Bis: So much going on I keep forgetting to write

In September I bundled together a bunch of news and updates from my literary work in one big update, and I continue to have trouble finding time to post updates here more regularly, so time for another big round-up.

The latest issue of the lovely Scree Magazine has an interview with me, and showcases 2 of my poems "Mango Flesh" (p. 55) & "Mysteries of Harvest II" (an Igbo-themed sonnet on p. 59).  There's also a summary in simpler Web form.

Potomac Review had me as a featured guest blogger to write on my participation in National Poetry Writing Month. In my article I touched on the practice of writing in a marathon, and the advantages that come with community, memorization and form.

One of my poems "A heart to break for longing" is up at Blind Oracle Press. It's an especially dear to me as it was my first experiment with what has become a form I call the Dialette, which has now become one of my favorite forms in which to write.

I have twin poems in String Poet. A straight translation and adaptation both from “El Amor Ascendía Entre Nosotros,” by Miguel Hernandez.  "Love ascended between us" and "Folly between us"

My poem "Manna in the Maxim Gun" is up in Unsplendid, tagged as "an expat ponders Nigeria's past & future."  Also "Endo" in Mountain Gazette, both in print and online.  It's the fifth poem on the page, a Tanka. I also posted an idiosyncratic performance piece "Annette Fu Frankie A Frankenstein Freaks!" on The Nervous Breakdown.

Finally, I've contributed a poem, "Sendai Space Elevator," to New Sun Rising, a charity anthology to benefit victims of last year's Tsunami in Japan. The book is due out soon, and there is now a trailer available.


King David's Nkrumah Salute

The first leader of a newly independent Ghana
Faced many a challenge to visions of utopia;
The vision is based on science and agriculture;
Here come the vultures shitting like pigeons on a sculpture.
Nobody's perfect, yo! he's got faults you can list them...

Dr. Nkrumah's intentions were the best
Why it's all a mess cause we still needed lots of help from the West...

Kennedy and his foreign aid
During the cold war turning Ghana into economic slaves...

Military coup after coup it's appaling
Seventh time a charm: enter Jerry Rawlings...

There once lived a great man with a geat vision, great plan,
A great dreamer determined to realize what he'd seen for Africa
Things fell apart at the seams in Ghana...

We salute ya, we salute ya,
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
—from "Nkrumah Salute" by King David

My cousin and sound producer extraordinaire released this clear-eyed tribute to the great man who spearheaded the African independence movements of the 50s, including that of Nigeria, whose independence came a few years after Ghana's.  Nkrumah was the father among pan-African visionary leaders from Nyerere to Azikiwe who did succeed in the most visible successes of independence, but whose energy and charisma were not quite enough to counter the complex manipulations engineered by colonial powers within the field of influence of the globally influential cold war poles in Washington and Moscow.

What I like about this Nkrumah salute is that it doesn't shy away from calling out the disaster of Nkrumah's Volta river project, which also pioneered errors repeated across Africa where ambition for foreign exchange and rapid industrialization led governments into economic patterns that extended the hegemony of Western powers while decimating indigenous industries.  These errors led to corruption, which led to erosion of the most important human resources and caused perilous internal strains.  In Ghana the false gold was bauxite, which inspired the Volta river project.  In Nigeria it was and still is petroleum.  Such projects required strong central control, which bred autocracy, in which Nkrumah was also an unfortunate pioneer, and eventually this led to a wave of military coups across Africa, and made it easier for the CIA and KGB to conduct their proxy wears across the continent.

Despite all that we rightly salute Nkrumah.  if these have been harsh lessons for Africans to learn, it has been essential that we learn them ourselves, and Nkrumah led the way to such self-determination.  It is also for us to address the problems over time.  We should be wary of quick fixes.  Everyone salutes Mandela for his greatness, but I'm sure he paid careful attention to his African history, and learned the right lessons.  Even Mandela had his elders, among whom Nkrumah was a leading light.

I've always personally enjoyed the fact that Nkrumah took his pan-Africanism even as far as matters of the heart, marrying an elagent Coptic Egyptian lady Fathia, whom he impressed as a fiery African nationalist in the spirit of Nasser.  The marriage fell apart with the strains of Nkrumah's later years in power and Fathia returned to Cairo even before Nkrumah went into exile in Guinea, but after Fathia's death a few years ago she was flown according to her wishes to be buried beside her husband in Ghana.


We are the punch bag of fate
on whom the hands of destiny wearies
and the show of blows gradually lose
their viciousness on our patience
until they become caresses of admiration
and time that heals all wounds
comes with a balm and without tears,
soothes the bruises on our spirits.
—from "Ghana's Philosophy of Survival" by Kwesi Brew, richly discussed in "Poetry as Cultural Memory", by Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah.  It's also well worth reading "Africa, 1966" on the same Weblog.

