“Blackness is speaking: Echo North is an attempt to reflect the sound.” Chaun Webster, poet, publisher, archivist, and graphic designer is creating an oral archive and visual re-mapping of North Minneapolis. The project, which he calls a “ritual of resistance,” is an attempt to re-hear the absent, but not silent, sounds of the neighborhood’s histories of black social life, to hear and offer the stories that the city has failed to archive, failed to record, and failed to recognize.
I have to remind myself regularly that Mules and Men was officially intended as an anthropological project, a collection of Black American folklore, which was constructed to appear innocuous to a white reading public interested in the aesthetic “primitivism” of Black culture, rather than the manual for aesthetic practice as political resistance that I find it to be.
Here I attempt to transcribe my initial impressions after listening once to the full album of Cecil Taylor’s recorded poem, Chinampas,and repeatedly (for perhaps nine or ten hearings) to the penultimate track, #6.56. I was drawn to the editors’ invitation to show the “under the hood” work that precedes a smoothly running piece of writing, their interest in how we deal with poems that exist only as sound texts, and their curiosity about what a first reading/hearing looks like.
Preface: One day, at Naropa University, I was on a panel that Anne Waldman organized for the MFA summer writing program. I gave my talk about poetry and speech acts. Chip was nice enough to attend as an audience member. Chip knows his poetry.