ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


i have a long standing rule of thumb, it's ok to call somebody a motherfucker,

but don't write that shit down unless you is ready to go to war with that motherfucker.



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


*   *   *   *   *


in the hot house of black poetry

another furious flowering

A report by Kalamu ya Salaam

Part I 


we were standing in a parking lot somewhere, near and betwixt one of them hotels and one of them sad-shit chain-eateries that pass for restaurants in modern america; tony medina and i conversing in a black way, which is to say we were shouting good naturedly at each other, using the frantic wave of our hands as punctuation marks; our eyes big with surprise, delight at being with each other; and of course mucho toro poo-poo rolling off our tongues in affectionate embrace of each others bodaciousness. this is, after all, a report on a poetry conference.

i had asked tony what he was going to read. he had initially said he didn't know, and then like one of them expert yale graduates tacking his sailboat on a windy day, he reversed himself but kept heading forward, shouting "i know i can't do the same shit i did last time"-- last time being 1994 when the first furious flower was -- "cause you gon be putting this on the e-drum" (and he imitates me manically typing, his head bopping like a bubble head racing down some bronx street on the dashboard of a hooptie with shinny aluminum spinner-rims). tony shouts in time to the pantomimed typing of his hands held claw-like, "dis motherfucker read the same poems he read last time."

i laughed cause up underneath tony's talk was a hip observation (was in fact a charge to me, an expectation, a realization that my job was to be both map and compass, was to plot out where we was and to suggest which way we should be headed). so, ok, tony, here it is. here it is.

and, oh, by the way, i have a long standing rule of thumb, it's ok to call somebody a motherfucker, but don't write that shit down unless you is ready to go to war with that motherfucker. i recognize that part of what people expect is that i will be honest about my response: calling it like i see it, saying what i swallow in delight, and what i spit out in disgust at this banquet of poetry.

of course, i am not simply shit-talking about my professional peers, many of these are folk whom i know personally, so there is always the balancing act of being truthful on the black hand side, of making informed assessments of their work, juxtaposed against an interior concern for how my words affect my friends, particularly those whom i care about as people without necessarily liking the poetry that they do.

there is a whole school of literary criticism that makes a living on being nasty and haughty. i believe we must care for and about each other. some value art more than people, for me, people are the reason for art, one's self expression is but another way of saying one believes that heart is important, that these are the pieces of me that i value and therefore if one loves the heart that is offered one will be careful how one public assesses the sacrifice of that heart on the altar of art. yaknow, if you don't want my love, at least let me down easy. 

all of which is not to say that i will not take the hard line about some bullshit -- yall know me, if it stank, i'm going to say so. but, you know, no nose is perfect. we all have our deficiencies and shortcomings, my job as critic is just to be as accurate a map and compass as i can be. and hopefully that is what this report achieves. but that critical doing ought to be done with a sense of humanity. so yes, it is no blemish on my record of honesty to say i love these folk, for after all they are all family even the ones whom we call out and, when necessary janie-like shoot between their tea-cake eyes or dead up in the middle of their chests, dead up in their hearts cause it done got down to them or us. even so, even when we got to do that, we still should catch them when they fall because we love them. you know criticizing people we love is the hardest job in the world.

by the way, i encourage any and everyone who was there to send in corrections, objections, alternate views, whatever, send me your own furious flower report. i will post any and everything i can get (if your shit be too raggity, i will put a note at the top of the posting, but i will either post your stuff or not post it, won't edit nobody and won't say you can't say something).

the day before day one.

i am, as most of you know, a negro, well, actually, to be more accurate, i am negroidal, which, in these days of colons and condos (isn't it amazing how golddust twins can rhyme even when they ain't trying, how the servants of the rich and white can come out grinning with similar names that don't mean nothing but "yes sir, boss"), anyway, in these here days when to be negro has been given new meaning by those who stoop so low that  getting up is clearly no where on their minds, in these days it is much more accurate to say "negroidal" than negro, even if you spell negro with a capital "n," because in these days negro is no longer a field profession, negroness now come with a desk, a chair, a title, an office with a view, and a big ass position of supposedly international import, e.g. security adviser, secretary of state, when actually they still ain't nothing but the footstool next to the throne upon which the beasts rests their hooves and upon which neo-nazis stand when they try to up-raise their international profile pretending that they human and as proof pull out dummy-colorednesses to be their mouthpiece, negro's lips be moving but it be them boss doo-doo dribbling out, trying to fool us into thinking its coloreds talking and testifying that the men with their hands up the asses of these dummies are honest, god-fearing, well-intentioned leaders, sort of like calling on the puppet as an expert character witness for the puppeteer who is currently on trial for international crimes against humanity.

so, as i was saying before i interrupted myself, being negroidal, i can not start with day one, i must start before the beginning if i hope to accurately tell you what is going on, for after all, the world is moving, and if you want to catch something you got to run to where it is going to be, not to where it's at cause by the time you get to where it's at, it's going to be gone somewhere else--this is the higher math of action that most hipsters have to know just to get to the first level of hipness.

ok, so it was wednesday and my wife nia and i were trying to get on the last usairways flight for the day headed eastward to fly from new orleans to charlottesville, virginia. we were at the gate, had boarding passes in hand, about fifteen minutes before the bird was supposed to jump into the sky, smiling, it was early afternoon and it looked like everything was going to be ok.

