"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Friday, January 7, 2011

Those Crazy Poets!

My most recent read is a book of poetry by LeRoi Jones called The Dead Lecturer. It's poignant and a bit bitter, which always cheers me up because it adds some substantial flavor to my day. (Interesting note: The author changed his name several times, and is now officially known as Amiri Baraka.)

His poetic themes are powerfully controversial and include the huge topics of religion, race, philosophy, roots, and hatred.

It turns out that after 9-11, Baraka wrote a scathing and politically controversial poem about the attacks, which won him the award of Poet Laureate of New Jersey. The NJ Governor tried to strip the title from Baraka, but had no authority, so after new legislation was passed the following year, the title was officially removed. Baraka filed for legal action but was told that state officials were immune from such lawsuits, so his case was dropped, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. That would make me livid! I'll bet he has some good poems about that experience.

So, in the spirit of passion that LeRoi Jones was already exhibiting in his earlier work and under an earlier name, I present my favorite poem from this book, "The dance." It totally gives me the chills! (The good kind, like the kind that you get when you glimpse your true potential for a split-second.)

The dance.
               (held up for me by
an older man. He told me how. Showed
me. Not steps, but the fix
of muscle. A position
for myself: to move.

told of dance. His poems
full of what we called
so long for you to be. A
dance. And all his words
ran out of it. That there
was some bright elegance
the sad meat of the body
made. Some gesture, that
if we became, for one blank moment,
would turn us
into creatures of rhythm.

I want to be sung. I want
all of my bones and meat hummed
against the thick floating
winter sky. I want myself
as dance. As what I am
given love, or time, or space
to feel myself.

The time of thought. The space
of actual movement. (Where they
have taken up the sea, and
keep me against my will.) I said, also,
love, being older or younger
than your world. I am given
to lying, love, call you out
now, given to feeling things
I alone create.

And let me once, create
myself. And let you, whoever
sits now breathing on my words
create a self of your own. One
that will love me.

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