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Poets Claudia Rankine & Robert Hass on Everyday Violence & Trauma

Provoking Justice: When Your Neighbor Calls the Cops. When Your Father Gives Your Mother a Drug. Two Samplings of Their Poetry

On this last day of April: National Poetry Month, I'm forced to sort out my response to a reading held by two provocative poets at Barnard College, in February, two months ago.

I arrive early – to get a good seat in Held Lecture Hall at Barnard College. Acclaimed poets Claudia Rankine and Robert Hass will be reading before an audience of students, faculty, local community residents, academics, poets, and anyone else, as part of the Writers at Barnard series, which is open to the public. The space fills rather quickly, soon swelling to a full house.

I could point out that the introductions delivered -- to the series by Saskia Hamilton, Director, Women Poets at Barnard, and to the poets by Christopher Baswell, professor of English, and Mary Gordon, best-selling author of four novels and professor of English and Writing -- are key to framing my high expectations of the evening. And, referring to Robert Hass in her opening remarks, Rankine says, "He's the one who taught me to think on the page."

Yet, as thoughtful as these are, I am unprepared for the eruptive force of these two poets' reading of their works. They provoke. They disturb. They trouble the waters of injustice.

A confession: I often find poetry inaccessible and must be nudged – if not pushed– to discover it. I needed no such prod once Rankine and Hass begin to read samplings of their poems. Perhaps it is their voices, the rhythm, cadence, the pitch. But, just as with the evening's introductions, while their voices are quite exceptional in these ways, that alone cannot account for my response. Instead, I think it was their picking at the everyday realities of violence and trauma like one picks at a scab or the broken strings of a guitar.

As they read, certainly their voices and words washed over me as only poetic voices can. But it is to their truths I surrendered.

Closing Lines...

When Your Neighbor Calls the Cops.
Two works from the sampling read by the poets that evening are especially powerful and disruptive. Each poet draws from real-life experience in both pieces.

Claudia-Rankine-signing-books Writers-at-Barnard-series Photo Luvon-Roberson 600x597Claudia Rankine signing copies of CITIZEN: An American Lyric at the Writers at Barnard Series. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Listen to this interview in which Rankine reads from the piece, included in her latest book, CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC and which begins with such foreboding:

"August 18, 2014

You and your partner go to see the film The House We Live In. You ask a friend to pick up your child from school. On your way home your phone rings. Your neighbor tells you he is standing at his window watching a menacing black guy casing both your homes. The guy is walking back and forth talking to himself and seems disturbed.

You tell your neighbor that your friend, whom he has met, is babysitting. He says, no, it's not him. He's met your friend and this isn't that nice young man. Anyway, he wants you to know, he's called the police."

Listen to Rankine's interview: 

When Your Father Gives Your Mother a Drug.

Robert Hass signing books Writers at Barnard series Photo-by-Luvon-Roberson 600x698Robert Hass, professor, poet, and author, signing copies of his work at the Writers at Barnard series

Hass pulls away the covers in his family, laying bare the deadly dynamics of roles in his poem, The World As Will and Presentation, among the collection, Time and Materials. Poems 1997-2005. The poem's opening lines are wrenching:

"When I was a child my father every morning –
Some mornings, for a time, when I was ten or so,
My father gave my mother a drug called antabuse.
It makes you sick if you drink alcohol.
They were little yellow pills. He ground them
In a glass, dissolved them in water, handed her
The glass and watched her closely while she drank.
It was the late nineteen forties, a time,
A social world, in which the men got up
And went to work, leaving the women with the children.
His wink at me was a nineteen-forties wink."
Listen to Hass's reading: 

 

Michael Strahan, NFL Hall of Famer and Media Personality, Tops What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2014

Actress Susan Sarandon, MLB's Wendy Lewis, Fox Sports' Pam Oliver,
USTA's D.A. Abrams, National Book Award winner, Jacqueline Woodson,
and RLJ Enterprises' Traci Otey Blunt are Among the Top 10

BROOKLYN, NY; December 31, 2014 - What's The 411TV, a Brooklyn-based media company, today released its list of 25 Most Interesting People of 2014, and NFL Hall of Famer and media personality, Michael Strahan tops the list.

What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2014 was developed from interviews conducted by What's The 411TV reporters between January 1, 2014 through December 12, 2014. The list consists of celebrated personalities to artists seeking to break through to ordinary people doing extraordinary things to New Yorkers rallying for the return of the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Many people on the list are local to the New York City metro area, while others are national or global figures.

"Once again, What's The 411TV reporters have selected so many amazing and interesting people for What's The 411TV's list of 25 Most Interesting People of 2014," said Ruth J. Morrison, CEO and Founder, What's The 411 Networks. "This is our way to say thank you to those on the list, to congratulate them and to celebrate their accomplishments. Similar to last year, it was not an easy task for our reporters and producers to narrow down the list to 25 and since we couldn't, we also have a list of three honorable mentions."

Below is a list of What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2014 falling into the categories of sports; film; literature; music; television; fashion and style; and business and entrepreneurship.

