Solid Quarter

Visit Trembling Pillow Press for poetry books, broadsides, chapbooks, and Solid Quarter Magazine.

Visit New Orleans Poetry Fest for the annual 4 day poetry festival directed by Bill Lavender and Megan Burns.

Megan Burns' Poeticsofbone&city project on Tumblr

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poetry Month Events in NOLA: It's almost OUR month

You know I love a whole month in which the rest of the world thinks about poetry.

This Thursday, 17 Poets! welcomes poet, artist, and teacher Sunday Shae Parker to the stage with a multimedia performance, 8 PM.

April brings a whirlwind of ruth weiss events as she returns to New Orleans for the first time in 61 years.

Her book DESERT JOURNAL is just out from Trembling Pillow Press.

ruth weiss events:

Tuesday, April 3, 7:15PM: The Black Widow Salon at Crescent City Books
For info. and to RSVP as seating is limited, email:

Wednesday, April 4th, 7:30PM: Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center presents rare screenings of filmmaker ruth weiss' work including "The Brink" a 40 minute film that Stan Brakhage called "one of the most important San Francisco films of the period."  visit:

Thursday, April 5th, 8PM at 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series:  ruth weiss reads and signs DESERT JOURNAL with the POET OF NEW ORLEANS BRASS BAND featuring Joe Zeno, Sr. on tuba; Christopher Davis, trumpet; Chad Moore, clarinet; Mark Francis, trombone; and Clyde CM3 on drums with special guest Hal Davis on on-da-log

from the latest issue of Entrepôt (issue 7) 

April 10th head over to Octavia Books to hear Lee Meitzen Grue read from DOWNTOWN (Trembling Pillow Press)  and Niyi Osundare read from City Without People (Black Widow press), 6pm.  (Osundare's poem "Raindrum" was recently selected by the US Olympics committee to represent his native Nigeria in the winter olympics. )

If you're in Baton Rouge, head over to the River Writers Reading Series at Boudreaux's to hear New Orleans poets Bill Lavender, reading from Memory Wing (Black Widow Press) and Geoff Munsterman, editor of Entrepôt. Tuesday, April 10th, 8PM

April 12, 8PM 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series welcomes poet Bruce Andrews as well as poet and OffBeat writer Alex Rawls

April 19th: Baton Rouge Poets Christopher Shipman and Vincent Cellucci (hosts of the River Writers Series) read and sign books along with Portland poet Allison Cobb, 8PM

Cover by Tracey McTague

April 20th: New Orleans Museum of Art features a panel and reading hosted by Susan Larson with poets Megan Burns and Gina Ferrara and artist Tricia Vitrano as part of their Friday Night Events, 5:30-7:30

Can't be in New Orleans 'cause you in Lafayette: no problem, cher!
On Saturday, April 21st, at 7 p.m., CARPE DIEM! GELATO-ESPRESSO BAR invites the public to spend a spring evening experiencing poetry and performance art while enjoying gelato, espresso, tea, and pastries when it hosts "VOICES IN SPRING: Poetry by Marthe Reed and Performance by Bonny McDonald"

April 26th: Book Signing and Reading by Moira Crone of her new novel, The Not Yet (UNO press)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Brakhage video and poem: Birth

And a poem I wrote in 2008 for this video:

Window, Water, Eye
                        for Stan Brakhage

dislocated juxtaposition at opening
inviolable frame born of its design
edged as corners that meet perfect face
what is opening hand along the sill
for grip to landscape what skin to hold bound
the eternal spring of reflections light as an arc
that glides down a dark shadow crease
sun light caught in a watery down
a ledge of hands gliding as teardrops
second grace bold move of hidden limbs
a turning over beginning with the eyes smiling
hold here an infant’s gaze unmasked
in silent drippings no call of song bird
or mother’s laughter to line the page
well of delight in violent tenders
measured grasp of deep flesh mottled
stretched as artist’s canvas expecting
the knife and easily torn to shreds
heartbeat to bent knee it’s dangerous
desire to consume another or capture
love one hand can’t hold very much
cram button with lips what will you
suction divide for cooling shaved clean
for who’s viewing divine intervention
body as wounded animal focus the lens
plate glass of distilled scream clear water
safer than brackish looking mouth
ward encased wide open horror

(This poem was published in 2010 in the chapbook, Framing a Song.) 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The People Say Project lights up Lafcadio Hearn's Prose

The People Say Project, backed by innovators Brian Boyles and Jarret Lofstead, along with NOLAFugees created a magnificent tribute to Lafcadio Hearn last night staged at Cafe Istanbul in the Healing Center.

