visiting with old friends and jupe goes ape shit over a baraka poem


I had a great time visiting with old friends last night. Ken and Karen Near took the time and trouble to drive over from Detroit where they are currently living to chat with Eileen and me and have supper together.

I knew Ken and Karen at the beginning of my church music career. Ken is a year older than me and was an Episcopal priest in nearby Tawas City when I lived in Oscoda (1976ish). It was while living in Oscoda that I got the church music bug.

I was raised in a church family but didn’t anticipate the beauties of the Episcopal service and music in the Book of Common Prayer 1928 and Hymnal 1940. I stumbled on to them after answering an ad in the local Oscoda paper that a church was looking for a musician.

I was a bar musician at the time. I passed the audition even though I had no real organ skills and began my time at St. John’s Oscoda. I remember it as a time of fun. I did a lot of crazy things and wasn’t very good at the whole deal. But I learned a ton. And we did a lot of music there. Ken was part of this time and actually performed with me at least once since he was a semi professional horn player at the time as well as a new priest.

Last night I was reminded about how much delight I took in my life at Oscoda. My life now bears some resemblance to that time of my life then. I now live out many (but not all since I have changed) of the values I had then.

I’m hoping I can pick up my friendship with Ken and Karen. They are intelligent people in at a time of ignorance, they are progressive at a time of regressive values in the good old USA. Both of them are well read and articulate. What a gas!

On the home front, I got up this morning and was struck forcibly by the beauty and brilliance of a poem by Amiri Baraka. If you look at the top the page I have added the entire poem as a link (not sure how long I will keep it there). ┬áIt’s called “Rhymn & Blues 1) by Amiri Baraka.

Maybe it’s my feeble mindedness, but I think this is an excellent poem. If you don’t like the American beat poets you might not like, but I suspect if you examine it at all you will see its skill and value.

Here are some lines that are haunting me this morning.

“An action so secret it creates.
Men dancing on a beach.”

“the peacock insolence of zombie regimes
the diaphanous silence of empty churches
the mock solitude of a spastic’s art.”

“A tub, a slick head, and the pink houses waving
at the night as it approaches.”

“If I see past what I feel, and call music simply ‘Art’ and will
not take it to its logical end. For the death by hanging for
the death by the hooded political murderer, for the old man
dead in his
tired factory; election machines chime quietly his fraudulent faith.”

“There is no ‘melody.’ Only the foot stomped the roaring harmonies of need. The
hand banged on the table, waved in the air. The teeth pushed agains
the lip. The face and fingers sweating. ‘Let me alone,’ is praise enough
for these musicians.”

“I am deaf and blind and lost and still not again sing your quiet verse. I have lost
even the act of poetry…”

I recommend reading the entire poem.

Out loud.


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