Author Archive | Joseph Ross

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August: The Perfect Month

Many will say “nothing is perfect.” But to me, August combines the beauty of summer’s warmth, the green explosion of trees, and the joy of returning to school. Where I live, in Washington, D.C., this August bursts with green. The rains of July make the trees a shine. Leaves on oaks, elms, and maples shimmer […]

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My Summer Reading: African Literature – Part 1

Many summers ago, I spent two months at the University of California, Berkeley, reading and studying African Literature. I had just finished a particularly difficult seminary year. I had also just completed graduate school at Notre Dame.  The seminary staff said I could take the summer for retreat and reading. I lived in a large […]

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When Your Doctor Says “Cancer” Part Three

When I was first diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer, eight months ago, I noted that I would occasionally forget my diagnosis. Perhaps it was the immersive nature of teaching, the normal turns of a busy life. But I would remember, every few days, and it surprised me. Perhaps the mind only lets us hold new […]

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Jesse Jackson, MLK, Ralph Abernathy at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

MLK 50 Years: What Killed Dr. King?

Fifty years ago today, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King and his group were preparing to leave the Lorraine Motel for dinner at the home of a local Memphis minister. His longtime friend from Montgomery, Ralph Abernathy, was in their room shaving. The young guys, Jesse Jackson, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young, and others, were in […]

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MLK 50 Years: “I May Not Get There with You”

Dr. King knew the movement he led for human dignity and peace was not about him. He knew the movement mattered more than his own individual life. While he knew his part in it, he understood he was only a part of it. It would continue after him and, of course, he was right. Though […]

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MLK 50 Years: Why Was Dr. King in Memphis?

Being a sanitation worker in Memphis was tough work. Black sanitation workers were paid sub-standard wages. They were not allowed to drive the trash trucks which meant they were exposed to weather all day long. But in February, 1968, just months before Dr. King would come to support them, an incident took place which galvanized […]

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MLK 50 Years: Do We Know Him?

Beginning today, the last day of March, 2018, and over the coming month, I will post various reflections on the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 4th, in just a few days, we will mark 50 years since his assassination in Memphis. Our country, and the world, is in deep need […]

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2018: Protest, Write, Heal, and Drum

2018 is here. As my American Literature students know, Henry David Thoreau urges us to “live deliberately.” They also know that Langston Hughes wrote repeatedly about the tragedy of “a dream deferred,” part of which can be understood as the need for intensity and focus in pursuing our dreams. One thing I’ve learned in this life […]

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Gratitude & Free Throws

As 2017 comes to its end, the daylight grows and we move toward more light. I love these days between the Winter Solstice and Christmas– and the first days of the new year, 2018. As a teacher, I have these days off but am looking forward to the new semester, its students, its poems. These […]

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Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

When Your Doctor Says “Cancer” — Part Two

Two months ago today, a urologist at George Washington University Hospital diagnosed me with low-grade prostate cancer. It’s interesting how the mind and heart internalize that kind of information, over time. While this diagnosis is likely very manageable and treatable, my mind has gone to several places with it over these last two months. As […]

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Boulder Bridge, Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

When Your Doctor Says “Cancer”

About a month ago, I was diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer. It was not discovered because of symptoms, but through a regular blood test during my annual physical exam. In fact, I feel great. Back in the summer, my annual physical showed a slightly elevated PSA, the common test for prostate cancer. My primary doctor […]

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Sarah Browning’s New Poetry Collection: KILLING SUMMER

Few poets can navigate the personal and the public. Sarah Browning is one of those rare poets. Her new collection, KILLING SUMMER, from Sibling Rivalry Press, makes its way beautifully through these rich and challenging waters. These poems think, they remember, they push, they lament. I will be reading and thinking over these poems for a […]

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Teaching Matters

America is churning these days. We have so much work to do, so much justice and goodness to build that it sometimes feels overwhelming. In these days just past the Charlottesville events, we are reminded again, how racist, violent, and cruel our country can be. We have to name these realities and face them or […]

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The Lesson of August

There is something glorious about August. For those of us whose lives are marked by the academic year, August marks the beginning of the end of summer. It’s warm. It’s alive. It’s green. August teaches me to savor everything. August is thirty-one days of bliss. While it marks the beginning of the end, it’s not […]

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Poetry, Justice, and the Holy Cross Sisters

Sometimes a poetry reading turns into something you do not expect. One of my readings last month became more beautiful than I could have planned. This summer has held many readings in support of my new book, Ache. Two of those readings were in South Bend, Indiana, where I lived for many years. The first of the […]

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