How Poetry Comes to Me
It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light
(Emily Carr – Totem Walk At Sitka)
Don’t let the minute spoil the hour. — Ted Joans
Working on projects and the like… Went out last night late with Morgan Miller for a birthday drink. He just turned 49. Hard to believe, as I met him when he was just a lad of 39! This entry came from a suggestion that Morgan made…
I spent lots of time trying to find poetry of Ted Joans perhaps the most under represented Beat/Surrealist Poet… (how does this happen?) Amazing stuff. Humbled by his dexterity with words.
Emily Carr work was a revelation to me. She paints the Northwest that I see inside! Wonderful work!
I want to thank Morgan for his turning me on to both artist who are featured today… I am always amazed at his depth of knowledge. Thanks Morgan for the good times, poetry and prodding.
Here is to our Northwest, and to the peoples who inhabit it. Be they Human, Raven Orca or Others.
On The Menu:
AnêktcXô’lEmiX – A Chinook Story
Ted Joans – Poetry
Emily Carr (December 13, 1871 March 2, 1945) was a Canadian artist and writer.
She was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and moved to San Francisco in 1890 to study art after the death of her parents. In 1899 she travelled to England to deepen her studies, where she spent time at the Westminster School of Art in London and at various studio schools in Cornwall, Bushey, Hertfordshire, San Fransisco, and elsewhere. In 1910, she spent a year studying art at the Académie Colarossi in Paris and elsewhere in France before moving back to British Columbia permanently the following year.
Carr was most heavily influenced by the landscape and First Nations cultures of British Columbia, and Alaska. Having visited a mission school beside the Nuu-chah-nulth community of Ucluelet in 1898, in 1908 she was inspired by a visit to Skagway and began to paint the totem poles of the coastal Kwakwakawakw, Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit and other communities, in an attempt to record and learn from as many as possible. In 1913 she was obliged by financial considerations to return permanently to Victoria after a few years in Vancouver, both of which towns were, at that time, conservative artistically. Influenced by styles such as post-impressionism and Fauvism, her work was alien to those around her and remained unknown to and unrecognized by the greater art world for many years. For more than a decade she worked as a potter, dog breeder and boarding house landlady, having given up on her artistic career.
In the 1920s she came into contact with members of the Group of Seven (artists) after being invited by the National Gallery of Canada to participate in an exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern. She travelled to Ontario for this show in 1927 where she met members of the Group, including Lawren Harris, whose support was invaluable. She was invited to submit her works for inclusion in a Group of Seven exhibition, the beginning of her long and valuable association with the Group. They named her ‘The Mother of Modern Arts’ around five years later.
The Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island’s west coast had nicknamed Carr Klee Wyck, “the laughing one.” She gave this name to a book about her experiences with the natives, published in 1941. The book won the Governor General’s Award that year.
Her other titles were The Book of Small (1942),The House of All Sorts (1944) and Growing Pains (1946) Pause and The Heart of a Peacock (1953), and in 1966, Hundreds and Thousands. They reveal her to be an accomplished writer. Though mostly autobiographical, they have been found to be unreliable as to facts and figures if not in terms of mood and intent.
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Emily Carr Elementary School in Vancouver, British Columbia, Emily Carr Middle School in Ottawa, Ontario and Emily Carr Public School in London, Ontario are named after her.
Emily Carr is interred in the Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria. Her gravestone inscription reads “Artist and Author / Lover of Nature”.
From the First Peoples of our land…
AnêktcXô’lEmiX – A Chinook Story
There was a town the chief of which had died. His two children were grown up; one was a girl and one a, boy. Early every morning the people went out to hunt sea-otters. The girl was always in the stern of the canoe. At dark they returned home. Five times they had gone hunting, then it grew foggy. Her hair became wet and she swallowed the water which dripped down from her hair. A long time the people remained there. Then she became pregnant. Blue-Jay was the first to observe it. He said: “Don’t you notice it? He made his sister pregnant.” Robin said: “Be quiet, Blue-Jay, you will make our chief’s children ashamed.” “Ha, he is the elder of us two and he ought to know better than I.”
