Booker prize winner.
On that same trip I also visited Italy and in Rome I was intrigued by a Google search of English language dealers by one called The Almost Corner Bookshop, so after a day in Vatican City and a rip-off 50 Euro cab ride (We found out it should have cost about 12) my wife and I arrived at this gem within the chic Trastevere neighborhood.
Dermot O’Connell, a friendly Irish immigrant, took over the neatly maintained shop in 2002 after it had moved to 45 Via Del Moro from down the street where it was appropriately called The Corner Bookshop. The window of this compact and well-organized shop is as inviting to a booklover as a candy store to a toddler. When I visited, Mr. O’Connell was behind his desk near the window talking to an American art history student.
The shop leans toward literature and art and architecture. At a center table center could be found Cathedrals and Churches of Europe by Barbara Borngasser, Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems, a New Directions anthology; an intriguing but out of the question 1,100-page House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution, by Y Slezkine; and Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome by Shawn Levy (I made a note to find this when I got back home). I bought a slim copy of Georg Simmel’s The Art of the City: Rome, Florence, Venice—the three cities we would visit on this trip.
As we were leaving the shop the book dealer was kind enough to explain how to catch a bus back to our hotel, which for one Euro took some of the sting out of our taxi mishap.
This time around I didn’t get around to visiting the Open Door or Anglo American bookshops, both of which....Read More
Christina Chung is an illustrator living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute. A Taiwanese-Hong Konger-American, she grew up in Seattle, Washington and Singapore. This international experience impacts her work in her universal point of view. Her works are a blend of both traditional and digital media held together by a line and pattern-based style. Her work is sensitive, delicate and infused with symbolism.
She draws inspiration from many places: including East Asian art, Gothic architecture, religious iconography, textiles and folk art of various cultures. Her love of illustration stems from a lifelong passion.....Read More
my car is
spinning spinning spinning
my head knocking back and forth
I seem to wake
in a freezing room
on a cold steel cot
the mattress hard
I am swathed in white gauze
blood rushing from between my legs
stains the green walls
if the room could speak
if the mattress groaned
if the white gauze were a shroud
if babes could come from the rushing blood
if the green walls were a field
I could rest here
but a finger points
a Voice says return
a crash stops the spinning
rescuers bang the door.....Read More
From the "Acknowledgments" of this book on page 205 we learn that "The Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry supports contemporary poets as they explore in-depth their own thinking on poetry and poetics and gives a series of lectures resulting from these investigations."
Terrance Hayes is a contemporary poet, a MacArthur fellow (2014) and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2017). He is gifted, prized and credentialed man to speak about American poetry.
As an arrangement of his Bagley Wright lectures, Hayes's book is a walking tour in the Republic of American letters, a bagatelle for the super-literate, and a wonderment, a puzzling for readers who insist on occupying less elevated ground. The book gives an American voice to Jean-Paul Sartre's question—Qu'est-ce que la littérature?
Hayes chose to dig into and meditate on poetry by way of the elusive genre of autobiography, which he garnished with facts, speculations, fantasies, photographs, and drawings that pertain to the biography of Etheridge Knight. His choice is existential. His book is a soup, a mash-up, a blurring of text, pretext, and context; the reworking of the original lectures from 2014 and 2015 tempts one to contrast the result with Kevin Young's The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2012) and to compare the result with Nathaniel Mackey's Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality and Experimental Writing (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993) and to evaluate the three works through the lens provided by Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010).
Hayes avoids the excess of data imprisoned in The Grey Album, however, much of the excess comes with good intentions; he deals with what Mackey made explicit regarding engagement:
“I relate discrepant engagement to the name the Dogon of West Africa give their weaving block, the base on which the loom they weave upon sits. They call it the 'creaking of the word.' It is the noise upon which the word is based, the discrepant foundation of all coherence and articulation, of the purchase upon the world fabrication affords. Discrepant engagement, rather than suppressing or seeking to silence that noise, acknowledges it. In its anti-foundational acknowledgement of founding noise, discrepant engagement sings 'base,' voicing.....Read More
Sense a heavy drop in the belly and chest
as you’re rousted from sleep by long rings
of the phone at 2:38 in the morning.
Pull everything out of the closet, in search
of a potential suit for the funeral. Stare at it stacked
on the bed. Wonder how much should just be
bagged up now to save time later.
Question dream fragments as missed, foreboding
clues from the Universe you might have understood
were you more spiritually savvy.
