Empire of Language- Finale-Loving You is Complicated.
So build build
again the new
must mix spittle
with dirt, dung
Edward Kamau Braithwaite From the Arrivants
Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step.
Amiri Baraka From "Black Art"
We are a freeway of ideas. We study hard. The craft. The craft. The craft.
2. The moon is bright tonight. I look hard but cannot see where man left his footprints in the sky. Bright as a white cue ball as Renegade would say. Bright white light shining at night.
Me and my boys sit in an abandoned sector of the empire for black poets. A decade or two back, alot of new potential poets went hip-hop and spoken word. If like Charles Rowell says in the introduction toAngles of Ascent that poets in the Post-Black-Arts found the freedom to explore the interior of their lives, there is also something to be said about their break from a black audience. The notion that black poetry is for black people in many poetry circles has become a sign of confinement. I admit, I might be confined by the idea that all my art has to be for black folks, obviously it is not, but the idea doesn't worry me anymore than the feeling of confinement in a publishing world with few Black presses, editors, and publications. I feel no more confined by the idea of having to write for only Black people, than the reality of white benefactors in the world of poetry, who to this day have the ability to make or break careers.
Who one is targeting as an audience is writing 101. The notion of an audienceless texts is a concoction of those who decide to avoid some confrontation with their readers; or as in the case of those who operate in the top echelon of the literary world, an assertion that their ability to judge literature in current time is an extension of their function as guardian of the great tradition. Of course, they work for the empire. There they are less poet, and more guardian of the great tradition that is connected to steel iron, and the strange ideas that somehow had us picking cotton down South. In other words, some of their game is power; and power is not poetry. Poetry has power, but power without poetry is far more brutal and even certain of itself.
When Black poets pull that shit, they managing their career. They know economics. If they tell you, there is technically no audience for their work and it is primarily craft driven, they mean not to offend those folks who might think they are not included in the audience if they say their work is for black people. One must remember people without infrastructure are masters of the game. They know how to get things done. And the work has come in quite nicely. Very few black presses out there, but African Americans seem to be winning awards like wildfire. One can expect even more in the wake of the rising discontent, riots, and an unsettled black collective consciousness shifting to the center of the Nation's media.
The Black Arts quest for a black audience showed itself as a viable strategy in hip-hop, which, as part of the musical realm, operated the way black music always has. People say poetry is music, but the audiences for the two crafts vary dramatically. Black audiences make or break a majority of African American musicians and then they cross over. In Black poetry, the positioning of the rich literate societies arguably give rise to a situation that is inverse. White audiences make a Black poet these days, and then perhaps(often not or never) a Black audience responding to them like classical music or some other cultural expression rooted in Western culture, jump on the bus and say you ever heard of this or that Black Poet.
It is what is. It's just whichcraft.
Whichcraft you might ask. Black folks singing out of sight some old song that cuts the air like a blade. Spirituals co-authored by the black many and unseen, or was it gentle humming and the sway at the sight of a broken body? Was it study with those masters of literature, guardians of the canon-the serious poets?
Witchcraft is an upublished poetry. It is a poetry the empire doesn't sanctify. It is the position of the Djali outside of West African culture and Nationalist who live off the grid. No Djali publications here. Not ready for it.
I will write for you a great epic modeled on some ancient man whose worship has given rise to my demise. His craft was impeccable, but his work shows the inability to acknowledge my humanity. The separation is a common part of the black predicament. The equation is far more complicated than we like to think. Being black, we can get over almost anything. Stop tripp'n man, that was a long time ago. Why you still tripp'n?
You gotta respect the work. Respect the work. Though the essence of our condition, and clearly present in slavery, is that the work was what it was all about. Nigger ain't worth nothing but his work under slavery. In fact, work prove he a good slave. But what else is there besides work?
I know why we love this stuff. The great craftsmen have craft not work. Their skill exists as the thing that creates product. American consumerism will train you quickly in how demeaning worker status or product driven value is. We don't imagine the Chinese workers who make our gadgets to be craftsman. We imagine them to be underpaid workers-almost slaves.
Intellectual property is god. Intellectual property and the right to own process under the law reduces some to workers and elevates others to masters of capital.
There really ain't nothing wrong with that, but what's a poet to do whose work operates in a poorly consumed sector of the empire, that also happens to be a badge of great culture?
