Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday June 22, 2004

Second day of residency is done, and this time there is not drunken night carousing to close it off. Jeff Kass (who is running the residency) had us over to his house for a barbecue, so there were much poetics, meat and wine.

Today’s optional workshop was by Kevin Coval. It dealt with hip-hop poetics and went into an explanation of hip-hop as the defining factor of all poetics for anyone born between 1965 and now. It featured (among other things) a poem by Paul Beatty, that made use of refrain and a decidedly black vernacular to define “smooth” while making serious political commentary (my poem coming out of his workshop follows this post).

What the kids in my workshop seem to be a little too worried about is having the ‘right’ answer (which of course does not exist in poetry most of the time). They are incredibly smart, but I think need a little encouragement in the realm of risk-taking. Still, I feel like they’re learning new stuff, and I look forward to challenging them tomorrow. I’m still figuring out what the exercises and poems will be about. Today, we talked about dealing with the big ideas (war, racism, sexuality etc), and how to approach them in a way that is effective and perhaps relevant enough to their own lives as to be less rhetoric and more poem. We used Carolyn Forche’s ‘The Visitor’, Jeff McDaniel’s ‘What year was Heaven Desegregated’, Martin Espada’s ‘Alabanza’ and Stephen Dunn’s ‘To a terrorist’.

Check those out. Examine them. write sump’n. I’ve had too much beef and lamb and salmon and chicken and corn tonight. I’m gonna see if I can get my shit done and hit the sack now…

here’s the poem…

We funked up senior year
of high school like there would never
be a tomorrow we had
to care about
cuz there wasn’t
and we were funky
tropical island in the South Caribbean funky
American radio pumping us the 80s like gospel
type funky

so I was red tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans
with a shag
and an oversized white shirt
to match the thick white socks
cuz Michael Jackson was still black
type funky

funky like making love to Monica
whose father was a Corrections Officer
and making out with her sister
the next day

it was 1986 and high top fades
staccatoed to Jam on It
pop-locking electric boogaloo
on street corners
in Community Center parties
on vinyl and even on the grass
behind the cafeteria
and we were stars

funky like
Anthony Joseph who could beat up grown-ass men
so we talked shit
when we hung with him
and still talked shit
after he dropped out
and was found dead in the streets

funky like
we did comic impressions
of the principal
in front of the principal
cuz obnoxious was funky and besides
we knew how to talk the
‘your momma so old
her social security number is 1’
type shit

we didn’t yet know curfew
or high crime
so we funked it up
and we knew we were beautiful
because there’s nothing like a stranger
giving you 20 bucks in the street
because you looked good
in the game last Saturday
and you hit the crossbar from forty yards out

and we were the most gangsta
boy scouts and choir boys on the planet
cuz no-one could hit middle C first tenor
and extort money from the freshmen
who loved us anyway
cuz we let them drink with us
like we could
and that was funky
cuz we made do
with what we didn’t know
we could ever get
and rolled the sleeves of our uniforms up

and gang fought with the kids from St. Mary’s
and swaggered through the city
because the dollar hadn’t yet fallen
and we didn’t owe our lives to the IMF
and oil was still expensive
and we were a little oil-producing nation
and we were tough and good-looking
funky fresh like that

cuz we knew Anthony Joseph
so we stayed hard
just to keep his shit alive
and no-one bothered us
on the way home

Fresh off the first-draft press folks. don’t forget, feel free to comment here, on the guest book or send me an e-mail. word-up!


Blogger Alex Schindler said...

I am so happy i found this... I was on outward bound this year! amazing poem

1:27 PM  
Blogger Julian Ballen said...

Great poem. I loved it. I was at Outward Bound with Alex. Such a great poem. Smooth, and great when you read it aloud.

10:39 PM  

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