Take out a dozen magazine subscriptions
with the urge to have something nice.....Read More
First things first. I pull up in front of the Daryl Roth theatre far “off Broadway” on East 15th street in Manhattan, shake the rain out of my umbrella, walk up the steps of what might have been an old brownstone and wonder who is this Daryl Roth that he should have a theatre named after him.
He turns out to be a 73-year-old “she” philanthropist-producer of seven Pulitzer Prize winning plays and a stack of theatrical credits way high.
I grab the hand of my 23-year-old Columbia Grad student granddaughter, and we make our way to the top tier of the roundabout theatre and become comfortably ensconced on the padded bench seats and puffy back pillows in rainbow colors, with a clear view of everything that is about to unfold before us.
And, before us, is the naked stage decorated with several patterned fabrics (approximately—from our skyward vantage point 18 inch square cube tables and some Persian scatter rugs.) There are two huge wall screens – left and right – which fill in for drama and context as the presentation enfolds.
And now for the “ta dah!”
Christine Lahti, heavy with acting credits, light on her feet, appears as an uncanny Steinem look-alike. She struts around the stage with a sprightliness that barely misses swagger, an icon of American feminism. Her straight long blonde hair neatly parted, her hallmark tinted pilot glasses resting easily on her nose, and her clingy black bell bottoms and tight black shirt, adorned by a hip belt of metal circles in Native American style hanging narrow leather strips – are all in veneration of this ageless (though now 84) trailblazer.
If you’re too young to know of Gloria Steinem – simply put: writer, (most recent book, My Life On The Road) lecturer, political-feminist organizer, crusader for Native American and African American rights, media spokeswoman on all issues concerning equality and nonviolent conflict resolution and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Obama.
The stage is peopled by six sleight of hand actors who change costumes, genders and personas, representing other significant social change figures of the 1970s. The audience is transported to the “bad old days” when Smith College graduate Steinem had dreams of writing the great American magazine article and was invited to (and refused) an editor’s hotel room in order to “discuss” the assignment.
And, when she finally found the job of her dreams, her allotted stories ran the range of such topics as parenting, cooking, and house décor, until she finally and famously was hired as a Playboy Bunny with the assignment to interview and expose the gender demeaning nature of the job.
Tony award winning playwright Emily Mann successfully quilted the patches of vignettes and events into a cohesive piece of bio entertainment and historical perspective. A fiery Bella Abzug (late of the congressional House of Representatives) depicted in full militant activism replete with classic chapeau, along with fellow activists perhaps not as well known, African-American Flo Kennedy and Native American, Wilma Mankiller (no pun intended). Their on-the-stump speeches full of the passion of yet unleashed.....Read More
Once the last freeze of winter had passed, my friend Kevin and I decided we should practice golf at the driving range. We cleaned up our golf shoes, loaded our bags into the back of my truck, and drove across town. We were both surprised how crowded the parking lot seemed and supposed our great idea wasn’t a singular or brilliant one as we imagined. Fees paid, we took our gear and buckets of balls to an uncovered part of the range, finding two slots next to each other.
Kevin had always been good at golf. He was taller, in better shape, and younger. His swing was excellent and he’d been playing since he was a child. I’d never had golf lessons, had picked it up late and practiced or played sporadically, and had coaching or tips from Kevin. I had always been a quick study, so it didn’t take long for me to figure it out, but no matter how much practice, or how well I hit the balls, they never seemed to go far. Whether it was the lack of upper body strength or my hitting like I was hitting a baseball on the ground, I don’t know. I watched Kevin, and sure enough, his first drive went off without a hitch, the ball speeding through the air, and hitting the sign. “Kevin: great hit. I even heard the ball hit that Boo sign.”
“What?” He laughed. I noted the guy in the next lane chuckle, too. Even his elementary-aged children asked him where the “Boo sign” was. Kevin signaled me over and said, “The sign reads 100 yards, not Boo. When’s the last time you had your eyes checked?”
Well, I’d be the first to admit that I needed to go. Seemed like people were always sharing on Facebook or Instagram they’d put off their eye doctor or dental appointments and the next thing you know, their teeth were rotten and they had coke bottle glasses. “Man, I didn’t realize it was that bad. I canceled the past couple of years, thinking they just wanted my co-pays. I’ll call next week.”
We kept hitting balls and Kevin began to send directions my way after each hit: “Wrap that thumb, change your hand positions, or feel the flow with your back and bend your legs.” It was frustrating, annoying, and didn’t help. It made me more nervous than anything, and I closed my eyes and swung as hard as I could. When I looked out, I didn’t see the ball at all, and I heard Kevin laughing. The ball.....Read More