In his rightfully famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. recounts his confusion, refusal, and eventual acceptance of the label “extremist” from his critics. King notes that there are two tendencies of extremity: extremism for moral good and extremism for moral evil. And as he puts it in “Call to Conscience,” insofar as America is an extremist nation for moral evil per its actions in Vietnam, he and other antiwar protesters are morally compelled to be extremists for good.
Tyrone Williams, Aldon Nielsen, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis to talk before a live audience about Amiri Baraka’s poem “Something in the Way of Things (In Town).” The printed poem has been published in several versions; one version can be read below. It is best known as a cut on The Roots’ Phrenology album (2002). Baraka came to the lower Manhattan studio where The Roots were recording some of the album’s tracks; there Baraka performed the poem as the band backed him. The result can be heard here.
William J. Harris, Tyrone Williams, and Aldon Nielsen join Al Filreis to talk about a poem by Lorenzo Thomas. The poem is “An Arc Still Open,” written as a commemoration of the muralist John Biggers, who had died in January 2001. The poem was published soon after as part of a John Biggers memorial feature in a magazine produced at University of Houston-Downtown, where since 1997 there had hung a huge (10' x 27') Biggers mural Salt Marsh. Our text of the poem comes from the UHD publication, New Horizons, and our recording, now found on PennSound’s Lorenzo Thomas page, was made in San Diego in 2001.
Tyrone Williams talks to me about growing up working-class in Detroit; bookishness and the role of education and his early teachers; assimilation versus resistance and formal innovation in American poetry in relation to his dissertation on “Open and Closed Forms In 20th Century American Poetics”; his practice of “eshuneutics” (after Yoruba spirit Eshu); the use of appropriation in his poetry and the necessity of research and reading beyond one’s immediate knowledge context; and the politics and history of English for African Americans.
Tyrone Williams talks to me about growing up working-class in Detroit; bookishness and the role of education and his early teachers; assimilation versus resistance and formal innovation in American poetry in relation to his dissertation on “Open and Closed Forms In 20th Century American Poetics”; his practice of “eshuneutics” (after Yoruba spirit Eshu); the use of appropriation in his poetry and the necessity of research and reading beyond one’s immediate knowledge context; and the politics and history of English for African-Americans.
Adventures of Pi made me think a lot about Detroit.
As you know, I was born in the Motor City. I am child of the auto industry. My grandfather worked as a draughtsman for American Motors. My mother worked in Lee Iacocca’s secretarial pool at Ford. My father worked at Ford, too, in the leasing division. I remember him bringing home these shiny adhesive Mustang logos when I was a boy. I stuck one to the shell of my pet turtle.
In what will be my last “a textile poetics” post, I return to some familiar themes or where I started: tactility and weaving and language. This time, I proceed by way of a weaving and writing workshop I lead in Kuwait, an essay by Tyrone Williams on ecopoetics, a brief consideration of Susan Howe’s work, and a mention of a lecture on exile by Costica Bradatan. Also on my thought horizon: a project I am working on called “last book” which is a drawing sequence accompanied by a book of random, highly excerpted entries from twelve years of notebooks. This book will be “published” with no cover art, title, author, other marks of publication, and will be made — printed locally — in an edition of 99.
Alan Golding, Lily Applebaum, and Herman Beavers joined Al Filreis in the Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House — the first time PoemTalk recorded in the new studio — to discuss two short poems by Tyrone Williams that appear in the book published by Omnidawn in 2008 called On Spec. The two poems appear in the book’s first section, called “Eshuneutics.” “Written By H’Self” [text] is the first poem in the section and the very first in the book. “Cant” [text] appears fourth in the book.
On February 8, 2003, performing at the Bowery Poetry Club without prepared text or notes, Steve Bensonimprovised a long poem composed entirely of questions. His transcript of this performance later appeared in the book Open Clothes (Atelos, 2005) as “Did the lights just go out” [text]. Later, Steve McLaughlin created two excerpts from the full audio recording: