poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

June 27, 2013


Happy 98th Birthday to Grace Lee Boggs! To see why I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of the past 13 years, see the NEW documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs: www.americanrevolutionaryfilm.com The film just won the AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE at the Los Angeles Film Festival. AND there is an excellent review in Variety. Get on the mailing list, Like the film on Facebook, and/or Follow @GLBoggsFilm or @GraceLeeBoggs on Twitter to see when the film is coming to your town (or organize a screening)! The film is directed by the incredible Grace Lee (of the Grace Lee Project). And yes, if you’re paying attention, I have brief cameo shots in both films. 🙂

Join us this Saturday, June 29, 2013, for a FREE film screening at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the DIA, followed by a reception in the DIA’s beautiful Rivera Court (where the Diego Rivera murals are). Peep the flyer and help spread the word:



April 9, 2011

Haikus of Daughter’s Hope in Detroit

I found some old journals, with a series of poems that I wrote four years ago, when my daughter was just a baby, learning to walk and talk. Here are one weekend’s worth of my favorite haikus: poems that have exactly 17 syllables, usually with three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each. Coincidentally, I wrote these when she was 17 months old, a very precious age. With thanks to: our Detroiters Dream for Children group for their constant inspiration; to Julia Putnam and Jackie Victor for always asking, “Where do we see hope in the city for our children?”; and to Grace and Jimmy Boggs for always asking, “What can we be that our children can see?”

Haikus of Hope in Detroit:

17-Month-Old Daughter’s 17 Syllables

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Friday-Sunday, March 23-25, 2007

Stroller Ride Home from Preschool

“Ha? What’s that?” she points

at the working stoplight, with

cooing river winds.



“Uh-oh,” she states,

raking plastic grocery bags

fallen to the ground.

Rice and Resistance

Hope rests in toddler’s

balled fist: full of sticky rice,

she opens to share.

* * * www.emilylawsin.com * * *

April 4, 2011

Poem for Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige on their Book Launch

Here is the poem that I performed yesterday at Grace and Scott’s book party. It was an honor to share the stage with Danny Glover (who wrote the Foreword to the book), Grace, Scott, Kathy Sanchez, Alice Jennings, Starlet, Diana Nucera, Jenny Lee, Invincible and Blair. It was an amazing event; thank you to Catherine Jun of the Detroit News for her article on it here: http://tinyurl.com/DetNewsTNAR

I wrote this poem after reading this:

“Grace Lee Boggs says she would like the chapter titles of her new book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, written with Scott Kurashige, to become buzzwords for progressive activists.”  ~ Larry Gabriel, Metro Times, March 30, 2011

The bold-faced items below are the titles of each chapter; there are also some great links (in brown font) to some of the references. Thank you to everyone who made this possible, especially Rich Feldman who pushed me to perform.


What Time is It on the Clock of the World?

© by Emily P. Lawsin

for Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige, on the launch of their book

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Detroit – April 3, 2011

“What time is it on the clock of the world?” Grace always asks.

Sometimes she poses it to a classroom of starving students

Or an auditorium of activists, hungry for her every word.

Sometimes she cackles it to a crew of close comrades in the Cranberry Isles

on the shores of Sutton Island during Conversations in Maine.

Sometimes she jabs and jousts journalists with it, on television, radio, and in print,

With stars as pointed as the Spirit of Detroit and the quickness of Joe Louis’ fist.

“What time is it on the clock of the world?”

The question, as just a faint whisper,

can perplex even profound poets perpetrating as professors.

But now, I finally have some answers:

“What time is it on the clock of the world?”

Grace writes, right: “These Are the Times to Grow Our Souls“,

That   is what time it is.

It is time to put the “neighbor” back in the “hood”

By planting gardens instead of defense plants,

By growing vegetables instead of vegetating,

We will see “Revolution as a New Beginning“,

Not just in foreign countries where war still wages,

But in our own bombed-out city where people power rages.

“What time is it on the clock of the world?”

Well, it is our time. Our time to confront these challenges

Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, with the brilliance of Grace.

So  “Let’s Talk about Malcolm and Martin”,

On this anniversary of ” A Time to Break Silence“,

How they gave us the anthems “By All Means Necessary” and “I Have a Dream”

Yet did not live long enough to see The Next American Revolution.

Then we return here, to the Cass Corridor, from the Eastside, to the Westside,

from Black Bottom, Paradise Valley, Poletown, and abandoned Chinatowns,

from Belle Isle to Palmer Park and Indian Village, from Mexicantown, to Rosedale

and down the Dequindre Cut:  on foot,   in wheelchairs,  on Back-Alley-Bikes,

and even on late-night busses, broken down on Rosa Parks Boulevard,

because the Motor City remains the irony of all ironies.

