Poetry News

Harmony Holiday in the Coldfront Spotlight

By Harriet Staff

You'll remember yesterday we mentioned that among our latest additions to our online archive we included poems by Harmony Holiday. If you loved those poems, as I'm sure you did, you'll love Harmony in conversation with Ken L. Walker over at Coldfront. They watch videos together, they listen to jazz, they talk about poetry! And Billie Holiday:

Langston wrote: Trouble mellows the golden note. Then Rita Dove went on: Fact is the invention of women under siege has been to sharpen love in the service of myth. These things come to mind as I watch Billie sing this version “Strange Fruit” and the question, who else sang this song ? Her bravery and her frailty are so inextricably linked that it’s almost vicious of her, to be so versatile, generous, fierce, tender. Taurus in the arena of life © Charles Mingus. A Queen without her court, in the words of Abbey Lincoln. Everyone has something to say about Billie Holiday. Sometimes her legacy is co-opted to the extent that her work is seen as relic, like the time I was dating a guy who said ‘no one really listens to Billie Holiday,’ as if she is pure idea or an advertisement for the idea of listening to her music. The lines you asked about regard that type of legacy statuing and how it undermines so much of our oral history. Especially throughout black America. I want people like Billie to be kinetic and dynamic figures we can relate to, not frozen into interpretation by the idea they cast until no one really listens. “Ambassador” addresses the crossing of deep admiration for someone’s spirit and ways, particularly the spirit and mode of a musician, in contrast with the fear/hagiography/catacresis of that person’s stature that accounts for ignorant questions like ‘does anyone really listen to…’ I hope everyone really listens to “Strange Fruit,” the raw ache in Billie’s voice (and stance) as she sings it, and begins to think about who the real ambassadors are, the real soloists, maybe sharpening myth in the service of love (and its quotient climate).

Now check out the rest!

Originally Published: May 2nd, 2012