The last of this season’s series at the College of St. Rose, hosted by the inappropriate Prof. Daniel Nester, was like deja-vu all over again: tonight’s poets had been presenters at last week’s Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington DC. Georgia A. Popoff & Quraysh Ali Lansana had presented in DC a workshop titled “Walking the Distance of Your Vision: Generating Poetry through Community Awareness and Self-Identiity,” based on their book, Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community. Tonight they did a joint reading from the book, with other poems.
Georgia Popoff began with a couple poems from her book The Doom Weaver (Main St. Rag, 2008), “Matrilineage” & “The Implausible Diameter of the Moon,” a chilling description of desperation. Similarly Quraysh Ali Lansana read from his collection of poems in the voices of Harriet Tubman & others, They Shall Run (Third World Press, 2004) 3 poems: “Long way Home,” “Faithless” & “Hole.”
They continued with a joint reading of the Prologue from their book, explaining their approach, & a criticism of traditional approaches to literature. Georgia read an excerpt from her essay “The Power of Language: the Struggle Continues,” followed by Quraysh reading an essay “Name Calling: the Language of the Streets” & a poem “Sixth Grade,” both on the words used on the street: nigger/nigga, bitch, ho.
At the end Georgia read “Tupelo Roses” on a childhood visit to her grandfather in the South, & Quraysh read a poem on his mixed, Okie background, pulling in the inspiration of Gwendolyn Brooks.
It was a good mix of poetry & pedagogic meditation, a book that sounds like an important resource for the imaginative teachers in our schools.