A Note from Mel

Make the connection…

New Publisher on the Block! Cherry Castle Publishing June 9, 2016


I joyfully took on the role of Poetry Editor for an exciting new press, Cherry Castle Publishing.


Cherry Castle Publishing, LLC is one of America’s newest and most energetic publishers of great literature—a press where words grow mighty trees. It is a press that honours the vibrant multicultural voice of American literature, one book at a time. Our fundamental commitment is to practice literary equality and to embrace work that is informed by the social, political and cultural vigor of our times.


The press has put out exciting new work, We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters by beloved DC poet Brian Gilmore, and “This” Ameri-can-ah by prolific poet Curtis L. Crisler.


Truth Thomas, the founder of Cherry Castle Publishing, delved into children’s literature with the amazing protagonist, Mya, who challenges the images and morality standards fed to her by her television in My TV is Not the Boss of Me.


New work is forthcoming from the press, including the exciting anthology, Songs for a Passbook Torch, which will include works by varied poets and writers in honor of Nelson Mandela’s freedom-fighting legacy.


Stay abreast of this fresh new publisher’s news and publications at: http://www.cherrycastlepublishing.com/index.html.


In love and poetry,


Melanie Henderson



P.S. We continue to accept submissions for the Mandela Anthology. If you have a gem or two or three that addresses the tough beauty of this ancestor, feel free to send. Check the guidelines below.


We are looking for poetry and short essays that:
(1) honor Nelson Mandela’s freedom fighting legacy (first and foremost);
(2) offer tribute to Winnie Mandela for her related activism, and all appropriate others active in the anti-apartheid struggle;
(3) shine light on the past and present fight for racial justice in SA (particularly in the context of police brutality);
(4) shine light on the profound similarities between police brutality in SA under the height of Apartheid, and current race-based police brutality in America.
Songs for a Passbook Torch, edited by award-winning poets, Truth Thomas and Melanie Henderson, is scheduled for publication when all the type is right. Payment will be in the form of one contributor’s copy.

Send your work as a SINGLE attachment (.doc; .docx; .rtf; PDF). Submit up to five previously unpublished poems and essays (honoring a 3,000 word limit) to:


Please direct questions to editor@cherrycastlepublishing.com
THE SUBMISSION PERIOD FOR THIS ANTHOLOGY IS CURRENTLY OPEN-ENDED. Decisions for inclusion in the anthology will be made on a rolling basis




Where I’ll Be at AWP: Nikky Finney at HU, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2-4 pm January 30, 2011


Come and celebrate the release of “Head Off & Split” by legendary poet and activist, Nikky Finney, @ Howard University, Blackburn Gallery Lounge. Thursday, February 3rd, 2-4 pm. Refreshments will be provided!


After “For Colored Girls:” When a Black Man Tells a Black Woman’s Story November 6, 2010

This was my first time seeing a TP production in theatre, but I watched his other stuff on DVD. Somebody I knew always had one (or ten) of his DVDs. I am particularly turned off by hype and was never moved enough by the content of the previews to spend dollars. But this time, a trusted creative writer’s work, “For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” was behind the hype. Had to see for myself.

Good or bad?  I guess how it was depends on how much salt you take with— do you want Ntozake Shange or Tyler Perry? Can there really be a happy medium? Maybe. The Shange moments shine, though there is plenty Perry in this movie for better or for worse.

Nevertheless, the acting was awesome though I couldn’t wait for Janet’s scenes to end. The green contacts she wears somehow limits access to her character and distracts from her already tampered-with beauty (though I love the new hair cut). I loved hearing the poems come from Rashad’s and Divine’s mouths like small flowers. The poetic delivery was superb.

On the other hand, there is the typical down-low brother (that is not in the original choreopoem) and has been done over and over again in nearly half of black movies over the past 10 years. I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil, but the fashion in which the DL brother is introduced to this film is not fresh or ground-breaking enough to break from original script; I don’t think it helped the movie one bit.

There are scenes that are hard for anyone to watch, but more so, for a mother. I resented these parts a bit and I could not keep my face dry. Extremely painful. I kept asking Perry (as if he was sitting next to me in the theatre), sensationalist or purist in intent? Was it necessary to go that far and at who’s expense?

For high points, the cast. Great choices. Awesome execution.

Low points, 1) some content didn’t match with the time. The 70s struggled with the 10s; 2) an overly-sensational scene here and there; 3) brothers depicted with no dimension (in a book about women); and 4) Tyler Perry’s typical PSA moments showed up somehow anyway.

I will say, this production is clearly no slap-stick Madea. I guess “good” or “bad” is not descriptive or accurate enough. For those who haven’t seen it, see it for yourself—listen to the poetry. Some worthy moments. Some less worthy.



Literary Apartheid by jessica Care moore July 21, 2010



Ms. Lucille February 14, 2010

Filed under: People in the World of Art — anotefrommel @ 4:35 am
Tags: , , ,

Heartbreak on the eve of Valentine’s Day, mother poet, Lucille Clifton passed yesterday morning. I learned the beautiful poet and good woman had gone on via text message, an appropriately simple: “We have lost Lucille.” The message came from a poet who loves her as much as I do. I feel fortunate for the loving source who understands and feels the weight of such news.

When someone dies, we tend to use euphemisms like “passing on,” “giving up the ghost”, etc. But one euphemism that is inapplicable to the death of Ms. Clifton is “no longer with us.” Lucille’s smile, bravery, fearlessness and willingness to make war with a tempered voice will never ever leave those who knew her, those who met her, those who heard her read, or read her powerhouse poems. I always smiled whenever I saw an image of her; She looks so much like my maternal grandmother with her perfect brown complexion, round head and low gray haircut common to cancer fighters and survivors.

Lucille Clifton

My Maternal Grandmother

My grandmother born a year after Ms. Lucille lost her battle with colon cancer over 10 years ago; I loved that Lucille was winning and fiercely alive and with us.  So powerful was she when she wrote,

“Come let’s celebrate, that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.”

Alas, eventually, something does take over. We, who have loved her each for our own reasons, are all quieted by the loss of such a perfect spirit.

May you rest well, Mother Lucille. Your work here has been grand. Thank you with many, many tears and your bravery behind our pens.


On Lucille’s Rite of Passage

Filed under: People in the World of Art — anotefrommel @ 4:35 am
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On Lucille’s Rite of Passage

after Lucille Clifton, Motherpoet

(June 27, 1936 – February 13, 2010)


My hands are weak.

Fingers heavy as ready breasts

for a full-bellied son.

I have no wisdom,

none greater than has dewed

from the dawn of your round

bones, mother cheeks

like the promise of pretty brown moles,

your low gray hair makes me proud

to know my tongue’s texture,

knowing for a being, both

black and female, all citrus is not sour,

most fruits will not be sweet.

We trust our ready buds to name

the difference, identify the bruises.

My eyes follow the dark paths

on the pale side, respect the wait

in my palms for the day I can say

your name the right way.

– Mel


Return of a Black Shadow December 14, 2009

Return of a Black Shadow


Most mornings, I drive to work. But after a weekend of tree-trimming with babyboy, baking, and gift-wrapping, I was running a little low on energy and time. So, I took a walk to work so the sounds of the city could wake me. While walking down K Street near what used to be the Sursum Cordas Project (moment of silence…it’s all electric-wired fences and unkempt grass now), I happened to look down. Low and behold, I saw a soggy postcard:


I remember how the mystery and persistence in the bold angles and curves of blackprint gave a sort of haunting feeling to all travels through the District in the 80s. Honestly, I was terrified that this Dan person seemed to be everywhere like a phantom. He had a haunting, constant, over-arching presence. I remember asking my mom, “Who is Cool Disco Dan?” She didn’t know. I never knew. After a while, I didn’t care. Figured he was locked up somewhere for all that damn tagging. But, I did know this dude was on a mission to imprint his character across the District as often, as prominently, and as boldly as he could. From what I can remember, he never used colors like other taggers. But then, he wasn’t your average tagger or graffiti artist. You could tell he was serious about this. I mean, his tag was under bridges at heights it seemed only Spiderman could reach. Always in black. His tags stood out the best in the rain, letters bursting at the hips like one of my uncles old girlfriends he had met at the go-go. His girlfriends always had Saartjie Baartman booties.

It’s funny, I wasn’t particularly a fan of Cool Disco Dan spraying himself all over town, on buildings, walls, trash cans, I mean, anywhere. But now, the little postcard with the familiar bold print makes me nostalgic for a totally different DC.

Of course, there were a lot of things about the 80s in DC that are worth forgetting, but there was a flavor and a heat about the city then that seems to be trickling away at an uncontrollable pace. The retail shops filling up old Chinatown. Humongous condos blocking the neighborhood’s perfect view of fireworks on the Mall from New York and New Jersey Avenue. No more midnight basketball at White & Colored (New York Avenue Court) because the parks close at dark. Strange, the neighborhood once affectionately known as simply New York Avenue is now “Truxton Circle” and “Mt. Vernon” according to Historic Preservation. They’re preserving something, but nothing I remember. I miss the O Street Market. The numerous fireworks stands lining the major thoroughfares of DC at the crack of summer. The feelgood of the annual Black Family Reunion. It’s all different. Some change is good. Just some. But what can I say. Some of us are still here and will always remember that once upon a time in DC.

Thanks Cool Disco Dan for taking me back for a spell.

Based on the postcard, it seems Cool Disco Dan has grown up! Entrepreneur with a product to sell. Check him out at www.CoolDiscoDan.com.


Washington, DC Poetry Tour November 19, 2009

Washington, DC Poetry Tour

Our nation’s capital through the eyes of its great poets.

(Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation)





Poetry Foundation Launches Poetry Tour of Washington, DC

Free downloadable audio tour shines a literary light on the nation’s capital.

CHICAGO-The Poetry Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the Washington, DC, Poetry Tour. The interactive tour, freely available at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrytour <http://thepoetryfoundation.createsend3.com/t/r/l/huhudj/l/r> , reveals our nation’s capital through the eyes of its great poets, including Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Elizabeth Bishop, among many others. From the hallowed halls of the federal buildings to neighborhood side streets, the tour features poems written in and about DC, as well as original photographs by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis.

Narrator and inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander leads the tour from the stacks of the Library of Congress to Civil War battlefields to the Capitol steps, from the National Zoo to the U Street Corridor to the Busboys & Poets Café. Archival recordings from canonical poets including Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Sterling Brown, Randall Jarrell, and Ezra Pound chronicle DC’s rich literary history, while contemporary poets such as Linda Pastan, Quique Avilés, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Ayala, A.B. Spellman, and Jane Shore share their experiences, through both poetry and commentary, of national monuments and monumental poets alike.

The DC Poetry Tour presents the development of the capital’s poetry scene over the last century and a half, from its interplay with musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Ben Webster, to the creation of the office of poet laureate, to the legendary literary salons hosted by Georgia Douglas Johnson, to the multifaceted work of numerous poet-activist groups. Local poets and scholars-including E. Ethelbert Miller, director of the Afro-American Studies Resource Center at Howard University; David Gewanter of Georgetown University; and Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway magazine-provide the framework for understanding the moments and movements that have shaped DC’s literary culture.

Listeners to the tour, which includes 34 stops throughout the National Mall and Northwest DC, learn that Washington is not only our government’s headquarters but an important American literary capital as well. Historical images and artifacts provide a glimpse into DC’s storied past, while photographs by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, who was born and raised in Washington, give viewers an inside look at DC’s neighborhoods and people. Poem text is presented along with original audio recordings and archival images, as listeners step into the national arenas that continue to inspire poets today.

“Tracing the history of American poetry against the culture and geography of our national capital helps readers develop a better sense of our shared literary heritage,” notes Anne Halsey, media director of the Poetry Foundation. “Poetry lovers visiting Washington can download free audio tours and maps to take guided poetry walking tours of the National Mall or Northwest DC-but you don’t have to be in DC to explore the city’s literary history. The full multimedia tour can also be experienced virtually at poetryfoundation.org/poetrytour.”

Beginning at the Library of Congress-the home of the first Poetry Consultant, Archibald MacLeish-the tour discusses the contributions of such heralded poets as Robert Lowell, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams. MacLeish declares, “A poem should not mean / But be.” Later, Williams fashions a modernist American poetry: “Never reverse a phrase that is your language as you speak it . . . Then you’ve started to create a culture in your place as you are.”

Contemporary poets from throughout the Beltway also present poems. Poets such as Brian Gilmore, who relates his personal interest in Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Myra Sklarew, who discusses May Miller, recognize the influence of their predecessors, reflecting upon them as President John F. Kennedy did when he spoke of Robert Frost: “Our national strength matters; but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost.”

The Washington, DC, Poetry Tour, an original production of the Poetry Foundation created in collaboration with Tierra Innovation, was written and produced by Curtis Fox. Special collaborators on the project include Grace Cavalieri, Katie Davis, Patricia Gray, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Beltway magazine editor Kim Roberts.

For more information, go to http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrytour <http://thepoetryfoundation.createsend3.com/t/r/l/huhudj/l/y>


the folks on langston way October 19, 2009

Filed under: In Photos,People in the World of Art — anotefrommel @ 8:22 am
the folks on langston way

(left to right: katey richie, derrick weston brown, fred joiner, truth thomas, randall's long-time friend, melanie henderson, randall horton, d'ana downing)


Trust and Music September 22, 2009

Someone whom I trust, dearly, shared a song with me a few weeks ago. The song was “Be Real Black for Me” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. If you’ve heard this song, you already know how genuine and sincere the lyrics are. But Flack and Hathaway deliver it magically. I had never heard this song before except in Scarface’s sampling of it in “My Block.”


I was happy to learn there was an entire CD of Flack and Hathaway duets, so I bought it with the quickness.  There’s so much variety in it, a devastatingly bluesy treatment of I (Who Have Nothing), originally by Ben E. King, an almost taunting rendition of You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, originally by the Righteous Brothers, a song from their church roots, Come Ye Disconsolate, and piano solo, Mood.  The self-titled Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway is probably the best purchase I’ve made all year and it hasn’t gotten old yet. I play it every morning like kneeling for a prayer. I walk differently, speak differently all day because of it. I play it when my son and I are driving home. He especially likes to sing the grand finish of Be Real Black for Me in his strongest, most joyful 2 year-old voice. I love it when he chimes in to duet with me.