Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thank you SILCS at Wheaton College!

Hi everyone,

Last Thursday, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking to a group of students participating in Wheaton College's Summer Institute for Literary and Cultural Studies.  The Director of the program, Dr. Shawn Christian, is someone I've known for almost 20 years--we met when we started the M.A. program in the English Department at Temple University back in 1994 (yes, I am that old! :)   Shawn invited me up to Norton, MA to talk to the students about my experiences in grad school, and especially about what made me decide to pursue a Ph.D.  He said give them real-talk, so that's what I tried to do.   I ended my presentation by performing poems from The SHE Book; Shawn was also a good friend of Brenda McMillan, the woman to whom my book is dedicated.  We were all in grad school together and also in the Future Faculty Fellowship program, which provided funding and support to grad students of color at Temple who are underrepresented in their field.

Here's a picture of me and Shawn in the Austin House where my children and I were staying on campus (I brought my 2 younger children with me--they had a blast! :)

I think we still look great for being 40! Lol :)  The kids and I drove about 5 1/2 hours to get to Wheaton College.  I only had about an hour after we arrived to try to get my head together and figure out what I wanted to tell the students.  I'm not sure how organized my actual talk about grad school was.  I feel like I went from one story to the next and probably rambled a bit.  I emphasized that the 3 most important points I would make about how to be successful in grad school were 1) Find faculty who will be super-supportive of them and their work, 2) Find a support system among their fellow grad students (if they are going to grad school while raising a family, it's also important to have a strong support system at home), and 3) keep an open mind about their work, the job market, and their future in academia.  Here's a panoramic picture of the group that my son took (all these pics of me and the group were taken by my children :)

Here are some more pics:

Didn't my kids do a great job taking pics? :)  The students were really great.  Many of them are undergrads and still deciding on whether or not to go to grad school.  A few of them are thinking about it b/c a professor and/or mentor had encouraged them to do so.  They all have plans for examining and revealing something potentially ground-breaking in their literary area of interest as they pursue aspirations of scholarship and research.  I know that whatever they decide, they will all be amazing and successful.  As long as they believe in their work and don't let various forces discourage them, they will achieve anything they want.

Real-talk: getting my M.A. and Ph.D. was the hardest thing I've ever done.  Harder than having children.  Harder than being the Chairperson of an academic department. Harder than performing in front of a hostile crowd.  Harder than slam poetry.  In some ways, it was pretty damn traumatic lol.  But there was no way I was going to let it break me.  I was the first person to get a college degree in my family, let alone pursuing grad degrees, so I had no idea what to expect and no one who could really advise me before I entered grad school.  When I was an undergrad, most of my professors were pretty old, and they were traditionalists--they didn't see the value of analyzing literary texts through theoretical paradigms.  In fact, many of them regarded  it with disdain--they were all about the purity of the text, so literary criticism, in their eyes, was supposed to be approached from a primary text-based methodology.  This was not helpful for me as I entered an English graduate program in which literary criticism was driven by theoretical methodologies.  In order to survive, I had to learn the various languages of theory and catch up.  And even when professors were saying that they didn't think I could handle the intellectual rigors of grad school, I couldn't let that hold me back.  In fact, that became my motivation--to prove them wrong.  To prove them all WRONG.  Despite all the naysayers, I continued to be awarded fellowships and grants, passed my preliminary exams with honors, and my entire dissertation committee loved my work.  My dissertation advisor, Dr. Larry Venuti, was so very supportive.  I wouldn't have been able to go through that process without his guidance and his belief in my work.  My family was also very supportive: my husband, mother, and mother-in-law all made it possible for me to have the time to complete my work.         

In the end, though, I opted not to pursue a life of scholarship and academia on a competitive, research-level.  After secluding myself and living like a hermit for 2 years while I was finishing my dissertation (and also while I was having babies), I decided that was not the life for me.  I didn't want to keep revising the next chapter or book, subjecting my work to an endless array of editors, or enduring a continual process of being judged.  I was tired of it all.  So when I was offered a FT position teaching at Community College of Philadelphia, I accepted it.  And I'm happy I did b/c it has allowed me to pursue my passion for teaching and motivating students.  It has also provided me with the flexibility to be able to continue my poetic work, both writing and performing.  If I had accepted a position at a 4-year college or university, I don't know that I would have had the same opportunity to have a creative life as well as an academic one--and I need that creative element b/c it feeds my soul.

