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ABR speaker brings poetry, activism and network to Crossroads

By KBell
Oct. 31, 2011 at 5:31 a.m.


IF YOU GO

WHAT: UHV/ABR reading series presents E. Ethelbert Miller

WHEN: Noon Thursday

WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium in UHV's University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

COST: Free and open to the public

EXCERPT

From "The Ear is an Organ Made for Love"

It was the language that left us first.

The Great Migration of words. When people

spoke they punched each other in the mouth.

There was no vocabulary for love. Women

became masculine and could no longer give

birth to warmth or a simple caress with their

lips. Tongues were overweight from profanity

and the taste of nastiness. It settled over cities

like fog smothering everything in sight. My

ears begged for camouflage and the chance

to go to war. Everywhere was the decay of

how we sound. Someone said it reminded

them of the time Sonny Rollins disappeared.

People spread stories of how the air would

never be the same or forgive. It was the end

of civilization and nowhere could one hear

the first notes of A Love Supreme. It was as

if John Coltrane had never been born.

Literary activist and poet E. Ethelbert Miller is expanding his worldwide network to include the Crossroads.

"I pull you into this ongoing network that I keep creating and putting people in touch," he said. "So that if you get off a plane in a particular city, and you're a writer or an artist ... there's someone to talk to."

Miller, who has strangers turned into friends from the Middle East to the U.S. State Department, will as much meet his audience as the audience will meet him at the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review reading series on Thursday.

The writer, based in Washington, D.C., said that although he'll be in the front of the room, he doesn't like to be seen as giving a performance. He hopes the reading series will be more of a conversation.

"The poems are just ways to reach out and get people to think about certain issues," he said. "I will share love poems, but they're in a larger movement toward tolerance and community."

As an activist, Miller's convictions also include literary record-keeping, public library funding and mentoring fellow writers.

"Sometimes what we do in this era of social networking, we have a tendency to try to network up," he said. "I have always found ... you network down. You help somebody. you never know who the people are that you're helping."

As chairman of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, Miller said he uses his words to participate and interact with people who share his convictions.

"I'm not just writing. What I'm trying to do right now with this organization is make sure that all these people going up to Congress and airing all these issues, that they have a little poetry in their lives," he said.

Poetry, Miller said, has the power to move a person's spirit and to be shared to ignite a network of influence.

"The poem in a very sort of clever way teaches you a certain degree of patience," he said. "You'll begin to see after reading the poem, you breath differently."

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