Blogs by Dr. Niama L. J. Williams
Dr. Ni's Notes & Nibbles--6
11/22/2007 8:59:15 AM
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Welcome to Dr. Ni's Notes & Nibbles--6, a gathering place of news, notes, words and wisdom bulldozing its way into your workday.
Well, we are definitely looking up these days as the holidays approach, which is as it should be, no? For some of us the prospect of returning to the former nest to rub elbows with family fills us with terror, and for others, unspeakable joy. This issue of Notes & Nibbles is dedicated to my very special 12 step friends who may not have heard from me in awhile. I dedicate this issue to those of us strong enough to recognize the need for families of origin and families of choice, and to know when to choose to be with whom. Whatever choice you make, know that Higher Power is with you always and at all times, ready, waiting, and willing to be called upon. And somebody on the planet loves you; you're here and breathing, right? J
Where to find Dr. Ni in the coming weeks:
On Thanksgiving evening, Thursday, November 22nd, 2007, check out the inimitable Ms. Janet Elaine Smith's "What Happening?" on Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio ( www.internetvoicesradio.com) at 8 p.m. Dr. Ni will be her guest, discussing, what else, her seven books!
The next week will find Dr. Ni at Robin's, her favorite bookstore at 13th & Sansom in Center City, Philadelphia, at 6 p.m. The official notice reads:
Wednesday November 28, 6pm - Reading
Niama Williams is the author of Eight books in about a year and a half, one of them written while I was an undergraduate: The Journey (novel told in stories; young Black girl with second sight falls for mysterious white psychiatrist), Detective Fiction (sequel to The Journey and a novel told in pieces [essays, short stories, poems, emails, etc.]; has the psychiatrist become a threat to her life and sanity?), Sojourn in Calidia (young Black woman working with guerrilla forces in fictional Latin American country falls in love with and betrays second in command of guerrilla leader). THE POETRY: Steven (dedicated to Spielberg; focuses on Hollywood stereotypes and what they do to our psyches), Famous Faces (people, famous and not, who have influenced the life of the poet), Soul Work (women in the poet's life and geneaology who raised her and raised those who raised her). NON-FICTION: Technically The Journey and Detective Fiction belong here because both are memoirs, but for you purists out there: Black Poetic Feminism: The Imagination of Toi Derricotte, a book-length study of the poetry of Derricotte, co-founder of the ONLY retreat exclusively for African American poets in the United States and Don't Keep No Secrets: A Black Woman Speaks Her Mind, a collection of essays.
Dr. Niama L. J. Williams is a poet, essayist, memoirist and adjunct professor of English with a Leeway Foundation grant, inclusion in an NAACP Image award nominated anthology Check the Rhyme, and participation in a Sable Lit Mag/Arvon Foundation writing workshop in the United Kingdom under her belt. She is available for comment at 484/231-1768 or niamapers.gmail.com.
If ambling to Philadelphia on a warm (we're hoping!) fall evening is not your speed, curl up to your monitor and check out Dr. Ni's listing on Dr. Peter N. Jones' "Great New Books" blog. When Dr. Ni saw the beautiful, heart-stopping work that Dr. Peter had done, she literally broke out in smiles. This listing, by the way, is an outgrowth of Dr. Ni's participation in publishing, small press, and author-informative list servs, so don't miss opportunities that may be hiding out in the lists you belong to!
Dr. Peter tells me this is the permanent link: http://newgreatbooks.blogspot.com/2007/11/author-writes-seven-books-in-seventeen.html.
I am also featured on the main page at:
If you would like to check out more of Dr. Peter's work, go to the following sites:
Bauu Institute and Press ( http://www.bauuinstitute.com of which he is Director and Editor)
Publisher: New Great Books ( http://newgreatbooks.blogspot.com)
Editor: Indigenous Issues Today ( http://indigenousissuestoday.blogspot.com)
Although this will not occur until January (the 15th, to be exact), look for me as a guest blogger on the ever active and writer-filled rosemariewolf.blogspot.com run by the quite productive Rose Marie Wolf, author of two titles in The Moon Series: SWEET MOON DREAMS – Book One and BLOOD MOON – Book Two, both available now from Samhain Publishing.
One more listing you need to be aware of! Philip Harris, author extraordinaire whom I also met through list serving, offered to exchange links with me. I am in the process of building my own homestead site (my current and quite brilliant web designer is swept up in her own art at the moment, as it should be!), and will offer link exchanges as soon as I get the site up and running. For now, a simple shout out to Phil: I'm under "Favorite Links," but check out his site en toto; the graphics are amazing ……: http://dickens111.tripod.com/theliteraryworksofphilipharris/id2.html.
And now for a little prose in honor of family. My mother passed away in 2003, and the very next Mother's Day I wrote this piece in memory of her. As a true descendant of Africans, this holiday season, give thanks for those who are with you and give honor to those who have prepared the way for you ……
MOTHER'S DAY, 2004
By Niama Leslie Williams
Copyright May 2004
I remember, so I believe. I know that it pleases our oppressors when we feel frightened or intimidated by what lies ahead. But remember, Sis, we are here because somebody who gave birth to somebody who gave birth to somebody who gave birth to somebody who gave birth to you and me fought, cried, scratched for us to be here. We are and always will be the children of those who CHOSE to survive. The brilliance of the other women whose papers you've read takes nothing away from your light. I know you can and will do this.
I remember, so I believe.