After some time she became stouter. “Heh, we will run,” said Blue-Jay. “I am ashamed because her brother made her pregnant. We will leave them; we will move!” Then, indeed, the people believed Blue-Jay. Again the brother and sister went hunting sea-otters. In the evening they came home. Now there were no people and no houses. “Lo, they deserted us. Blue-Jay advised them to do so.” Then the brother continued: “Tell me who made you pregnant?” She replied, “I do not know.
Once when we went out hunting sea otters a mist came up and I swallowed the water which made me Qualmish.” Then they searched for fire. But the people had poured water into all the fires. The last house was that of their aunt, the Crow. It also was taken away. They walked about and there they heard the crackling of fire. The brother said to his sister: “Do you hear the fire?” After awhile it crackled again.
They found the place from where the sound appeared to come. They dug into the ground and found a shell. In the shell there was burning coal. “Oh,” they said to each other, “our aunt pitied us; she put the fire into the shell for us.” Now they started a fire. The next day they built a small house. There they lived for a long time.
One day a sea breeze arose. Early in the morning the man rose and went down to the beach. There he found ten cedar planks, each ten fathoms long, which had drifted ashore. He went up to the house and said to his sister: “I have found ten planks, each ten fathoms long.” They went to the beach, hauled them up to their house, and the brother made a large house. Then the brother said: “What kind of a blanket will you make for your son?”
In the morning he went down to the beach and there he found two small sea-otters. He said: “Oh, my poor nephew, this will be your blanket.” “He took them up to the house and said to his sister: “I found these sea-otters.” Then she was very glad. The brother said: “What soup are you going to make for your son?” In the morning he arose and went down to the beach. There he found a sea-lion. He skinned it and cut it, and then they boiled it.
Every day he went down to the beach, and every time he found two sea-otters. And their house was full of sea-otter skins. One morning he went to the beach; there was a whale. Then he ran back to his sister and cried: “A whale is on the beach!” His sister said in reply: “Every night the people on the other side of the ocean send us food. Those supernatural people love me. My boy’s father came. Now cut the whale.” Then he skinned it and cut it and they carried up the meat.
Now the Crow made herself ready to look for her nephew and her niece. She launched her canoe and paddled across, wailing all the time. When she had almost crossed the bay she discovered a house and saw smoke rising. She went on. When she was near the shore she saw a chief sitting on the roof of the house. [The latter said to his sister, when he saw the Crow coming:] “Our aunt who pitied us is coming there.”
She arrived and saw the whale on the beach. She [was very hungry,] went to the whale and pulled at the meat. Then her nephew said: “Come up to the house; why do you touch that rotten meat?” She replied: “Oh, I only looked at it,” and went up to the house. She entered and saw that it was full of whale meat. She went right up to the child [and wanted to take it in her arms], but the child began to cry. The sister said: “Oh, he is afraid of your tears.” They gave her water and she washed her face.
Then she tried again to take him, but still he cried. The sister said “He, is afraid of your breath.” Then she took water, cleaned her mouth and took him again, but still he cried. Then the sister said to her aunt: “Do you think he is a human being? Look here, he is the son of a supernatural being. They gave us that whale to eat.” “Oh,” said the Crow. They boiled whale meat for her and she ate it. After she had finished eating she went home. They gave her two pieces of blubber which she put into her mat.
The Crow went across the bay; and when she approached the town she cried: “O, my sister’s children, my sister’s children, birds flew up from you many times; eagles were eating you. O, my sister’s children, my sister’s children, gulls were eating you. Ravens were eating you, O, my sister’s children.” Now she came still nearer the town. Blue-Jay was sitting outside and saw her coming. When she had nearly arrived she cried again: “O, my sister’s children, my sister’s children, birds flew up from you; crows were eating you.”
