Author Archive | Joseph Ross


Darkness and Light

We are living the darkest days of the year. Today in Washington, D.C., the sun rose at 7:21am and will set tonight at 4:48pm. Only 9.5 hours of light. As we inch toward the Solstice, darkness will grow and then we will make a turn toward the light. We will make a turn. At least […]

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Jeff Rath’s THE OLD UTOPIA HOTEL: Poems that Name and Save

Jeff Rath’s new poetry collection, The Old Utopia Hotel describes a world marked by sorrow, loss, and decay. This is a hard book. Its beauty lies in its honesty and its craft. While one might think poems about sorrow, loss, and decay are a bit heavy– and some are heavy– the craft, the delicacy, and the surprising […]

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Aaron Counts’ STRANGE-TONGUED NAMES: Aware and Alive

Aaron Counts’ new poetry chapbook, Strange-Tongued Names offers us the chance to look at ourselves. This talented poet asks us who we are, where we’ve been, how we love. These are beautiful poems, elegant and smooth in their craft. But they are also important poems, these poems can help us be our best selves: aware and alive. […]

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When Conversation Heals

My last blog post, The Bloody Summer of 2016, recalled the violence we watched unfold this summer. The police killings of unarmed Black people, the slaughter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the killings of police officers in various cities. On my return to school, our Head of School urged us to gather students to […]

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LHughes copy

Writing and Teaching: The Bloody Summer of 2016

This has been a brutal summer. For sure, there have been some personal moments of tenderness and beauty. But taking a larger view, the summer of 2016 has been bloody. On June 12th, we woke to the horror of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. A gunman killed 49 people and injured […]

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Ethelbert Miller & I Talk Poetry, Jazz, Race, & America

Check out this great conversation here from “On The Margin” August 4th at 9:00am, where my friend, poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller, and I talk about ACHE, my upcoming book of poems, on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, D.C. We had a beautiful conversation about poetry, John Coltrane, jazz, Nelson Mandela, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Henry […]

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A Story to Love: PIGEON ENGLISH by Stephen Kelman

Harrison Opoku is a Ghanaian boy living in London. He lives in a high-rise housing project and he is fully, entirely alive. He is eleven years old. He asks excellent questions, wonders why people do cruel things to others, and seeks his way in the world. This book, told in Harri’s words, took me away […]

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we are charleston

WE ARE CHARLESTON: An Essential Book

Herb Frazier, Bernard Edward Powers, and Marjory Wentworth give us a great gift. Their new book, We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel, offers readers a beautifully woven account of  overlapping histories. This readable book offers the racial history of Charleston and the South generally, the powerful and creative history of Emanuel African […]

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A Magical Day in New York City

Some days are good. Some days are hard. Some days stand out even among the good ones. This day surely did for me. Wednesday, June 22, 2016 was a magical day. It began on the train– and I love taking the train. I boarded an early morning Amtrak at Union Station in Washington, D.C. heading […]

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The Road Is Made by Walking

At the end of last week, a very complicated week, I decided I could use a labyrinth walk. I’ve done this before. It often helps to settle difficult and sorrowful experiences. About twenty-five miles outside of Washington, D.C. the Bon Secours Sisters, a catholic community of nuns, run a retreat center. On the grounds of […]

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Sam & Vivian Ross, Pomona, 2003

My Father’s Goodness

Tomorrow, May 28th, marks the fourth anniversary of my father’s death. Every day I miss him. Every day I think of him and the many gifts he gave me. Often, his gifts came hidden in the choices and values of his own good life. He was born in Michigan, in 1918, of parents who immigrated […]

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

“…the dearest freshness…”

Gerard Manley Hopkins said it best. “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…”  he writes in his poem “God’s Grandeur.” When it comes to religious faith I have more questions than answers but I get the revitalization that comes with spring.  I don’t know if it’s just biology or something more. Is it just that […]

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