Many thanks to the students in the SILCS program for your attention--for listening to me ramble on about grad school and for being engaged with my poetry and performance: Ashton, Ebony, Artasia, Kaitlin, Audrey, Marisol, Bianca, Brandy, Sushmita, and Amodhi.  Special thanks to Jerrell and Aundeah, the 2 graduate mentors in the program.  I hope you all will stay in touch.  Best of luck as you finish your degrees.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to my friend Shawn and to Lindsay Davignon, Program Coordinator of SILCS.  Here's a pic of me, Shawn, and Lindsay right before I hit the road heading home:

In an upcoming post, I will share pics about our stay in the Austin House on campus--what an awesome place!  I also will be posting soon about Pyramid Lake in Reno (yes, I still have more to say about Reno!)  I also have some pics from June's Poetic Vibez show on June 15 in Philly that I want to share.

Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yummy Eats! A Culinary Tour of Reno

Hi everyone,

While I was in Reno, my friend Elizabeth promised that she was going to take me to the yummiest places in Reno to eat--all her favorites.  Now I love food.  I wouldn't call myself a foodie, but I love to watch the Food Network and cooking shows.  I appreciate simple, flavorful food.  All of the places Elizabeth took me to featured fresh, local food.  So yummy.

Usually, if I'm on the road with Catzie, she's the one who takes pics of the food and blogs about it.  So I was not on-the-ball and camera-ready when Elizabeth took me to the first restaurant after she picked me up from the airport.  But I had a big, juicy burger with crispy, shoe-string fries, and a bowl of tomato soup.  The soup was like a tomato puree, so vibrant and tomato-y fresh.  I'll try to find out the name of the place.  Alas, no pics :s

The next morning, I had breakfast at the Eldorado buffet.  It was the usual buffet fare.  Before the workshop and show at the Holland Project that night, Elizabeth took me to a cute, little restaurant called

Here's the inside:

They specialize in (Guess what?!) SOUP--what else? :)  And I looove soup.  They also serve yummy sandwiches.  You can get a whole sandwich or a 1/2 sandwich.  You can get sandwich and soup combo.  That's what I got.  This is my order: a 1/2 a Club sandwich with a bowl of tomato bisque soup:

Oh yeah! and it came with a side of salad.  Doesn't that look scrumptious?!  Now, if you're wondering why I got tomato soup again, first, let me say, that I love tomato soup.  And I enjoy comparing foods from different restaurants, so I wanted to see how this would taste different than the tomato soup I had the night before.  The soup at Süp was much creamier.  But they were both very yummy.  Just different takes on tomato soup. And can you see how big my sandwich is?! That's a half of a Club!  The bread was very soft.  The dressing on the salad was so tasty. Everything had a fresh taste--so YUMMY!

Elizabeth had the tomato soup and grilled cheese:

And here we are posing with our plates--you can get a better sense of how big the portions are in these pics:

Believe me when I say we scarfed that food down! :)  The next morning before we hit the road for our adventures at Pyramid Lake in search of Stone Mother, Elizabeth took me to a small cafe/bakery called Creme:

Elizabeth told me they specialized in crepes, so I ordered apple crepes in caramel sauce with a side of fresh fruit.  Elizabeth ordered vegetable crepes with a side order of fresh fruit.  Dear people, I'm sorry, but I was not thinking of you when that plate of warm, sweet, apple deliciousness was set before me on the table. I ate it ALL without snapping one pic.  But I got some shots of the aftermath:

Do you see the powered sugar on the rim of the plate?  MMMmm--Can you imagine just how good it must have been?  The apples were warm and slightly crunchy (freshness!), the caramel sauce not too sweet, the fruit so juicy.  Dear people, if you are ever in Reno, you must go.  Here are the remains to be found on Elizabeth's plate:

I'm sorry to tease! :)  Later that afternoon, we were starving, and since Ben at the Pyramid Lake Museum said there were no restaurants--only a small corner store or something like that nearby (but I saw the other lady in the museum with an Arby's cup darn it! lol), we headed back to Reno for some grub.  Elizabeth took me to Midtown Eats.  Their food is organic and local. I decided to go vegetarian and get a grilled portabello burger with a side salad.  Elizabeth ordered a falafel sandwich with sweet potato fries. Umm . . . did I mention we were STARVING:

You missed out again! :) Lol. By the time I regained my senses after inhaling the food on my plate, there were only crumbs to take pics of.  But I did take pics of dessert: lychee custard with toasted coconut flakes. . . Yuuuummm:

So creamy . . . and the toasted coconut flakes added just the right touch of crunch and nuttiness.