Then Blue-Jay shouted: “Do you not notice? She names the Crow; she names the Crow.” Now she landed and went up to the house. Now all the people came into the Crow’s house. They asked her how she had found her sister’s children. She replied and told much. “I went across and I found their bodies full of birds which ate them. All kinds of birds ate them.” After she had finished, Blue-Jay was the first to leave the house. He went to the rear of the house, where he stayed.
Now, the Crow was silent. Robin, who was her deceased husband’s brother, remained with her. They sat on opposite sides of the fire. She had five children. Then she told him everything in a low voice, and Blue-Jay listened outside. She pulled out the food which she had carried home, cut it to pieces, and gave it to her children and to Robin. Her youngest daughter choked [when eating the blubber].
Then Blue-Jay, who had been peeping through the chinks of the wall, entered and slapped her nape. The piece of whale, meat flew out of her month. Blue-Jay took it up, went out, showed it to the people, and said: “Do you see? The Crow fed me.” He went to three houses showing it around, then he ate it. After some time it grew dark. The people were very hungry.
Then Blue-Jay said to the chief of the town: “O, chief, the house [of the young man whom we deserted] is full of whale meat. A supernatural being loved his sister. He invites me, and he has invited the Crow and Robin.” Late in the evening Blue-Jay came out of the house, took his large blanket [and went to his elder brother, Robin,] saying, “Robin, let us sleep under one blanket; I always get cold.” Robin replied: “Ya-a, I always sleep alone, and do not want anyone with me; sleep there at my feet.”
Now Blue-Jay lay down at Robin’s feet. Blue-Jay remained awake. When it was nearly morning Blue-Jay fell asleep. Now Robin and Crow made a canoe [ready]. Then Robin and the Crow went to their canoe and carried their property into it. Now Robin took a sharp stick and put it in the ground at Blue-Jay’s feet. Then Robin and the Crow went across to the young man and to his sister, and left Blue-Jay alone. Early in the morning when he awoke, he said: “Wake up, Robin,” and kicked him; but his feet struck the stick, and he hurt himself. “O, my feet!” he cried. “They left me here alone.” Then he went home to his children. Crow and Robin crossed the bay and went up to the house of the young man.
Early next morning Blue-Jay said: “Now, let us all go across.” They made themselves ready and went across. When they were in the middle of the bay a heavy gale arose, and the people almost died. They had to turn back. Five days [they tried to cross the bay], but every time they were driven back. Then they got across. Now it began to snow, and the people were covered with snow. They became very cold.
Thus their chief took revenge upon them. Then Blue-Jay went up to the house. [He found a knothole and called to Robin, who was in the house:] “Robin, open for me, I am cold. Bring me food, Robin, I am starving.” Robin did not reply. “Robin, take the tongs and put some food through this hole.” Robin was boiling meat. Then he took the tongs and put them into the boiling kettle. He pushed the tongs through the knothole. Blue-Jay [was so hungry that he] licked the fat off from the tongs.
He said: “Robin, Robin, tell the chief that I will give him my daughter in marriage, but let him open the door.” “Ya-a,” said Robin; “What shall he do with her? He wants your chief’s daughter [not yours].” Then Blue-Jay ran down to the beach and said to his chief: “The young man asks for your daughter and for my daughter.” The chief did not reply, and Blue-Jay ran back to the house and said: “Robin, the chief says he will give him his daughter.” Five times Blue-Jay ran down to the beach and back to the house.
Then his chief spoke; he made his daughter ready, and put on her dentalia, and so did Blue-Jay. Once more he ran up to the house and said: “Robin, I have made my daughter ready.” “Ya,” replied Robin; “She shall look after the chamber.” Now they brought the chief’s daughter up to the house and they opened the door.
On the following morning the sister had disappeared. Lo! The supernatural beings had taken her and her child away. The people remained in this place and made new houses.
Once upon a time the Crow gathered many potentilla roots [put them into her canoe] and crossed the sea. When she arrived at the country of the supernatural beings they all came down to the beach. They searched among her roots and found one ôguê’mEskôtit and one LE’môksin among them. These they ate, and threw away the Crow’s potentilla roots.
