American Afrikan

7 January 2009 at 8:33 am (Poems, Releases, Spoken Word, Writings) (, , , )

we are the first invention of god/flung like stars across the universe/our histories etched on the wind/blood and soil commingled

the drum beats at dawn for her sons to rise/we travel beyond the mountains of the moon/spread across continents like masks/invisible villages shaped into questions/awaiting answers from ancestors

birthsongs traced with the blood of tears/dark face of the sun where birthed the light of man/we traverse the dark night of motherless songs/only to suffer in the promise land

mine like gold from Berber coasts/memories swallowed by living ghosts/from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli/the halls of independence to the fields of the Indies/in ships on the horizon rests/our future burdens and dreams

we adorn ourselves with the bluest skies/tears beaded like sacred rope/to noose our bodies before our spirit dies/tributaries we flow into the American Nile

soldiers of the seventh cataract/we grow skyward like the roots of the baobab/rewrite the books burned to bone and ash/we raise fists like obelisks/arrows shot into the sun

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Vote America

18 October 2008 at 1:06 am (Poems, Recap, Releases, Spoken Word, Work Notes, Writings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In 2007, I was asked by friend and collaborator, Assaad Lakkis, to write a few pieces for an upcoming album by his jazz band, Abstrakt Collision, based in Dubai. The album, titled Polidix, was to be all instrumental except for the pieces I would write. Assaad and I worked on a Miles Davis project back in the 90s, and also worked together on god’s pager. It was always a fruitful collaboration, so there was no question of saying yes. He sent me several recordings and I got to work. The piece was finished in June 2007 and recorded shortly there after by one of my favorite collaborators, Ben Durrant. The sessions also produced, The Last Poet, which featured Madame Mimi. After finishing the tracks I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. Assaad and I had agreed that he would release it on their album and I would release it on my end through Tru Ruts. I continued to perform the piece over the next year, and as the election drew closer I decided I would release it on Election Day as a single. I also decide to do my part with the getting out the vote, and created the postcard below. The design of the poem was created by Meleck Davis and the Vote image was created by Karin Odell, from a photo by Julian Murray. You can hear the recordings of both America and The Last Poet here.

AMERICA POEM POSTCARD BACK (700pxl)

4x6_America_image_V2.ai

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without punctuation

30 May 2008 at 2:33 am (Poems, Recordings, Spoken Word, Writings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

without-punctuation-poem-page-1one of my Spoken Word pieces by way of an introduction. it’s one of my favorite pieces and one of the first that started to capture the essence of what i define as spoken word. the definition of spoken word i developed from studying the art form over the years is this:

“Spoken Word is an art form which accentuates the rhythmic elements inherent in a poem––thereby expanding the texture, the context, and possibly the meaning of the work. You can accentuate these rhythms either through your verbal delivery or you can add music, or both. The work can be created by the individual poet or with a group of poets, and musicians, either improvisationally or through conscious arrangement.”

that’s the longer definition. the shorter one is basically,

“Spoken Word is accentuating the rhythmic elements inherent within a poem, whether through instrumentation or your own vocal delivery.”

the piece is a tribute to Black Arts Movement writers and their freedom from syntax and standard rules of poetry, fused with the history of Africans in America. the freedom they exhibited on the page, i wanted to figure out how to express that in the oralization, the performance, of the piece.

but at the time i didn’t know that what i was doing was called spoken word. i considered it jazz poetry. this is why on page it’s structured like a jazz poem, which i had been writing for a couple years. but in performance, it’s developed into a spoken word piece, and my development of it paralleled and guided my development as a spoken word artist. once i completed this piece, which i edited over the course of a couple years, i felt like i understood the essence of spoken word and what it aims for. it went on to win the Hughes Diop Poetry Award at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference, along with another poem, ‘letter to lisa’.

Note: Below is a live performance of ‘without punctuation’. It is fused with another piece, ‘diaspora’, and is now called, ‘Blues People’, in reference to the classic book on African American music by Amiri Baraka.


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