A stamp of approval from Ishmael Reed

Photo by Tennessee Reed.
In New York with Ishmael Reed, Carla Blank, Wajahat Ali, the actors of Ali’s play “The Domestic Crusaders,” and Rome Neal, artistic director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Our reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York is getting approval from the best _ poet and novelist Ishmael Reed officially declared “a genius” as a MacArthur Award recipient.
Please read his May 27, 2009 column in the San Francisco Chronicle called “City Brights,” written by Bay Area luminaries.

YURI KAGEYAMA has a book of poems “Peeling” (I. Reed Press). Her works are in many literary anthologies _ “Y’Bird,” “Pow Wow,” “San Francisco Stories,” “On a Bed of Rice,” “Breaking Silence: an Anthology of Asian American Poets,” “Greenfield Review,” “Beyond Rice,” “River Styx,” “Other Side River,” “Yellow Silk,” “Stories We Hold Secret,” “MultiAmerica,” “Obras.” She has read with Ishmael Reed, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Geraldine Kudaka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Russel Baba, Seamus Heaney, Shozu Ben, Al Robles, Winchester Nii Tete, Keiji Kubo, Yumi Miyagishima. Her son Isaku Kageyama is a “taiko” drummer in Amanojaku in Tokyo. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University, and has an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

ERIC KAMAU GRAVATT has played with Freddie Hubbard, Albert Ayler, The District of Columbia Youth Symphony, Roberta Flack, Horiuchi Makoto, Sonny Fortune, Jackie McLean, Charles Mingus, Donald Byrd, Carlos Valdez, Booker Irvin, Woody Shaw, Kenny Dorham, Blue Mitchell, Hank Mobley, Kikuchi Masabumi, The Milwaukee Symphony, Jimmy Heath, Donny Hathaway, Sam Rivers, Khalid Yasin, Andrew White, Tony Hymas, Paquito D’Rivera, George Mraz, Ravi Coltrane, Stanley Clarke, Pharoah Saunders, The McCoy Tyner Big Band, Gary Bartz, Bobby Hutcherson, James Carter, Terrance Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Charnett Moffett. He tours with his own band Source Code and with McCoy Tyner. Wayne Shorter calls him “The Weather Report drummer who was the all-around hippest one.”

TERUYUKI and HARUNA KAWABATA are on their honeymoon. Their band Cigarette She Was performs at the numerous “live houses” in Tokyo. Their hippie-like music scene is part of what inspired YURI to write her story in “Pow-Wow” _ “The Father and the Son.” They have been performing poetry together with other Tokyo musicians, including Winchester Nii Tete, a percussionist from Ghana, under YURI’s project called The Tokyo Flower Children. Haruna fell in love with not only Teru but also the kpanlogo, a drum from Ghana, during college. The couple also work on films, CDs and posters, and are often featured in art festivals in Japan. Teru also makes cell-phone music downloads, and Haruna works at a major Japanese coffee-shop chain.

Reviews on Pow-Wow

My short story “The Father and the Son” is among the works in this book.
(Updated with more reviews)

Publishers Weekly says: “Reed’s selections will draw readers into American cities, suburbs, prairies and mountains with vivid, precise, at times documentary description and bold, personal questions of American identity and purpose.”

David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times says in his review that Pow-Wow is “big, diverse, messy, all over the place _ just like American literature itself.”

A review from INFODAD.COM:
“This is not a book for those seeking uplift – although a close reading of its Contributors section indicates that there are more positive things in America than these individual writers choose to observe.”
To which Ishmael Reed comments:
“Thanks. The title of my next anthology will be ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy.’ “

The Buffalo News makes the book its March editor’s pick. “I don’t think there’s been anyone remotely like him as an anthologist,” Jeff Simon writes of Reed. “It’s there, it seems to me, that his service to literature has been irreplaceable.”

Alan Caruba includes it in his March picks, describing the book this way: “A multicultural anthology, it includes a diverse group of writers sharing stories that ultimately transcend race, religions, gender and class.”

In a review in Library Journal, Gene Shaw highly recommends the book. “The United States of the 21st Century is an ocean of stories and peoples, made up of a variety of races, religions, classes, genders, languages, cultures and sexual preferences,” he comments.

“Booklist,” published by the American Library Association says the writers in the book address “what makes American life so vital and contradictory, so cruel and so cherished.” Donna Seaman says Reed and Blank have picked “molten and magical tales that dramatically explore the consequences of our attitudes toward race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality.”

And this review accuses the book of misplaced anger and inadequate quality control.
And this is Ishmael Reed’s comment on that:
“Your reviewer not only misrepresents my anthology,but Affirmative Action as well. According to the U.S.Department of Labor, Affirmative Action benefits whites the most. The guy is a literary shock jock.”

And this from January Magazine: “Pow Wow is an important book.”

POW-WOW: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience _ Short Fiction From Then to Now, edited by Ishmael Reed with Carla Blank. Da Capo Press, January 2009.