How does one bring to life the eccentric and exacting prose of Hearn from his ability to wax poetic about his adopted city to his ear for sounds on the streets to his witty diatribes poking fun at the inane and the deadly serious?

People Say answered the call with a multimedia presentation that both gave space to Hearn's prose but that also provided an entertaining backdrop as well as interludes of pure joy for the audience in the packed house at Cafe Istanbul.

The program included performers coming to the mic to read aloud samplings of Hearn's writings from 1877-1880 that center around life in New Orleans. Short passages on the beauty of the city led into commentary on the weather, the political corruption, the sounds of street vendors, the crime and Hearn's ability to capture the particular characters of the streets such as in "Complaint of a Creole Boardinghouse-Keeper," which was beautifully acted out by Trixie Minx in full costume and with a Creole patois. Kataalsyt Alcindor gave a beautiful rendition of "A Creole Courtyard" in a sonorous voice that carried the audience into the tranquil, minutely described details of the titled piece.

Among these careful selections of Hearn's works were constant surprises as a white alligator crawled on stage before a screen backdrop of swampy images for "The Alligators, " which begins: "None discover aught of beauty in them; yet they were once worshiped as gods," or an interpretive dance was acted out of a crab putting itself to boil complete with carrots and veggies flying out of the pot and into the audience.

Madame Mystere of the  Fleur de Tease

Ratty Scurvics hopped on the piano to accompany the piece "Eleusis" while Trixie Minx did a reverse strip tease dressing up in the ballerina costume that the piece describes in exacting details.
Chuck Perkins recited a piece while a troupe from the "Hip-ocrisy Belly Dancers" stood in the background ready to take to the stage with their flipping fans adding a carnivalesque atmosphere to what was overall a love-fest for New Orleans in words, gestures, and images.

Hip-ocrisy Belly Dancers

As much as the show was a tribute to Hearn, it was really New Orleans that took center stage, and the finale which brought forth the whole cast embodied that with the piece: "Glamour of New Orleans (Nov. 26, 1878)," which is as poignant now as it was when Hearn wrote it. In fact, maybe more poignant in that about half the audience nearly witnessed the end of what we know as the city of New Orleans. Hearn's piece captures what we hold in our hearts about this city that we adore, and Hearn's pieces on violence and crime seemed sadly just as relevant today as well capturing the side of New Orleans that often breaks our hearts. In "Glamour of New Orleans" the city whispers: "My streets are flecked with strange sharp shadows; and sometimes also the Shadow of Death falleth upon them; but if thou wilt not fear, thou are safe. My charms are not the charms of much gold and great riches; but thou mayest feel with me such hope and content as thou hast never felt before." Written over a hundred years ago and the city still promises, and the city still provides for those with eyes and hearts open to receive.

The People Say Project and the cast of the Lafcadio Hearn Literary Late Night production casted a magical spell last night that compressed time reminding us all how wondrous and unique this city continues to be. Other cast members included: Andrew Vaught, C.W.Cannon,  and Chris Lane, with photographs and images by Leslie Addison and George Yerger. Grant Ingram was on hand capturing video of the production from every angle possible, so check the People Say Project soon for video of this event.

Also see Mark Folse's take on Odd Words/ Toulouse Street in addition to Mark's write ups on the entire Tennessee Williams Fest.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Issue of Entrepôt: Coco Robicheaux Tribute

March-April 2012, Single Issue (4.00 domestic/ international add shipping)

Coco Robicheaux Tribute Issue

Inside this issue:
Grace Medicine: A Story of Coco Robicheaux by Louis Maistros
Louisiana Medicine Man: Coco Robicheaux by John Sinclair
Reviews of Michael Ford’s new chapbook, Where We Expect to See You Soon and Vincent Cellucci’s An Easy Place/ To Die
Plus: ruth weiss returns to New Orleans After 51 years

Visit Trembling Pillow Press to order domestic or international via paypal
or email:

Entrepôt is the French Quarter’s newest literary periodical, a monthly source of discussions on poetics, literary history, music tradition, community, and contemporary events and book reviews. Entrepôt aims to explore New Orleans cultural history as well as its ongoing foothold in the world of art and letters; by presenting new documents, scholarship, and documentation to restore the importance of New Orleans’ storied past in contemporary poetics and art. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Nicki Minaj Project

If you've talked to me about poetry in the last month, it's quite possible that I have talked at length about my ongoing obsession with this video: "Stupid Hoe" by Nicki Minaj.

