April 30, 2018

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with a poem today by Emmy Pérez.

Not one more refugee death

by Emmy Pérez

A river killed a man I loved,
And I love that river still
—María Meléndez
Thousands of fish killed after Pemex
spill in el Río Salado and everyone
runs out to buy more bottled water.
Here, our river kills more crossers
than the sun, than the singular
heat of Arizona, than the ranchlands
near the Falfurrias checkpoint.
It's hard to imagine an endangered
river with that much water, especially
in summer and with the Falcon Reservoir
in drought, though it only takes inches
to drown. Sometimes, further
west, there's too little river
to paddle in Boquillas Canyon
where there are no steel-column walls
except the limestone canyon's drop
and where a puma might push-wade across,
or in El Paso, where double-fenced muros
sparkle and blind with bullfight ring lights,
the ring the concrete river mold, and above
a Juárez mountain urges
La Biblia es La VerdadLeela.

Today at the vigil, the native singer
said we are all connected
by water, la sangre de vida.
Today, our vigil signs proclaimed
McAllen is not Murrieta.
#iamborderless. Derechos
Humanos. Bienvenidos niños.
We stand with refugee children.
We are all human. Bienvenidos
a los Estados Unidos.
And the songs we sang
the copal that burned
and the rose petals spread
en los cuatro puntos were
for the children and women
and men. Songs
for the Guatemalan
boy with an Elvis belt buckle
and Angry Birds jeans with zippers
on back pockets who was found
shirtless in La Joya, one mile
from the river. The worn jeans
that helped identify his body
in the news more times
than a photo of him while alive.
(I never knew why the birds
are angry. My mother said
someone stole their eggs.)
The Tejas sun took a boy
I do not know, a young man
who wanted to reach Chicago,
his brother's number etched in
his belt, his mother's pleas not
to leave in white rosary beads
he carried. The sun in Tejas
stopped a boy the river held.
Detention centers filled, churches
offer showers and fresh clothes.
Water and a covered porch may
have waited at a stranger's house
or in a patrol truck had his body
not collapsed. Half of our bodies
are made of water, and we can't
sponge rivers through skin
and release them again
like rain clouds. Today
at the vigil the native singer
sang we are all connected
by water, la sangre de vida.

From With the River on Our Face. © 2016 by Emmy Pérez  | University of Arizona Press.
About the poet: Emmy Pérez is a Chicana poet and writer originally from Santa Ana, California. She has lived on the Texas-Mexico border, from El Paso to the Rio Grande Valley (where she currently lives), since the year 2000. A graduate of Columbia University (MFA) and the University of Southern California (BA), she is the author of the poetry collections With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press) and Solstice (Swan Scythe Press).  

Pérez is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry. In previous years, she was a recipient of poetry fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has also received the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award for her poetry and the James D. Phelan Award for her prose writing. Since 2008, she has been a member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros for socially engaged writers.

Over the years, she has served as a writing mentor and workshop facilitator at detention centers in New Mexico, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. She has also taught writing at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and El Paso Community College. In 2004-2005, she was a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at UTEP, and served as visiting director of the West Texas Writing Project 2005. In 2006, she began a tenure-track position in creative writing at the University of Texas-Pan American, a legacy institution for present-day University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), where she currently is an associate professor in the MFA and undergraduate creative writing programs. She is also an affiliate faculty member in Mexican American Studies. In 2008, she founded an annual event on campus “El Retorno: El Valle Celebra Nuestra Gloria" that she coordinates in honor of the late writer and scholar from the Valley, Gloria E. Anzaldúa. Over the years, she and her students, through service learning projects, have taught creative writing to youth and adults in Edinburg detention center facilities/programs and in community-based programs and schools. In 2012, she received a University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and in 2016, a University Faculty Excellence Award for Student Mentoring. In 2016-2017, she served as interim director for the Center for Mexican American Studies at UTRGV. She has been awarded faculty development leave for the 2017-2018 academic school year with the support of the NEA poetry fellowship she received to work on her next book project. 

April 29, 2018

We Lived Happily During the War, by Ilya Kaminsky

Today, a poem by Ilya Kaminsky, who I heard about only this month via a Poetry magazine podcast.

We Lived Happily During the War
by Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.

Source: Poetry International 2013 (© 2013, Ilya Kaminsky)
About the poetPoet Ilya Kaminsky was born in 1977 in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”

Kaminsky went on to earn a BA in political science at Georgetown University and a JD at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. With Paloma Capanna, he co-founded Poets for Peace, which sponsors poetry readings across the globe to support relief work. He has also worked as a clerk for the National Immigration Law Center and for Bay Area Legal Aid. Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa (2004), which won the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and ForeWord Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award, and has been translated into French and Romanian. Traveling Musicians(2007) is a selection of his poems originally written in Russian. His forthcoming book Deaf Republic will be published in 2019 by Greywolf Press. He co-edited, with Susan Harris, the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (2010), and edited and co-translated Polina Barskova’s This Lamentable City (2010). He has also served as the editor of the online journal In Posse ReviewKaminsky’s honors include a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing, the Florence Kahn Memorial Award, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize as well as their Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Philips Exeter Academy’s George Bennett Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation fellowship.