Who wouldn't want to be a craftsman as compared to worker. Craft is the worker's rise above the mundane; but the trick in the empire is that one of the most important powers of the empire, especially in regards to language, is to designate what is right and what is good. Of course, there is great utility in this, but there is also farce and illusion. Now I am thinking of the Wiz, who issues decrees and changes the colors on a moments notice.
All the lies of the empire have great utility. All lies of the empire are promoted as the truth.
Folk art is one of those clever ways, the crafts of other societies are regulated to the categories of the inferior; while the empire gives long dissertations on the nature of true and high art.
Poets worship at the altar of the greatest of Western Civilization, for we operate in the tongue of the master. For many this unavoidable.
I got all that, but there are other crafts, many crafts.
People are people, but some people have difficulty recognizing other folks as people. Those people are not to be blamed. They are just people. The people they don't recognize are just people too, who can't be recognized as people.
The essence of nature for us, is to accept whatever we see and perceive as real. The us is simply opposite of them. The dance is a secret. Let them call it whatever they want. Let them ban the dance, and the drum, reduce the most complex rhythms and relationships into iambs. Don't make no difference, we gonna dance anyway. We gonna drum anyway. We...
My Uncle is an original gangster. Gangster is the thought that runs through my mind everytime I see his slacks, suite, and tie. But actually, for real-for real he ain't. He's an engineer raised on Morena Street in Nasvhille during the forties.
One of his brothers, my Uncle Jr., also known as Jap, got his name from the War. Folks called him Jap, cuz they said he was as mean as the legendary Japanese who fought to the death and slammed planes into aircraft carriers.
Kamikazes and shit.
Real talk, cuz folks will tell you a story about him getting rage in his eyes and pointing his pistol towards your head or to the sky, like one of the young boys; but with a different type of danger. Jefferson Street Nashville in the forties was not crack time, it was number running and loan sharking-a different type of danger. For his time, he was the serious business-get my money right, man.
But my other Uncle I'm talking about is different. He's almost always smiling, and when he talks he speaks softly as though what he is saying demands a listening to that cannot be accomplished by those who think loud or aggressive means something significant attached to language. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the world. Yet, the gentle is not the absence of force, but the refinement of it. His gentleness is the perfection of force. He's an OG.
Though he now dabbles in other businesses, his professional career is rooted in his engineering. It was he who gently spoke to me the famous quote of the Greek philosopher Archimedes, "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world." He spoke the proverb gently in a long talk where he faded in and out of the audible-gentle and smiling.
Then, I was young and full of activism. I believed in the young man show your strength exertion. I wanted to be strong and be seen as strong; but strength shown is different from strength leveraged.
Though he does not study T'ai Chi, the Asian art stresses a point similar to my Uncle's. The place to stand is where one is rooted to the earth. Leveraging, like with Archimedes, is based on the fulcrum or the point of pivot. One who is rooted is capable of leveraging his or her opponent or pushing them off balance, though their weight and physical strength may appear to be greater.
Power reconciled with balance and rootedness is not really force. It is union.
My Uncle knows business and business really is the art of leveraging. Leveraging is the maximization of power exerted at the right time, the right place, in the precise position. Like a great jazz solo in a club at night or a great performance where the audience, the day, and the time, is as much a part of the greatness as the ideas, craft and form. Leveraging is a bridge between two forces working on the crux of natural law. In some ways the concept is similar to what Sun Tzu calls momentum or potential energy in The Art of War. The energy in the organization of things that exist independently of our own ego perceived force and power comes from nature itself. The engineer finds the laws to make machines. The poets finds the secret unity in the codes of language and builds the path of the desired experience and consciousness between people and language. Their work enables readers to unify with experience outside of their own sensory perception via the works of art. The poet makes the internal nature of life possible to communicate.
To find energy and seek union with it. The quest to be human. Union blesses. It is a giving that is not giving. The precise coordinates and equations are law. Law that one could call obedient if one knows it, but it is not obedient. It is simply the way things are.
When I say OG, I mean the men who know the secrets of knowledge and uses them to manage their lives, relationships with others, and the physicality they have control over. Today's writers seem a bit attached to showing their craft. We must show our craft. We are so fond of machines these days. The finely crafted pistons, the precise orders. The sleek shape of the car is pleasant to the eyes.
That bright moon don't lie. You notice it, and it rises up above like a myth. It's legendary and always been there. You can see it, but still only imagine it. It has nothing to do with life; but then it has everything to do with life. Can you feel it's pull on the tide within you?
