Thursday, January 29, 2015

Interview with Charles Clifford Brooks III

photo credit -- Sandra Smith

Tonight I'd like to post my recent interview with Charles Clifford Brooks III, poet, educator, and founder of the Southern Collective Experience.  It is amazing how much he does!   More importantly, I think you will want to learn more about him, and after reading this interview, you will continue to be intrigued.  

Credit -- Mary Judkins and Holly Holt

Design by Ezra Letra

-- Who is Cowboy Blue Crawford, and what led you to write an epic about him?

Cowboy Blue Crawford is me. 

I didn’t plan to write another epic poem as I began to wrap up Athena Departs.  The name “Blue” came from the Ephemera and doesn’t symbolize anything in itself.  “Crawford” is one of my father’s family names, and the town (Crawford, Georgia) in which I grew up.  The idea that he’s a cowboy originated from the seed that Doc Holliday is among my trinity of lifelong heroes (i.e. Dante, Beethoven, and Holliday). 

The work is autobiographical.  I am a different man than that hurt boy from The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics. The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford leaks out of the fissures left behind in my flesh from battles won in my personal and professional life.  It’s no sad song, or overwrought “I am tough” façade so many males in the arts feel must be fronted.  I am me.  I am Cowboy Blue Crawford.

Photo credit -- Matthew Polsfuss

-- Why did you choose the epic form?

The absolute focus it takes to write an epic is the primary reason I’m drawn to it as an art form.  The longer a poem is, the tighter you must stitch the language.  My nemesis is boredom.  The attention needed to craft an epic removes all chances of me falling into a malaise of inactivity and incessant, itchy moods.  The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford has also made me take an honest stock of who I am now - whether it’s pretty or not.  I think one of the reasons my poetry has struck a sticking point is due to the fact I am the same man on paper that I am in person.  I do not brag or make undo apologies. 

Interior rhyme, I’ve found, is one of the keys to keeping a reader moving forward.  I began in this business as a writer of prose.  The epic allows me to marry poetry and the prosaic length of a good story.  All writers must love, and be good at, spinning a good story.  That’s what poetry and prose is all about.  Plus, I feel society is underestimated in its ability to digest and appreciate the epic. 

Although poetry is often a solitary undertaking, I don’t walk this road alone.  Brother Felino A. Soriano and Brother Joe Milford are also a part of this project and add epics of their own.  This is the first collaboration I’ve ever attempted, and it’s been effortless.  The title of this collaboration has yet to be decided.  The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford is only a piece of the whole.  There’s even a unique addition of a prose piece that ties all three of our characters together.  If you do the right work with the right people for the right reasons, miracles happen every day.  Fact.

Painting by Ka-Son Reeves inspired by Cowboy Blue Crawford
This will be the cover of the epic once it is published.

-- What surprised you the most about writing an epic? Why?

What surprised me most is how much fun it is to write an epic.  It demands a sharp lexicon, including one’s genuine drawl, awareness of one’s roots, truth of self, and a challenge that will show the poet's true strength.

Yet, the revisions and follow-through of the epic can be brutal to one with an OCD hold on perfectionism.  I have become better about that since my first book, but to be honest, completely honest, it can feel like a “broken hallelujah” (thank you, Jeff Buckley).
So, to muscle through that barrage of reflection, I threw on music. The blues, old school country, gospel and bluegrass coaxed me beyond many writer’s blocks.  It became the soundtrack for the whole work.

-- What led you to start the Southern Collective Experience?

The idea came to me a decade ago.  Brother Joe Milford was on the phone with me as I started to throw around the idea of dispelling the cliché that artists can’t be friendly, if not family, while also being practical business folk.  Art does make money.  I don’t work for free.  For life, love, or rent – everything I do today is because I adore it, and because it allows me to financially breathe deep.

More recently, someone told me that I can’t control the number of jackasses in my life.  That isn’t true.  The Experience began to come into immediate focus as also an oasis of intelligence, often-rough humor, with both hands buried deep in the Cemetery of Expression.  We are a company.  We are all published legit.  Our reputations speak for themselves.  No soapbox.  No haughty mission statement.  No promise to return art to some utopian state.  We will make it better now, tomorrow, and tomorrow. 

The SCE is a group of photographers, visual artists, prose writers, graphic designers, poets, and musicians.  We share a similar, smart, gritty song in our hearts and refuse to shoot anywhere but straight.

When someone gets huffy with me about entrance into the group by asking if I’m an elitist, the answer is – yes.  If that’s what people call someone who doesn’t compromise, I’ll stand by it.

Photograph of the SCE by Sandra Smith

-- I'm sure that you get this question all the time, but what does it mean to you to be Southern?  Where/how do you draw the boundary? (I've known people who consider Indiana to be Southern; I also knew one man who informed me that Virginia was NOT Southern.)

Being Southern isn’t just about place.  Yet, being from below the Mason-Dixon certainly helps.  Being Southern-minded is a classical education that exemplifies the virtue of using language to settle unrest, but common sense (and ability) to put the bad man down.  Violence isn’t always the answer, but sometimes it is.  To be Southern is to give both God and the Devil their respect and space. 

We have a melody between us that’s simple in its genius.  In my opinion, the South is the only part of America that isn’t afraid of claiming a culture.  This culture isn’t sexist or racist or riddled with Civil War Guilt.  We come from all walks of life, both sexes, many religions, but united in the pursuit of genuine expression, intolerance for politically correct pressure, while wearing a real smile and strong resolve.