First in flight

Let’s imagine for a second that the robin
is not a contained entity moving at speed
through space, but that it is a living change,
unmaking and remaking itself over and over
by sheer unconscious will, and that
if we were to slow down the film enough
we would see a flying ball of chaos,
flicking particles like Othello counters,

—from 'Robin In Flight' by Paul Adrian, winner of The National Poetry Competition, UK

This might be the best poem I've ever read to have won a recent competition.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the winner has never published before.  The more I deal with the poetry establishment the more I'm convinced it has a way of curbing fresh voices.  I hope this honor encourages Mr. Adrian to persevere with his style.  For me it's not far from being up there with the great bird poems (OK maybe not 'The Windhover' but does anything even approach Hopkins's iconic piece), including D.H. Lawrence's 'Humming Bird.'

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.
I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

—from 'Humming Bird' by D.H. Lawrence


Back to the UK National Poetry Competition, one of the runners up is quite good fun.

The records show that in Shanghai
at the end of the Yuan Dynasty,
the year 1364, a glassblower blew
a mermaid that came to life, and swam
away. And in Cologne, in 1531, a team
of glassblowers blew an orchestra,
instruments and all, and these played.
Then on Hokkaido, in 1846, a blind
monk blew his own Buddha to pray to,
and the next day he was able to see.

—from 'A History of Glassblowing' by Matthew Sweeney

Here's a neat project using Blake's illustrations and music to set The Songs of Innocence and Experience nicely into video.  

It includes treatment of "The Blossom."

Pretty pretty robin!
Under leaves so green
A happy blossom
Hears you sobbing sobbing
Pretty pretty robin
Near my bosom.
—from 'The Blossom' by William Blake, published in Songs of Innocence in 1789


Tout baigne!

Aujourd'hui je bouge
Chercher mon nouveau move
Je n'ai plus de cash
Même pas de crédit card
Je fais façon-façon!
C'est ce qui fond ma conviction! 

Refrain (Marie & co.): Tomana Toma cha na taboo!
Toma na Toma cha ni tout baigne! 
Toma! (Tout baigne!)
Na Ouais! ça bouge
Tomana Toma
Ah! Tout baigne 
Mon plan pour ce soir
J'veux pas vous décevoir c'est moi qui vous mène
Et ça en vaut la peine
Trop de frustration
Vivre dans une money nation (money nation)

Dis-moi, toi! 
Arno, dis-moi!
Sans l'argent 
Dans l'attente
Tu fais quoi?


Toma ton machin,
Ça c'est bien ça!
Sans argent, t'as pas le choix
On rève, comme un roi charmant
On chante "ah si j'étais riche moi!
(What we're gonna do today?


My favorite song off Zap Mama's "Supermoon" album.  When she came to Boulder a few years ago to support it (as she does often, happily) one of my keenest disappointments was that she performed the song mostly translated to English, so I couldn't sing along with the French lyrics I knew from the album.

Yeah yeah it's a rat race and blah blah blah and we're all just squirrels trying to get a nut and yada yada.  It's nice to have someone actually having a great deal of fun with those old complaints.  And I love Marie just doing her wacky thing in the video, especially pop-locking in the robot get-up.  Charming chemistry hanging out with French pop-rocker Arno, too.


Today I'm getting my ass in gear
To figure out my new move
I ain't got no more cash
No more on the credit card
I'm just making do
Which is why I'm ain't messing around...

As a bonus, here's a fun music video by Arno:

Fela in Calabar

First of all let me mention that I've just completed my second installment in my series "50 Observations on 50 years of Nigeria."  I'm giving it a day or two for a fresh-eye proofread, and I'll post it on The Nervous Breakdown probably tomorrow.  In part 1, item 9 I said "Fela Anikulapo Kuti. 'Nuff said. We've always known he's the man. Nice to see the world catch up."

I recently ran across video of a Fela performance in Calabar in 1971, shot by the legendary drummer Ginger Baker who recorded with Fela.

Calabar is where I was born, and this concert would have been taking place as I was perfecting my toddling technique a few miles away (though I did also spend a lot of time rather farther away in my maternal home town of Ikot Ana).  It's quite something to see that infectious energy of Fela.  This was in the early years of his superstardom, and you can still feel the raw edge to the band which would grind its way to such unbelievable chops.

Lullaby: The Tease

My dear friend Kimberly M. Wetherell, whom I delighted in meeting earlier this year, is a bright, upcoming filmmaker.  I enjoyed Ménage à Trois, and if you haven't seen the hilarious Why we Wax (link possibly NSFW) you are definitely missing out.  For the past year or so, Kimberly has been grinding hard to gain the necessary support for a far more ambitious work, Lullaby.  Based on a teaser for this feature film she put together and posted over the weekend, it could just be her masterpiece.  With the sights, sounds and emotional balance so compelling in this teensy peek upon her vision, I am eagerly looking forward to the completed work.