I want to be like the poets. Shit, I am a poet; if self definition and proclamation work? If hours of study, reading, and talking to smart folks works; yes, well then I am a poet. Do you understand?
There is an unbelievable strength in them. The poets are engineers.
Today we value the machine, and want the poet to make us one. We want the craft. It justifies the difference between poetry and hip-hop, poetry and spoken word, poetry and those who spit verse as compared to compose it.
And poets have responded by standing in line to make machines for the empire. The line is long and there are only a few spots; but we wait, write, network, and study towards it. The empire may not like poetry, but understands the value of a machine.
The poet is perplexed by these questions: How does one win the award? How does one win the contest of man? Does it stand on the page? How does one follow the leader? How does one submit and be accepted?
Much of this is strength and exertion applied.
The critique of the critique is hateration, shit outsiders do to dog out the insiders.
And so we begin. Poetry, my love.
Loving you is complicated. Loving you, loving you, loving you. Loving you is complicated.
A Nigger is a strange invention that seems to constantly fall out of the mouths of people. Nobody's a nigger, but people imagine they exist.
It is not the appropriate label, but it is appropriately language.
Confession-I like that shit when black folks use it. Makes me feel like we are putting out poetry working the connotations, working the subtle meanings; making language into a gourd that can carry water.
It could be the word is often banned to protect those who use it with hate from their own hate.
We fuss over words, but the poet who fusses over words forever to sync those words with the consciousness of people is often regulated to obscurity.
Yeah. I'm down with craft.
Now is the lonely time, though there's still a certain rage in the air. Bright moon is my witness comes in with the season. Shines like a spotlight. Lawd, Lawd, bright night light.
The notion of what is spoken is as much contract as utterance. Unrecognized and unacknowledged speech breeds silence. If you have no audience then what the fuck are you really saying? Who knows?
The empire listens, authenticates, and certifies certain speech. Some of that speech is recorded and comes through microphones; other speech is like the subtle shiftings of the earth's plates. The scientists tell you of the movement but your feet do not know it. The slightest tremors, the smallest changes happen in our presence outside of our conscious perception.
If poetry rises above silence, we know by intuition that much of the poetry in the world is also trapped beneath it. Poetry is not and never really has been authentic. People say what they want to say. The audience chooses whether to recognize it as speech.
The listening interaction between cultures demands gives rise to poetry. One can only imagine how the words of Columbus sounded to the Arawaks he met.
An alternative concept in your language is poetic.
To be audience you must listen. You must be a good listener.
Poetry demands attention.
The empire pays attention to the empire.
And that's alright. There are lands to be conquered, roadways to be constructed, metals to be mined. The empire desires what the empire desires.
Language is the empire's greatest machine. Poets have built and maintain that machine. There are poets tinkering on the valves, pistons, and compressors as we speak.
But the empire is not poetry. The empire thinks of poetry as a medal on the chest of one of its generals. Poetry for the empire is evidence of what the empire has achieved.
If two speak across languages the conditions demands poetry.
In cross cultural communication the empire demands you understand it is an empire full of law and power. Those who meet the empire often speak poetry. That poetry is often misunderstood. The empire listens to the poetry for the while, never really clear that it is poetry-the awe between individuals attempting to communicate in language that demands new strategies to fit the demands of the time-eventually rests in its power to subdue in conquer.
Though men attempt to manufacture authenticity, authenticity cannot be created.
People are who they are.
Authentic suggest that we listen to somethings more than we do others; yes, we do; but also, and importantly, some of what we don't listen to was never meant for us. Some of the poetry people don't read or listen to, is the bullshit of the empire. It is the codification of an idea meant to tame and oppress us. Some of the codes are so machine like they make our own poetry seem pitiful and petty; as though we were playing with language, while others make machines. Some of the poetry is the worshipping of the weather in the empire. What's hip ain't always hip.
As a prize winning poet once told me, "This game is about the rich. If you don't want to deal with that, you shouldn't be in it." Some of the rich have their poets around them like jesters in a court. The poet entertains. The poet mixes the high culture of the empire with the ways of man as the wealthy see fit.
I am not here to indict or attack poets. We are few, a dying breed. Why the hell would I do that?
We really love poetry. We are attracted to it. It is the beautiful and intoxicating, but all we have is our ability to notice it when it blows through the air. It is aroma and scent riding on the gust of wind.