1. Michael Strahan – Pro Football Hall of Famer (NFL) and media personality; on his way to becoming "King of All Media" – Interviewed by: Andrew Rosario

2. Wendy Lewis - MLB Senior Vice President, Diversity & Strategic Alliances; for being able to play with the boys - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

3. Traci Otey Blunt – Corporate Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, RLJ Enterprises – leveraged political communications to transition to corporate communications, marketing, public relations and investor relations, as well as the promotion of the Urban Movie Channel. Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam using a Samsung S4

4. Kyle Donovan – Inventor; Founder, NV Magazine; entrepreneur motivating others to make a difference - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

5. D.A. Abrams - Chief Diversity Officer USTA; helping to make diversity a reality within tennis - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

6. Pam Oliver – NFL and NBA sportscaster; for treading where few women have gone in sports and for taking the high road during a public demotion – Interviewed by: Andrew Rosario

7. Jacqueline Woodson – National Book Award-winning author; gracious after a fellow author muddied her introduction as the winner of the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature for her book, BROWN GIRL DREAMING – Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

8. Bring Back Our Girls Movement (NY) – rallying cry to rescue over 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram; lesson learned: sustaining a movement is hard work, particularly when it seems that no one else cares– Interviewed by: Kizzy Cox

9. Susan Sarandon – Academy Award and BAFTA award-winning actress; committed to human rights causes; worked with Amnesty International – Interviewed by: Bianca Peart

10. Melanie Few-Harrison - Founder of Super Bowl Gospel Celebration; creator of the first and only gospel event sanctioned by the NFL for Super Bowl Weekend– Interviewed by: Cristina Twitty

11. Remembering Ruby Dee - Memorial Service; friends and family celebrate the life of award-winning actress, Ruby Dee– Interviews by: Kizzy Cox and Rita Obi

12. Frank Savage - former investment banker and author of THE SAVAGE WAY: Successfully Navigating the Waves of Business and Life; a highly accomplished Global Wall Street Financier with a distinguished career in international banking, corporate finance, and global investment management - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

13. Melba Moore – singer and actress; her faith keeps her going - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

14. Jamal Joseph - artist, poet, director, producer, educator, and founder of Impact Repertory Theatre; developing leaders– Interviewed by: Christopher Graham

15. Lionel Hollins - Head Coach, Brooklyn Nets; a real standup guy, deeply connected to family and community - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

16. Brian Smith - NY Yankees SVP Corporate/Community Relations; merges baseball and community development - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

17. Daisy Llewellyn – Stylist, reality television star of Bravo's Blood, Sweat & Heels; and author of Never Pay Retail Again: Shop Smart, Spend Less, & Look Your Best Ever; She is the Queen of Effortless Chic - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

18. Richard Sherman – cornerback for Seattle Seahawks (NFL); Did we say, FEARLESS! – Interviewed by: Andrew Rosario

19. Teddy Bridgewater - NFL Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings; made it to the big stage; still grounded and fulfills promise to family - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

20. Mark Jaffe - President/CEO Greater NY Chamber of Commerce; a business leader who supports raising the minimum wage - Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam

21. Khary Lazarre White - Founder and Executive Director, Brotherhood Sister Sol; creating the next generation of leaders - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

22. Claudia Rankine – poet and National Book Award Finalist for Poetry for Citizen: An American Lyric ; her images show the violence of American racism's "micro" assaults – Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson

23. Michelle Miller - CBS Correspondent; proud advocate of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam using a Samsung S4

24. Ericka Pittman - VP Brand Strategy, Blue Flame Agency; a leader in business and personal branding - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

25. Christopher Chaney, Publisher of NV Magazine; creator of NV Magazine's Movers and Shakers Awards - Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam

Honorable Mentions

Yamina Collins – first time novelist, author of sci-fi romance novel, THE LAST KING; bringing episodic novels back into vogue - Interviewed by Luvon Roberson

Skoolie Escobar – Alabama rapper and entrepreneur trying to bring consciousness back to hip hop through the use of thought provoking visuals in his music video that accompanies his new single, Check Out My Watch – Interviewed by: Rita Obi

Tren'Ness Woods Black - President and Chief Strategist of Tren'ness Woods-Black, LLC; one of the keepers of the flame of Sylvia Woods' legacy. Sylvia Woods was the founder of Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem - Interviewed by: Glenn Gilliam

Previous personalities on What's The 411TV's list of Most Interesting People include: the late Maya Angelou; Motown Founder, Berry Gordy; Brooklyn Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov; Willis Reed; Jeremy Lin; Mike Tyson and more.

About What's The 411TV

Based in Brooklyn, New York, What's The 411TV is a division of What's The 411 Networks, a media/news, marketing, and events company. What's The 411TV connects sophisticated multi-cultural audiences with its content through its distribution platforms of television, online, mobile, and social media.

What's The 411TV produces two weekly television shows, What's The 411, an award-winning entertainment and lifestyle television show and What's The 411Sports, a sports news and commentary television show.

What's The 411TV's celebrity portfolio consists of interviews with Magic Johnson, Beyonce, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Hudson, and many, many more.

