Posts Tagged ‘James Brown


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day twenty-four

This will be a quick. I’ve been busy all day. I just got back from a picnic with some good people, and soon I’ll be going to the CnS, the local bar, to hang out with some other good people. Hm. I had a beer at the picnic, now I’m having wine, soon I’ll be drinking beer, again, and inevitably, as always happens at the CnS, I’ll be doing shots. Yes, today I’ll be drinking for the cycle!

Vinos Sin-Ley M5 Monastrell 2006To get the cycle going, I’ll be drinking Vinos Sin-Ley M5 Monastrell 2006. “Vinos Sin Ley” translates into  “wine without laws. So it’s a rebel. Looking at that lime green label, how can I think otherwise.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a Monastrell, but it’s from Spain, so that’s a good thing. And the Wine Advocate gave it 90 points, so that should be a good thing, too.

Deep Purple "Smoke on the Water"The back label says it’s deep purple, but I don’t see any smoke on the wine. (Sorry. Sigh.)

Anyway, it’s got a huge nose. I can help but to smell it, and it’s about 1.5 feet away. From this distance I smell a wild-flower perfume, berries, camp fire smoke, and something sweet, like popsicles? Closer up there is leather, and my girlfriend gets “gasoline but in a good way.” But that gasoline could be all the alcohol in it, which is perhaps why it seems like a perfume and drifts so far. It definitely smells pleasant and I can’t wait to get it in me.

Well, it’s got an interesting texture. It’s very thick. And it has horrible a finish like a bad rhubarb pie with gasoline and grape leaves. It’s like a very bitter dolmades. The finish tastes like America’s loss today. I should know better. I don’t like Robert Parker’s tastes. I rarely agree with him. He like the darkest, earthy wines.

This wine is good on the nose in the mouth, but it disappoints on the finish. Maybe this is what it should taste like?

George ClintonI just did some research. Monastrell is Spanish for Mouvedre, which I said before taste like it comes from Funky Town.

But this, this finish is just funk, and not like James Brown or George Clint, but sad and yucky.

It just doesn’t suit my palate.//


Thomas Sayers Ellis’ Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems

A version of the following review will appear in the next issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

Skin Inc.: Identity Repair PoemsI love when I stumble onto a poet that I’ve never heard of before and who is good. Even better, when they are doing something new, at least new to me. You all probably know of Thomas Sayers Ellis, but I didn’t. But now I know something you don’t know. His newest collection, Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf P, 2010) is good. Oh, I am digging this book. I’m not sure if I know how to talk about it and explain why I like it because this style, this poetry is so new to me, but give me the chance.

The first thing I hear are a strong tone and voice. It’s so distinct and it comes off the page. This poetry is clearly meant to be read aloud. So much poetry wants to be read aloud, but it rarely is except in the quiet whispers to ourselves or in the typically reserved voice of a poetry reading. But that’s obvious. That’s not what is new.

Good poems do, and Ellis’ poems do. These poems leap. There are jumping-with-sensation poems, or as Ellis says:

The line lives life and life lives the line,
many unbreakable,
broken lifelines.

(“The Judges of Craft”)

That stanza is abstract, but that’s okay. It’s one of the many ars poeticas in this book. Besides, there is that haiku leap from line two to three. Let’s listen to some other stanzas from “Godzilla’s Avocado”:

From a lumpy russet, swirling
in a cosmos of miso,
colors mash into casserole.

Kids love kitchens, the sushi chef
re-ending monsters
with embassy-precision.

Life’s raw rolls, ready
to unravel the difficult answers
we wrap in seaweed.

“Love is when two people
like the same food
and the same toys […]”

There’s a lot of leaping here. Leaping from line to line, like “in a cosmos of miso, / colors mash into casserole” (And how do you not love the sounds of “cosmos” and “miso” in the same line? and the rest of the harmonies in that stanza. I love harmony and there are plenty of harmonies in this collection.), leaping within a line, like “Kids love kitchens, the sushi chef,” leaping from stanza to stanza, as every above stanza  does, and leaping from concrete to abstract, as those first two stanzas leap into those last two stanzas and then back again at “seaweed” and back again. In fact, the leaping between abstract and concrete happens throughout. But leaping is not new, but this leaping is refreshing.

