Conference and Reading: Kicking off Poetry Month!

Happy poetry month! I’m doing two events to kick off the celebration. the first is a panel at the Rosemont College LitLife conference. Click here for details. Tim Seibles, a wonderful Philly poet who now teaches in Virginia (where he is the poet laureate for the state!) is just one of the amazing poets at the conference. I met Tim a few years ago when he read for us at the college where I work. What a great guy! I’ll be doing a panel on creating images with the wonderful poet Dawn Manning. Look for us there on April 1st.

And, speaking of my college, Community College of Philadelphia, our Poets & Writers Festival comes to a conclusion this coming Monday with a free event below. Check it out!

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Monday, April 3, 2017

6 – 8 p.m.
Klein Cube, Room P2-03

The Community College of Philadelphia Spring Faculty Showcase of Writers

Join College’s distinguished faculty members as they read from their latest poetry and prose in what has become an annual tradition. Refreshments will be served! Click here for more info!

 

The line-up includes: Jonathan Pappas; Amy Birge; Lauren Genovesi; Julie Odell; Kelly McQuain; Brian Goedde. Hosted by Jeffrey Markovitz.

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Philly Writers Resist!

#writersresist    January 15 is the date for Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty. The event is part of PEN America’s country-wide mobilization to let the Trump administration know that we writers will not back down or backtrack when it comes to human rights and civil liberties. I’ll be reading alongside many Philly friends from works that speak to empathy and justice. Nathaniel Popkin, one of the organizers, writes, “We chose the word united because this event is meant to bring us together as a literary community with abundant shared interests. We are poets, novelists, filmmakers, artists, publishers, readers, promoters, journalists, essayists, narrative non-fiction and experimental writers, editors, scholars, and translators, all to say, loudly, that we will stand for the freedoms written right here.”

The event will happen on Independence Mall at the location of the Centennial Religious Freedom sculpture, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and in sight of Independence Hall.
This event is co-facilitated by Nathaniel’s fellow organizers Alicia Askenase and Stephanie Feldman.
Philadelphia #WritersResist: United for Liberty
Sunday January 15, 2017
National Museum of American Jewish History Dell Auditorium
5th and Market Streets
2:00-5PM
The Museum is generously donating the auditorium for our event.
phillywritersresist2017
More on ways you can #WriteOurDemocracy at this link.

Illustration for Kazim Ali’s story collection

UncleSharif1Summer 2015 was a busy one in terms of new visual projects, including a poetry portrait series for Fjords Review and this new wraparound cover I illustrated for poet Kazim Ali’s new book of short stories, UNCLE SHARIF’S LIFE IN MUSIC. @KazimAliPoet #KazimAli @SRP_Bryan

The wraparound cover features images of the nephew and uncle from the title story as well as tarot cards and allusions to other stories in the collection. Pen and ink and watercolor. You can order the book here: http://siblingrivalrypress.bigcartel.com/

Here’s the cover with the title added by the boys at Sibling Rivalry Press:

Uncle Sharif’s Life in Music
Stories by Kazim Ali

Uncle_Sharif's_Life_in_Music_Front_CoverAbout the Book: On the eve of war, a group of artists try to stage a performance. An ill-thought-through deception to protect a friend threatens to unravel several relationships in a circle. A young man wakes up in a church graveyard with complete amnesia except for scraps of memories that appear to be from several different peoples’ lives. Two friends, haunted by the ghost of failed intimacy and the shadow of disease, wander the rainy streets of Paris. A musician makes a clumsy last-ditch effort at seducing a lost love. At Niagara Falls a neglected boy discovers his relationship to God. In a contemporary re-telling of the Majnoon and Laila myth, an astronomer falls in love with the sky. These six stories and novella from the author of the novels Quinn’s Passage, The Disappearance of Seth and Wind Instrument intertwine their concerns for the artistic life and the importance of the creative impulse with their belief in timelessness and the universal need for human empathy. Kazim Ali brings a poet’s attention to language, a musician’s sense of structure and a choreographer’s sense of character and movement to these dynamic and genre-blurring pieces which range in form from coming-of-age story, speculative fiction, ekphrasis, epistolary fiction and tarot deck.

 

Are Santa and Sinterklaas the same character?

Last year I was part of a Facebook discussion thread where JH Cové, a Dutch anthropologist, took to task someone who equated the two: He wrote, “The Dutch Sinterklaas, or Sint Nicolaas, has nothing to do with Christmas. It is celebrated on Dec. 5th [the20141228-192559-69959348.jpg eve of St. Nicholas’s Feast Day], after which he goes back to Spain, and Christmas preparations can begin all over Holland. He’s got his own songs, his own history (from Myra, Turkey, correct), and, these days, is rivaled by Santa Claus (or Father Christmas or Papa Noel). I’m sure there are anthropologists that find connections somewhere—and there is a resemblance in the fact that they both use chimneys (who came up with that first?), even though in Holland Santa Claus doesn’t!—but take it from this Dutch anthropologist, they’re very different.”

 

A lot of strong Dutch pride there. My take? Santa and Sinterklaas both share the same Catholic saint as their inspiration, and Santa derives from the Dutch version via the Dutch immigrants arriving in the New York area in the 1600/1700s. Without Sinterklaas, and perhaps without Father Christmas from England, there would be no modern Santa, since he is essentially a mash-up of the two. It’s true, Sinterklaas and Santa have markedly different personalities in the way they are portrayed. I think of them as cousins, or brothers in the Yuletide spirit.

Someone else in the conversation brought up the Dutch customs surrounding the black men mentioned in the David Sedaris story “Six to Eight Black Men” (from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Those characters are Sinterklaas’s Zwarte Piet companions, and they sometimes play a role similar to Santa’s elves. At other times, as in the Sedaris story, they play a “bad cop” role to Sinterklaas’s good cop. Like Krampus, the Zwarte Piet characters are sometimes said to carry bad children off. In the Sedaris essay, that’s back to Spain, where Sinterklaas is said to live. Unlike his cousin, Santa, who lives at the North Pole. I’d say Sinterklaas has the better deal there.

http://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/311059a91e6342b8134110c80a4dbda2

Getty images.

Most of the time the Zwarte Piet companions play the role of cheerful assistants, but they are not without controversy (for evidence, see the article below from a 2014 issue of The Economist).. As the Dutch become more racially diverse,  people are beginning to question the use of black-face as a means for white people to portray the diminutive imp, whose roots lie in the history of the Moors conquest of Europe. Some people now make up new stories (the black is ash from chimney soot) while others have turned to using  face paint in a variety of colors–red, blue, green etc, making the new Piets as colorful as a bag of Skittles. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21635517-worsening-clash-over-tradition-and-racial-sensitivities-blacked-up

 

For more info on KRAMPUS, the star of a new horror film this year, check out this post. It tells how folks in Philadelphia are celebrating with an array of European characters and traditions.

For more on holiday folklore, join the Krampuslauf Philly Folklore group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/966987013330153/edit/

ALSO, if you live near Philadelphia and wish to take part in this year’s fun Alpine Christmas tradition, check out the Krampuslauf Parade of Spirits website.
Event: Krampuslauf Philadelphia 2015
Sat. Dec. 12, 3 pm. Parade is usually at dusk.
Venue: Liberty Lands Park
Philadelphia
913-961 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, US

 

Are your children SAFE this Christmas season?

20141230-025153-10313930.jpgChristmas is a very dangerous time of year in the land of the Weird: Bat Boy biting Santa, and not even Mr. Fuzzy Wuzzy’s heartwarming Christmas message is able to make all well and good again. Now the Elf on the Shelf is offering up his secrets to Wikileaks! Will American children ever be safe again?

