From Poetry Magazine

Earth Riots: A Playlist for the February 2019 Issue

Harmony Holiday

For our February 2019 playlist, we asked contributor Harmony Holiday to curate a selection of music for us. You can read about her approach to creating the playlist below. Click here to open the playlist in your Spotify app.

My parents named me for their obsessions and the loom of my own: the spheres, dactyls, our collective acoustic condition, assonance, dat ass, the light in the sound, the silent mouthing in the sound mirror, etcetera. Sun Ra, maybe my favorite person in our eternally returning history of the Astro Black future, calls poetry the ultimate in things. I agree with him. I also agree with Amiri Baraka when he says Black America is a nation of poets.

February is the brief cycle we spend deliberately, and maybe a bit too obediently on cue, celebrating that nation within a nation, our hyper-colonized selves, and this year it feels urgent that we listen to the call of our collective obsessions amidst the celebration, and learn which of them is shallow and needs letting go, and which to allow to guide us into a renewed sense of possibility, a renewed radicality that might alleviate the ongoing breakdown of speech and language in our culture. Black music has taught me how to listen, and the poems I love the most are acts of listening themselves, radios, that tune to the self, first, and then to what that attunement reveals about the society in which we find ourselves. Finally, these radios-come-poems force me to hear on a frequency I couldn’t access alone; they force me to improvise with them on their terms. This playlist is meant to exercise and tone the fast twitch muscle that allows that acute improvisational listening, to tune it in the service of poems that call us to duty and to catalog everything I’ve been listening to while reading this month’s issue. The playlist is dedicated to Joseph Jarman, a poet and jazz musician, member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who passed away last month, and to all like him and Sun Ra who compose some of their most sacred written work in secrecy and in between forms, not seeking audience, just looking for new ways to hear their music and therefore themselves. It’s also inspired by Edmond Albius, slave botanist, in the spirit of the gorgeous hymn for him that Timothy Donnelly contributed to the February issue. The list’s guiding image is of Frances Taylor, brilliant dancer and Miles Davis’s wife, poised in front of some studio equipment, as a reminder that we must listen and compose with our whole bodies, and that the Black female body has been pirated again and again to help others tap into embodied listening.

This playlist will not quit playing radio in the robot age, hence it opening with Funkadelic’s “America Eats Its Young.” Many of the tracks are so-called free jazz because jazz, like poetry, is the ultimate in things and ultimately overlooked by the society that most needs its ability to deepen and stretch consciousness and thought patterns just through regular exposure to it as a form. Enjoy going from Mobb Deep to CAN to serpentwithfeet to Mal Waldron to Nina Simone the way you enjoy one line breaking into another when it’s time to breathe, free yourself from oppressive systems of logic and sound grammar, and listen closely.

Originally Published: February 1st, 2019

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, poet and choreographer Harmony Holiday is the daughter of Northern Soul singer/songwriter Jimmy Holiday. Her father died when she was five, and she and her mother moved to Los Angeles. Holiday earned a BA in rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley and an MFA at...