People sign up for this and the email I get is a tiny tiny shame dagger
What’s popping substack people?
I have been…a bit inconsistent on this here newsletter. I feel sort of bad but I also don’t because it’s been a hell of a year/two years/few centuries and ya mans has been busy/processing/sometimes sad/sometimes happy. Also this comes into your email inbox and email is the devil. I do want to try to keep up better with this joint though for the sake of my own writing practice and to share the ideas I kick around in my own head.
Anyway… it’s been a lot happening over here since my last (very sad) Substack newsletter in February. Since then I’ve done a bunch of things. Started to travel more. Moved my partner across the country so she can attend graduate school. Started planning a wedding (it’s mad expensive and I wish you were invited but alas an n word is not made of money). Wrote some things. Read some things. Taught some things. Did a 3rd year review at my day job (ongoing). Went to some football games. Bought some clothes. Looked at my credit card statement and returned some of that shit because my reparation check has not yet arrived (damn US…PS.)
I have often had ideas about this newsletter that I just haven’t had time to put into action so I’m gonna drop some of my never executed ideas.
A post in celebration of Black Chicago poets and lineage. In particular thinking about Gwendolyn Brooks (The GOAT), Patricia Smith (Illest Motherf***er Alive), and Bryan Byrdlong (my young homie). Patricia and Bryan both won big deal awards from the Poetry Foundation (the honor, I assure you, is the Foundation’s) and I was so so happy for them. I also had the chance to teach a course this year about Brooks and spend time with her lovely daughter the writer/theatre maker Nora Brooks Blakely. Shoutout Chicago and shoutout Black poets.
A post about the book Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal by Yuval Taylor. There was a whole lot of upheaval this past year in the Chicago arts scene (IYKYK). I was grieving my grandfather and tending to my life and work in Colorado at the time so I wasn’t in the center of it all but certainly I was in conversation with folks and watching things and thinking a lot about it all. I read this book right before all of that stuff bubbled over and it was God looking out for me because it gave me a lot of peace in terms of thinking about how cultural moments shift and sometimes end and how friendships shift and sometimes end and how that is of course painful but it happens. I think change is necessary. I hope my former artistic home/employer Young Chicago Authors is doing well and from a distance it seems like Demetrius Amparan (the new ED) and the team there has done diligent work to reshape a lot of the toxic culture there. I hope the mistakes of previous leaders doesn’t scare off funders and participants and that the vital work that orgs like YCA help sustain can continue, in many forms and in a flowering of possibility.
A post about rappers (duh). When my homie José was in town working on his next book (it’s fire btw) we made a long ass list (i think 75) of the most iconic/influential rap artists of all time. It was hard and a fun exercise and inspired by watching basketball and seeing all the NBA 75 stuff. After that we went and got ice cream. Friends are tight. Rap is tight. Basketball is tight.
A post about the limits of identifying artistic practices as “hip-hop” (in a different era substitute hip-hop for jazz or whatever else). I wrote this thing in a research statement for my review about my emerging reservations around the notion of “BreakBeat Poetics.” It’s not that I hate being identified with hip-hop or that I think the term has no use. But I do think sometimes calling Black art forms something other than Black art forms allows other folks access into cultural space in ways that can reproduce inequities. This isn’t some long veiled shot at my former collaborator but I think that some of his issues in the work might be an example of this. I also might be feeling ambivalence about these kinds of labels because they so often seem to be limiting for dispossessed folks and a site of expansion for privileged folks (for example because I have fancy degrees my participation in hip-hop can be celebrated in ways that aren’t true for some other folks).
A post about clothes. I’ve been getting interested in classic menswear over the last few months because boredom and then long distance relationship free time loneliness. I now have a little but growing library of style books. They are fun to collect and look at especially some of the older ones because they are such an odd time capsule. I think this started with the vague notion of wanting to learn more about clothes in preparation for having a wedding but I think the interest has grown beyond that. I have always had a sort of hidden interest in these kind of aesthetics but haven’t always had places to express/explore. The drag of all our clothing is interesting to me (word to RuPaul). Also pocket squares are fun. Talk to me about clothes. I have a finsta where I only follow clothes people. It’s funny.
I have more abandoned ideas but that’s a solid list. Here’s some things I’m digging these days.
Watching: South Side- This is the funniest show on TV. It’s also chock full of random Chicago jokes and knowledge and people. One episode had 2 of the actors from my audio drama Bruh Rabbit (shoutout Sydney Charles and Kiayla Ryann). Shoutout the homie Langston Kerman who is an OG youth poet from OPRF and writes on the show. He also plays a deliciously smooth kind of villain adjacent local politico and it is fantastic.
I also started watching Our Kind of People. It’s kind of corny but there are some great clothes and funny scenes (Morris Chestnut’s little Nupe monologue) and seeing the OG Joe Morton play an evil genius father is giving me Scandal nostalgia.
Reading: My most recent completed reads are The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deeshaw Philyaw and Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism & Creativity in Chicago by Ayana Contreras. Both books are seriously worth your time. Great short story collection and a really wonderful nonfiction book especially if you’re into Black music and history.
Listening: This, That & The Third by The Third - a great hip-hop project from a young MC out of Chicago. the song Tribe Motto hit me in the chest.
This playlist my homie Kasey Anderson (a great musician in his own right) made for me so I can better understand the history of Rock and Roll (my knowledge of Rock is best described as I watched a lot of VH1 as a kid but that’s about it.)
Also any podcast about college football. I don’t really watch the NFL anymore but I have a soft spot for college ball because of dear friends who played/coach and I believe in sports as a useful connective language for people across difference, especially men. If you follow the college football the last few days have been WILD with coaching changes. dang.
I also have some essays forthcoming for The Triibe. Been a fan of their work for a minute and glad to be working with them. Hopefully there will be more to come there.
Ya mans is on his prose thang these days. I’m writing an absurd short story that prominently features the song Mrs. Officer by Lil’ Wayne. What a wild ass song. The ‘00s were a different time.
Okay this was nice. It’s been too long. I’ll try to do this at least once a month or so. No promises though.