OUR THANG TEDUCATION WOW
John Olson reviews OUR THANG in Rain Taxi
Joseph Blake reviewed OUR THANG in the Victoria Times-Colonist:
[This] little book captures the restless, chaotic, yea-saying spirit of Beat poetry that has inspired a succession of youthful generations.
The current renewed popularity of poetry, particularly performance poetry and poetry slams, is the populist flowering of seeds the Beats planted 50 years ago.
Ted Joans is one of the last living Beat poets. A former jazz musician and friend of Kerouac and Ginsberg, Joans scrawled perhaps his most famous poem, Bird Lives!, on walls all over New York City the night jazz star Charlie Parker died. Now living in Vancouver (although he's just as likely to be on the road from Paris to Timbuktu), Joans's latest book of poems, Our Thang, is a collaboration with his artist-wife, Laura Corsiglia.
Corsiglia's drawings capture the transformation and metamorphosis of Joans's cut-and-splice wordplay. Flipping through the pages, mythic figures, mutant bear-eagle-heron-human-moon, dance like an exotic dream. They paint the dreamy background for Joans's 18 poems when you begin to wrestle with the wordcraft the veteran poet calls "Teducation" in his introductory offering, Why Selected Poems As Autobiography?
Corsiglia's fluid drawings dance and Joans's rhythm-charged, blues-scorched words sing throughout this joyout, sensual collaboration. It's like jazz sizzling on the page, like the warm rush from red wine and the sticky, sweet smells of gumbo slow-cooking on the back of the stove.
On the cover, beside a fractured line drawing of a mutating human-bird form, Joans writes:
Sweet potato pie gloves
Publisher's Weekly said of TEDUCATION ~
Energetic African-American Beat poet, surrealist painter, longtime Paris-based expatriate, African traveler, jazz expert and jazz musician, the versatile 71-year old Joans (Black Pow Wow Jazz Poems) has published 35 books, but never, till now, a Selected. Joans's rakish, unsatisfiable sensibility can make his work in Beat modes as technically innovative as Burroughs, as polemically exuberant as Ginsberg and as comic as Corso. His early work, like theirs, depends heavily on surrealist modes: "The rhinos roam in the bedroom/ where the lovely virgin wait/ the owl eats a Baptist bat/ and God almighty is too late." The masterful longer poem "Timbuktu Tit Tat Toe" packs a few hundred years of Black America's relationship to Africa into four pages of giddy declamation. Like Amiri Baraka (who lauds Joans' verse), Joans came to embrace an aesthetic of people's poetry, creating exuberant forms to meet his needs, stirring the pot with neologism and slogan, and calling on an arsenal of heroes from Malcolm X to Jean-Michel Basquiat. "And Then There Were None" locates political rage in Louis Armstrong's famous grin: "you tried to turn him into your `musical golliwog doll'/ you wanted his trumpet to blow what you said so/ you misinterpreted his wide smile." Repudiating chronology, Joans splits his work into two alphabetically ordered sections: "Hand Grenade (Graded Poems to Explode on the Enemy and Unhip)" includes straightforwardly public and hortatory work; "Fertileyes & Fertilears" gathers more personal or whimsical poems. In an exciting era of performance poetry, renewed interest in all things Beat and committed probings of ethnicity, many new fans are certain to agree with Joans when he writes, "My poems are immune to the uncouth/ These poems are only the truth."
to caress excited
board of vegetal
passports that are nearly
edible at planets in space
where her bears and his rhinos
sing Cecil Taylor Tunes
for you know who
(Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Jack Foley's review of TEDUCATION and WOW, both published in 1999, is found here, at The Alsop Review.
Reviews of TEDUCATION at Amazon.com (scroll down a bit).