To recognize poetry is to be one with it.
"Lamar’s album moved 123,000 copies, down 66% from the previous week’s impressive debut. The rapper revealed to MTV that his album was originally titled “Tu Pimp a Caterpillar” as a nod to Tupac, but in the end elected to swap in the “Butterfly” to evoke the “brightness of life."
variety.com Marianne Zumberge
That's some poetic shit right there-metaphorical image management and shit.
I come home the day Kendrick released his latest album and my son sings "loving you is complicated." He twist his voice like Tyehimba Jess twist notes in Leadbelly. Each time he repeats how complicated loving is, he distorts the word into something it is not on the page. I read poetry, live and breathe it everyday; but I cannot write what my son enacts.
The abstraction of writing is an okedoke of the empire. Tarzan is the white man's fantasy of the unknown. So is the Lone Ranger.
Fuck Tonto cuz he ain't never exist.
Maybe my daddy loved that shit cuz he could imagine himself being Tonto as fantasy. The impossible.
But I can see how one can dream of being the Lone Ranger and ignore his sidekick; or think they was his sidekick and not realize the blatant disrespect. I can see how one might want to be a sidekick to the "lone", not really a sidekick, but an unacknowledged presence. I can see how that presence is not really presence but a black straightjacket that you put yourself inside so that when you walk around in the flesh you look like a shadow. Success not success.
Loot'n and shit.
It's April 2015 late in the month before it's gotten hot and I see the airial view of a couple hundred young'ns running towards a mall to get it in, like looting is a holiday. I'm numbed the way I was, when I saw the women in the market just before the Iraqi War selling olives and spices. With their hijabs and beautiful eyes; they were going about their business as though there was no war in the world. I saw them and thought about what it means to be an American. The deadline had been etched-an invisible abstract line that stretched across the world. We wondered whether it was real or some fake ass shit like Gucci bags that say Gucci but ain't got no patent rights. We wondered if Bush was fronting, or if it was the real shit, come correct, go hard street shit we'd seen from men who went to prison early in their lives.
The students descended upon the mall brining the mothafucking ruckus in a way I never could. It was hard to imagine that folks like me would loot a mall. They looked just like my students.
During the Iraqi War, when night came, I remember flashes of orange across the screen, the constant talk of sorties, and the darkness of Baghdad. I was confused and kept seeing the women. They were not Saddam Hussein, they looked more like my mother, my sisters-the eyes. I wondered what happened to them.
Those kids look like my kids, and the orange fires in the night around Baltimore gave rise to thick clouds of black smoke. A few stare into the camera or do a walk that looks like half dancing. It's the head bounce rhythm that gets me most. There's hip-hop in all of it.
I haven't really listened to most of the talking yet, but I've been seeing a lot of poetry lately.
Poetry is not recognized authenticity, but recognized communication whose density inspires one about the fantastic science of words. Yes, words can duplicate life and life can duplicate life and if one is aware of life in a moment what is the distinction between that moment and what poetry is?
Within the empire, words that duplicate life can easily be used to subdue and oppress. The empire craves poets. They are the antithesis of their quest for power and valuable players on their chess board. If power makes clear that one must be subjugated, poetry makes clear that there is no subjugation. Poetry makes clear that what exist within the world is acknowledged and unified beyond the realms of human power.
The power that is poetry belongs to the realm of nature, though language is a machine of man. Poetry is language linked with the great machine, the one machine that is not machine but simply union. In nature machine becomes an imperfect metaphor. Machines imperfectly mimic, replicate, or attempt to provide what nature does. We know machines by their inefficiency and by products. The waste seeping into the earth. The smog rising into the sky. The trash man comes to my house on Mondays and Thursdays.
Poetry is mystical magic via language elevated to everything is everything.
Of course the empire will tell you different.
It will tell you poetry is the mastery of form, the mastery of convention, the mastery of precise craft, though in the world you hear poetry come from the most lowly places, the most dejected quarters.
Loving you is complicated. Loving you! Loving you! Not loving you! One hundred proof!
Maybe if we listened to everything we would learn that there is poetry everywhere.
Within the empire, one cannot listen to everything. One must go to work, perform ones task, present oneself as a noble citizen.
One must honor their todo list, execute tasks, walk past the homeless on the way to work. Should one smell his smell in the air, one might be offended. One must stay focused.
To raise speech above us like trophies and say this is poetry is a privilege of the empire.
It may be human to look up, or only human to look down when you are down.
Within the empire of language poetry is like the cement and the earth beneath our feet. A humans we walk upon both. One is the blessing of nature, and the other the blessing of those who build and harness the powers of the earth.
We need language to clarify the content of our lives. Language is essential to most cures for loneliness. For to share and have that sharing recognized actualizes the fact that one is not alone.
Both concrete and earth are poetry.
Heaven is great. Earth is great. Human is great.( Chinese Saying)
What humans have made is great poetry.
What nature has made and perfected is poetry.
What shows the unity between humans and nature is poetry.
But poetry is always the unexpected. It is the dance intoxicating you when you thought you did not feel like dancing. It is the rise when you felt like sleeping. It is language pressed and pulled to these arenas, perfected in them.
Poetry is not a gun. Not a trophy. Not a machine. Poetry resists its reduction to such things. It is fresh and in the moment.
Loving you is complicated. Loving you! Loving you! Not loving you! One hundred proof!
When one tells you that your poetry is not good enuff, they are letting you know that they possess the power to bless. Come into my circle young Jedi.
The empire proscribes craft as remedy for all things that have veered out of control. Craft is essential, but control is not. The empire will have you confuse the two. You may dream of power, but it is nothing like the power that comes from the real source of power. That power, is the power you cannot harness; one must submit and learn to be the thing it has desired for you to be.
Too often our craft is control, the real craft is mystical.
What drove me to poetry was silence and the vast pages of books given to me as lessons which did not contain the speech and beauty of the language I heard in my own life.
I became convinced that even my mother, my sister, and my father did not hear me. Of course the problem was not simply language. It was more about the speed of the earth and how fast it spins. It was about bills to pay, high blood pressure, and the way a Friday night seems to wander into town like a circus with animals and sites made out of everyday things in the world. It was more about a piece of paper curled to the sky and the fingers sprinkling crumbled leaves into them. It was about the cradle of a hand on a bottle held like a football. It was about the back and forth rhythm of one of my sister's friends heads or the quick stutter step dance like I remember Fela. It was about love and warmth, distance and tragedy, and the distance between people who grow a silence or misunderstand one another.
Yes, our loving can expose us to imprecise images, ideas, and concepts that make speech seem imperfect and limited. We can mistake that speech for the truth of our lives. The poet can renew our belief in a union between language and what we know. It is the knowing that I am like you and you are like me; that our feelings often intersect. Poets can help us realize what exist on the inside may not always come out in words right. The poet can get those words right so that we know how human we all are.
I did not know that then, but I knew it. It was my own silence and the distance between those I loved that led me to poetry.
I would like to announce that I have been commissioned by the state to write a series of poems on the Baltimore riots. They chose me along with millions of others. I've seen the man dragged by his feet to the van half rag doll. I have accepted; but my acceptance is full of tears. Too much time has been spent not talking about the what I see.
His back is broken. The empire must investigate.
My disease, like that of many poets, who too have been commissioned, is our reconciliation of craft with the violence that snatches up folks who look like us. Yes, there are other things in the world besides violence; but we track the path of violence in our lives, because in its wake, it blurs the image, confuses the image, transforms the perception. Violence transforms and tests the human spirit. The Blacks have been tested and dumped on in the space. We are not the only ones.
To be a poet is noble, but to talk about Freddie Gray scorches the tongue. The empire wants noble poems that elevate Freddie Gray over simple everyday shit people have to ignore to get from home to work, from work to school, from work to the grocery store, from the front door to the corner store. The empire wants to judge and authenticate them. The empire wants to say whether the poem about Freddie was well written or well crafted. In this regard, they might as well be police department investigating police brutality.
One must wait for the government approval, the official stamp. One could be dead, or die waiting.
What awards shall be given to the riots?
What poems can be written in the face of death.
To what do we owe the fist.
To what do we owe the young unpoetic standing in front of riot gear in a sector of the empire, whose officials run the camp like the wild, wild, wild west.
The riot is its own poem.
The car burning in the street is a million flames.
The black helmet and the plexiglass with police written on it, is a statement about poetry and life.
The fear and sweat underneath the black drape of what the fuck is going on is the curtain on a stage that plays out the drama of death and I gotta do my job.
The riot is its own poem.
Give me a poetry rooted in the language of everyday life and I can move the world.