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All Creatures Great And Small

By Edwin Torres

The heroes that plumb the depths of the body electric, act as a litmus for edge and its extractive measures from the core—what chums the bone at a reading, what elevates the slivered base. The time invested in what to choose for a reading is a direct reflection of the skin’s sealed incapacity for stasis—when to unfurl the new one, when to rest in the familiar. I just gave a reading where I could have rested in everything I knew but chose to push the audience away…not on purpose just poor judgement to complicate the barriers invented….but always a lesson. I remember an exchange, early in my poetry days, just before a group reading, where the performance sister in full celebratory energetics said, “Okay people, let’s go kick some poems!” To which the non-performance poet angrily declared, “Ain’t no one kickin’ no poems!” An unintended act of sensitivity brought about by the sister’s over-zealous kinetics. They both remain my hero to this day, the act of kicking a poem and softening its recoil both necessary megaphones. As Miguel Algarin, founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, told me years ago during one of our many car trips while he was teaching Shakespeare at Rutgers University, “We’re a small island, but we’re loud baby!” He was referencing the people but that applies to the art, the spoken underground…my interpretation anyway. About this ‘other’ sub-vocal…I think of Pedro Pietri and the complexity of his charismatic clown, sage, conjuror. Pedro gave us many chances for removal, his was the conjuring magic that emerges from the oral tradition of the New York Puerto Rican hyphenated. The nihilistic void of his non-costumes and props, dressed up in poetry, were cues for me to lose language. To sort of retreat into an interior vocab for transition to emerge. Do you hold onto the charged body once allowed its retreat within, that is, the refined space that clarity brings? Too precious, the skeletal line between text and time. Does a chant, absurdist or meditative, infiltrate a created focus as opposed to a cultivated one…a born “temple“?  The natural state of a body in transition is something I’ve been interested in over the last few years. The poets who are totem spirits that help us become quiet to the world, so as to experience the sub-vocal. Gil Scott-Heron released an album, after 16 years, in 2010, “We’re New Here” with grit and bare adrenalin to spare. His spoken-sung poetry hits the sub-core on this album, especially the track “I’m New Here“—a driving minimal state of angst with a haunting melodic drive accompanied by his unique timbre, a beautiful combo that reaches under the surface.  The track “I’ll Take Care Of U”  was remixed by a musician Jamie XX and then redone as “Take Care” by current mainstream badboy Drake with current mainstream bad girl Rihanna. It’s a smart cover though I prefer the original, but I like how the refrain “I’ve loved and I’ve lost” has been isolated in the cover version and the video is an evocative tribute to the strength of animals. That Scott-Heron remains vital decade after decade is the mark of a sub-vocal hero. So which totem spirit will follow the pen across the page? Living upstate, among trees after a life around buildings, my air surrounds me in ways that surprise me. How much of that works its way into writing continues to be an experiment in-progress…but I appreciate the unspoken conveyance of that energy as it works itself through this current phase—a key frame to capture, an acknowledgement that there is indeed something heroic hovering the spirit, and how careful to handle its transference.

Posted in Featured Blogger on Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Edwin Torres.