I didn't know who Nicki Minaj was until the Superbowl when she performed with Madonna and then I googled her and this video was the first one I watched. I watched it on a loop repeatedly for a few hours one day and thought, I'm gonna write a poem about this. Then that poem became a whole project based on the images, history, lyrics and anything contextual that the video and song bring up for me.

I aired what I call the panel screening of this Project at McKeown's bookstore on Friday, March 16th. Originally, the talk consisted of screening the video with me stopping and discussing the various points along the way in my poetic analysis of the "Stupid Hoe" video. The talk is called "Stupid Hoe (explicit)."  The store where I wanted to perform the piece does not have wi-fi, so I had to compromise and made a power point with the audio from the song.

Nicki Minaj: some tribe: this wicked talk back

One of the items I talk about in the beginning of the video is Kate Durbin's project Gaga Stigmata, which is an incredible resource for being able to talk about media imagery and the rise of the "pop star" as well as the art that is being created in this context. I was drawn to a particular piece by a doctoral candidate in theological studies Peter Klein who discusses the use of religion in Lady Gaga's performances and persona. He states that she is both deadly serious and mocking in her rebuttals and insertion of religious phenomena and ritual in her performance and even outside the performance (if there is an outside that we view) in her persona. I'm not a Lady Gaga fan, so I can't really speak to the articles and all the things happening on Durbin's site, but I'm intrigued by it as a construct for thinking about language, theatrics, poetry and politics. I think the same idea of Klein's thesis applies to this project as inhabiting both a space for the absurd and the serious, a place of inquiry that can also laugh and poke fun at exactly what is being uncovered and deconstructed.

The political body of Nicki Minaj: To inhabit the persona

Some of the items I talk about in the screening range from Angelina's infamous leg to the Lil' Kim argument that spawned this video to Minaj's use of Barbie in her personas and Rush Limbaugh even makes an appearance thanks to his timely throwing around of the slur "slut."

What's most interesting to me is the way that Minaj's use of "Stupid Hoe" and the traditional framework that it falls in within the rap genre of elevating oneself and one's lyrics by basically calling 
everyone else out, is how Minaj's absurdist approach can be contrasted and compared with 
the far-reaching and almost ubiquitous male rap lyric that seems to revel in the degradation and vicious, disturbing name-calling that is hurled at women in so many rap songs. In fact, it's interesting to look at the label and rappers associated with Minaj's "rap group" as Lil' Wayne, for example, engages in particularly hostile remarks about women in his lyrics. 

Not only do I recite a handful of really obscene, obnoxious  hate-filled lyrics in the talk but 
I like to note how many time these videos have been viewed on youtube. I wonder about how we allow language in certain places (spaces) and yet reject it and come up in arms when that language emerges in  another venue where we have decided it is not allowed and how this relates to access and exclusion. 

Youtube is this fascinating recorder of imagery to me. We can get some sort of idea of how many times images have been viewed as well as people's likes, dislikes, comments and my personal favorite, the youtube response video. There are a number of angry response videos to Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" as well as clever parodies, several videos showing you how to do her tribal make-up, a few poetic readings of her lyrics and then some people just filming themselves in front of their computers lip synching this song. 

Wow, I love the internet.

Sexually: full frontal: shipping platinum

One of the reasons I'm so attracted to this video is the amount of thievery it employs. Part of this is a direct response to Lil' Kim's attack song on Minaj "Black Friday." Lil' Kim basically accuses Minaj of being a "clown clone" copying her looks and lyrics, etc. It's so bizarre that a genre of music that changed the idea of copyright based on sampling also contains this intense authority and ownership. I don't prescribe to it: I think everyone is a copy cat. I invite discussion to the contrary and encourage theft.

The power point project turned me towards really considering the stills from the video without the audio. Stan Brackhage tells and teaches us with his films that when audio is removed, our eyes begin to really see.

This in turn generated the next part of the project which consists of poems based on still images from the video.

