City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: February, 2014

Amiri Baraka, 1934-2014

Belated posting of a Letter to the Editor that will never be published, written in response to a response to the death of Amiri Baraka.

Dear Philadelphia Weekly:

Re: “In Memoriam: Amiri Baraka,” I was lucky enough to hear Amiri Baraka in person once, on his Transbluesency book tour at Borders Rittenhouse Square in 1996 or so, back when Borders was still somewhat “out there” and not trying to compete with Barnes & Noble (bookstores for people who don’t read books). I almost heard him twice, but got lost on the way to the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival in Hillsborough, NJ in 2002 and showed up about a week and a half late. (“There is a field. I’ll meet you there,” read the Rumi quote on the festival posters. It didn’t say when.)

Of course Nia Ngina Meeks’s eulogy-by-way-of-elegy was most welcome, but we read so much about why poets and poetry are wrongly mocked, rejected, and rendered obsolete and stereotypical that it would have been worth actually quoting from Baraka’s poems themselves, not just other poets-authors-sympathetic types defending him for writing, thinking, and breathing.

What about “Black Dada Nihilismus” (For tambo, willie best, dubois, patrice, mantan, the bronze buckaroos./For Jack Johnson, asbestos, tonto, buckwheat, billie holiday), famously (though not famously enough) updated with DJ Spooky? Or The real terror of nature is humanity enraged, the true technicolor spectacle that hollywood cant record. They cant even show you how you look when you go to work, or when you come back (from “A New Reality Is Better Than a New Movie!”)? Or how about not just mentioning the controversy but quoting real words from “Somebody Blew Up America” (an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-Nazi poem, not “Amiri Baraka’s anti-semitic poem”), e.g. Who got the tar, who got the feathers/Who had the match, who set the fires/Who killed and hired/Who say they God & still be the Devil? Or “Numbers, Letters” (I cant say who I am/unless you agree I’m real), or even “Hymn for Lanie Poo” (Each morning I go down to Gansevoort St. and stand on the docks. I stare out at the horizon until it gets up and comes to embrace me. I make believe it is my father. This is know as genealogy“)?

Bonus points, though, for noting that LeRoi Jones was once a Beat (to the degree that anyone was actually a Beat).

H. Wechsler
Oaklyn, NJ


Band names

Writer friend Rob in Iowa, waking up John Adams recently (“Howe…will repent his mad march through the Jerseys…They are actuated by resentment now, and resentment coinciding with principle is a very powerful motive”), proposed The Resentments as the hypothetical name for my hypothetical, non-existent “alt-emo postpunk gothic trash can ensemble.”

Unfortunately, it’s taken (though Mad March, however, isn’t).

My remaining top ten band names (in no order; some are genre-dependent, where noted):

1. The Jesus Weasel (grunge)

2. Mellow Carmelo (yeah, it’s a Phillies/Harry Kalas reference from the early 90s)

3. Eamon & the Apes (in honor of the developer who bought my late grandmother’s house to renovate and resell a few months later, an enormous Irish-from-Ireland guy with a thick brogue whose wife Eileen had an even thicker brogue and who expressed shock at what her son was being exposed to in public school in the states, especially in science class, where “they were teaching him about aaaapes!!”–trust me, it works even better with heavy brogue)

4. Mondo Earthquake (not sure the genre, but someone somewhere needs to play a Moog)

5. Claire Booth Lucifer (death metal only–obviously)

6. None is the Number (no Dylan covers, just the honorific)

7. Tolstoy & the Zulus (postcolonial death rap in honor of Saul Bellow‘s worst nightmare)

8. Mantoux Test (because they need to cover Van Morrison’s “T.B. Sheets”)

9. Orphan Drugs

10. The Gravamen (clearly I need other law students for this)

11. The Belle Bottoms (this would actually be a girl group for one of those GIRLS IN THE GARAGE comp CD’s you used to find in the bargain bin, back when record stores existed)

12. Fidelio Castrato (I have no idea what genre this would be though it would not literally involve opera– it would perhaps sound sort of like Throbbing Gristle)

This is actually 12 band names, not 10, though I would be disqualified from membership in, at minimum, the Belle Bottoms (though I suppose I could still mastermind them a la Malcolm McLaren). I had even more names written down, but like the Resentments or those dark sultry women at the dark end of the bar at the Lofty Pines Motel, most of the good ones were actually taken. (Martin Eden exists, as do Tenzing Norgay and Designer Drugs. There is or was even a brutal death metal/grindcore band named Faeces, spelled the British way which I thought would make it even more Spinal Tap-ish. I also have written down that you can add the word “Malignant” in front of any random noun to generate a good band name, but I don’t know if that was my idea or I read it or heard it from someone else dead, like Lester or Paul, Williams or McCartney, they’re both dead, right.)

Ruffian Haiku

A Vietnamese
man named Pang becomes more so
after I punch him

The enemy of 40

“If Congress had been worrying about protecting the younger against the older, it would not likely have ignored everyone under 40. The youthful deficiencies of inexperience and unsteadiness invite stereotypical and discriminatory thinking about those a lot younger than 40, and prejudice suffered by a 40-year-old is not typically owing to youth, as 40-year-olds sadly tend to find out. The enemy of 40 is 30, not 50.”
–Justice Souter, writing for the majority in General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline (2004)

Retard Dandy


for Jeffrey Lee Pierce

hominid hominid hominid hominid
hominid hominid hominid hominid

revolution in the revolution in the catachresis
reverse evolution in the elocution of the master’s thesis

a decrease in tempo at the charnel house
undoes her blouse
when the radio rocks
when the idiot moans
were you never without him
were you ever alone
a reckoning, a red dress
the tough behind your tenderness
your Kulturkampf becoming ash
& you call him trash

too many monkeys in the monkey house, baby
too much sugar for the sugar daddy

era un padre, ahora soy suegro
I’m going back to Montenegro

era un padre, ahora soy suegro
I’m going back to Montenegro

turn on the headlights for the
Idiot Waltz

“Portrait of a Monkey” (Mewar, Udaipur, c. 1700) courtesy of Wikipedia.