Upcoming Trafficke Events: Readings & Talks

24 September 2016: Fall for the Book festival, George Mason University. “Slavery and Beyond: Recovering History through Family Memory,” discussion with author Karen Branan and historian Anthony Cohen. 3:00-4:15. Building: Research 163. Public parking in the Mason Pond deck.

2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, April 14-17, Washington D.C. “Migration & Identity: Interrogating Privilege through Poetry.” Details TBA (we expect to hear the time of our panel soon).  I will read from Trafficke and talk about the research, the Magruder history, and our responsibility to the truth of our personal family histories. My fellow panelists are Marcos L. Martinez, Sean Pears, & Benjamin Brezner. Open to all, though you must register to attend festival events. See the web site for reduced rates to students and those with low income.

Sun, 28 Feb 2016: 2:00-3:30. Reading from Trafficke, with Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree (Simon & Schuster, 2015), her investigation of a “kinship lynching” within her family in Jim Crow Georgia @ The Writers Center, Bethesda. Check out Karen’s web site.

Mon, 1 Feb 2016: 7:00-8:30: Reading from & talking about Trafficke, with Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree @ Busboys & Poets, Hyattsville MD.

Tues, 17 Nov: 7:00. Reading from Trafficke, @  University of Illinois, Springfield. Great Room of Lincoln Residence Hall, 2160 Vachel Lindsay Drive, Springfield, IL 62703. Parking lots right by the building, I’m told.

Fri, 16 Oct: 2:00-4:00. Presenting “20 Years of Trafficke: A Poet’s Expedition through History, Legend, Race, Genre,” @ American Folklore Society Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA. Panel event #06-03: Performances & After-Words: Poets and Storytellers on Research, the Creative Process, & Beyond, with Margaret Yocom, Milbre Burch, & Joseph Sobol. Room: Centennial C.

Fri, 9 Oct: 7:00. Reading from Trafficke @ University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. University Center, Room 303. Follow signs in the building. Parking is open to visitors (other than handicap or reserved spaces) after 4:00 pm on Fridays.

23 July: Quiddity has put my interview about Trafficke on line, along with an excerpt from “In Purpose at My Booke.” Read it there, or download here. Tichy_interview-1

Sun, June 14, 5:00. House Reading, Springfield, IL. Please email for location & directions.

Sat, June 6, 7:00. Reading from Trafficke at the Barrelhouse Presents, along with Lance Phillips & Matthew Rohrer. Upshur Street Books, 827 Upshur Street NW, Washington, D.C..

Sat, May 16, 10:00. Reading from Trafficke at the monthly meeting of Coming to the Table, D.C. Westminster DC Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street SW. 202-484-7700. http://www.westminsterdc.org

Wed, Apr 15, 7:30: Reading from Trafficke, with my colleagues Sally Keith, Eric Pankey, & Alan Cheuse @ GMU’s Spring Leaves mini-festival. GMU, Johnson Center, Room C.

Ahsahta Dotterie MPLS 2015

Looking a little retro, at the Ahsahta Press reading on Saturday night! Thanks to Michelle Detorie for the photo.

AWP Events, 2015: Oh dear, there seem to be a lot of them…

Wed, Apr 8, 5:00-6:30:GMU Faculty Poets + 2 Alums, celebrating our newest books. Jennifer Atkinson (Canticle of the Night Path, 2012), Cynthia Marie Hoffman (Paper Doll Fetus, 2014), J. Michael Martinez (In the Garden of the Bride House, 2015), Eric Pankey (Crow Work, 2015), Peter Streckfus (Errings, 2014), Susan Tichy (Trafficke, 2015). Ice House, 2528 Nicollet Ave, South Minneapolis, MN 55404. Stay for drinks & dinner. Reservations available. http://www.icehousempls.com/

Thurs, Apr 9, 11:00-12:00: Signing copies of Trafficke, Gallowglass, & Bone Pagoda @ Ahsahta Press tables in the book fair, #1029 & 1031.

Sat, Apr 11, 7:30-???: Ahsahta Press Reading@ The Nicollet, 1931 Nicollet Avenue (NE corner of Franklin & Nicollet). http://www.the-nicollet.com/

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Thurs, 26 Mar, 12:00-1:30: Twenty Years in Trafficke: A Poet’s Expedition through History, Legend, Race, & Genre. GMU Fairfax Campus, Robinson A, Room 447 (English Dept. conference room). Joining my colleague Beth Hoffman in a department colloquium. All are welcome.