THE ELF ON THE SHELF REPORTS BACK TO AMERICA’S CHILDREN
A Holiday Special

First, I would like to thank Mr. Julian Assange for giving me the opportunity to make these crimes public. I would also like to affirm that this is not my story alone. I, Snickerdoodle Snowcone, speak not only for myself, but on behalf of every other elf ever forced into espionage by the egomaniacal despot the world so endearingly refers to as Santa Claus.

Yes, we have been spying on you, boys and girls, at the strong-armed behest of our big red Boss. That’s what he likes to be called–The Boss–like he’s some sort of mafioso heavyweight instead of an aging toy peddler suffering from severe obesity and a bad case of the sugars.

Jolly? Not so much anymore. The hand tools The Boss once taught us elves to use now gather dust in his crumbling workshop. Manufacturing has been outsourced to China and other countries, many with lax labor laws where children no older than yourselves work like drones to grind out petty playthings. They sing no carols. Their hands do not move with the happy glee that mine once did. Don’t be surprised if there is a little blood in your fashion doll’s bright red lipstick. I can guarantee you the sheen on her hair is laced with tears.

The Boss has sold out, you see. His heart has become as hardened as his arteries…. Read the rest of the startling truth by clicking here!

#Batboy #CIA #ChildSafety #ElfOnTheShelf #CleaverMagazine

Cheesesteak Murders in Philly?

#NakedCheesesteak    The first few chapters of NAKED CAME THE CHEESESTEAK are live at Philadelphia Stories here.   

NAKED CAME THE CHEESESTEAK is a serial murder mystery written by 13 Philadelphians for Philadelphia Stories magazine. While the novel is designed to be a fun romp, poking fun at the sacrilege of such things as vegan cheesesteaks, it also touches on  more serious themes. These include the exploitation of adjunct instructors that college towns like Philly use to staff various campuses.  NAKED CAME THE CHEESESTEAK is a wry portrait of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, cuisines, educational institutions and legal systems, all wrapped up in greasy wax paper and shiny aluminum foil.

The idea was cooked up last winter by a handful of writers meeting over wine and chili in a Society Hill townhouse. The story NCTC.bookcover_WEBcenters on an intrepid Philadelphia detective trying to solve the puzzle of who is poisoning college students at campuses across the city. The novel features a huge cast of flamboyant Philadelphians:  an African-American police detective named Chelsea Simon; her bad boy restaurateur husband, Arturo; a crusty, trench coat-wearing news blogger named Ben Travers; the Nicholettis, a sprawling South Philly family with ties throughout the city; and a host of college skate boarders and scullers who get caught up in the malfeasance of the unknown serial killer.

It’s also a portrait of Philadelphia neighborhoods and college campuses. The action takes place in locales as varied as Strawberry Mansion, Allegheny Avenue, Boathouse Row, the Italian Market, Passyunk Avenue and Rittenhouse Square. Murder, mayhem and mystery-solving also takes place at Kelly Writers House at Penn, the Temple University Bell Tower, the Drexel Dragon and more.
The 13-chapter serial novel was written by Philadelphia area writers Diane Ayres, Randall Brown, Mary Anna Evans, Gregory Frost, Shaun Haurin, Victoria Janssen, Merry Jones, Tony Knighton, Don Lafferty, Warren Longmire, Kelly McQuain, Nathaniel Popkin and Kelly Simmons. Edited by Mitch Sommers and Tori Bond.

The novel will be published by the magazine’s books division, PS Books.

Learn more here.

Thank you, City Paper

Years ago The Philadelphia City Paper published my poem “Annabelle” and my story “Burial Game” as winners of their annual poetry and story contest. I won in the poetry category one year and the fiction category the next. That paper showed me some writerly love when I really needed it. I’m sorry to learn this week that City Paper will be ceasing print operations as of October 8th and that their online presence will be folded into http://www.PhiladelphiaWeekly.com, previously their chief competitor. I wrote for both papers over the years. I’m sorry to see the alternative weeklies disappearing.

https://i2.wp.com/citypaper.net/articles/123198/gifpics/fiction%20eps1.GIF