author – activist – faculty – mom
If I were still a childless adult, tonight would find me at the New Parish in Oakland, seeing Chinaka Hodge. Unfortunately, my evenings are generally spoken for, and I will likely be going to sleep by the time Chinaka comes on stage. The good news is that I saw her last week at Modern Times, and she was incredible.
This came as no surprise, as I have been teaching her poetry at UC Berkeley for years, from her collection For Girls with Hips (First Word Press, 2006). The new collection, Dated Emcees was just published by City Lights as part of their Sister Spit poetry series.
Chinaka has been revealing herself as an incredible writer since her teens, so her work in her early thirties sees her on the brink of her third decade writing. Recently I spoke with a teacher who talked about how some of her students had “peaked in high school.” With Chinaka, I don’t think there’s a peak. It’s just all high level work. It’s not about “she showed so much promise when she was young, and now she’s even better” more like “Chinaka continues to bear witness with brilliance to all the fierceness and struggle of what it is to be black and female, as part of what it is to be human and attuned to the world.”
In my fantasy version of this moment, I had finished the book and would write a stellar poetic analysis as part of this post. In reality, my daughter is at a camp where days end early and I’m lucky to meet all my deadlines. But you can read the excerpt here.
This is what Marc Bamuthi Joseph had to say about the collection:
“Ms. Hodge’s collection complicates dogmatic notions of feminist principles and hip hop pathologies. She is the steward of a candid and sonorous new form, a lyrical journalism expressed in a meter that climbs from West Oakland’s Bottoms to the peak of a Wonder-laced rocket love. Dated Emcees is outlined in the matter of black life, streamlined through the filter of black womb . . . a smoke-filled lung in a sweat-filled club of safety and danger, and the bass of black moon.”––Marc Bamuthi Joseph, arts activist, spoken word artist, US Artists Rockefeller Fellow
Tonight at the New Parish will be a particularly special opportunity to see her work, because she will be performing with Chukwudi Hodge, Aleah Bradshaw, Obasi Davis, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Ryan Nicole, plus Special Guest DJs. Chukwudi Hodge is her brother, and I do believe I booked him to drum at a family festival in the 90s when he was another child prodigy from the Hodge family.
If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you can get the book from City Lights.
But if you do live in the Bay Area….
I have a kid to put to bed tonight. What’s your excuse? Get to the New Parish.