Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Langston Hughes

Why Hughes is still important, popular, engaging, relevant, poetic, lovely, and great...

Just read The Weary Blues or listen to the version with music by Mingus. Or go to the National Portrait Gallery to see Winold Reiss' famous and fabulous portrait of Hughes: reflective, chin in hand, book open, the colors and lines of the portrait evoking the music and energy of the Harlem Renaissance. I wish Hughes had done the Inaugural Poem for Obama. Instead of empty emotionally manipulative patriotism (sorry Richard Blanco, I think you could have done better) Hughes would have inspired us and made us sway with his rhythms and his refusal to shy away from real content. The way he could bring us in with music and call our attention to the details of real life for real people. The boogie-woogie rumbles its continuing dreams, always present but patient, subtle, clever, linguistically tuned, musically savvy, politically subversive, revolutionary, peaceful, engaging. In Dream Boogie the narrator tells us to listen closely...ain't you heard... the beats are rumbling the music is playing dreams may be deferred but they are not destroyed. We can talk about the sun and the mood all day long or we can listen closely, for the beat, and see what will come of it. If we are lucky, we can become a part of the making of all that continues to come next.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


are about love and are not, have specific lengths and numbers of lines and don't, sound good or sound bad or sound otherwise, have a turn of thought in the middle or at the end, or stay on a topic, or jump around like ted berrigan...oh ted your collages and your common place vocabulary and your sex and your poems...what have you done to the sonnets what are the sonnets doing still? You are shakespeare you are italian you are frank o'hara you are 1960 you are new york. can we all not let some things go? play language sing poems sweat words assemble images or let them fall where they may on the page.

Let the sonnets fall where they may, here today.

from The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan


Woman is singing the song and summer
Only to others, meaning poems. Because everything
Sorry about West Point. But where else was one to go,
Southwest lost doubloons rest, no comforts drift on dream smoke
Against whose griefs I would most assuage
(A cast-off emotion) A hard core is "formed."
Musick strides through these poems just as it strides thru me
my dream a drink with Lonnie Johnson we discuss the code
   of the west
After Ticonderoga.       Beware of Benjamin Franklin, he is
   totally lacking in grace
What else. Because he tended to think of truth as "The King's
   Birthday list"
This is called "Black Nausea" by seers.
My dream DEAR CHRIS hello. It is 3:17 a.m.
Your name is now a household name, as is mine. And in any case,
although I failed, now we need never be rivals