As I approach the dissertation process, I remember, Mama, cooking chopped spinach on a way-too-old gas stove—was it Birdseye or Green Giant?—no, we never bought Green Giant. We were women of quality even then, and so we were Birdseye women, chopped spinach in the square box, a little water—which would always boil away or burn the pot--a little butter, a little salt when almost done … On days I particularly loved you I'd cook the leaf spinach because I knew it was what you preferred.
Leaf spinach and baked chicken. A cup or two of water, a whole chicken, 350 degrees for an hour and a half.
When I didn't forget. When I didn't put the pot on and go into the living room and, swayed by some show, forget the pot, forget the chicken, and everything would have a slight singe taste to it. The burnt spinach smell the worst.
And always it seemed that I was doing something after school and I'd forget to put the spinach pot on, forever it seemed I'd be running for the spinach pot just as your Mustang, later the Buick, turned in the drive and I heard its engine as I guiltily, hurriedly lit the gas under cold water, salt and butter.
You asked so little. Dinner after a full day of nursing the students. Dispenser of love and Band-Aids and Child Protective Services calls and Sheriff calls and home visits and hands held during immunizations, they came to you, Mama, because you loved them, indiscriminately and all. Like me with my no-writing community college students, you found something redeeming in each one you tended. Explained to the principal about sexual abuse when she accused one of being "too fast."
I write this, Mama, I am remembering those afternoons of spinach and baked chicken because I am remembering you working. Nursing student, County grad, floor nurse, Ward 5400, then Southwest, then UCLA, then Parmelee Elementary. Parmelee the last.
And I remember, Mama, not your falling apart, not the Alzheimer's and waste that came after, not my resistance to caring for you because I would have overdone, gone unwashed, unbathed, hair uncombed, clothes rumpled to take care of you, I would have lost myself and I was unwilling to break so you could have everything; I turned you over to sister-in-law and brother and sister-in-law's strange children … We loved you, we loved you, but I abdicated, and that I will take to my grave …
What I'm trying to get to, Mama, is where I am now. The vantage point of sitting down. And oh, I am enjoying it, Mama—it is being very, very good to me. Having had one job or another since junior high, in student loan debt up to my ankles, I revel in the vantage point of sitting down. This you have made possible. Do you know, yes, you know; in another realm now, you know exactly what it means for a Black woman to sit down. Days. Daze. To sit, to stare, to look off into nothingness. This, for a poet. To be able to sit, for five months now and counting, five months of rest and recuperation and focusing on my dissertation proposal, sitting and making only the appointments I want. In the midst of the sitting able to shop at my whim, go to any store of my choosing, hand them the debit card and not worry, not think—has such and such cleared yet? Do I have enough to cover x, y, and z? I haven't had to do that for five months, Mama, and I'm running out of ways to say I'm grateful. It's impeccable what you've done, giving an artist her freedom, space, logistics, time. I was able to move away from all the toxics (as in family) and bring only my toxic self to Philly. Crazy insomniac me and Toi Derricotte, the subject of my dissertation. The major gift you gave, Mama, was time, time and riches.
What I have done is corrupt others. I give because I can; I know you would want me to. I am considering paying a writing friend's rent so she can have three more months off from work to write, write, write. The first day that she was at home, free, with her laptop, she just kept laughing. Giddy she was as she composed words. Singing, her soul shining. Her children didn't know she could be so happy.
The biggest corrupter is me. Cause I like sitting down, Mama; I like sitting down. I get to focus on myself, the hair-raising problems that keep me up at night, the past that encroaches, forbidding me bed 'til first light outside; I get to focus, Mama, the long view, tease out, over time and with help, solutions. My financial advisor says it's time to go back to work, but I flatly don't want to. Undergraduate classrooms do not hold the charm of me and pen 'til 5 a.m. then sleep 'til 2 or 3 or 6 and up and lethargy … not having to rush, no constraints, no pressures. Mama, will I ever willingly work for the white man again?
And the answer, the dangerous answer, is no. The white man never wanted me to see this. Because yes, Mama, I will go back to work, but on my terms. Not because I'm desperate, not because the rent is due, but because I choose, I choose not to deplete any further the funds you've bequeathed me. My chair, a self-possessed, empowered Black woman, has agreed, suggested, that yes, indeed, look for dissertation funding so I don't have to go back to work.
Support for sitting down. A foreparent dreamed it could be. Somewhere, somewhen, on a plantation, during a starry night, in those wee quiet hours before the first dawn, the quiet creep of light before the blazing sun, some starry night a foremother looked up and out and over a field she'd just picked that day, after tending the wounds of her eldest soon-to-be-sold-away for his recalcitrance, he moans from the shack of house, she looked up and out and over, Mama, and she knew, some centuries later that you, illegitimate child of 1932 Texas, would be born and would provide a way, in your dying, for me to sit, at three, at four, at five a.m. and face—with pen, with knowledge, with Black woman poet words—my ancestor. Face her and say, I've come. I'm sitting down. Like you always wanted.
Now for the section that truly feeds your soul—the funnies!!!! In desperation I typed in "jokes.com" and where was I taken? Comedy Central. I was skeptical, despite my hidden addiction to Mind of Mencia (yes, he is wrong, oh so very wrong, yet hilarious …..); I encourage you, however, to risk termination by going to http://www.comedycentral.com/jokes/index.jhtml and finding out--in the Jokes You Can Watch section—why it sucked to be the flute guy if you were in the Civil War and how farm animals feel about racism ……. And no, no kickbacks from Comedy Central; not in the big leagues yet …… J But the best? The young ventriloquist:
"I think my house is haunted."
"My wife is therrrrreeeeee ……….. I open the door and all I hear is get ouuuuut ….."
Enjoy your Monday!!!!!!!!
Love and blessings,
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