Rethinking Stealing with Jamaal May

The Minnesota Review

Jamaal May Jamaal May

I spent a good chunk of February 5th with Jamaal May. In hindsight, I should have chugged a gallon of espresso in order to keep up with this fast-talking, passionate, Detroit-based poet. Over lunch with a few Virginia Tech MFA students, May gave away morsels from the craft talk he would be delivering soon afterwards, titled “Steal This Class.” Having experienced teaching poetry in Detroit public schools, May deplores how something as idealistic as the U.S. education system has been boiled down to the place where we are merely programmed.

He elaborated on this during the craft talk at Shanks Hall, where he demonstrated how intelligence is nowadays assessed by how well we are programmed.

“What’s 1 plus 1?” May asked the audience. The chorused reply: “Two.”

“Let’s complicate the question,” May proposed. “One of what?” He went on to explain how this outside-the-box thinking in…

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Best Worst Year: Episode 83 (Or, Heal)

Sundog Blog

You read a poor Tagalog translation of handwritten prayers on your mother’s dresser. Your cousin has mistaken aswang for multo. Even you–whose native tongue died in his mouth years ago–knows the difference. Aswang is an evil spirit. A Filipino vampire. A dog. Something wicked. Your cousin has been looking to redefine herself at college. Away from the vanilla-colored hallways and powder-burned lockers of affluent homogenization, now the pale Pinay recessive genetics have a second name and second life in the stadium-seated lecture halls of state colleges. She eats rice without utensils, wants to go to Manila, asks her ate and kuya about jeepneys and sari sari stores. Her younger brother obsesses over XBox and the Nets game on TNT. You clean rice in the kitchen–rinse by hand three times. Cold water. You feel it in your knuckles. It’s snowing only enough to be nuisance.

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White Out

Silver Birch Press

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WHITE OUT
by Joan Colby

We hit the white out just beyond the Virgil ditch.
A south wind blasting eight-foot drifts
Like a fireship exploding the armadas
Of January. A page of erased zeroes.
Today, it might get to 20, no melt but plenty
Of blowing to disguise what’s road
And what’s the verge, how to be stuck
And invisible.

Last week in such weather a semi
Jackknifed, then another, another, another
Swallowing cars, a multitude following
Faithfully as pilgrims to the disaster
Of the stampede. Finally, there were forty
Or more vehicles crushed and miles of traffic
Detained while the Jaws of Life were deployed.
Three dead including a man whose dog
Was thought to be a fatality but survived
To lick the hands of the first responders.

People we used to call firemen or cops
Rearticulated like weather once called storms
Now polar vortices. Naming something doesn’t change

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You Can Own a Little Piece of that Creepy Multimillionaire

The Punk Philatelist

Lately, Steve Carell has been creeping out moviegoers with his portrayal of John E. Du Pont in the film Foxcatcher. Academy voters even gave him a Best Actor nomination, hoping it would make him go away and stop haunting their nightmares.

John E. Du Pont was an heir to the fortune of the American chemical company. Foxcatcher traces his obsession with the sport of wrestling, which so saw him go so far as to build a live-in training facility for some of the USA’s top wrestlers.

Steve Carell as John E. Du Pont in Foxcatcher“Do you mean to tell me you haven’t RSS’d the Punk Philatelist?”

I don’t want to spoil the film’s twists, so let’s just say yada yada yada things didn’t quite work out and Du Pont died in 2010. I won’t even tell you where he died. It would give too much away.

1c 1856 British Guiana black on magentaYou may not know that Du Pont’s death was met with…

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Winter Chestnuts and Other Literary Comforts

Scenes of Eating

I’ve been reading Lolly Willowes, a 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner set at the turn of the 20th century. The story reminds me a lot of the pastoral 19th century novels I’ve been reading: country life radically contrasted with the city, the smallness of family dramas, the quiet resistance of women in their domestic spheres.

When she moves to London with her brother and sister-in-law, main character Laura (called Lolly by her nieces) is seized by a restlessness every autumn. She finds herself roving and anxious until winter fully arrives and she bleakly resigns to it, and:

She fortified herself against the dismalness of this reaction by various small self-indulgences. Out of these she had contrived for herself a sort of mental fur coat. Roasted chestnuts could be bought and taken home for bedroom eating. Second-hand book-shops were never so enticing; and the combination of east winds and London water…

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Six Ways to Misuse Statistics

Puff the Mutant Dragon

Back in the 1940s before the polio vaccine was invented, the disease caused a lot of anxiety among parents of small children. How could you reduce your child’s risk of contracting this nasty illness? Some misguided public health experts apparently recommended avoiding ice cream, thanks to a study that showed a correlation between ice cream consumption and polio outbreaks. This study fortunately was BS. Yes, there was a correlation between ice cream consumption and polio outbreaks, but that was because both were common in the summer months. The authors of the study had mistaken correlation (ice cream consumption and polio are more common at the same time) with causation (ice cream increases your risk of disease).

Medical researchers often trawl through data sets to try and figure out what environmental factors cause chronic disease. Unfortunately, these kinds of studies sometimes make the same kinds of mistakes as the ice…

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Take Heart

junk

by Mari Casey

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The most difficult part of my recovery today, the most terrifying prospect in my life is not related to an urge to use or a potential relapse. It’s about dating. I’m twenty-six and single—a fun idea, right?—except I have four years clean, and just the thought of going on a date turns me catatonic. They recommend a year without sex when you first get clean. I didn’t do it then, but I might get it now, and not for lack of desire.

In my life, there are two major categories of potential suitors: people “in the rooms”— recovering addicts at the meetings—or “normies”—those strange creatures who can drink just one beer, maybe even hit one joint every now and again, normal people. I’ve dated in the rooms before. Pros: mutual understanding, shared experience, easy to meet. Cons: dating someone as sick as you are, and the whole…

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