Then she went up to the house and met her niece, who said: “Do you think they are men, that you bring them potentilla, roots? Gather ôguê’mEskôtit and LE’môksin. When you come again bring all kinds of nice smelling roots, and bring one small basket of potentilla roots for me.” Then she said to her: “Take this bitch along; it belongs to your grandson. When you come near the shore say: ‘Catch a whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX.’” “Yes,” said the Crow, and then she went home. When she was in the middle of the ocean she said to the dog: “Catch a whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX. Do you know indeed how to catch whales?”
Then the bitch who lay in the stern of the boat arose. A whale came up. She bit it. Then the canoe rocked violently. “Hold it fast, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” Then the Crow became afraid and said: “Let go, let go, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” Then she let go the whale and lay down to sleep. The Crow landed [and when she arrived], she had lost her dog. She ran about and searched for it in. all the houses, but did not find it. Then she [was very sad and] did not eat because she liked her dog.
The Crow stayed here five days, and then again she gathered many roots of plants. She gathered ôguê’mEskôtit and LE’môksin. She gathered all kinds of nice smelling roots. She put potentilla roots in to one small basket. Then she crossed again to the country of the supernatural beings. Then they all came down to the beach. They [took the nice smelling roots and] ate them right there at the beach. She carried the potentilla roots up to her niece.
Now she saw her dog, which was in the house. [Her niece said:] “Do you think this is a common bitch? She returns. Why did you say in the middle of the ocean: ‘Take the whale?’ Therefore you became afraid. You must not say so until you are near the shore. Do you think they gave her to you as a present? She always returns. You will take her again when you go home. Do not search for her when you have lost her. She provides you with food when you are going.”
The Crow replied: “Yes.” And when she went back she carried that bitch along. “When you approach the land say: ‘Catch a whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX.’” Then she went home. The dog lay in the stern of the canoe. When they were near the town the Crow said: “Catch a whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” She did not move.
Then the Crow took some water, poured it over her and said: “Catch a whale; are you indeed able to catch a whale? “When they were quite near the shore she said again: “Catch a whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” Then she arose and caught a whale.
Again the canoe rocked. She said: “Hold it fast, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” Sometimes she did not say it right and cried: “Let go the whale, Q!acî’nEmicLX.” Then the whale drifted ashore. The people went down to the beach and cut the whale. They carried the meat up to house.
After some time the chief said: “I desire to go and see my sister.” Now the people made themselves ready and started in a large canoe. When they came near the country of the supernatural beings their chief said: “Take care, they will test us.” [When they had gone a little farther] the whole sea was covered with ice. He said to his people: “We will land after awhile.”
Now Blue-Jay became very cold, but he said: “I never get cold, I will stay in the canoe.” He jumped into the water and sank out of sight at once. Then a person shouted on shore: “Ehehiu, [Blue-Jay] killed himself.” Then the chief arose in the canoe; he took the ice and threw it away. Then that person shouted: “Ehehiu, how he threw away the ice of the supernatural beings.” “‘Ehehiu,’ you say, I threw it away; what made me fall down?,” [said Blue-Jay]. Then they went up to the house. The chief said: “Do not enter at once. After a while they will open their house.”
Now there was a sea-lion and a sea-cow (?), one at each side of the door. They stood in the doorway. Now Blue-Jay became very cold. He tried to jump into the house and the animals bit him. They had almost been unable to recover him. Then the chief stepped up and he took one sea monster in each hand and threw them away. “Ehehiu,” shouted the person [“how he throws away the sea lions of the supernatural people”]. “‘Ehehiu’, you say; I threw away those who bit me,” said Blue-Jay.
Then they all entered the house and stayed there. There were no people in it except the chief’s sister. [Blue-Jay said to his brother Robin:] “What will they give us to eat, Robin?” “Oh, be quiet,” replied Robin. Then said Blue-Jay: “Our chief’s fire makes noise just as this here.” There was only one log in the house. Then the person shouted: “Come down to the fire you who splits wood with his beak.”
Then a being came out [from under the bed] with a long beak who split the log. “Robin,” said Blue-Jay, “that was our great-great-grandfather’s slave.” “I do not know that he was our slave; you alone have slaves.” Then a fire was made and the whole house was full of smoke. The person shouted: “Come down to the fire, Smoke-eater.” “Robin,” said Blue-Jay, he also was our (great-great-grandfather’s) slave; he always carried me on his back and led you by the hand.” “I do not know that he was our slave; you alone have slaves.”
Then the smoke man came down and [they saw that] he had an enormous belly. He stepped into the middle of the house and swallowed all the smoke. The house became light. Then they brought a small dish and one cut of meat was in it. “Robin,” said Blue-Jay, “that is too little; that is not enough for all of us; I certainly shall not get enough.” Then a person shouted: “Come down to the fire you who cuts whale with his beak.”
Then a person came to the fire with a very sharp beak, who began to cut meat. He cut and cut until the whole dish was full. Then he blew upon it and it became a large canoe full of meat. They boiled it, and when it was nearly done they all went out and their chief took reeds. These he put into their months [and pushed them right through them] so that they came out at the anus. They all did so, also Blue-Jay.
Then they entered again and sat down. They made small holes where they sat and began to eat. They swallowed the meat and it went right out at the anus. Blue-Jay arose and there lay his anus. “Look here, Robin, my anus fell down right here!” Then the people took him by his arms, carried him out of the house, and pulled the reed out of his mouth. Then the chief and Blue-Jay entered again; he took three spoonfuls and he had enough.
Then the people continued to eat and the whale meat became less and less. Then they went out, took out the reeds and reentered. They continued to eat. Now they ate in the right way and finished all they had boiled. Then a person cried: “Ehehiu, how they eat all the meat of the supernatural beings!” Then Blue-Jay said: “Did you think I could not finish what you gave me to eat?”
Now they stayed in the house. Blue-Jay went out. He was oversatiated. He looked and saw a patch of kinnikinnik berries. He began to eat them, when a person called: “Oh, Blue-Jay eats the excrements of the supernatural people;” whereupon Blue-Jay said: “‘Ehehiu’, you say; do you think I eat them? I merely look at your kinnikinnik berries.”
They stayed there. After awhile a person came out of the house and said: “They wish to play with you; you will dive.” Blue Jay said: “We always dive in our country.” “Do you think they do as you are accustomed to?” said the woman. “When they dive the one dies and the other one has won.” She said to them: “Blue-Jay shall dive.” Blue-Jay went down to the water and threw the bushes out of his canoe into the water.
Then he and the diver fought against each other. They dived. Blue-Jay hid his club under his blanket. They jumped into the water and after awhile Blue Jay’s breath gave out. He came up and hid under the bushes which he had thrown out of his canoe. There he breathed and dived again. He said to the diver: “Where are you?” “Here I am,” she replied. After awhile his breath gave out again.
Once more he came up under the bushes. Four times he did so, and then he became tired. He went to look for the diver. He found her biting the bottom of the sea. She had her eyes closed. Blue-Jay took his club and hit her on the nape. The people saw something floating on the water and then a person said: “There is Blue-Jay.” He was, however, in the bushes which he had thrown out of his canoe. After a little while Blue-Jay jumped ashore and a person shouted: “Ehehiu, how Blue-Jay won over the diver of the supernatural beings.” “‘Ehehiu’, you say; we always dive so in our country,” said Blue Jay.
Then again a person stepped out and said: “They want to play with you; you will climb up a tree together.” Then Blue-Jay said: “We climb every day in our country.” But the young woman remarked: “Do you think they are just like Indians? They will place a piece of ice upright, then you will have to climb up the ice. When a climber falls down he breaks to pieces and the other one wins.”
