ADAM DAVID MILLER
Keep Sending Love Out
The Sky is a Page
Adam David Miller's much anticipated fifth book of poems was released March 2010.
The Sky is a Page: New and Selected Poems was his first poetry collection in 10 years.
For details, email ADM at firstname.lastname@example.org
About AdamDavid Miller
Adam David Miller is an African-American poet, writer, publisher, and radio programmer and producer.
Born in Dorchester County, South Carolina on October 8, 1922, Miller published one of the first collections of modern African-American poetry, as well as four books of poetry and a memoir, Ticket to Exile about his life growing up in the Jim Crow South.
Miller served in the United States Navy from 1942 -1946. He attended university on the G.I. Bill, earning a Masters Degree in English (1953) from the University of California at Berkeley where he also completed post-degree work in drama and helped found the university’s Graduate Student Journal, a magazine of opinion and art.
Throughout his career, Miller has promoted and published other writers. In Dices, Or Black Bones, (1970), he showcased the early poems of Al Young, California’s poet laureate (2005-2008), Ishmael Reed, Clarence Major, Lucille Clifton, Etheridge Knight and Victor Hernandez Cruz.
Miller’s own first book of poetry was Neighborhood and Other Poems, Forever Afternoon (1994), which won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award and was published by Michigan State University Press; next came Apocalypse Is My Garden (1997) and Land Between (2000).
Ticket to Exile, A Memoir, published by Heyday Books, was a finalist in the creative nonfiction category in the 2008 awards given out by the Northern California Book Reviewers Association and was one of three finalists in the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in 2008.
Miller taught English for 21 years at Laney Community College in Oakland, California where he helped create Good News, a campus and community journal of art and culture. He continued to teach at the UC Berkeley until 1991 and has twice been an Invited Fellow with the Bay Area Writing Project (1978 and 1994).
For six years, Miller served on the Berkeley Arts Commission and helped inaugurate the Addison Street “Poetry Walk” in Berkeley's renovated downtown arts district.
In the 1960s, Miller helped launch Aldridge Players West, a Black drama group in San Francisco. He also helped found Mina Press which published the unique cultural history Japanese American Women: Three Generations by Mei T. Nakano in 1990, as well as other works.
He has worked with San Francisco Bay Area public television and radio for over forty years, creating programs on Norwegian culture, women's labor history and the arts, including shows featuring the writings of Nisei (Japanese-Americans), the Triangle-Shirtwaist fire, mind-altering cults, and Freud's recovered memory controversy. He has been a regularly featured poet on listener-sponsored KPFA, 99.4 FM radio in Northern California.
Miller is married to Elise Peeples, novelist and philosopher. Her books are Strands (novel) and The Emperor Has a Body. She is also founder of Art Between Us, a collaborative art and healing organization, and Sound Rivers, a sound-healing organization. They make their home in Berkeley, California.
Published at www.examiner.com
April 5, 2010,10:46 AM by Jannie M. Dresser
An old African adage has it that "a man is free only when he names himself." At 86, poet and writer Adam David Miller has mastered the art of self-naming. Try as one might to pin him down, Miller does not take kindly to limiting epithets. Yes, he is a Berkeley poet and activist, but right away you sense the stereotypes attached to those tags that yearn to be shaken off. Miller has lived far too long and done too much to be so casually described.
He has published four books of prize-winning poetry and more recently a notable memoir, Ticket to Exile, but he also served several years in the United States Navy, was an English professor, and a community activist. He founded a publishing company (Eshu House) and helped to launch or maintain several other arts organizations. He has produced numerous radio and television shows, and continues to promote the work of others and take classes to expand his knowledge of writing and poetry. Ticket was honored with a nomination for best creative non-fiction of 2008 by the Northern California Book Association and was a finalist for the 2008 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. You can often see Miller riding his trike through Berkeley's streets, or at one of the hundreds of poetry readings or events around the City.
For 21 years, Miller taught English and creative writing at Laney Community College in Oakland, where he helped launch a community-written literary magazine. Until the 1990s, he continued to teach at University of California Berkeley and conducted workshops with the Bay Area Writing Project (now the National Writing Project, NWP). But as early as 1970, he was already helping to promote the writing of others when he compiled Dices, or Black Bones, a an award-winning anthology that featured many contemporary African-American writers, including Ishmael Reed and Al Young. It was selected in 1970 as the "Best Anthology" by the California Teachers of English.