Best of both worlds

YouTube is a great way for people to connect and this is a clip from Christylez Bacon _ someone I’ve never met except through YouTube but is obviosuly brilliant!
Bringing together two different cultures _ eg., the West and the East or classical and hip-hop _ is one natural way of saying something new.
Sometimes it works.
And sometimes it doesn’t.
There’s no simple answer to why one kind of hybrid might work while others don’t.
And it is harder than you think because you have to be in command of both genres that you are working in to make the best of both worlds.

Company You Keep

“POW WOW _ Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience _ Short Fiction From Then to Now,” edited by Ishmael Reed with Carla Blank, (cover design by Ann Weinstock) just came out, gathering works from the likes of (as photographed clockwise from top left): Ntozake Shange, Alejandro Murguia, Benjamin Franklikn and Gertrude Stein.
Works are in alphabetical order and so my short story “The Father and the Son” follows “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, and comes right before “Moses Mama” by William Melvin Kelley _ some exalted company I keep.
Among others in the book: Langston Hughes, Al Young, Russell Banks, John A. Williams, Grace Paley, Mark Twain, Chester Himes.
From the cover:
“Celebrated novelist, poet and MacArthur Fellow Ishmael Reed follows his groundbreaking poetry anthology FROM TOTEMS TO HIP-HOP with a provocative survey of American short fiction …. By presenting many different facets of the American experience, these stories challenge official history, shatter accepted myths and provide necessary alternatives to mainstream notions of personal and national identity.”
My story is about death, motherhood, identity, music, love.
In the Foreword, Ishmael Reed says my story exposes the stupidity and cruelty of the patriarchal family.
That, too!

Poetry and Percussion on the Noh Stage

Winchester Nii Tete and I will be at the Kuraki Noh Theater _ a beautiful place that’s been the stage for Japanese National Treasures.
SAT Dec. 6, 2008. 7:30 p.m.
Click here for directions on how to get there.
We may seem so different at first glance but I feel that we are one and we share so much.
Our statement is unique and shows we can all come together in self-expression and understanding in music, literature, truth and integrity.
You have to hear his music live to feel the tones and the depth of the sound that spans back generations from Ghana.
I don’t want to get carried away and call it a Miracle.
But it’s special that his African Sound will be on a Noh Stage of all places with my Japanese/American Word.

YURI KAGEYAMA’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in “Y’Bird,” “Greenfield Review,” “San Francisco Stories,” “On a Bed of Rice,” “Breaking Silence: an Anthology of Asian American Poets,” “Other Side River,” “Yellow Silk,” “Stories We Hold Secret,” “MultiAmerica” and many other literary publications. She has read with Ishmael Reed, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Geraldine Kudaka, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Russel Baba, Seamus Heaney, Yumi Miyagishima and many other artists. Her short story “The Father and the Son” will be in a January 2009 anthology, “POWWOW: 63 Writers Address the Fault Lines in the American Experience,” edited by Reed with Carla Blank. She has a book of poems “Peeling” (I. Reed Press). She is working on a movie of her readings with Japanese director Yoshiaki Tago. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Cornell University and holds an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Master percussionist Winchester Nii Tete hails from the honorable Addy-Amo-Boye families of drummers in Ghana. He is the absolute performer delivering a finely textured repertoire of songs and dance centered around exuberant traditional rhythms that are a true testament of technical finesse and sensitive expressiveness. He has performed with the Ghana national troupe, Sachi Hayasaka, Isaku Kageyama, Yoshio Harada, Takasitar, Naoki Kubojima, Tsuyoshi Furuhashi and many other artists. He has played in various genres, including jazz, hip-hop, reggae, pop and world music. Accomplished on the kplango, talking drum and many other instruments of Ghana, he is a brilliant young star who is certain to follow in the footsteps of his legendary uncles Obo Addy and Aja Addy in gaining international acclaim. He has a CD of his music “BAA JO.”

Ben’s Cafe SUN June 29 & SUN Nov. 30

Winchester Nii Tete, Yumi Miyagishima and I are going to the reading at Ben’s Cafe in Takadanobaba Sunday, June 29, 7 p.m.
They both played in our TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN reading the other day at the Pink Cow.
But we will be doing new material.
So please come if you’re in town and have time.
Ben’s Cafe readings take place only when there’s a fifth Sunday in a month.
They are usually devoted to prose. But on June 29 _ anything goes!
Looking way ahead, I am also on schedule to read _ prose, this time _ on another fifth Sunday, Nov. 30.


The reading of “Loving Younger Men” was at What the Dickens in Ebisu, where a crowd of very warm, enthusiastic and supportive poets, I found out, gathers for readings once a month.
I had to redo the first few lines elsewhere. Oh, well.
“Loving Younger Men” was first published in “Beyond Rice,” a collaboration between American poets and visual artists, edited by Lorna Dee Cervantes and Geraldine Kudaka in 1979: Noro Press.