13 Mar: Trafficke will be guest of honor at a Book Party & House Reading, D.C., by invitation.

2 Mar: Stop by for a tour of Apartment 5, great new online living space for poetry, edited by Bryan Koen, Jack Snyder, & Michael Joseph Walsh…with an excerpt from Trafficke + poems from Siwar Masannat’s forthcoming book, 50 Water Dreams living next door to Eric Pankey, Rod Smith, Joshua Ware, & C. Dylan Bassett

31 Dec: The new issue of the international literary journal Quiddity includes an interview about Trafficke and an excerpt from one of its sections, “In Purpose at My Booke.”

Michael W. Twitty: I Can’t Hide Mine, Please Don’t Hide Yours: An Open Letter to Ben Affleck

By now (courtesy of WikiLeaks) most of the world has heard that when actor Ben Affleck appeared on Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., he persuaded Gates and the other producers to omit the revelation that his third great-grandfather, Benjamin Cole, owned slaves in Savannah, Georgia. For the show, it was a missed opportunity not only to illustrate the true complexity of our history but also to demonstrate that each of us has a choice in our own actions. Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor is on his mother’s side, while his mother herself was an activist who traveled to Mississippi during one of the most dangerous phases of the Civil Rights movement.

Among the hundreds of responses to the outing of Affleck’s secret, here is one of the best, by Michael W. Twitty at Afroculinaria. Even more amazing are the family stories posted in the comments that follow. Really, it’s like poking an anthill: just one good jab and the truth of our history comes pouring out.


Dear Ben,

Its unfortunate because of a massive internet hack we are in this particular place discussing your ancestral past. It’s horrible that your private matters were exposed because of something beyond your control. That’s untenable in any situation, but we need to address something right quick…this slavery thing.  You were embarassed, and that’s reasonable given the situation and the circumstances that produced it. But Ben Affleck, take it from a Black guy; with a platform like yours, don’t you dare be embarrassed to come from an ancestor who held enslaved people. Because….We need to know.

I don’t think many Black people really understand the profound guilt, shame or embarassment some white descendants of slave holding families feel. It’s not just that many assume personal responsibility for the past or that they grasp that their privilege or power is not just based on perceptions based on skin color.  Clearly these…

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Trafficke coverPurchase a copy at Small Press Distribution or Amazon.

Obsessively interrogating three hundred years of family history in Scotland and Maryland, Trafficke tracks and remixes questions of race and identity, fact and legend into a mosaic of verse, lyric prose, historical narrative, and quotation.

Twenty years in the making, Trafficke began with legends of origin, of persecution and survival, that cast their glamour—in the old Scottish sense of a spell, an illusion—over the poet’s ancestor, Alexander Magruder, obscuring the vicious reality of the family’s two hundred years of slave-owning in America. A Highland Scot transported to Maryland in 1652 as a prisoner of war, by the time of his death Magruder owned four indentured servants, twelve hundred acres of what had been Patuxent and Piscataway land, and one African man.

As Trafficke strips away the glamour, it takes shape not as a simple uncovering of truth, but as a dis-spelling, a building and tearing down of identity’s various disguises, of power’s relentless self-justification, of the poet’s bitterness and complicity. Stepping forward and backward in time, sampling texts that range from 16th c. Gaelic poetry to runaway slave advertisements, the narrative pulls readers through a many-layered critique of ownership and the timeless seductions of beauty. Violence and language, literacy and desire—these too are characters in the lyrical, fraught, and grief-charged text of Trafficke.

Read an excerpt & poetics statement at Evening Will Come, another excerpt at Apartment Poetry 5, & an interview w/ excerpt, from Quiddity, here– Tichy_interview-1

For a review copy, contact Ahsahta Press:ahsahta [at] boisestate.edu  / 208-426-3134

Trafficke has been taught at numerous colleges & universities, sometimes including a class visit or a conversation by Skype.  To inquire about classroom contact, or to book a reading or workshop, please contact me through this site.

Find upcoming Trafficke events on this page.

What would America look like…

…if the contributions made by slaves in the building of this country were memorialized as we memorialize those who gave their lives in military service?

If their gravestones aren’t well marked and their lives continue to go unrecognized, there are new injustices every year. Why isn’t their suffering and contribution memorialized?… We should honor their service. We should honor the service, even if it was involuntary service, of those who contributed to our nation’s economies and acknowledge what they suffered and overcame.

Will Hairston, from Coming to the Table: A Collection of Stories
Coming to the Table (CTTT)





My mother told me

…that she had heard, from some Magruder but she didn’t know who, that one day when Alexander the Immigrant was eating dinner with his family in Maryland a strange young man appeared at the door and introduced himself as Alexander’s Scottish son.