i believe the guy taking the tickets and sticking them in the machine just before you step down the ramp must have been named murphy, cause he looked at us and said "you have boarding passes, but i don't see your tickets." what? this is what we had gotten at the front desk. i was sure we had not dropped any of the papers while dashing down the corridors, while slow-rushing through security.

this is the age of electronic madness. i will not bore you with details. we did not leave wednesday. i was traveling on frequent flyer mileage and 40,000 was not enough, i needed fifty but the company had neglected to tell me (how could they have "told" me when i never spoke with anyone--you know how this modern shit is, you go online and do your business and never actually breath a word into any person's earhole). well after forty-some phone calls and a half hour later, back at the front desk, a lady who was the supervisor finally broke it down about categories and how the computer had made our reservations and even coughed up boarding passes, but had declined to make tickets cause there was not enough mileage in the category i fit into rather than the category i had been booked into, and, hey, it's afterhours now, we are supposed to be off, what you want to do?

now here, dear reader, if you are still following this twisted logic, rather than going ballistic, i am standing there in front of my wife trying my black best to be manly, trying to handle up on this shit, and knowing i am poor, black and at this minute one foot in the gutter of an ugly situation. where i am going is not no major city, so only so many peoples fly there and it cost a lot if you book it in advance, to get there the day before by buying a ticket, well, let's just say such a situation calls for a plantinum card with no spending limit.

what i did was booked my wife on the next day's flight (which used 25 of the 40 thousand miles i had on usairways) and then sped back home to get on my computer to see how i was going to get my ticket and how i was going to get to james madison university by 4pm the next day which is when i thought i was supposed to be making a presentation--actually the presentation was at 4:30pm.

fast forward, when i got home, i had enough mileage to get a delta airlines frequent flyer ticket and that only cost $85 ($10 handling fee and $75 for last minute booking) and they only had one schedule that would do the trick and i had to leave new orleans at 5am, which means being at the airport for 4am, and it's close to midnight now.

oh yeah, i also had to deal with the hotel peoples again, and that was a whole other trip. when i first called the hotel they said call back in an hour cause something or the other was happening there and they couldn't do any reservations at that time or i could call their national 800 number, which i did and which duly told me to call back in fifteen minutes cause their computers were down. after some back and forth, i had got the reservation straight, and then later got it postponed to the next day, and . . . it was starting to get to me, but i figured this was the dirt out of which i was suppose to bloom if i wanted to make furious flower.

so, after all was said and done, i landed in charlottesville around 9:30 that morning caught the shuttle and headed on down the road to james madison. nia would come in later in the day when i would be making my presentation.

why am i telling you all this before saying a word about poetry? well because all this is telling us something about what is going on with this country, is telling us that if you are poor (without access to a computer and a credit card) you ain't getting shit done in america no more (airlines actually charge you extra to buy a ticket with cash at the counter--do you understand what i mean, they are charging us to use cash??!!!).

i, like the majority of black people, do not have an institutional affiliation (no white man standing behind me saying "this boy is ok"), i am out here on my own-ly, by myself-est, and i know that all of my other unaffiliated brothers and sisters, my folk unwired-up, my peeps who maybe got a little cash but very little credit, very, very few of us will be at furious flower, so automatically the discourse is going to be mainly the talk of what goes on in the house, not what happens in the field (since, of course, most of us present will be actual, or aspirant representatives of, co-inhabitors of the educational plantations of america. that is an ideological assessment, and whether one agrees with how i frame it, there is no denying that the economic and social position of the majority of the participants will frame the depth and direction of the discourse, or, to put it in more betta terms: what you eat and where your ass is at will shape what kind of shit you talk.

Part I / Part II  /  Part III  /  Part IV 

*   *   *   *   *

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

*   *   *   *   *

Guarding the Flame of Life

   *   *   *   *

Men We Love, Men We Hate
SAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of Laughing
An Anthology of Young Black Voices
Photographed & Edited by
Kalamu ya Salaam

*   *   *   *   *

New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin James / They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green

*   *   *   *   *

Track List
1.  Congo Square (9:01)
2.  My Story, My Song (20:50)
3.  Danny Banjo (4:32)
4.  Miles Davis (10:26)
5.  Hard News For Hip Harry (5:03)
6.  Unfinished Blues (4:13)
7.  Rainbows Come After The Rain (2:21)/Negroidal Noise (15:53)
8.  Intro (3:59)
9.  The Whole History (3:14)
10.  Negroidal Noise (5:39)
11.  Waving At Ra (1:40)
12.  Landing (1:21)
13.  Good Luck (:04)

*   *   *   *   *

music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
twitter >
facebook >

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011


#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *







updated 9 April 2008



Home  Kalamu ya Salaam Table    Kalamu ya Salaam Biblio

Related files:  Is A Sonnet More Than Fourteen Lines  On Writing Haiku  WORDS: A Neo-Griot Manifesto  That Old Black Magic  The Myth of Solitude  What Is Black Poetry

in the hot house of black poetry another furious flowering --  Part I / Part II  /  Part III  /  Part IV