#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.”
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 [the 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.
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
913-961 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, US
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 centers 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.
That next bite is MURDER! Philly friends, join me and a host of other Philly writers for the kick-off of NAKED CAME THE CHEESESTEAK, a serial murder mystery written by 13 Philadelphians for Philadelphia Stories. The novel will be serialized at their website starting in November. It’s definitely the freakiest fiction project I’ve ever been a part of.
Thursday, November 5 from 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Tattooed Mom, 530 South St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147
Join us at the launch party for “Naked Came the Cheesesteak,” a 13-chapter serial novel written by Philadelphia area writers
NAKED CAME THE CHEESESTEAK is a serial murder mystery written by 13 Philadelphians for Philadelphia Stories magazine. The idea was cooked up last winter by a handful of writers meeting over wine and chili in a Society Hill townhouse. The story centers 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. 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!
The novel will be published by the magazine’s books division, PS Books.
#PhillyPoets: THE GREEN LINE CAFE POETRY SERIES PRESENTS:
Steve Burke, author of After The Harvest
Jennifer Hook, author of This Is How He Left Me
Kelly McQuain, author of Velvet Rodeo
Donna Wolf-Palacio, author of The Other Side
Reading & Signing Their New Chapbooks
TUESDAY, May 19, 2015, 7 PM
*The Third Tuesday of the Month*
THE GREEN LINE CAFE IS LOCATED
AT 45TH & LOCUST STREETS
(Please note the address, there are
other Green Line Café locations.)
This Event Is Free
Donna Wolf-Palacio has had two chapbooks of poetry, What I Don’t Know and The Other Side, published by Finishing Line Press. She received an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has published in Poetry, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Voices, The Musehouse Journal, Intro, The Interpreter, and Writing from the Heart: Poems about Adoption. She wrote a collection of versions of Chinese poems, “The Heart of the Dragon”. She has taught a poetry workshop at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was editor/consultant for the UARTS Poetry Review. She has received grants and fellowships from The Leeway Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Pennsylvania, Lyric Fest Opera Company, and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. She worked as Senior Staff Psychotherapist for Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center of Pennsylvania Hospital/UPHS for 23 years.
Kelly McQuain is a 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow. His poetry book, VELVET RODEO (2014), won Bloom magazine’s chapbook award, and went on to receive two Rainbow Award citations. His work has appeared in The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Weave, The Philadelphia Inquirer,—as well as in numerous anthologies: The Queer South, Between: New Gay Poetry, Skin & Ink, Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, and Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. He has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts in fiction and nonfiction. A native of West Virginia, he’s worked as both a pretzel maker and a comic book artist, and now he’s an English professor at Community College of Philadelphia.
Jennifer Hook is a California native who came to Philadelphia for the grit. She earned an MFA in Painting at the University of Pennsylvania. Following the death of her husband and creative partner of thirty-five years, she chose poetry as an entry into the territory of loss and self reinvention. She has read her work at 100,000 Poets for Change, Poetic Feats of Strength, The Osage Poets at the Green Line Café, Philadelphia Poetry Day, and Why Are They Called The Poetry Liberation Front? at the Big Blue Marble. She is the author of This is How He Left Me (2014).
Steve Burke lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia with wife-Giselle & daughter-(also sometime-poet) Mariah; has read at multiple venues around the city; has been published in numerous magazines – including Apiary, the Mad Poets’ Review, Philadelphia Stories & the Broadkill Review – in January had his chapbook After The Harvest published by Moonstone Press. He agrees with Czeslaw Milosz that one of the purposes of poetry “is to remind us/how difficult is to remain just one person,/for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,/and invisible guests come in and out at will.”
Sunday May 10th Georgia State Radio broadcasted poems by writers with Philadelphia connections on an online radio show. CA Conrad, Ernest Hilbert, Jeffrey Lee, Elaine Terranova and I are in the mix, it looks like. Tune in on your computer here to hear the archived show.
THE QUEER SOUTH anthology keeps getting accolades. Today it garnered a Lambda Book Award nomination, and earlier this year it made the American Library Association’s top ten LGBT Over the Rainbow titles. My two poems in that anthology, “Brave” and “Spirit Animal Chant”, deal with the trouble of reconciling multiple identities while growing up in West Virginia. Douglas Ray, the editor, deserves a big shout of praise for assembling this Sibling Rivalry Press collection, which features Dorothy Allison, Richard Blanco, and many others. Congtatulations, Douglas!