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Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam written by Tony Medina

 

Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam written by Tony Medina

Overview:

Bum Rush the Page is a groundbreaking collection, capturing the best new work from the poets who have brought fresh energy, life, and relevance to American poetry.

“Here is a democratic orchestration of voices and visions, poets of all ages, ethnicities, and geographic locations coming together to create a dialogue and to jam–not slam. This is our mouth on paper, our hearts on our sleeves, our refusal to shut up and swallow our silence. These poems are tough, honest, astute, perceptive, lyrical, blunt, sad, funny, heartbreaking, and true. They shout, they curse, they whisper, and sing. But most of all, they tell it like it is.”
–Tony Medina, from the Introduction

Synopsis:

Bum Rush the Page is a groundbreaking collection, capturing the best new work from the poets who have brought fresh energy, life, and relevance to American poetry.

“Here is a democratic orchestration of voices and visions, poets of all ages, ethnicities, and geographic locations coming together to create a dialogue and to jam–not slam. This is our mouth on paper, our hearts on our sleeves, our refusal to shut up and swallow our silence. These poems are tough, honest, astute, perceptive, lyrical, blunt, sad, funny, heartbreaking, and true. They shout, they curse, they whisper, and sing. But most of all, they tell it like it is.”
–Tony Medina, from the Introduction

Publishers Weekly

To most readers, the hundreds of tightly rhymed, orally friendly poems here will read as "slam." But in his introduction, Medina, a poet and activist, takes great pains to separate the poems from slam's crowd-pleasing limitations, and uses the term "def jam" to describe the political spoken-word poetry he and Rivera, also a poet-activist, have collected. Medina's and Rivera's emphasis is on the poem and its subject matter, not the poet, which makes for a remarkably democratic anthology. Every poet has about the same page and a half of space. The book's design puts the poets' names in a very small type. None of the big names June Jordan, Reg E. Gaines, Edwin Torres, Wanda Coleman, Patricia Smith and Amiri Baraka are given more attention than the less published. Organized by subjects such as "Blood, I Say, Study our Story, Sing this Song," "Drums Drown Out Our Sorrow" and "Seeds of Resistance," most of the poems use urban imagery, tough talk and declaration. Most are identity-centered, anti-racist and pro-activist. Many focus on current events. There are, for instance, at least four poems about Amadou Diallo, the unarmed Ghanaian immigrant killed by New York policemen as he stood in his doorway. All mention the 41 shots; all include the word "mother." There are poems about Shaka Sankofa (convicted of murder at 17, and executed nearly 20 years later under Texas's then-Governor George W. Bush), and homages to Cuban bandleader Tito Puente. Some readers will wish for more variation of theme and for more layered meanings, but the topicality and directness of the poems make this an ideal textbook for introductory poetry classes, especially for urban high school students, and for anyone interestedin poetry as a social art. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Excerpt:

The Way We Move
the way we move, funk groove beat the rhythm out some pavement,
our elegant violent attitude, quick slow motion movement in quicksand in somebody else's shit house shanty town shingly jingly chains clamped on our neck,
hang to the floor scrape spark and clink and we make music out of this cool behind dark shades, taught to fear the sun, hiding in beauty parlors and bars draggy face with hatred and ugliness,
and it only comes when you don't accept the natural gifts, the fingerprints of a higher order of peace and simple logic, what makes us phenomenal is that we can sleep walk in harmony, never breaking a sweat 'cept in factories or bars, prisons we even build systems for, our own street logic and survival, but this is not where we're meant to be, not on the operating table of extinction or at the broken doorstep of finality stumbling drunk confused scagged out on whiteness and greed and stupidity into the bleeding face of our dead father, and we are not supposed to move this way, slow mumbling suicide in quicksand and defeat we must refocus, we must see again

Tony Medina (New York)

. . . And the Saga Continues
for Gary Graham

From Guinea to Haiti to Brooklyn And back From Guinea to Haiti to the Bronx And back From Brooklyn to the Bronx to LA And back From Philly to Haiti to the New Jersey Turnpike And back From village to hamlet to Borough And back From LA to Orange to Newark to Guinea And back From PR to the Bronx Brooklyn Queens Guinea And back From Soundview to no view of the anguish of . . .
Mother Mother why have you forsaken me

Bless me father for they are winning And my mutter is crying Bless me father for my mutter is crying At the sight of my dying Save me Lord from being vanquished Save my mutter from this anguish

From Harlem to the Bronx to Brooklyn Queens Newark San Juan and the nation's highways I languish In my blood and tears of my mother's anguish And back

Call the name . . . Call the names I say you know them better than I

Shaka Sankofa Malcolm Ferguson Patrick Doresmond Abner Louima Amadou Diallo Kevin Cedeno James Byrd Matthew Sheppard Anthony Baez Michael Stewart Earl Faison . . . etc. etc. etc.

And the list gets longer week by week An African got lynched today Juneteenth 2000

From Texas to Chicago to Watts to Newark And back From PR to Cuba to the Dominican Republic And back

Africa calls from the bottom of the Atlantic And back From Ghanaian fields smooth black skin Turns purplish under lash under water And back

Can you hear them gurgle . . . Abnerrrrr Can you hear them scream . . . Amadouuuuuuuu Can you hear the windpipe snap . . . Antonyyyyyyyyap

Blessed be Blessed be Blessed be Dear Lord have mercy Lord have mercy Have mercy on me bless me father for I have sinned . . .
with my mind I daily will demise of the western ways and all of its compatriots

Bless me father with a bottle of scupernog or Wild Irish Rose to soften the blow of this monster's breath upon my neck And back

in harlem in havana in charleston in Porto Prince the saga continues . . .
blood blood I say blood in the rectum bullets in the gut in the head the chest neck And back

A rope a nightstick pepper spray Or a lethal illegal injection from the State the state of tex ass where seldom is heard an encouraging word and the sky is cloudy all year how 'bout florida or new jersey or new york the city so nice they kill you twice

Next stop Ghana to the Congo to Zimbabwe And back

Ted Wilson (Orange, NJ)

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