Then they said to Blue Jay: “You shall climb up.” They placed upright a piece of ice which was so long that it reached to the sky. Blue-Jay made himself ready and tied his bearskin blanket around his belly. [The supernatural beings sent a] chipmunk who made himself ready [to climb up the ice]. They began to climb, and when they had reached a certain height Blue-Jay grew tired.
[Then he let go of the ice] and flew upward. [When he had rested] he again took hold of the ice. Then he grew tired again. He looked back to the one with whom he was racing and saw her climbing up with her eyes shut. She did not grow tired. Then Blue-Jay took his club [from under his blanket] and struck her on the nape. The chipmunk fell down. The people looked up and saw a person falling down. “Ah, that is Blue-Jay! There he falls down.” [But when they saw the chipmunk] a person shouted: “Ehehiu, how they won over the chipmunk of the supernatural beings.”
“‘Ehehiu’, you say; we always climb in our country.” Then their chief won two sea-otters.
Then they stayed awhile longer. Then again a person came out and said: “They want to have a shooting match with you.” Blue-Jay said: “We have shooting matches every day in our country.” The young woman said: “Do you think they are like Indians? They place people against each other. One stands on one side, the other on the other. [They shoot at each other,] the one dies, and the other wins.” Then they said to the Beaver: “You stand up [on our side].” They took a grindstone and tied it to his belly. They took another one and tied it to his back. The supernatural beings made the loon stand up on their side.
Then [the beaver and the loon] took their arrows and the loon shot at the beaver. The arrow broke and fell down. Then the beaver shot at the loon. “Uhû,” said he when he was struck by the arrow. Then the loon shot again. “Ha,” he said, and the arrow broke and fell down. Then he shot again at the loon. “Uhû,” he said, then fell on his back and died. “Ehehiu! How they won over the bird of the supernatural people.” Blue-Jay spoke: “You say ‘ehehiu’; we have shooting matches in our country every day.”
They stayed there some time longer. Then again a person came out of the house and said: “They want to play with you; you will sweat in the sweat house.” Blue-Jay spoke: “We always sweat in our country.” Then the young woman said: “They always heat caves, and when they are hot, they enter them. The one party will die, the other will win.” Then their chief said: “We must go into the cave.” Now the supernatural beings heated the caves. They got hot. There were two caves in a rock. [The chief and some of his people] went into one, the supernatural beings went into the other.
Then the caves were closed. The chief, however, took some ice and put it under their feet. They stood on it. After a little while a sound was heard like the bursting of a shell that is being roasted. Five times that sound was heard. Then the caves were opened; first that of Blue Jay’s people–they were all alive; next that of the supernatural beings–five of them were dead. They had won again. “Ehehiu! How they won over the supernatural beings.” “‘Ehehiu’, you say,” replied Blue-Jay, we use the sweat house every day in our country.
“Now the chief’s brother-in-law said: “Let us catch whales.” The sister told him: “Take care; they will try to put you to shame. This is their last attempt at you.” In the evening they went to catch whales. She took Blue-Jay and put him into her right armpit. Then she took Robin and put him into her left armpit [and told them]: “Now I shall keep you here; do not say ‘ehehiu,’ do not look!”
Then in the evening they all went down to the beach. She said to her elder brother: “Four whales will pass you, but do not throw your harpoon; when the fifth comes, then harpoon it.” Now the supernatural people stood there. The young woman took a torch in order to help her brother.
After a while a person shouted: “Yuyayuya, a flatfish whale comes.” [The chief did not stir.] After a while a person shouted: “Yuyayuya, an albatross whale comes; raise your harpoons.” Blue-Jay tried to look [from under the arms of the woman]. At once her torch began to flicker, and she pressed Blue-Jay, saying: “Do not look!” Then again a person shouted: “Yuyayuya, an elk whale comes; raise your harpoons.” [The chief did not stir.] Next a person shouted: “Yuyayuya, a sperm-whale comes; raise your harpoons.”
