Thursday, March 15, 2012, 6:30 pm
535 West 22nd Street, 5th Floor
New York City
Perhaps best known as a leader of the spoken word poetry movement, including slam and hiphop poetries, Bob Holman recently published his fifteenth book, Picasso in Barcelona (Paper Kite Press). This follows A Couple of ways of Doing Something, a collaboration with Chuck Close (Aperture) and Crossing State Lines: An American Renga from Farrar Strauss (co-editor). He teaches at Columbia and NYU and is a founder of the Bowery Poetry Club where he serves as Artistic Director. He is a proponent of poetry-media collaborations, producing five seasons of "Poetry Spots" for WNYC-TV, winning three Emmys; his five-part PBS series, The United States of Poetry, won an INPUT (International Public Television) Prize. He was the host of MTV's "Spoken Word Unplugged," appeared on "HBO Def Poetry Jam," and created the first major spoken word record label, Mouth Almighty/Mercury. His current mission is bringing attention to Endangered Languages -- half the languages on earth will disappear this century. His 3-part series on this subject, "On the Road," is available on LinkTV, and he is in preparation for "Word Up!", a 90-minute special for PBS. Recent travels have been to Wales (he is learning Welsh), and to the griots of West Africa and their counterpart, the azmaris of Ethiopia. He is co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance.
How Kora Was Born
-- as sung by Papa Susso to Bob Holman
This story begins long long long long ago
So long ago that it was a place not a time
There was a man
He was so alone
The only person he could talk to was Africa
Luckily there was a tree nearby
Even more luckily behind that tree
That’s where his partner was hiding
All the sun and all the water were condensed
Into a single tiny block
Which the man planted in the sandy soil
He blew and he blew on that spot
Each time he blew he thought he heard something
What he was hearing was of course his partner singing
The man didn’t even know what singing was
Because he could only talkv He couldn’t sing yet
So he blew and he listened, blew listened blew listened
And the plant pushed out dark green
And began to twist and grow
A vine reaching for the breath
And stretching towards the song
(Because it was made from sun and rain, remember?)
So at the end of the vine that was the calabash
And the tree it was not a tree anymore
It was the neck and handles
That was when the man’s partner Saba Kidane
Came out into the open (but that’s another story)
And the breath and the singing and the vine?
Well, there are 21 strings, what do you think?
And now you say what about the bridge and the cowhide
And the rings that tie the strings to the neck
So you can tune the kora
Hey, what about the thumbtacks that hold
The cowhide taut over the calabash
And the resonator hole
Well you go right on talking about all that
I’m playing kora now
Next time I’ll tell you about the cow
Alhaji Papa Susso
Alhaji Papa Susso is a master kora player and oral historian from The Gambia, West Africa. Hailing from a long line of griots (traditional oral historians) of the Mandinka people, he was taught the kora by his father and has been playing since the age of five. The kora, a 21-stringed harp-lute, is the preferred instrument of Mandinka Jalolu (Griot), itinerant musicians who were traditionally attached to royal courts where their duties included recounting the tribal history and genealogy, composing commemorative songs, and performing at important tribal events. Today Papa Susso is a goodwill ambassador traveling around North America, giving both classroom presentations and formal concert performances where he recounts the history of his country and his people, discusses the roles of griots in West African culture, and performs the classic songs of the griot repertoire.
Thomas Fink was born in New York City in 1954. He is the author of seven books of poetry, including most recentlyPeace Conference (Marsh Hawk Press, 2011), Clarity and Other Poems (Marsh Hawk Press, 2008), and a book of collaborative poetry with Maya Diablo Mason, Autopsy Turvy (Meritage Press, 2010). A Different Sense of Power: Problems of Community in Late-Twentieth Century Poetry (FDU Press, 2001) is his most recent book of criticism, and in 2007, he co-edited Burning Interiors: David Shapiro’s Poetry and Poetics (FDU Press). His work has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2007, and his paintings hang in various collections. Fink is a Professor of English at CUNY-LaGuardia, and lives in New York City.
Dusk Bowl Intimacies 19
I once saw a handsome coven—lovers (by no means, of means)—up there in the bush, up in the sky. My glasses were alive then. The minute they wave, I think they shouldn’t. They want a new religion, too. It isn’t just money: it’s their creed. We’ll be getting a lot of candidates. My ex-boyfriend and his brother were deemed dead fish. They brought them back to life—a couple of days of light. Too late, too early, at sea. But if you ride on the right horse. . . .
Do you ever brush up on your flying? That’s a good strategy to keep me alive a little longer.
you too far
die in hell.