C. Edward Bernier:
Ted Joans came to us in the late 70s fresh from his wanderings throughout the Sahel. I was Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Dakar. He began slowly, with poetry readings about town and in the countryside. Then he moved in with us. Brought his trunk full strange and mystical things from the brosse. Bird skulls, feathers, sticks, and other grigris. He left for an extended period of time, but his trunk with its contents remained in the storage bin in the basement of l”Immeuble BIAO.
Not a day went by but that we didn’t think about Ted and his tales of wandering through the Sahel.
He returned for another round of high profile readings and appearances, then disappeared.
I would later encounter this genius in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, when I heard his voice shouting, “Hey, brother Ed, what’s going on?”
He was there between overseas jaunts. We promised to stay in touch.
Later I found myself in Cairo. Of course Ted came to visit. And then it was Algiers.
What I have left is what seems a lifetime of memories, that is, his memories of his growing up and becoming what he was that melded with my own memories. I was made richer by far.
Somewhere in my own trunks, stashed back in the far recesses of my attic here in Hilton Head Island, are programs of Ted’s performances whereever we found ourselves together. And there is even a little booklet of his, poems that we published in Dakar, which Ted illustrated and annotated.
Stay in touch, Ted! We know that you live.
Hey man, my good old friend and soul brother
your Hipness of spades
that can not be remade
I spent ten long years in Eastgreenland digging the people there. You know – the Eskimos. Actually the last Eskimo tribe to be found by the whites. Real good people. That’s my Timbuktu.
Coming back I tried for eleven long years to get in touch with Idrees (Suliman) the trumpeter.
You know he used to live in Copenhagen. I found him last year on this new thing called the net only to find out that he just had passed away.
I have been trying to find you, another trumpeter, for twelve long years only to find out that you passed away as well. Years ago I asked Skip (Malone) about you and he gave me the address of a Parisian café, Café Roque. I wrote in vain. I even had a friend of mine to go by – without any result. Skip wrote by the way an article about Jazz ‘n’ Poetry. He mentioned himself a lot of times but your name had apparently disappeared. I asked him why – and said that he forgot. You haven’t been around Cope town much I gather. Skip died some years ago. Maybe you dig each other now somewhere.
I must have something about trumpeters. My biological brother used to play trumpet.
And did you know that another friend of mine was Kenny Dorham, the beautiful bop player, who used to play with Bird? He, Bird and Dinah Washington used to celebrate their birthdays together and I was with Kenny at the Drop Inn when he had just heard the news about her suicide – must be around December 1963. A few years later I went to N.Y. to visit Gloria – whom you introduced me to, remember? We were staying at Delancey Street (It’s very fancy, you know?) and Kenny had a loft flat at the Bowery not far away. He was like a father for me when we were walking in the streets of the Village meeting all kinds of hip people – musicians etc. When I went to N.Y. again he had died.
Anyway – you came to Copenhagen in the summer of 1966. A very warm summer I remember. You came from Paris and along with you came this black chick, Barbara, who became my lover. You really wanted me to have a black woman. I tell you – actually I married a woman from Guyana in 1979, a woman who couldn’t be more mixed: American Indian, Eastindian, African, Welsh and Portuguese.
She came to visit Frankie, where I met her. He passed away some years ago too.
But did you know that somebody was playing the “fly on the wall” part that summer of ’66? A person wrote a book about you and Frankie and the rest of the black guys in Copenhagen. You are called Ned Green. Barbara and I play a very small part, me being described as an “unattractive Danish boy”. Shame on the author I say. Nobody knew the author it seems and the rumour was, that someone paid by the CIA had written this book to give Copenhagen a bad reputation in order to scare away the black GI’s on leave from Germany. Skip didn’t tell me about until years later. It’s called “The Lives and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger” by Cecil Brown published in 1969. Sounds like shit, doesn’t it? Not very hip. But now I find out that the author is a real live person, even a black person. I guess that’s why he was able to hide in those days.
You remember when we one early morning went up Noerrebrogade, you shouting “I want wienerbrot, I want wienerbrot” (Wienerbroed = Danish pastry), and we emptied a bakers machine in our hunger for real Danish pastry.
You remember, you made a collage for me – I think it was 1964 before I was drafted – I still have it and there’s still a little of your beard left, hair that you used for the pussy of a nude black woman in the collage. Next to her is a picture of your hero Malcolm X. On the back it says: “Mr. Lund – Dig here is a avantgarde sensual gift for you for being a good guy to the spades that dug Denmark. Your Ted, Your Miriam Oct 28 – 6:30 – Wednesday.”
Miriam, I don’t know what happened to her. But Mona Lisa married an English guy. Last year I got this strange experience: I crossed a cemetery to make a shortcut from one street to another with my daughter. Quite accidentally. Something caught her eye and we stopped, and when I looked down I saw a gravestone with Mona Lisa’s name. She had died 6 months before. Weird isn’t it?
You wanted to make a happening in Copenhagen: the world largest woman drawn with chalk on the streets but the police wouldn’t allow it. It was supposed to lead the way to Vingaarden where you where going to read your poems with jazz accompaniment.
Did you know by the way – that the first English word that I was taught (by my father) was “rhinoceros”, your favourite animal. Once you sent me a postcard with a picture of a rhino. I pasted it in a book so I can’t see what you wrote.
Ted, my brother, thank you.
I met you around 1963 on your way to Oslo or down south to Paris, Morocco, Mali, Timbuktu and I saw you last in 1973, when you gave a reading in Copenhagen.
You gave me a name to put on myself: hipster, and you played an important part for my understanding of Afro-American culture – soul – movement – dance – jazz is my religion as well.
If you should see a man walking down a crowded street talking aloud to himself, don’t run in the opposite direction, but run towards him, because he’s a poet. You have nothing to fear from the poet – but the truth.
(Ted Joans’ reading intro.)
All things must pass
So must we
See you some time
(full name initials: H.O.W.L. – dig?)