Along with writing reviews and articles, Miller’s has mostly written poetry: Forever Afternoon, published by the University of Michigan Press received the prestigious Naomi Long Madgett Award. "For me, verse is more valuable for the particular moments of experience, and prose more suitable for a narrative of one’s life," says Miller, but during a writing retreat at the Vermont Studio Center, he felt compelled to shift gears. "I was sketching pieces about my childhood, and went out to walk in the snow." When he returned to his room, he found himself at the keyboard overcome with emotion. "I suddenly realized ‘I hurt.’" He recalled the incident that became the framing structure of Ticket.
The book’s dramatic core focuses on when, as a young man in Orangeburg, South Carolina,Miller was abruptly arrested and jailed because he passed a white girl a note that read "I would like to know you better," held on a charge of "attempted rape." She was a customer in the shop where he worked as a cobbler’s apprentice; he was black, she was white. It was clear the local sheriffs wanted to teach him a lesson. Miller's mother came to see him and let him know that his boss was arranging for a lawyer to get him out. He was released with no further punishment but exile; the experience left an indelible impression on him.
In Ticket to Exile, Miller evokes the Depression-era south in scenes from his childhood and adolescence in Orangeburg, a town segregated along old plantation lines. "You might have a street with a big house where a white person lived next to a row of houses inhabited by blacks." As Miller points out, "you did not have to segregate people physically in order to have social segregation." This is something many northerners do not understand, thinking instead that segregation is a suburban-urban issue where blacks are relegated to housing projects and ghettoized neighborhoods far from middle-class shopping malls and tract-homes or luxurious downtown condominiums. In the south, whites and blacks often lived near enough to know each other’s business and where the watchful eye of the White Citizen‘s Council and local police could back up the unspoken racial rules.
Miller’s hometown, known as "the Garden City" was the locale for a tragedy in 1968 when state troopers quelled a college students' protest over a whites-only bowling alley. It came to be known as the Orangeburg Massacre because the troopers fired into the crowd, killing three and wounding 27. It was the first incident in this country of killing of protesting students in search of social change. As recently as 1997, the Ku Klux Klan filed for permission to stage a march there. Now a city of about 13,000, with a large surrounding area, Miller reports that while some things have changed, many of the region's African-American population still live in poverty.
Miller’s memoir captures the terrifying oppression of such a time and place, adding a unique voice to the work-of-witness that memoir can provide. The fact that he became a writer is in itself a minor miracle, considering that schools were ‘separate and unequal.‘ "We were not taught to think that we could be writers," but his mother recited narrative poems to him and he had relatives and family friends who were great storytellers. Those who told ghost stories, in particular, activated his imagination.
"I must have had some feeling that I wanted to do something with writing since I once gave two quatrains to a young professor from the college when he came to the shoe shop where I worked." Miller recounts how his critic dismissed the poems but gave him a dime tip for polishing his shoes, twice the usual tip amount in those days. "With that sort of encouragement, you just don’t think of yourself as having an ambition to be a writer."
With his many publications, four books of "verse" as he likes to call them, and Ticket to Exile behind him, there is no doubt of Miller’s talent and perseverance. He is now focused on writing the second part of his life, his experiences in the segregated Navy and his years spent gaining an education. Of Miller’s work, Al Young, California's Poet Laureate emeritus, wrote that Miller “sings America from the raw heart of yet another of her darker brothers.” And may the chorus respond, Hallelujah!
by ADAM DAVID MILLER
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Moe's Bookstore, Telegraph Avenue, near the U.C. Berkeley campus.
Adam David Miller will be reading as part of the Marin Poetry Center's "Summer Traveling Poetry Show."
Freeee, As a Bird
You want to be free as a bird, you say.
Suppose you were a bird,
forced to make constant companion calls,
"Are you there, dear, are you there, where?"
knowing that in any instant
a predator will come and snatch
your love away, as they did with
your children, easy prey with their
blind adolescent squawking for food.
"Wise old bird," says exactly
what it means, for most birds don't live long.
That old robin in your backyard willoww
has wisdom of a sage, cunning of a fox,
agility of a tiger, stamina of an ox,
an awareness you can imagine but only.
Listen, friend, pause, stop, listen
to one slave to the belly, land,
sun, wind and tide.
Listen to the language of the bird,
learn what the bird is saying,
maybe to you?
-- Adam David Miller 1/18/2011
with thanks to Jon Young
You can see Adam David Miller
reading from his most recent book
of poetry, The Sky is a Page
at You Tube: