Saturday, April 30, 2011

Claude McKay Gets There When Bills Were Still Coins

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
 to me she seemed a proudly swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.

What We're Reading

Have you forgotten your nobility?
Your talent to praise the Ancestors, the Princes
And the Gods, neither flowers nor drops of dew?

1.) Stumbled upon while reading from the book of Langston, and a reminder of why whe should study these gospels so closely.

2.) Reminds us, in the converse, of brilliant lines by KRS-One.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

That Angelin' Tune

We must call out to Mr. Ariel S. Winter, librarian of the outtaprint, for pulling together in exquisite detail Langston's 50s children's projects, capturing the language, pictures and sound all together.  When we read Langston, we need to keep in mind the care he put into the midcentury multimedia , the same way we keep in mind Langston's recurring efforts w/ opera and musical theatre.  More than, say, Charles Olson, who's muse was the typewriter (see "Projective Verse"), or Ralph Ellison, who struggled with the demon word, page after burnt up page, Langston's was a multimedia artist.

He sought the beautiful book, w/ beautiful illustrations.  He loved illustrators.  Throughout his life he was trying to combinate his words into music, and not just because he could hit the number that would make it rain royalty money on him (tho" that always helped).  As we have remarked before, this is like Louis Armstrong and the movies, the collage and the broadway play.  It is a series of aesthetic choices as much as it is a series of economic choices, and we as readers should take it as such.

Need to Ask Glenn Ligon About This

We are not sure what to make of straight up rerhyming a great cut.  There is something going on here, but I don't think hip hop is dead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Case You Weren't Looking

We're working the same tip 80 years later.  Identity is a tricky category.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do I Got a Promise Face?

The primary point of Todd Marten's excellent review of Kanye is that the show was good, that Kanye was great, and that it is OK to love Kanye again (in spite of balled up critical remorse for MBDTF).  You should read it, and if you have doubts about Kanye, especially because he isn't street enough or unnagound enough, feel free to get over 'em.  You got better things to hate than something that will be recognized for its durable greatness a couple of decades ago.  Sh*ts all about what hiphop, what the blues is all about.

In the mean time, Martens develops the metaphor of theatricality a) even though it is too obvious and b) fumbles it by imagining a moment of truth when "the West broke the wall between the artist and audience."  He should know better.  This is all part of the show.  We learned this way back in the Shakespeare times.  We also learned it way back in the Fanon times.  All honesty is a mask.

All of this adds into our work in the book of Langston.  As we read about his struggles to fins a place on the stage (and simultaneously outta the books and off the streets), it affords more to our deepening overstanding of his fundamental greatness...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making Sense of Langston's Music

Maybe the biggest irony of the R& Hughes biography is how much ink is spilled describing his efforts at making musical theatrical performance on the one hand, and how little  is spent on his efforts making poetry.  We will only note today that this allure, this devilish temptation to walk away from poetry as such, is one of the most distinctive aspects of the Hughes career.  As we think of Hughes as a lifelong artist, we associate this with some powerful biographical tropes: crossover (and all of the big mojo that compound word carries on its back), money making (yes, yes), the mixing of sacred and profane, the lwas Mami Wata and Papa Legba, &c.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Two Footnotes on "Do You Remember?"

We keep working on this business of memory as the sacred twin of knowing, and the past as the sacred twin of the future.  We feel obliged to point you here and here for further reading.

Blind William Can't Tell: Do You Remember?

Cross referencing? Or is it the back and forth we talk about?

"Through thickest glooms look back, immortal shade,On that that confusion which thy death has made. -- Phillis Wheatley, 'On the Death..."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What We're Reading

The Guardian was none too easy on Cee-Lo earlier this week. Perhaps he's becoming the 21st century bluesman we imagine him becoming; perhaps not. When we saw Lightnin' Hopkins in the 70s, the miracle of his set was diminished neither by its shortness, nor how limited his singling and playing range had become after a life of being a 20th century bluesman. The miracle was that he was there at all.

We can say, though, that we love the picture, in part because it recaptures the Moment of Rick Ross live pleasure we posted about two weeks ago from they NYT, so we offer it for what it is: pleasing visual.