In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life, poet Joseph Ross speaks with host and fellow poet E. Ethelbert Miller about the role of writers as activists and memory keepers, the ideas of faith and storytelling through poetry, and the craft of putting together a manuscript. Ross, the author of Gospel of Dust, Meeting Bone Man and the forthcoming Ache, is a Washington, D.C. poet, teacher, blogger and activist. Ross reads, “When Your Word is a Match,” his poem about Willie Louis, the 18-year-old who testified against the white men who murdered Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. The two men discuss the sticky history of race in this country, as well as the role of poets, black and white, in addressing the subject. This conversation was recorded during the uproar over police killings of black citizens. Ross says, “If you’re in America, the race challenges that we have faced for the two hundred-plus years of the American idea, the American experiment, as you’ve said, it’s always been something we wrestle with. It’s the country I live in, it’s the country you live in. Yes, I live in it in a different way because of my skin, as compared to yours.” Recorded in October 2015. For more information about HoCoPoLitSo’s live or recorded programs, or to support efforts to promote contemporary literature, visit