April 28, 2018

Old Addresses, by Chekwube Danladi

Today, a poem by Chekwube O. Danladi


by Chekwube O. Danladi

Sloppily shorn nappy hairs
A half full bed
Stirring above
the seizure of the
washing machine
A junkie for neglect rending
the half empty bed
Finger paint art
pretending to gesture
Chasing your face in a dream
where I'm sitting on it
You as a girl when you
used to be
dancing with a black boy prom date
Three parallel scars
fighting to be reinvested
A maelstrom of Derrida
almost resonating
Donna Summers’ sexy squeal
something like I want to do
A luminous half-light
The Devil's array of scores
Him two God zero
There are days we run
naked through wishing
we knew each other as teenagers
The shit-smell of new diagnoses inherited
polarities pealed into lamplight
Cockroaches giving birth beneath
my pillow
banal weight gain
enthused weight loss
a frosted donut
A chest binder, black
N-body physics
embodied in the swirling of prairie grass
Dirty rain in the cistern
Apartment number five
The darkness of my eyes

About the poet:  Chekwube O. Danladi was born in Lagos, Nigeria and raised there, as well as in Washington DC and West Baltimore. 
Danladi's poetry chapbook, Take Me Back, was recently published as part of the New-Generation African Poets Series: Nne, edited by Chris Abani and Kwame Dawes.  A Callaloo Fellow, Danladi's writing prioritizes themes of teleological displacement, navigations and interrogations of gender and sexuality, and the necessary resilience of African and Afro-diasporic communities.  ​They are currently working on a novel about queers living in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow Chekwube on Twitter at: @codanladi

April 27, 2018

At Twilight on the Road to Sogamoso, by Maurice Kilwein Guevara

Today, a poem by Maurice Kilwein Guevara.

At Twilight on the Road to Sogamoso
by Maurice Kilwein Guevara

The sun is beginning to go down
over a field of yellow onions. The edges
of the clouds are almost pink, and at this hour
the maguey rises up like a flower of dark blades.
I worked so long today I have forgotten
my own hunger. It takes a full minute
for me to remember a word I have used
all my life. What the Mexicans call poncho.
At twilight I see it, abandoned, hanging like a ghost
on the limb of a tree: my own brown ruana
next to gray speckled chickens pecking at roots
and a black track of storm coming west over the green mountain.

About the poet:   Poet, playwright, and actor Maurice Kilwein Guevara was born in Belencito, Colombia in 1961, and raised in Pittsburgh. He earned a BA in English and a BS in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, an MFA from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD in English and comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin. Lilwein Guevara’s poems often use overlapping voices and languages to explore the tensions and simultaneities that complicate the lives of immigrants in mid-America. Kilwein Guevara has published several collections of poetry, including POEMA (2009); Autobiography of So-and-so: Poems in Prose (2001), nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize; and Postmortem (1994), nominated for the National Book Award. Kilwein Guevara co-wrote, with John Trevellini and Mike Sell, and acted in the film To Box Clouds (2002). His play, The Last Bridge/El Ultimo Puente (1999), received a staged reading Off-Broadway.  Kilwein Guevara’s honors include a Fulbright Scholarship in Colombia and awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. He is a founding member of the National Latino Writers’ Association and has taught at the University of Wisconsin and at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

April 26, 2018

At the school dances white and black girls shook on the floor, by Anais Duplan

Today, a poem by Anaïs Duplan, from the Bennington Review.


  • At the school dances, black and white girls shook on the floor.
  • A crowd of trees formed around them. There was a countdown
  • to the day when everyone would be shot. The administration said
  • it was all right not to go to school that day so everyone hung
  • out with friends. I talked to Sam about it. He thought we
  • should’ve been there with the lockers, the classrooms, the desks,
  • in the thick of it. With the guns and the youth, even if they were just ideas––
  • not a present body, not to-day—in the tick of things. It wasn’t my day.
  • I am speaking to you plainly now. Not from beyond the grave.


About the poet Anaïs Duplan is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Take This Stallion (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and a chapbook, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus (Monster House Press, 2017). Their poems and essays have been published by Hyperallergic, PBS News Hour, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Bettering American Poetry, and Ploughshares. Their music criticism has appeared in Complex Magazine and  THUMP.