What is new is the poet who is fighting on both sides of the Page vs. Stage poetry battle. What is new is that he bridges the gap, and he helps the stage poets understand the page poets and the page poets understand the stage poets. What’s new is that he teaches us how to read poetry. His poetry.

That’s kinda vague. Let me give some examples.

When we get to the “Mr. Dynamite Splits” section, Ellis gives us footnotes. What I like about these footnotes are that they tell us how to read the poems. “Why is that important?” you might ask. Well, because poems are meant to be read aloud. Too often, as I mentioned, they aren’t read loud enough. What happened to the “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world”? In fact, I just went to the roof of my apartment, the highest point in Brockport, NY, and read my favorite section, “My Dynamite Splits,” over the rooftops of Brockport and to Lake Ontario to the north, and to Rochester to the east, and to the churches to the south, and to the sun setting in the west.

But there’s more. Those are just my reasons. Ellis’ reasons are different.

A big concern of his is the level of respect given to the spoken-word, or Perform-a-Formist, poet. I’ve heard this often. The spoken-word poet wants the respect of the printed-page poet. I’ve also heard the page poet wants the attention and the celebrityhood the spoken-word poet receives. Ellis teaches us how both can be had. For instance, “A perform-a-form line breaks many times, verbally, before it breaks the last time visually. If written, it is written more like blood than bone. If spoken, it is spoken more like stutter than song” (“Two Manifestos: The New Perfom-A-Form: Two,” p 72).

James Brown Apollo

Ellis has a photograph from a similar scene in his book. Ellis is also a fine photographer.

I drifted. The footnotes. In the “Mr. Dynamite Splits” section, an elegy to James Brown, Ellis tells us how to read the poems. The instructions are for the Perform-A-Form poet and for the page, or academic, poet. My favorite footnote, man I like them all, is from the one on page 53, especially the last sentence. I’ll quote the two stanzas on the page and then the footnote.

“These nuts,” that’s what all the Camel Walks,
splits, spins, and Popcorns
told those early closed doors.
Get up offa that thang.

Long live you plea, please, pleases,
Byrd’s brotherly loyalty,
and calling-on Maceo’s licking-stick.
Live at the Apollo laid legend to myth.

Grown ass male physical solo with real references to animal behavior, and the freedom-hesitation to lean back, scream and jump. Fists up to the face, body tightening – a prep for flow, like a brother getting some no matter who is looking. Sweet life I do. Get the “long” and the “loyalty” and the “licking” and the “live” and the “laid” and the “legend” all on the same time and they’ll remember your shine. Eyes will catch the hits before they syllable the ground.

That last line is all about scansion, and it’s one of the most accurate scansion definitions I’ve ever read. At least that’s what happens to me.

Or consider this from page 45 of the same section:

and a bewildered next-time fire
of choked chords and percussive horns
Papa lit the behinds
of new bags with.

To quote Sweet Charles, “Yes it’s you”
the warm globe mourns . . .
for passing mashed potatoes and peas.
Gimme some more.

Call to mind the “be” from “be f-o-r-e” from the preface to the poem and make the “be” in “bewildered” an echo and extension. Do this in the mind near the remembrance of Papa, southern-styling your young “be”hind. Your voice, when reading, must not rest in any one bag. Passing is not rest. Like you, the gesture and line must “unit of gimme” some “unit of more.” A poem is just some.

That’s stage directions on how to read the poem. That’s also prosody. That’s Ellis telling the stage poet the academic significance of the poem, and Ellis telling the academic how to read the poem aloud.

As a result, Ellis has it doubly tough because he has to prove his poetry to the academics and to the spoken-word poets. He’s caught in the middle of the Page vs. Stage battle. In other words, as Ellis says, “I am weary of working / to prove myself equal.” That comes from the “Colored” section of “The Identity Repairman,” which is a wonderful poem that gives the history of African-Americans through the epithets of the times: “African,” “Slave,” “Negro,” “Colored,” “Black,” and “African-American.” (Who invented those words?)

There’s so much more to say about this collection, this voice, what the poems do, and what the poems say, but page space is limited. So I’ll end like this. Even though Thomas Sayers Ellis read and performed “The New Perfom-A-Form” at the “Futurism and the New Manifesto: Celebrating 100 Years of the Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” event at the MoMA in 2009, this Vorticist forgives Ellis his Futurist leanings, because that’s a helluva manifesto and Skin, Inc. is a helluva collection of poems.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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