Last week we had the honor of hosting Iain Haley Pollock at Widener as part of the Distinguished Visiting Writer Series.  Pollock won the Cave Canem Prize in 2010 for his collection Spit Back a Boy; the prize honors first books by African American poets.  His work, heavily influenced by jazz and blues, speaks to race in America past and

Iain Haley Pollock reads at Widener
Iain Haley Pollock reads at Widener

present, fatherhood, and violence, among other themes.  In his poems, the streets and scenes of Philadelphia come alive, from Fairmount to Fishtown.  In addition to giving a reading of new and published poems, Pollock met with Widener Creative Writing students in one-on-one tutorials, providing feedback and an invaluable opportunity to meet with a gifted and generous writer.

One of Pollock’s poems:


This morning, the lovers—
who last night were slurring and stumbling
and when I looked out, each gripping
the other’s taut throat in a clench of callous
and nail—sit on their front steps. The woman
smokes an idle cigarette. The man lounges
two steps down from her and leans his head
into her lap. Beer cans and husks of blue crab
from their cookout scuttle by in languid breeze.
The woman flicks the stub of her cigarette
into the street and kisses her man on his forehead.
In the kitchen behind me, Naomi
turns on the coffee grinder. I look back at her
but don’t bother to complain about the racket
this time. I’m more interested in the lovers.
Or, I was—they’re boring me now.
I liked them better when the radio was pumping
from their open window, and they were clawing out,
under the streetlight, the terms of their love.

Listen to Pollock with Marty Moss-Coane on WHYY’s Radio Times here.