Duplan is a curator who has facilitated artists’ projects and exhibitions in Chicago, Boston, Santa Fe, Reykjavík, and Copenhagen. Duplan’s video art has appeared or is forthcoming in exhibitions at Flux Factory, Daata Editions, the 13th Baltic Triennial in Lithuania, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in L.A. Duplan is the founder of the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for artists of color, and is currently a joint Public Programs Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

April 25, 2018

@Allah, by Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb

Today, a poem by Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb

by Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb

In a seaside desert port
that wasn’t yet a city
our grandfather built a wide house
and called it gulistan 
There were no roses there
just the new government
four children that would be seven and a porch
where he stitched shoes and mixed paste
for paper maché book bindings
He counted buds
and tended love birds
built their cage and bedecked it
in blue and green and red
foil this and gota that
a cage the cat got into
in front of the open water tankard
the children got into
during this or that fatal game
Loose with life
while their father cycled home
in starched and ironed whites
polished porch stitched black leather shoes
a narrow mustache
we now associate with genocide
What is reverence anyway
who writes the reverence rules
After our grandmother died
he developed a taste for Western sweets
Flintstones pushpops and cokes and nerds
Of all the things he typed
and the typing was profuse
none changed the course of history
Like the verses of the Qur’an
rendered in @ signs
which he used as a coiled pixel
taxing the Smith-Corona
Coronamatic with his gridded plan
Let’s hate the names of things
like this
Before they changed the world with typewriters
the Smith brothers manufactured firearms
Cartridge and ribbon
bullet and thermal transfer
Syracuse and gulistan
Verses laid out in rows of @
seven @s in a vertical row
to make an alif 
@s like a fallen E
to make a tashdeed
He did the whole Qur’an this way
At some point in paleography
they discovered this sign filling in
for the A of Amen or Ameen
in a Bulgarian version   
of a fourteenth century Greek chronicle
Why and for whom or does
The Book short circuit this question
A smaller selection I have
is a better plot for dirt ministrations
just sura 8 ayah 46
inna Allaha maaAa al sabireen 
Allah is with the patient ones
laid out in vertical reflection
its geometry a formal garden
hemmed by squares of @
looking in four directions
paths and hedges of invocation
borders of apostrophe
trees of hail and leaves of call
I wonder did he think
his helical pixels looked like roses
I wonder did he count
the buds in every verse

About the poet: Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb grew up in Albany, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and studied Comparative Literature at Columbia and also earned a PhD at Columbia University in 2014, with a dissertation entitled “Epidemiology of Terror: Health, Horror, and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial Literature.” Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in 3 Quarks Daily, Discourse, the Los Angeles Review of Books, BookForum, Boston Review, Triple Canopy, the Bennington Review, Public Pool, and Syndicate Lit. Raza Kolb is assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Williams College, where she teaches postcolonial theory and literature. She also currently holds the Edward W. Said Fellowship at Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities, and is visiting expert scholar in Women’s Studies at City College, New York. She is completing a scholarly book about Islam and the epidemic imaginary in colonial letters, and a collection of poems called Janaab-e Shikva, after the Pakistani poet Iqbal. 

April 24, 2018

One Night I Will Return to My Birthplace, by Majid Naficy

Today, a poem by Majid Naficy

One Night I Will Return to My Birthplace
by Majid Naficy
(Translation by Elizabeth T Gray Jr)

One night I will return to my birthplace 
to stand on my rooftop
and pick stars.

Father will say, ‘Look, There!
Don’t you see the Seven Brothers?’
I will stretch out my hands
and caress their unsheathed swords.
Then the nightly battle will begin.
Together we will cast out the moon-eating dragon 
and in the dark corners of heaven
we will fasten each star firmly in place.

At dawn Mother will say, ‘Look,
There! Don’t you see the Two Sisters?’
I will stretch out my hands
and caress their jugs of water.
They are the messengers of the rain-making clouds 
that disappear with the rising sun.

My brothers! My sisters!
One night I will return to my birthplace 
so that under my childhood sky
I will find again my own stars.

NOTE: The ‘Seven Brothers’ refers to the Pleiades, and the ‘Two Sisters’ are the dog stars Sirius and Procyon.

About the poet: Majid Naficy fled Iran in 1983, a year and a half after the execution of his wife Ezzat in Tehran. Since 1984 Majid has lived in West Los Angeles. Naficy’s poetry has been widely anthologized, and he has published two collections of poetry in English, Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque, Books, 1999) and Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003).

A longer bio via the Translation projectMajid Naficy was born in Iran in 1952. He published poetry, criticism and an award-winning children’s book in Iran. During the 1970’s Dr. Naficy was politically active against the Shah’s regime. After the 1979 Revolution, as the new regime began to suppress the opposition, his first wife, Ezzat Tabaian and his brother Sa’id were amongst the many to be executed. He fled Iran in 1983, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his son Azad. He has since published six volumes of poetry in both English and Farsi, as well as numerous books of criticism. His most recent volume of poetry in English, Father and Son, was published in 2003 by Red Hen Press and his poem “I Don’t Want You Petroleum” appears in Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War (Thunder’s Mouth Press / Nation Books, April 2003). He holds a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California in Los Angeles. His doctoral dissertation, Modernism and Idealogy in Persian Literature: A Return to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij (University Press of America) was published in 1997. Dr. Naficy is also the co-editor of Daftarhaye Kanoon, a periodical in Farsi published by the Iranian Writer’s Association in Exile. 

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...