About Ruth J. Morrison

Ruth J. Morrison is the CEO and Founder of What’s The 411 Networks, an integrated media, marketing, and events company, which produces the award-winning weekly news and information television show, What’s The 411 and What’s The 411Sports. The company covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, New York Giants, US OPEN, and other sports events. A video streaming pioneer, she developed and launched from conception the City of New York's multi-channel cable television network and served as a Communications Director and Legislative Advisor to a New York Member of the U.S. Congress. She is the first African-American independent television producer to have a weekly television show on WNYC-TV and for three years, she worked in Brasil as an entertainment and television licensing consultant for an American company. Ms. Morrison earned a master's degree in Interactive Telecommunications from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and she was a Communications Fellow at the Annenberg Washington Program of Northwestern University. She taught courses in telecommunications at Fordham University and she completed her coursework towards a Ph.D. in Political Science at Columbia University.

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Woodson, Moten, and Rankine Shine at 2014 National Book Awards

What's The 411TV on the Red Carpet at the 65th Annual National Book Awards

 

Do you think you'll ever stop writing? When I stop breathing. –Jacqueline Woodson, Winner, 2014 National Book Award, YA Literature [www.jacquelinewoodson.com]

The Red Carpet. Books. Awards. Prestige. These elements come together every year at the National Book Awards ceremony, the nation's most distinguished literary prizes -- with winners nabbing $10,000 and catapulting into a 250-watt brighter writing career. Here's where you will find all the beautiful people in the book industry gathered in one magnificent setting to mix and mingle, broker publishing deals, and honor the most acclaimed writers.

The stakes are high and anxiety-filled. It's a buildup of suspense as the finalists are announced about a month before the Awards event. They each win $1,000 and a medal. Then, it's edge-of-your-seat guessing who the winners are, because even the judges don't know until they meet for lunch on the afternoon of the National Book Awards ceremony!

But, now the suspense is over. We know that Jacqueline Woodson won this year's National Book Award in young people's literature, for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin). She is the author of 30 books, a two-time National Book Awards finalist, and winner of three Newberry Honor Medals. The other winners are Phil Klay (Fiction); Evan Osnos (Non-Fiction); and Louise Glück (Poetry).

Begun in 1950, the 65th National Book Awards ceremony is not only being called one of the most high-energy, glitzy events in its history, but also will long be remembered for generating some high-visibility buzz.

Overwhelmingly, the buzz surrounds a comment about Ms. Woodson made by Daniel Handler, this year's National Book Awards host. If you'd like more on that, read Ms. Woodson's response in The New York Times, where she has her say, in her own words. What's The 411TV's spotlight is focused on the books and their creators whom I spoke with on the red carpet at this year's National Book Awards.

Spotlight on 3 Writers and Their Winning Books: Jacqueline Woodson. Claudia Rankine. Fred Moten

I want to shine the light where it belongs – on three African-American writers who illuminate our world through their writing...Jacqueline Woodson and the two finalists in poetry, Claudia Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric) and Fred Moten (The Feel Trio). I also talked with award-winning author Coe Booth, a judge for the 2009 National Book Awards in young people's literature, who offered insight on how winning books are chosen. One final tidbit: A New York City theme links these shining stars of writing: Woodson currently lives in Brooklyn and Booth in The Bronx, and Rankine grew up in the Big Apple.

Watch What's The 411TV's videos to get in on the star-studded evening where winning writers shimmered and glowed at the National Book Awards ceremony!

VIDEO: Scenes and interviews from the 2014 National Book Awards

...HAVING THEIR SAY: WRITTEN WORDS...
-Read Excerpts from Their Books-

Surrounded by the glamour and excitement, What's The 411TV went live, up close and personal with these outstanding writers, on the red carpet. If you want to learn more about them, off the red carpet, here's what these writing luminaries have to say in their written words...

Jacqueline Woodson. Winner, 2014 National Book Awards, Young People's Literature: Brown Girl Dreaming. Read an excerpt of Brown Girl Dreaming.

Claudia Rankine. Finalist, 2014 National Book Award, Poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric. Read an excerpt of Citizen: An American Lyric

Fred Moten. Finalist, 2014 National Book Award, Poetry: The Feel Trio. Read an excerpt of The Feel Trio.

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Claudia Rankine: 2014 National Book Award Finalist Uses Poetry to Combat Racism

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Claudia Rankine is a poet, playwright, university professor, and a 2014 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry for her book, CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC.

As What's The 411TV's book editor, I spoke with Claudia Rankine at the 65th Annual National Book Awards on November 19, 2014, at Cipriani Wall Street. CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC, Ms. Rankine's nominated book, uses the power of poetry, prose, and images to shed light on the insidious behavior of micro-aggression.

Watch video interview with National Book Award Finalist for Poetry, Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College and the author of four collections of poetry, including Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, PLOT, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. She is a winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize and a recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry, the National Endowments for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. In 2006, she served as a Judge for the National Book Award for Poetry.

To hear Claudia Rankine in her own words and to read an excerpt of CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC, click here.

For more information about Claudia Rankine, visit: www.claudiarankine.com

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