The next morning before taking me to the airport, Elizabeth took me to a bakery called

Hömage (have you noticed that folks in Reno really like the umlaut :).  They're best known for their almond croissants, so I got one and a Greek yogurt with fresh fruit:

Do I have to tell you, dear people, how light and flaky the croissant was? See how fresh the fruit looks in the pic?  Do not settle for casino buffet fare and think that's good dining--venture out into Reno and enjoy the culinary delights that abound around the city. Your taste buds and tummy will thank you for it! :)

Thank you to my friend Elizabeth for sharing all her favorite get-down-and-grub-down spots with me.  I will post soon about our adventures at Pyramid Lake.

REMINDER: the next stop on my book tour is this Thurs, June 27 at Wheaton College in Norton, MA :)


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Article about Lindo from On Point Ink, debut of "Heart Pieces" at Coffee After Dark

Hi beautiful peoples,

On May 2, 2013, Lindo from On Point Ink debuted his one-man spoken word poetry play "Heart Pieces" as the Spotlight Feature at Coffee After Dark in Philadelphia on May 2nd.  The piece was acted out by Thomas Edison High School student Rogelio Lopez.  It was a great night for the piece to debut b/c the amazing Ursula Rucker was the feature.

Please check out the article below posted by NewsWorks, the online news publication of WHYY (Philly's PBS network).  If you look through the photo roll, you'll see pictures of Lindo, Rogelio, and me cheering them on :)  It also includes quotes by Lindo and me.  And of course, it describes Ursula Rucker in all of her amazingness:

Marquis from On Point Ink also performed that night, and I wanted to post the video but couldn't get it to upload.  I will try to fix the technical difficulties and get it up soon.

Hope you all are having a great day!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Had a Blast in Reno!

Hi everyone,

When I arrived at the airport in Reno on Wed, June 5, I have to admit I was totally unprepared for all the slot machines I saw as soon as I deplaned.  And people were playing! I was like, Really?  You're fiending that much that you have to gamble at the airport? But then just as I thought that, a woman was hitting on her slot machine.  As the coins steadily clinked into her tray, I thought, What the hell do I know? Play away happy people!

My friend Elizabeth picked me up--it was about 6:30pm in Reno.  The workshop and performance were the next day, so I mostly wanted to rest and conserve my energy until then.  I stayed at the Eldorado Casino and Hotel.

The room was very nice.  I spent most of Thurs rehearsing and resting.  Here's the view of Reno from my hotel room:

The last photo is of some huge bowling center in Reno.  Apparently, many people travel to Reno to gamble and/or bowl.  If they venture out, maybe they go to Lake Tahoe.  But as I will show in later posts, there is so much more to Reno than casinos and tourist attractions (hint: Great food! Pyramid Lake! :)

As I was hanging out in the hotel/casino, I noted there were at least 4-5 restaurants, a theater show, cafes, shops, pool, fitness center, connecting bridges to 2 other casinos--and I realized that people could come to Reno and never have the sun touch their skin.  They could literally stay inside the casino and never feel the need to see the outside world.  It felt kind of sad to me.  I'm sure there's a poem to be written about that...

I love water fountains, and the Eldorado had a huge one on the mezzanine floor.  I sat by it to listen to the water and meditate for a bit, but when the smell of chlorine and cigarette smoke became too much, I went back to my room:

Later that day, Elizabeth picked me up for the show.  Here she is at The Holland Project (the venue and co-sponsor of the event):