“Detroit, Place and Space to Begin Anew”: we salute you, for giving us

“A Paradigm Shift in Our Concept of Education,

Where even blind, abused, and Queer youth can sing aloud

Like Starhawk “Turning the Tide”, beyond the tragedies of Motown;

Where Black Panthers grow peace zones overflowing with possibility.

Where thanks to the Gardening Angels and our doulas from Detroit Summer,

our five-year-old daughter learns to throw flower bombs in vacant lots,

Sprouting peapods and tulips where fires once blazed,

Because “These are the Times to Grow our Souls”.

What time is it on the Clock of the World?

It is the time that sustains us activists, times like these that bind us together.

We thank you, Grace and Scott and Danny, for writing us into the pages of history when no one else would,

For teaching us that  YES! indeed,    YES! Indeed,

You are, – and we, – “We are the Leaders We’ve Been Looking For”.

*  *  *

L-R: Actor/humanitarian Danny Glover signs books with Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige, in Detroit, April 3, 2011. Photo by Emily Lawsin.

“We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. . .  Art can help us to envision the new cultural images we need to grow our souls.”  ~Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

www.graceleeboggs.com www.boggscenter.org

Help fund a new documentary on Grace Lee Boggs! See http://americanrevolutionaryfilm.com/




September 20, 2008





The BEST part of Friday night’s show at Boston Progress Arts Collective’s East Meets West Bookstore happened when we were locking up the joint. One MC (who I don’t want to name because I’m not trying to embarrass him) started jumpin’ up and down when he found out I know Invincible. Seriously.

He said, “Hey, you’re from Detroit. Do you know Invincible?”

“Yes, of course I do. She’s a good friend of ours. She’s Anak’s Auntie Ilana.”

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, she knows Invincible! She knows Invincible!” he screamed, jumping and grabbing all the hip hop heads. Pretty soon they were all around me starry-eyed saying, “We LOVE Invincible. We LOVE Shapeshifters. Do you have her new album Shapeshifters?

“Of course I do, we’re investors.” (Partner later told me that we’re actually not “financial” investors, but I told him we should be.) Anyway, I don’t know what they would’ve done if I told them Ilana gave us the rough cut of the CD too. 

The fans continued, “Oh my god, we were waiting and waiting for years for Invincible to come out with her own album, and then when she came out with Shapeshifters this year, we were so happy!

“So happy. It is off the hook!” another said.

“Oh my god, you know Invincible. We are such big fans of Invincible. Wait, wait, how do you know her?”

“We were all volunteers with this intergenerational youth program called Detroit Summer–“

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! We know Detroit Summer. From her song ‘Locusts‘.


“Do you have the L.A.M.P. CD? They came out with a CD,” I said.

“Oh yeah, the L.A.M.P. CD, so cool. Oh my god, she knows Invincible. I can’t believe it.”

I don’t know what they would’ve done if I told them we gave Ilana half of our household items when we left Detroit (all of which are embarrassingly described in last month’s incredible Metro Times cover story, here).

“Wait, how did you guys discover Invincible?” I asked.

“We heard her track years ago on this group — the Platinum Pied Pipers CD and we loved it.”

Yes, Detroit Winter: “if you can’t take the winter, you don’t deserve the summer.” I think these fans might have a heart attack if I show them the pictures on my computer of PPP’s live show (with Invincible) from Detroit’s Taste Fest ’05.

Invincible performs with Platinum Pied Pipers at Detroit Taste Fest, July 4, 2005. (c) Photo by Scott Kurashige.

Invincible performs with Platinum Pied Pipers at Detroit Taste Fest, July 4, 2005. (c) Photo by Scott Kurashige.

“Oh my god. She knows Invincible. We would love to meet her.”

“Hey, if you guys want to bring her out here for a show, she can stay with us, no problem. Just let me know. We can call her right now.”

“That would be so dope. We should do that,” they said.


I think you’re way overdue for a Boston show.

And Anak would love to see you too!!! 🙂

Now, I tell this story because it was so heartwarming to see that these young bloods all the way in Boston love Invincible just as much as those of us in Detroit do. They recognize her true gift with words and music. After all her years of struggle and serving our community, she deserves recognition and success, especially with her new album. Shapeshifters.

If you don’t have one yet, get yours today at http://www.emergencemusic.net/store .

And tell Mike I sent you. 😛

I also tell this story because it shows how really small this world is. AND that if you find the radical/progressive artists in any city, they are going to know YOU/your radical/progressive artist friends too.

I mean, if you are currently an artist-activist from Detroit and you don’t know Invincible, then you are either:

  • a) not really an artist,
  • b) not really a community activist, or
  • c) not really from Detroit.


Minamahal/Much love to Ilana for giving me some street cred!!! 🙂

As we all told Grace during Conversations in Maine,

“Detroit is a part of us. It is always in our hearts. We will take Detroit wherever we go.”


Miss you all much.  xoxox  ;-*

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: