Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hammering on Rocks with Joseph Ross @JosephRoss27 @YohuruWilliams

Before setting out for home last night, I wandered over to the Kelley Center on Fairfield University's campus to meet Joseph Ross and to hear him read from his new publication, Gospel of Dust. Ross, a high school English teacher in DC, is a member of DC Poets Against War and an educator who explores faith, spirituality, and meaning through tight, reflective prose. His poetry tackles history, race, and place. He contemplates heroes, biblical passages, and the ways words (prayers) work with (and against) difficult times.

From his poem, "Hammering on Rocks - for Nelson Mandela" the poet penned, "Hammering on rocks / can break the hammerer's back." Ross praises the S. African champion for human rights, "Somehow you also knew / the rocks you cracked / into two decades' dust / were watering the country / who sat silently in your cell, / more a prisoner than you.

Joseph Ross began the evening with discussion of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings.  He drew from a Catholic upbringing and how he came to make music out of reflective contemplations. His style brings insight into his understanding of the world through spirituality, global inequities, curiosity. I couldn't help but think of the THE GREAT WHATEVER as he shared his special work. The poetry didn't preach, didn't scold, and didn't bite. Instead, it pondered meaning through verse with gentle grace.

Although the audience was few, the impact of Ross's writing was enormous. His brevity as a poet is concise, but the delivery provides a delicate punch. For example, in one of the two poems he wrote about 'Cool Disco Dan,' a graffiti artist in Washington, D.C., "because sometimes, only graffiti can say: / This is my body, given up to you."


As Rose Marie Berger wrote in praise for Gospel of Dust, "in Joseph Ross' poems something is also rising."

Joseph Ross' words, shared generously at Fairfield University last night, are connected to a grander plan. It was a bonus to my Tuesday and a great way to close out the day.

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