To the left is one image from the beginning of the video:

Here's the poem

"Leg Works"

(visual 1)

remove eyes: remove tendons: remove muscular retina: remove crepuscular jointed stitchings: remove tendency to articulate: remove ached invested motive: remove bluestocking heroesy: remove poor illegitimate diatribes: remove Ebonics: remove gesticulated frontman: remove embrace: remove heel’s sexual orientation: remove gluteal arch: remove coiffed dangling: remove tribal excess: remove platforms: remove discomfort: remove memory: remove calcified bone: remove fragments dissolved in a unstable solution: remove ability to stop fall: remove silhouette: remove leotard rise:  remove uvula’s vibrating: remove skin tone: remove melanomic decisions: remove athletic inference: remove titillating peek: remove possibility of dissidence: remove prodding corpse: remove pixelated promise

This blog post is part of the project and discussion and responses generated from it. We haven't even begun to dive into what exactly happened at the Grammy's and, of course, the new video of 'Roman Holiday' with Eminem. It's a swerve from "Stupid Hoe," but that particular clinamen we will save for later discussions. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Orleans Press: Fell Swoop Interview & Goodness

Poet Camille Martin has an excellent interview with poet and editor of Fell Swoop, the indefatigable Joel Dailey. I reviewed Dailey's last chapbook, Surprised by French Fries here. 

Martin's interview has a great chapbook cover display as well showcasing some unique Swoop covers. We have quite a collection of Swoops here at Casa Brinks/ Burns. Read the full review here.

This is my new chapbook fresh from the Fell Swoop factory. Cover by Tracey McTague.
Poems based on the Surrealist Game of Questions: Irrational Knowledge of the Object

Comment or email me:
for a copy: 5.00 (plus S&H) 

Fell Swoop also just released the single author issue from Clark Coolidge: The Human Bond: Some New James Bond Sonnets

Clark Coolidge and Joel Dailey will be reading at the 17 Poets! Literary and Performance Series 

May 17th, 8PM

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Review of Niyi Osundare's City Without People

Review:  Niyi Osundare's City Without People (Black Widow Press, 2011)

Note: This review was originally published in Entrepôt (Vol. 2, Oct 2011).

Dr. Niyi Osundare will be the featured reader Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at the 1718 Series held at the Columns Hotel. The series begins rather promptly at 7 and is usually SRO, so get there early for a seat. The readings are usually followed by a Q & A with the author.

(Black Widow press, 2011) 137 Pgs.
Reviewed by Megan Burns

Niyi Osundare’s City Without People: The Katrina Poems is a narrative journey from the first moments that the water breached the levees to the traumatic experience of the author and his wife trapped in their attic to the slow journey back to some sense of normalcy.  Instead of a straight shot chronologically though, these poems vacillate from the first terrible hours followed by the one year anniversary and then back to earlier experiences. In this way, they capture the way memory holds a seemingly endless amount of hours and experiences in a brief recollected interlude. This movement in time as well reflects the book’s attempt to capture the ebb and flow of fear and anger as well as passion and hope in the years following Katrina.  These poems then are arranged strongly around the tone and the emotion expressed in each section. It allows the poet to not only examine the various reactions to this event, but it also plumbs the depths of the poet’s personal experience as survivor, evacuee, displaced professor, New Orleans citizen, and as part of a Nigerian community in New Orleans that is displaced after the storm. Osundare’s Nigerian background and cultural milieu allow him the opportunity to translate this event through his African heritage. In cultural signals and codes, Osundare brings his own particular blend of Nigerian influence to this historical New Orleans event. It’s this blending of cultures, this looking back to the familiar in the midst of chaos, that brings such a unique voice to this topic. In addition, Osundare’s ability to range from anger to quiet desperation amid heartbreaking images and then soar back to such heights of optimism and resilience makes this book one of the most important books to emerge from the Katrina debacle. Unlike earlier books, this collection benefits from the author’s deliberate need to process and collect his thoughts and responses. The reader receives not one overwhelming sense of raw or heated emotions, but instead passes through the ever-changing sense of response and recovery that takes years to really name and comprehend.

