Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Marion Wrenn

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit


Engineering Producer:

Ryan McDonald


In the midst of excitedly preparing for AWP 2017, we record this episode in which we discuss two poems by Rita Banerjee, “The Suicide Rag” and “Georgia Brown”

Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on a futuristic dystopian novel about Mel Cassin, a half-Tamil, half-Jewish girl stuck in the middle of a familial crisis and an epic political meltdown, and a collection of essays on race, sex, politics, and everything cool.  A jet-setter at heart, she spends her time between Munich, Germany and the United States.

Rita Banerjee


This week’s discussion both took us back and made sure that none of us would see the world the same way again. With images of breakdancing, gospel choir, and the not-so-innocent Georgia Brown, we were in it. Whether we’re distinguishing jazz from jazz or figuring out what a clapper is, this episode is filled with risky moves.


Join us in the campaign to have your local library carry lesser-known authors and small presses. Let us know what books you’ll be requesting with #getsomebooks! Let’s support libraries, small presses, and the authors who write for them.


Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and let us know what you think of this episode with #longandskinny! Stay tuned to hear about our AWP 2017 experience–we hope to see you there!
And of course, most importantly, read on!



Rita Banerjee

The Suicide Rag

Billy played ragtime

on the church

organ but we

lunch hour kids,

kept time by another

name.  Behind St. Augustine’s

we learned to hit

the pavement, sound

like an anvil


hammers hitting

steel, Billy playing


on the fifth,

we arpeggioed

haloed, froze

on the black

top.  Learning

to cakewalk

This was our


tar-mat babies

doing handsprung


for the girls

standing ’round

with knife-like eyes

That’s all

we needed—

a rolling

beat, a firing squad

and schoolyard


scouring the lot

as we fell

face forward

hands locked

& stiff, the only


that could’ve

come between

us was a kiss.


Rita Banerjee

Georgia Brown

Harlem had yet to be born,

the globe had not been spun,

but we knew how to whistle,

how to call clappers and skirts on cue:

That summer, we first met Georgia,

she was an echo in four beats,

we learned to hum her story.

Mike played her with a licked reed

but she was all brass, sharp

like an abandoned railroad cutting through

wild wood, and when she took stage,

she made those trombone boys whisper,

“Sweet Georgia, Sweet.”

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