Then the sister said to him: “Now, look out; now the real whale will come.” Then a person shouted: “Yuyayuya, the whale of the supernatural people comes.” Blue-Jay tried to look [from his hiding place]. Then the torch of the young woman began to flicker and was almost extinguished. The people said: “Why does AnêktcXô’lEmiX’s torch always flicker?” The person shouted once more: “Yuyayuya, the whale of the supernatural people comes.”
Then AnêktcXô’lEmiX said to her brother: “Now the real whale will come.” The chief harpooned it and threw it ashore. “Ehehiu! How they threw ashore the whale of the supernatural people.” Blue-Jay replied: “Ehehiu,” and at once the torch was extinguished, and Blue-Jay [fell down from the armpit of the woman and] was drowned. He drifted away. Thus they won again. Their chief won again. Then they went home.
AnêktcXô’lEmiX said: “Coil up this rope in your canoe; when you get across tie Robin’s blanket to it.” [Then they started. When they were in the middle of the ocean the supernatural people] created a strong gale against those going home. Now they tied [Mink] on to the gunwale of their canoe [thus making it higher and preventing its being swamped]. They almost perished; finally they reached their home [safely. Then they tied Robin’s blanket to the rope. AnêktcXô’lEmiX pulled it back, and when she found the blanket at the end of the rope she knew that her brother had reached home safely].
Ted Joans Poetry
“Let’s play that we all work from 9 to 5 and we are trying to pay for that split level home in Westchester and the wall to wall carpets and the never- ending payments on the flashy car, color TV, hi-fi, wash’n dry, deep freeze and other keeping up with the Joans deals.” —–”Playmate” -Ted Joans
‘The Sax Bit’
This poem is
just a poem of
This bent metal serpent/ holy horn with lids like beer
mug/ with phallic tail why did they invent you
before Coleman Hawkins was born ?
This curved shiney tune gut/ hanging lynched like/ J
shaped intitial of jazz/ wordless without a reed when
Coleman Hawkins first fondled it/kissed it with Black
sound did COngo blood sucking Belges frown ?
This tenor/alto/bass/baritone/soprano/moan/cry &
shout-a-phone ! sex-oh-phone/tell-it-like-damn-
sho-isa-phone !What tremors ran through Adolphe
Saxe the day Bean grabbed his ax ?
This golden mine of a million marvelous sounds/black
notes with myriad shadows/or empty crooked tube of
technical white poor-formance/calculated keys that
never unlock soul doors/white man made machine saved
from zero by Coleman Hawkins !
This saxophone salvation/modern gri gri hanging from
jazzmen’s necks placed there by Coleman Hawkins
a full body & soul sorcerer whose spirit dwells eternally
in every saxophone NOW and all those sound-a-phones
It’s got a good shape / the outside color is green / it’s one of them
foods from Africa
It’s got stripes sometimes like a zebra or Florida prison pants
It’s bright red inside / the black eyes are flat and shiny / it won’t
make you fat
It’s got heavy liquid weight / the sweet taste is unique / some people
are shamed of it /
I ain’t afraid to eat it / indoors or out / it’s a soul food thing / Watermelon
is what I’m
Talking about Yeah watermelon is what I’m talking about
Mismanage your child care
To insure softer mattresses
From smoke stacking
Due to fast food fever
Shake all airplane underwear
To destroy wheelbarrow seeds
Due to altitudinal changes
I saw Senghor
I was above him
Like a cloud
or a helicopter
but just a
At Senghor the poet
Who hovers high
Like a cloud
or a heavenly
filled with leaflets
that shame betterflies’ wings
And rainbows end
I saw Senghor
Dressed in contradiction.
My Ace of Spades
MALCOLM X SPOKE TO ME and sounded you
Malcolm X said this to me & THEN TOLD you that!
Malcolm X whispered in my ears but SCREAMED on you!
Malcolm X praised me & thus condemned you
Malcolm X smiled at me & sneered at you
Malcolm X made me proud & so you got scared
Malcolm X told me to HURRY & you began to worry
Malcolm X sang to me but GROWLED AT YOU!!
Malcolm X words freed me & they frightened you
Malcolm X tol’ it lak it DAMN SHO’ IS!!
Malcolm X said that everybody will be F R E E ! !
Malcolm X told both of us the T R U T H . . . . . .
now didn’t he?
in: “For Malcolm”, p.5, in “Part I. The Life”
Ted Joans (1928-2003), born Theodore Jones on July 4 on a riverboat in Cairo, Illinois, was a painter, a trumpeter, a jazz poet, travel writer, author of more than thirty-five books, including Teducation, The Hipsters (a book of collages), Black Pow Wow Jazz Poems, Funky Jazz Poems, Beat Poems, All of T.J. and No More, The Truth, The Truth, Afrodisia. After marrying a woman named Joan, he changed his name from Jones to Joans.
His parents had worked on Mississippi river runs. According to the story told, his father, a riverboat entertainer, put him off the boat in Memphis at age twelve and gave him a trumpet. In 1943, Joans’ father was pulled off a streetcar and killed by white workers during the Detroit race riots.
He earned a BFA degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1951 and then joined “the Bohemia of Greenwich Village, USA,” where he was associated with the Beat generation of the 1950s. Along with Kerouac, Corso, Ginsberg, and Amiri Baraka, Joans began his poetic career in the artistic haven of Greenwich Village in the late fifties and early sixties. He was a friend of Beat icons Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Joans was mentored by Langston Hughes and encouraged by Allan Ginsberg but never received early fame during a career that spanned more than 40 years.
Apart from Beat (surrealistic) influences, Joans expanded his work and embraced more serious jazz-inflected sounds. As a jazz afficionado, Joans often wrote in the spirit and idiom of jazz. He considered himself a jazz missionary. His work is characterized by a black consciousness, a strong rhythm, and a musical language and sensibility closely linked to the blues and to the best of the avant-garde jazz. His style is thus associated with the oral tradition of African-American writing which exemplifies oral and jazz traditions. He explored many themes, including anti-militarism, life of a black expatriate, and the black American in search of African roots.
In 1955 he and some friends stunningly denied the death of jazz great Charlie Parker by scrawling “BIRD LIVES” all over New York.
“He used to rent himself out to upper-middle class parties as a beatnik,” recalled George Bowering, Canada’s poet laureate. “He was very comic.” Joans lived in Paris for several decades and traveled widely, often with a pocket full of garlic cloves because, he once said, they were “powerful preventative medicine.”
Though one of the the originals, Joans has been rarely included in Beat anthologies. He can be found in Ann Charters’ The Beat Reader, the hardcover version but not the paperback versions, yet one of his phrases is the title of one of Charters’ sections. Joans is a surrealist writer, one of the originals, but he is not to be found in those anthologies either. Most anthologies of African American writing (including the big Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay) exclude him. Yet, he is considered an influential figure in American and African-American literature. Amazingly, you will find him in Women of the Beat Generation, edited by Brenda Knight.
Joan was not a careerist; he was in search of the marvelous. He was an independent thinker.
A wanderer, he recited his poems in coffeehouses in New York and in the middle of Sahara Desert. He has lived in Harlem, New York, Bloomington, Indiana, Haarlem of The Netherlands, and even Timbuktu. His poetry has achieved international acclaim, and it is widely respected throughout Africa, Europe, and the United States. Joans is a considerable visual artist, one of his paintings, “Bird Lives,” hangs in San Francisco’s de Young Museum.
For the past few decades Joans spent summers in Europe and winters in Africa. At his death he was living in Canada.
He had moved to Vancouver several years ago and remained a prolific writer until his death. Joans was found dead in his Vancouver, British Columbia, apartment on May 7, said T. Paul St. Marie, an entertainer and family friend. He had been in poor health with diabetes. Joans was survived by 10 children. He was cremated with no funeral, as he wished.
(Emily Carr – Totem Forest)