We couldn't get in, so we were hanging around outside.  And then that's when I had my first experience with local culture.  While Elizabeth was checking her cell phone and texting Iain Watson (the co-founder of SpokenViews Poetry Collective, the other co-sponsor of the event), I was keeping an eye out for people on the street--ya know, having her back so she/we don't snuck and all that.  So I see this guy coming towards us on a bike. He's making a bee-line straight for us. And I start sizing him up on my weirdo-meter.  He's smiling and my weirdo-meter starts buzzing.  He gets closer and closer, and the weidro-meter is ringing off the hook, like HELLO! RING-A-DING! WEIRDO ALERT! And I just kept thinking, Why is he smiling like that?  Maybe Elizabeth knows him ...  And then he's right there in front of us, smiling big and saying "Hi!" like we were old friends.  And Elizabeth had no idea who he was.  And this was my first experience in Reno local culture--everyone is so friendly. Even when they don't know you. And it was a bit of a culture shock--I mean, I think I'm a friendly person, but I'm in Philly all day.  In East Coast cities, you have to be ready to throat-chop someone if necessary (right Elizabeth! LOL!)  But how could I have such thoughts about native Renoians? They were too nice.  I resolved to save my throat-chopping thoughts for drunks back at the casino...

Finally, Chris from The Holland Project let us in:

Here's the Spotlight Series stage:

Members from two poetry collectives participated in the poetry workshop before the show: SpokenViews Poetry Collective and Two Shits Poetry Collective (TWOOO SHITS! :).  Here's a picture from the workshop:

Seated next to me from left to right is Christine (who hosted the show that night) and Levi.  I didn't get pictures of everyone, but many thanks to the following people for participating: Levi, Christine, Griffin, Shawn, Griffins, Callie, Angela, Micah, Edward, John, Steve, Naomi, Artie, and Iain. my apologies if I misspelled your name.  I hope you all wrote conversation poems!

I'm sorry I couldn't get pictures of everyone who performed at the show (the pics I took came out too blurry).  Here's Christine hosting and John on the open mic:

Thank you so much to all the people who performed on the open mic: John, Naomi, Edward, Shawn, and Micah.  Special thanks to Elisa Garcia for opening up for me.  Your poetry was amazing (she performed 3 poems: a love poem to her boyfriend, a poem for her 10-year-old niece McKayla, and a poem in response to a stranger who called her fat.  So powerful!).  I also want to say what a pleasure it was to meet all the SpokenViews ladies.  Pictured below with me are Jessie, Elizabeth, Elisa, and Alicia:


Shout out to Iain for making this event happen.  Special thanks to my wonderful friend Elizabeth for all her tireless work and energy to get me to Reno.  Huge thank yous to everyone who came to the show, supported my book, talked to me after the show, and hung out.

Soon I will post about all the yummy food I ate while in Reno (with pics!) and of the amazing adventure Elizabeth and I had at Pyramid Lake in search of Stone Mother (in 100 degree temps!).

Much love, Reno!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thank You Reno!!! And The SHE Book Tour is on Facebook!

Hello beautiful peoples,

The first stop on my SHE Book Tour was wonderful--THANK YOU RENO!!!

Special thanks to SpokenViews Collective, The Holland Project, and Two Shits.  Extra-special thanks to Iain Watson of SpokenViews and my friend Elizabeth Parawan for making this trip possible.

And I've finally given in--The SHE Book Tour is now on Facebook! Thank you to my friend Elizabeth for giving me no choice b/c she decided I was utterly ridiculous and just set up it up for me.  So how could I keep resisting when it exists?  :)

Some pics have gone up on FB and more will follow.  I will also keep posting here on the Yellow Rage blog.  Please check out the FB page--I admit I'm actually excited about it!  :)

I'll also be posting performance videos (some of me; some of my students) and some poems from time-to-time.

More soon!


Sunday, June 02, 2013

Race in America segment and Reminder: RENO!!!

Hi everyone,

So back in March when I was preparing for the kick-off show at AAI for my book tour, not only was I featured in the Philadelphia Daily News (see post on on May 16 below), but I was also invited to talk on Fox News Philadelphia's "Race in America" segment on Good Day Philadelphia, Thursday morning, March 14.  After reading the article in the Daily News, Berlinda Garnett from Philly's Fox News contacted me about being on the show (thanks again to Jenice Armstrong for writing the Daily News article).

I was so nervous!  But everyone at the news station was very nice, and I had a great time.  Please see the clip below.  Here's the link:

I just want to thank Berlinda Garnett for inviting me, and Mike Jerrick and Sheinelle Jones, the two anchors of Good Day Philadelphia, for being so gracious and for asking such great questions.  My mom gave it a thumbs up, so if it gets her stamp of approval, then it must have been good  :)

Also, RENO is 3 days away!!!!! :)  Please see post on May 21st below for more info on this first official stop on my book tour.  Hope to see you.