Category Archives: Poetry


Remembering Philip Levine

By Samina Shahidi

Philip Levine wrote unflinchingly and with nuanced craft about American working class life. Levine died on Saturday, February 14th, at the age of 87. Hear him talk about and recite his poem, “They Feed the Lion” at the National Endowment for the Arts website.

Read more on this elder and former Poet Laureate of American poetry, and his influence on poetry readers in this discussion in The New York Times.  Levine’s work is known especially to our nation’s working class and immigrant writers who engage questions of labor, relationships and social justice.

Poet Mark Levine’s (no relation) recalls studying writing with Philip Levine as a college student in the essay, “How Difficult it is to Live.”

Poetry Foundation has an illuminating overview of Levine’s work, themes and affinities.

The Bus Hub

By Zenzile Greene

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies here at the Murphy Institute, to discuss his original spoken word piece “The Bus Hub,” among several other spoken word pieces he created eight years ago. “The Bus Hub” is a brilliantly executed and thoughtfully arranged piece in which Attoh transforms his field notes at a Bus Hub in Syracuse into a multimedia work of art. By setting his field notes to an originally composed acoustic guitar loop, he makes a broad and vibrant observation of this pocket of the Syracuse urban landscape come alive with a bustling energy that should be familiar to most any East Coast city dweller. The litany of bus routes which act almost as a refrain pull the listener into a frenetic and detailed space wherein the narrator and witness transfers his system of record into a report of place, space, character, language, custom and condition.

A transcribed version of the “The Bus Hub” as well as other perspectives on this piece can be viewed in the ACME journal.


By Linda Ashok

We are done weighing-
A kilo of pomegranate and guavas
Potatoes discounted at INR 28 a kilo
Sprigs of lotuses, 250 grams of masoor,
chillies and that’s it.

After my grandpa’s demise, my mother
Was worried if fish will ever become a part
of our meal again. His pension was the only
source for such delight.

But my job in Bank of America
reunited her with shoals of many; the prettiest
are the bonniest, we call them Hilsa and morola.

Look here she talks about meat
of higher animals! She has picked up
some recipe from Travel and Living
and wishes to try a different meat; oh she is a Hindu
at heart, beef is not what you should think

I fathom a tomato on the oven
Excruciating juice oozing from the burns
When you marinate in it, soft loaves of flesh
the risqué humour on the butcher’s eyes

Oh, we must look out for a suitable meat; avoid
the ones with terror in the neck and pits of limbs

Bhaiya, show me the ones
Without goose bumps, butchered unaware

Linda Ashok is the Founder/President of RædLeafPoetry-India ( She identifies herself as a pro-Tibetan and currently working on her second poetry manuscript. She tweets @thebluelimit

Gods Are Not The Kind Of Machines That Last

By Greg McDonald

I wrote a psalm for Jesus while I was sleeping.
It turns out differences are settled with cross
words in the new world, that rules are measured

in miles like horses, then discarded, that night
is the breaking of bread, the welter of birds it affords,
the cove where Christ gorges on clumps of flotsam

and tidewrack – O Lord, sweep the sea with thy skirt
and increase my bewilderment! An open window lets in
the ocean, I can hold my breath for hours and sift through

the sea’s squalor – the telephone floating near the toaster,
the iron pulling a bag of oranges under, our silverware
glinting like sardines, my brothers like two glass floats

asleep on the rocks, my mother grappling with ghost nets,
my sister swimming in the wrong direction following
the light down as if our lives depended on her.

Purchase A Length of Night Work at Finishing Line Press.

Jayne Cortez, “Find Your Own Voice”

A Dialogue Between Voice and Drums,” live at
The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY
on October 23, 2010.

“A firespitting evening with drummer Denardo Coleman, featuring a voice celebrated for her political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Cortez’s literary work and impassioned activism, inspired by the ideals of human dignity and social justice, have been called blues poetics, part of the foundation of hip hop and performance poetry. Denardo Coleman is a musician, composer, producer and drummer with the Ornette Coleman Quartet.”

-from The Sanctuary for Independent Media via YouTube