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Jazz Poetry

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Sunday 8/17/14 Show: Nikki Giovanni

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Photo: Nikki Giovanni speaks at Virginia Tech, 2007 | Eric Draper, whitehouse.gov.

The next show will air on Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This installment of the program will feature an interview with poet, writer, and educator Nikki Giovanni. You can hear a short preview of the show below.

Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past thirty years, her outspokenness, in her writing and in lectures, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely-read American poets, she prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.

Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Lincoln Heights, an all-black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. She and her sister spent their summers with their grandparents in Knoxville, and she graduated with honors from Fisk University, her grandfather’s alma mater, in 1968; after graduating from Fisk, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968, and within the next year published a second book, thus launching her career as a writer. Early in her career she was dubbed the “Princess of Black Poetry,”

Giovanni’s spoken word recordings have also achieved widespread recognition and honors. Her album Truth Is On Its Way, on which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a top 100 album and received the Best Spoken Word Album given by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. Her Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, on which she reads and talks about her poetry, was one of five finalists for a Grammy Award.

The author of some 30 books for both adults and children, Nikki Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Ms. Giovanni’s latest book is titled Chasing Utopia.

Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Program note: It’s not too late to grab a copy of Suga in My Bowl’s premium of Howard University professor Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr‘s fantastic biography of the legendary Pan African scholar Dr. John Henrik Clarke that we previewed 2 weeks ago on the show. You can support WBAI (and our show) by pledging for a copy of the Dr. Clarke special on CD or donating as little as $5 at WBAI’s secure online donation site.

Web Extras:

Watch Giovanni’s inspirational poem after the Virginia Tech shootings.



Watch Giovanni read “Talk to Me Poem, I Think I’ve Got the Blues” on Def Poetry Jam .



Watch Giovanni read from her essay “Gemini”, from her book Gemini.

Sunday 5/11/14 Show: Amiri Baraka Presente!

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Photo Credit: Joyce Jones. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The next show will air on Sunday, May 11, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this membership/fund drive special, Suga’ In My Bowl will feature Amiri Baraka Presente. We will continue to remember New Jersey’s Poet Laureate with a presentation, which was conceived, produced and hosted by The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church on April 5, 2014. WBAI recorded the event with cooperation and permission of The Poetry Project.

“Amiri Baraka at the Poetry Project” was held at St. Mark’s Church on April 5, 2014 and featured tributes to Amiri and readings of his works by several poets and musicians. Among those performing were Toi Derricote, Ammiel Alcalay, Quincy Troupe, Basil King, Martha King, Cornelius Eady and Rough Magic, Greg Tate, Oliver Lake, Julie Patton, David Henderson, Bob Holman, Latasha N Nevada Diggs, Steve Dalachinsky and Matthew Shipp, Tracie Morris and Vijay Iyer, Anne Waldman and Ambrose Bye, Devin Waldman, and Steven Taylor.

We’ll be offering the poetry tribute as a 2-CD set along with a 2011 broadcast of a conversation between Amiri Baraka, Joyce Jones, Hank Williams and and Kazembe Balagun on 2-CDs . The entire 4-CD package is available as a thank you gift for a pledge to WBAI. So pledge for the CD set or simply just donate to WBAI (any amount over $5) if you can, but be sure to join us for what’s sure to be a great show!

Broadcast show produced, engineered, edited, and hosted by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Suga in My Bowl thanks The Poetry Project and individual artists for their generosity in allowing us to record the event and their commitment to supporting listener sponsored community radio in New York City. Special thanks goes to Poetry Project Director Stacy Szymaszek and Program Manager Simone White, whose attention to detail and logistical help made the collaboration possible!

Special note: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 is Election Day in Newark, NJ. Poet and Amiri’s son Ras Baraka, whose campaign Amiri dedicated some of his last days on earth working on, is running for mayor. Details are at his campaign website.

Sunday 4/6/14 Show: The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughees

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The next show will air on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this installment, Suga’ in My Bowl sets off its celebration of National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month with a look at Langston Hughes. This week’s guest is Hughes biographer Arnold Rampersad. We will also take a quick look at a production of Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama” with Dr. Ron McCurdy, Professor of Music at the Thorton School of Music, University of Southern California.



Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. After graduation from high school, he spent a year in Mexico with his father, then a year studying at Columbia University. His first poem in a nationally known magazine was “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” which appeared in The Crisis magazine in 1921. In 1925, he was awarded the First Prize for Poetry of the magazine Opportunity, the winning poem being “The Weary Blues,” which gave its title to his first book of poems, published in 1926. As a result of his poetry, Mr. Hughes received a scholarship to the historically Black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he earned his B.A. in 1929. In 1943, he was awarded an honorary Litt.D. by his alma mater; he has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935), a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940), and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant (1947). From 1926 until his death in 1967, Langston Hughes devoted his time to writing and lecturing. He wrote poetry, short stories, autobiography, song lyrics, essays, humor, and plays. A cross section of his work was published in 1958 as The Langston Hughes Reader.

Dr. Rampersad’s 2-volume Hughes biography is considered the definitive work on the life and legacy of the great poet. Rampersad is an emeritus faculty member of Stanford University’s English Department and has written several critically acclaimed books, including biographical works on W.E.B. DuBois and Jackie Robinson.

Find out more information on Hughes on on the Langston Hughes Facebook page.

Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

Show produced, engineered, edited, and hosted by Joyce Jones.

Web Extras:

Read Langston Hughes’s 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, calling for art that explicitly speaks to Black audiences and draws from cultural experiences and traditions. It was written in response to George Schuyler’s “The Negro Art Hokum”. The University of Illinois’s Langston Hughes page has lots more poems that can be read online.

Watch actor Malcolm Jamal Warner perform Hughes’s “12 Moods for Jazz” with the Ron McCurdy Jazz Quartet:



Watch the entire performance of Dr. Ron McCurdy’s multimedia Hughes show at Pasadena City College. Video is 73 minutes long.

Sunday February 16th Show: Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka tribute

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The next show will air on Sunday, February 16th, 2013 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this membership/fund drive installment, Suga’ in My Bowl honors former Suga’ guests Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka to continue to not forget our cultural warriors as part of Black History Month. Join us as we celebrate their life work and influence with help from participants of a recent tribute hosted by the Institute of African American Affairs at New York University.

Don’t forget the program is the premium, so please tune in and donate whatever you can to help us continue this listener-supported experiment.



On Friday, December 28, 2012, Jayne Cortez left this world. Jayne Cortez was born in Arizona, grew up in California, and currently lives in New York City and Dakar, Senegal. She is the author of ten books of poems and performer of her poetry with music on nine recordings. Her voice is celebrated for its political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Cortez has presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. Her poems have been translated into many languages and widely published in anthologies, journals, and magazines. She is the recipient of several awards including: Arts International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International African Festival Award, The Langston Hughes Award, and the American Book Award. Her most recent books are The Beautiful Book (Bola Press, 2007), Jazz Fan Looks Back (Hanging Loose Press), and Somewhere In Advance of Nowhere (Serpent’s Tail Ltd). Her latest CD recordings with the Firespitter Band are Taking the Blues Back Home (Harmolodic and Verve Records); Borders of Disorderly Time and Find Your Own Voice (both by Bola Press). Cortez directed the film Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future, and organized the “Slave Routes the Long Memory” and “Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writer Dissecting Globalization” conferences. Both conferences were held at New York University. She was president of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. and appeared on screen in the films: Women In Jazz and Poetry In Motion.

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, Amiri Baraka left this world. Baraka’s Blues People (1963), remains a landmark work on African-American music a half-century after its publication. With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. His Obie award-winning play Dutchman (1963) and The Slave (1964), helped solidify the revolutionary aesthetics of Black Arts and laid claim to the movement’s position as the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement.

Baraka’s Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems includes the title poem that headlined him in the media in ways rare to poets and authors. The recital of the poem “that mattered” engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the very governor of New Jersey and with a legion of detractors demanding his resignation as the state’s Poet Laureate because of Somebody Blew Up America’s provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001.

Baraka lived in Newark with his wife and author Amina Baraka; they have five children and led the word-music ensemble, Blue Ark: The Word Ship. Baraka was Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his awards and honors included an Obie, the American Academy of Arts & Letters award, the James Weldon Johnson Medal for contributions to the arts, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants, and Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.

We’re not offering any special premium or thank-you gift this week. We’re just asking listeners who can to donate to WBAI in support of our show. You can give as little as $5 online and full station membership is $25. Anything you can pitch in will help a lot, especially in sending the message to station management that the type of show we do is still relevant.

Show produced, engineered, and hosted by Joyce Jones.

Both Baraka and Sanchez were profiled in previous full Suga’ in My Bowl shows, which can be found in our audio archives.

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