     The initial section to this collection “WATER,    WATER!...” opens with the subtle line, “It all began as a whisper among/ The leaves.” The poem titled “The Lake Came to My House” is just the beginning of several difficult poems in this section that recount the disastrous damage that the water inflicted upon the city of New Orleans. The poem ends with the same subtle tone that belies the vast trauma embedded within the lines: “The day the Lake came down my street/ And took my house away.” Osundare easily moves from narrative lyrics to stark lines that have imagistic overtones and then to more formally rhymed and metered lines. His penchant for song is evident in poems like “Katrina Anthem” which begins “Ka ka Katrina” and then continues out in quatrains composed of rhymed couplets beating out a rhythm as tense and pitched as the misery and distress that forms the subject:
Blood on your hands, skulls in your fridge
                        You swamp the river and swallow the bridge
                        In your crowded kitchen a foul fleshfeast
                        Fit for the monster and the hellish beast

In stark contrast to this melodic, albeit dark poem, is the poem that is the title piece for the book, “City Without People.” Here Osundare delivers a straight punch, no rhyme or song, but instead the bleak report from the voice of the witness: “The trees are dead/ The birds are gone/The grass is scorched” and later, the questions: “Tell me/ What do you call a house/ Without walls?” One of the powerful aspects of this book is Osundare’s ability to return again and again in various forms and tones to this subject. In one poem where the reader finds despair; there will be another that sings of rebirth. It’s an inconstancy that perfectly reflects the chaotic nature of responding and surviving a catastrophe. In the midst of resilience, the author finds himself angry and distraught and then in the next moment, “the sexy serenade of the sax-o-phone” rises breathing new hope into the lines.

Osundare’s poems as well cover vast topics brought about by the disaster from the negative response of outsiders who loudly criticized the city’s rebuilding to the “Katrina refugee” moniker to the disaster tours that descended into destroyed neighborhoods for tourists; this book in a sense becomes a catalogue, a reminder of not only the city’s event but the fallout from that event and how the nation responded.  As the unacknowledged legislator, Osundare pokes fun of these notions while also cutting to the quick of the issue. In “Disastourism” he warns: “Careful now,/ Dear Tourist/ Mind the bristling bones/ Beneath your sole.” In other words, take care where you walk for in these empty hulls are the souls of a city, and what does it say of your own heart to drive by in a bus pointing a camera at this destruction.  Osundare points out that to uncap the lens of our own view would mean accepting that this could have been prevented and that any region protected by levees could be another “New Orleans” story.

The book ends with a poignant interview between Niyi Osundare and Rebecca Antoine, which was collected in Antoine’s Voices Rising II: More Stories from the Katrina Narrative Project. It’s incredible after reading these poems, which attempt to encapsulate a series of swirling emotions and responses to disaster, to read this interview that clearly recounts Osunadare’s experience from the moment the levees broke to the point where he returns to New Orleans almost a year later. People from poems in the book acquire new depths as Osundare relates with wonder and appreciation all of the people who helped him and his family not only survive their harrowing entrapment in their flooded house but who continued to help them long after the water had receded and the city had become a fading news story. Osundare opens up a world interconnected by scholars and university colleagues who came to his aid as well as Nigerian community members and friends both here in America and in Africa who helped support him and his family at this time. Osudare’s ties to Nigeria and to the country of his childhood are largely represented in this book that talks of his new home. In song and in references, in the call and response and in the chant, there are, in the bones of these poems, beliefs in homes that span oceans and in communities not bound by geography. From the preface, Osundare says, “I sing of a city which insists on its own right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  This is a book about people: People filled with the need to raise their voices against the silence.  

Thursday, March 01, 2012

New Orleans Recipes: Big Easy BBQ Shrimp

Easy BBQ Shrimp:

There's no BBQ in New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. It is super fattening and delicious for dipping copious amounts of french bread in. 
Take about 1-2 lbs of shrimp, pull off the heads but leave the shell and tails on, rinse under water

In a separate bowl, melt 3 sticks butter
add about 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
about 2/3 of Abita Amber Beer or another beer that's got a good flavor
For this dish, I added Prudhomme's Seafood Magic
Lots of Black Pepper
and a dash of Mexican Vanilla
Season to taste as you like

(You can also add Hot Sauce, garlic, paprika, cayenne)

You can let the shrimp soak in the liquid for a bit. 
I just toss the shrimp in the pan, pour the sauce over and cover with tin foil. 

Bake at 300 in the oven.

Be careful not to overcook. It dries out the shrimp and makes it hard to peel. The shrimp should look pink and not have any more translucent flesh parts under the shell. 

Yum. Peel to eat shrimp and dip bread in all the sauce.

Also, here's a shot of some fresh broccoli and cauliflower from our garden, so you can eat your shrimp 
and get your good veggies too.