27 September 2007

Poetry and/in The News

Kudos and thanks to poet/doctor Peter Pereira for remembering the 50th Anniversary of school integration in Arkansas and the Little Rock Nine with Cyrus Cassells wonderful, heatbreaking 'Soul Make a Path Through Shouting':

With their jerry-rigged faith,
Their spear on the American flag,
How could they dare to believe
You’re someone sacred?:
Nigger, burr-headed girl,
Where are you going?

I’m just going to school

Fallout at the Poetry Society of America over the awarding of their Frost Medal to John Hollander (....and it's now "McCarthyism" to protest against a man who says that West African, Mexican and Central American are "cultures without literatures" among other things? Hmmm....)

And as for this:

"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. It was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same. And that's really what this society is really all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference....There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'MF-er, I want some more ice tea.' It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there ordering and having fun and there wasn't any craziness at all."

not to mention this

You know, and I went to the concert by Anita Baker at Radio City Music Hall, and the crowd was 50/50, black/white, and the blacks were well-dressed. And she came out -- Anita Baker came out on the stage and said, "Look, this is a show for the family. We're not gonna have any profanity here. We're not gonna do any rapping here." The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

...from He Who Shall Not Be Named, I feel moved to provide a poetic "response" from the late Gwendolyn Brooks

I love those little booths at Benvenuti's

They get to Benvenuti's. There are booths
To hide in while observing tropical truths
About this -- dusky folk, so clamorous!
So colorfully incorrect,
So amorous,
So flatly brave!
Boothed-in, one can detect,

One knows and scarcely knows what to expect.

What antics, knives, what lurching dirt; what ditty-
Dirty, rich, carmine, hot, not bottled up,
Straining in sexual soprano, cut
And praying in the bass, partial, unpretty.

They sit, sup,
(Whose friends, if not themselves, arrange
To rent in Venice "a very large cabana,
Small palace," and eat mostly what is strange.)
They sit, they settle; presently are met
By the light heat, the lazy upward whine
And lazy croaky downward drawl of "Tanya."
And their interiors sweat.
They lean back in the half-light, stab their stares
At: walls, panels of imitation oak
With would-be marbly look; linoleum squares
Of dusty rose and brown with little white splashes,
White curls; a vendor tidily encased;
Young yellow waiter moving with straight haste,
Old oaken waiter, lolling and amused;
Some paper napkins in a water glass;
Table, initialed, rubbed, as a desk in school.

They stare. They tire. They feel refused,
Feel overwhelmed by the subtle treasons!
Nobody here will take the part of jester.

The absolute stutters, and the rationale
Stoops off in astonishment.
But not gaily
And not with their consent.

They play "They All Say I'm The Biggest Fool"
And "Voo Me On The Vot Nay" and "New Lester
Leaps In"
and "For Sentimental Reasons."

But how shall they tell people they have been
Out Bronzeville way? For all the nickles in
Have not bought savagery or defined a "folk."

The colored people will not "clown."

The colored people arrive, sit firmly down,
Eat their Express Spaghetti, their T-bone steak,
Handling their steel and crockery with no clatter,
Laugh punily, rise, go firmly out the door.

(photo credit, NYTimes)


John K said...

Brooks's poem is PRICELESS! The hardcore racist idiot, though, wouldn't grasp it if it bit him in the ass. But then he regularly spouts crap like this on his show, as makes clear on a weekly basis. I almost feel too close to the Little Rock integration case, since half my mother's family is from Arkansas and had to live through that moment and others--including the assassination of a cousin who worked for Head Start back in the 1970s, I believe--but I'm glad you noted it and Cyrus's poem (and book).

BronzeBuckaroo said...

And this is why Langston Hughes loved Brooks! I keep thinking about her comment about him during his final years (i.e. how disillusioned he had become with how white folk perceived and treated his people--us!)

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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