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What Happened to Baltimore?

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Immortal City, Immortal Heart

Visit the Magic of Horses
The Academy of American Poets
by Afaa M. Weaver
Guggenheim Fellow

            When the protests erupted in Baltimore in April, 2015, I was doing a one month residency at Jentel Arts retreat for writers and artists, a lovely place etched into the Wyoming landscape. I had one half of the writer's cottage, complete with a gas-lit heater and a comfy chair where I completed by book Spirit Boxing. I was carving out the poems in the last two sections of the book where I attempt to view America's working class imagery as a whole arising from my particularized experience.

I was a worker poet for fifteen years, from 1970-1985, as the Golden Age of Capitalism segued into the loss of the country's old industrial base, and the transformation of American inner cities into a marketplace for the illegal drug trade. When Freddie was killed, Baltimore bled, and I was heartbroken. For the first time in my life, I felt the strings that conne…

EAST B'MORE, EAST ASIA PART II

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HEY BOYS, GUESS WHAT? WEAVER'S MAMA SENT US SOME COOKIES! MY TRAINING IN THE ART OF WAR AT FT. LEONARD WOOD, MISSOURI
 -by Afaa Michael Weaver 蔚雅風 
Twitter:  @Afaa_Weaver                                                                                                   a poetic affirming tradition with a faith in transcendence

The Winter of My Discontent: When I went into the steel mill, I also managed to get myself accepted in the U.S. Army Reserves. It was not easy because the only unit available in Baltimore was the 342nd Army Security Agency, which was Army intelligence. I had to obtain a top secret clearance from the F.B.I. Their agents started going through my life to determine if I was someone they could trust with the nation's security. I secured it, and I was shipped out in December of 1970, just three days after my wedding. I left my wife to live with my parents and wait for the birth of our first child while I went off to be trained in the fine art of making mayhem and ki…

EAST B'MORE, EAST ASIA - Part 1

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The Bethlehem Steel Plant in Sparrows Point Maryland

My Lucky Book of Dreams                                                                            -by Afaa Michael Weaver 蔚雅風                                                                   a poetic rooted in the ordinary and driven by a faith in transcendence
also see Word Factory and The Plum Flower Trilogy

         Eighteen year old boys are called men for matters of convenience, such as to justify their acceptance as soldiers by the military. We are, after all, about as strong as we will ever be, naturally strong. It's as if we are in full blossom, one that lasts until our mid-twenties. It's a time when we feel invincible but also full of fears at times. We are, in many cases, afraid we will not be perceived as men, and most of what we know about what that means involves some kind of courage. Well, it was that way for me, at least. I also thought I could plan my life and life would comply. After all, I was exerting my well-…
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An Actor's Journal Building Troy Maxon in August Wilson's Fences
Word Factory is my other blog at afaa.weaver.net please do drop in and see what's cooking there....
Micky's is a legendary check cashing place on North Point Road leading from the old Bethlehem Steel Plant in Sparrows Point just outside Baltimore and back into the city.  In 1970, it had a dirt parking lot, and on a dry day the cars made dust rise up from the stones and dirt that crackled under the tires as men who worked the day shift stopped to cash their checks and buy their liquor.  I was among them on the days I worked daylight, as we used to say.  Daylight was hard to get, but Micky's was open for convenience long before convenience stores became a popular term.  Micky's wasn't the only place where you could buy liquor, of course, and one of my riders drank as he drove on the way to the mills and drank going home.  Vodka was breakfast, and we thought nothing of driving under the influence o…
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an update on the Bop anthology
---Here is an update to those who are interested in the progress of the anthology of Bop poems that Tara Betts and I are doing.
We have not secured a publisher, despite some inquiries.  We have not sent out additional inquiries in the past several months to conflicts in our respective schedules and the necessities of having to adjust to personal emergencies.  During the winter break we will be sending out queries to publishers once again.  
The journal Brilliant Corners, edited by Sascha Feinstein, will have the Bop as its focus in the forthcoming December issue.  You will have a chance to read the original essay I wrote for the Bop in 1997, when I was a member of the first faculty to be invited to teach at Cave Canem.  There is also a small section of poems chosen by Mr. Feinstein from the manuscript of the anthology.  We plan to include this issue of Brilliant Corners in our queries to editors.
We are quiet happy with the manuscript of the anthology, but i…
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Save the Children
In thinking about the tragic murder of Heaven Sutton, the 7 year old girl in Chicago who was hit by a gangbanger's stray bullet, I come back to the intersection of personal and social trauma of the 1960s'. 
At that time several forces intersected in the lives of black people, such as the loss of old social institutions created during segregation, the violence of urban rebellions, the Vietnam War, the shift in the American economy toward global economics, and the personal trauma of child abuse.  A vortex of violence was created in the 60's, and Heaven was caught unaware in what that vortex of violence has bequeathed to us, a tragedy that should have us looking more critically at what happened in the late 60's when black communities became battlegrounds and then were emptied of economic opportunity.
There is plenty of data and research available, but what I am suggesting is that we have not looked closely enough at this period as a beginning of the viol…
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Men, Work, Violence, Men, Work Guns
I pulled over into a rest stop in Connecticut a couple of weeks ago because I was getting a little sleepy.  At 2 o'clock in the afternoon I'm settling too much into the Satellite radio, and things are getting a little droopy, so I pull over to sit for a few seconds and then get out to walk into the McDonald's for a coffee.  
It's before Zimmerman has turned himself in, and I have already had a warm greeting from a black man I don't know, a stranger.  It was just a warm exchange of smiles and a nod of the head, the kind of moment that reminds me of what I've read about the signs used during the time of the Underground Railroad, tilts of the hat from a certain kind of hat at a certain corner, etc.  
At this second stop the black man I saw must have been in Islam at some point.  He is especially excited to see me wearing a hat that looks like it might be on the head of a Muslim, but it was actually made by one of my Taiji classma…