Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Journey for the Unseen Beauty

(PHOTO: Courtesy)

Editor’s note: The essay below is in response to the What Book Changed Your Life Contest by Marita Golden. Winners receive an autographed copy of Marita Golden’s newest book THE WORD: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing. Submission deadline: February 5, 2011. Click here for more contest info.

When Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems by Sonia Sanchez came into my life a decade ago, I wasn’t aware of how it would change my life.

I was a spoken word poet then trying to make a name for myself on the open mike scene in DC, doing poems I thought the crowd found entertaining instead of what I felt from my heart.

I used to frequent Bar Nun on U Street (the venue later changed its name to “Pure Lounge“). I still remember those Monday evenings standing in line two hours before the open mike in unsuccessful attempts at trying to get a good spot on the list, which was any slot before midnight.

In retrospect, the perception time provided is priceless.

It’s easier for me now to see the red flag I missed then, when I spent more time writing what I thought were poems than I did reading the works of established masters, such as Sanchez. But, as the Irish poet and novelist James Joyce once put it, isn’t a mistake a portal “of discovery”?

My introduction to Shake Loose My Skin came at a time when my reading list consisted of only two names. The introduction occurred while browsing the shelves at what was then the Landover, Md.-location of the now-defunct Karibu Books. Some poems in the collection are politically-charged while others are sensuous.

(PHOTO: Courtesy)

And whether writing about a mom pimping her baby daughter to feed her crack habit or an older woman schooling a young sister on love, the range of the poems in that book showed me the possibilities.

The role of Shake Loose My Skin can be summed up in an anonymous quote. “A good teacher is like a candle—it consumes itself to light the way for others,” so the saying goes.

Since our encounter in the bookstore, that collection continues to light my way as a poet. In those pages, I found poems used as tools of observation and as a way of documenting life’s unseen beauties; these were poems that shined in the heart of the world.

So it was OK for me to write about my family and childhood. It was alright for me to write about Black men longing for loving relationships (in spite of contrary notions in public space). Those poems in that collection also showed me that vulnerability, itself, was an unseen beauty that permeates my work the same way the jazz and blues energies saturate the poems in Shake Loose My Skin.

That same energy hits me now the way it did 11 years ago, when I moved through the book aisles of Karibu, unaware of the beauty I’d find there. Time and distance from those open mike days gives me a perspective on the near-truth of a German writer’s words that echoes in my head now the way it did then. “A soul that sees beauty,” according to Johann von Goethe, “may sometimes walk alone.”

Looking back, I’m grateful for the journey and the companionship of the poems in Shake Loose My Skin that didn’t let me walk alone.


Posted by on January 15, 2011 in Essay


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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys mulled over how this blog did in 2010. Thank you to everyone who visited the blog, shared stories and helped spread the word. Here’s a high level summary by the folks at of this blog’s overall health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2010. That’s about 31 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts. There were 72 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 9mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 6th with 151 views. The most popular post that day was Photo Exhibit Showcases Black Poets.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for three gorges dam, city college of new york, angry, ccny, and ira aldridge.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Photo Exhibit Showcases Black Poets March 2010


Jamaica’s Park for National Heroes August 2009


Averlyn Archer: The Prophetic Bullhorn September 2009


Zine Gives Black Filmmakers A Platform April 2010


Foster Teens, Advocates Address Issue of Aging Out at ‘First-ever’ Youth-led Hearing January 2010


Posted by on January 4, 2011 in Announcements


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