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Pulp Poetry

Scraps of fascination are the building blocks of an interesting life.


On Being Brought from Africa to America

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

- Phillis Wheatley, On Being Brought from Africa to America

exceprt: An Address to Phillis Wheatley

Come, dear Phillis, be advised,
To drink Samaria’s flood;
There nothing that shall suffice
But Christ’s redeeming blood.
John iv. 13, 14.

While thousands muse with earthly toys;
And range about the street,
Dear Phillis, seek for heaven’s joys,
Where we do hope to meet.
Matth. vi. 33.

- Jupiter Hammon, from An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley


movement of time through the music of space,
eye hear a bell ringing blue in sentences,

the language spoken in sleep becomes an echo here,
a translation when written down on white paper,

in the air, when spoken, words seem like a dream
pulsating through ether in blue melodies of tongues

weaving inside sentences, packed with local
idioms, carved from blue spaces by human breath,

sounds rooted in voices here evoke metaphors
coursing blood-deep, form ancient tribal gestures,

where words fixed in geographic locations repeat
through reverberating memory, bring recognition

ricocheting through a collective truth, perhaps
then language can evoke a shared history,

music, when sentences mirror rhythms of tongues
poetry rises like suns birthing circles of love

- Quincy Troupe, Sentences

(Source: quincytroupe.com)


Charlie Chaplin Impersonates a Poet

The stage is set for imminent disaster.
Here is the little tramp, standing
On a stack of books in order
To reach the microphone, the
Poet he’s impersonating somehow
Trussed and mumbling in a
Tweed bundle at his feet.

He opens his mouth: Tra-la!
Out comes doves, incandescent bulbs,
Plastic roses. Well, that’s that,
Squirms the young professor who’s
Coordinated this,
No more visiting poets!

His department head groans
For the trap door. As it
Swings away

The tramp keeps on as if
Nothing has occurred,
A free arm mimicking
A wing.

- Cornelius Eady, Charlie Chaplain Impersonates a Poet

Groovin’ Low

my swing is more mellow
these days: not the hardbop drive
i used to roll but more of a cool
foxtrot. my eyes still close
when the rhythm locks; i’ve learned
to boogie with my feet on the floor
i’m still movin’, still groovin’
still fallin’ in love

i bop to the bass line now. the trap set
paradiddles ratamacues & flams
that used to spin me in place still set me
off, but i bop to the bass line now
i enter the tune from the bottom up
& let trumpet & sax wheel above me

so don’t look for me in the treble
don’t look for me in the fly
staccato splatter of the hot young horn
no, you’ll find me in the nuance
hanging out in inflection & slur
i’m the one executing the half-bent
dip in the slow slowdrag
with the smug little smile
& the really cool shades

- A. B. Spellman, Groovin’ Low

A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop

All those
     Liquid love affairs,
Blind swimmers
     Trusting rumps.
We wiggled,
     Imagining water.
Wet, where was
     The One?
Nevermind Atlantis
     And the promise
Of moving pictures,
     A lit candle
In the window
     Of our conscious minds.
Those who danced,
     Pretending to swim
     Did so out
Of pure allegiance.
     Some wore snorkels
Made with
     The waistbands
Of funky underwear,
     Others wet suits
With clothespins
     Clamped to their noses,
Airtight as
     Black Power handshakes.
     The strings attached
To our thangs were
     Reeled into The Deep
And rhythmic as fins,
     Schools of P signs
Flapped and waved
     Like flags.
One nation
     Under a groove.
No one held their breath
     In the flashlit depth.
No one sank.

- Thomas Sayers Ellis, A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop

(Source: poetryfoundation.org)

"All Their Stanzas Look Alike

All their fences
      All their prisons
All their exercises
     All their agendas
All their stanzas look alike
     All their metaphors
All their bookstores
     All their plantations
All their assassinations
     All their stanzas look alike
All their rejection letters
     All their letters to the editor
All their arts and letters
     All their letters of recommendation
All their stanzas look alike
     All their sexy coverage
All their literary journals
     All their car commercials
All their bribe-spiked blurbs
     All their stanzas look alike
All their favorite writers
     All their writing programs
All their visiting writers
     All their writers-in-residence
All their stanzas look alike
     All their third worlds
All their world series
     All their serial killers
All their killing fields
     All their stanzas look alike
All their state grants
     All their tenure tracks
All their artist colonies
     All their core faculties
All their stanzas look alike
     All their Selected Collecteds
All their Oxford Nortons
     All their Academy Societies
All their Oprah Vendlers
     All their stanzas look alike
All their haloed holocausts
     All their coy hetero couplets
All their hollow haloed causes
     All their tone-deaf tercets
All their stanzas look alike
     All their tables of contents
All their Poet Laureates
     All their Ku Klux classics
All their Supreme Court justices
     Except one, except one
Exceptional one. Exceptional or not,
     One is not enough.
All their stanzas look alike.
     Even this, after publication,
Might look alike. Disproves
     My stereo types."
- Thomas Sayers Ellis, All Their Stanzas Look Alike

(Source: poetryfoundation.org)


A Far Cry From Africa

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
“Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?

Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilization’s dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?

- Derek Walcott, A Far Cry from Africa

Of Robert Frost

There is a little lightning in his eyes.
Iron at the mouth.
His brows ride neither too far up nor down.

He is splendid. With a place to stand.

Some glowing in the common blood.
Some specialness within.

- Gwendolyn Brooks, Of Robert Frost

One Wants a Teller in a Time Like This

One wants a teller in a time like this

One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown
To bear enormous business all alone.

One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.

One is not certain if or why or how.
One wants a Teller now:

Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch a cold
Here’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday School
Be patient, time brings all good things-(and cool
Strong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)
Love’s true, and triumphs; and God’s actual.

- Gwendolyn Brooks, One Wants a Teller in a Time Like This