There is music in every crevice of the South.  A great deal of music in our family goes back and forth as we pull tighter together.  I’ve come to believe if someone has a deep-seeded love of some true form of music, there’s something redeemable in their soul.  We sing to the world through the tones in our work and, as time goes on, all of us experience the peace in harmony.

-- How do you see the Southern Collective Experience evolving?

This year (in April 2015) we launch our magazine, The Copperhead Literary & Arts Review.  We also make our website ( more visible this year, which includes Copperhead and our radio show, Dante’s Old South from WYYZ 1490AM, The Croc.  The radio show starts back up in the late spring or early summer of this year with Brother Matt Youngblood.  It will scream over the airwaves as well as streaming online coast-to-coast.

The newest evolution of the team is the Apprentice Class, which takes men and women with enormous talent and gives them access to those in the same field who are making a success of their greatest passion.  This in no way makes it easier for the Apprentice Class, only enlightens and exposes those who need (and deserve) it most to the real world wisdom not taught in college.  (I think the last course any art-based degree should include is: How the World Really Works 101.  I am more than happy to develop this curriculum.)

All of us continue to grow on our own.  A brilliant point in our social contract is that none of us lose our independence.  None of us are swallowed by the demands of a group mentality.  We fine tune this group every day.  There are projects coming out this year that will leave us all spellbound.  It’s the grace of being happy for other’s happiness and the desire to help them reach their “laughing place” (one of Brer Rabbit’s cunning terms of escape from Brer Fox and Brer Bear).

We are creating a fresh merchandising line for the SCE, and by this summer we hope to have a location for our own open mic night.  The big difference in our open mic is the discussion and constructive criticism of the work presented.  If you can’t take honest input delivered in a gentle fashion, don’t get into this occupation.  Yet, there’s a way to offer criticism without being an asshole.  I am doing an interview soon more on the SCE’s recreation of the open mic/poetry reading.  The trick is to make it a festival with musicians, visual artists, dance, prose, and poetry.  Remove outdated limitations and you reinvent the universe of performing arts.  Yes, reading poetry is just that – a performance.

Photo credit -- Anonymous
Photograph is of CCB III reading.
Holly Holt is with him.

--What pleased you the most about writing your second book?  Why?

Athena Departs exhibits a braver use of the way(s) in which I speak and think.  As with The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford, Athena Departs doesn’t limp with the weight of lost love or befuddled by depression.  Athena picks up where my first book left off.  The stories mature and simply tell the facts behind my becoming.

-- What surprised you the most about writing your second book? Why?

What I found the most surprising was the lack of anxiety involved with the creation of, and editing, my poetry.  The lessons I learned the first go-around stuck and it has saved me the self-imposed, accidental exile necessary to carve out The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics.  My teaching job and the SCE have helped me keep my crazy train firmly on the rails.  I am responsible to those in this family.  That includes striving to do my best while avoiding the clichés of boozing or using narcotics to fuel my inspiration.  One of the only maxims of our team is, “Don’t embarrass the family.”

-- What do you feel that you've learned from writing the second book?

That poetry is hard, hell-raising work.  Yet, it is a forgiving art.

Words by Charles Clifford Brooks III (from Athena Departs)
Photo by Mary Judkins
Pinterest by Holly Holt (from Athena Departs)

-- How do you feel that your teaching has informed your writing?

Teaching forces me to focus on others and get out of my head for a considerable portion of the week.  I have found this to be beneficial to my overall chill when my obsession to express myself exactly right just might drive me right up a tree I won’t climb down from if left too long alone.  Teaching tunes me into the lives of fascinating people and allows me to flex another skill set outside creative internal monologue.

-- What advice would you give writers (and other artists) who want to use social media?

Use it genuinely.  Don’t puke up every detail of your life.  Think hard about what you want the public to know in the event that success slips under your front door.  Privacy is priceless.  If you see writing (or the arts) as a real-world career, these are things you must consider and respect along with the excitement.

-- If you had to live anywhere in the South, other than Georgia, where would you live?  If you had to live anywhere in the US, other than the South, where would you live?  Why?

If I had to move out of Georgia, but stay in the South, I would go to New Orleans.  Anyone who has been there, and left a bit of themselves in that town, knows why.  If I had to live outside the South, I would hit either Washington State or Colorado.  I like the mountains and breathing room between folks up there.

Above is the cover of Clifford's first book.

The cover of Clifford's second book is by Ezra Letra.

The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:8

(Blue) An uncivil son of Athens
was slammed down, fired in, and fashioned
from an ancient forge
saved for babies
who become a Confederation
of cunning Senecas.
The South now has a cowboy
mommas don’t remember
with pride or joy.

The newest of the Crawford brood,
like the ones who came before,
found himself born
a bit more than a little less
sewn up in self-interest.

From the womb,
his father called him:

In a tomb
opened during an unimportant moon,
a child of the Old Faith,
Cowboy Blue,
was coaxed up
by a haunted Creole’s
drunken hiccup.
That Hoodoo Man
teased out Blue’s feral talents
and hoochie-coochie habits.
Neither can be traced to anything damned
by a team of priests,
or zealous abbots.

Yet, it’s a natural fact
that Blue hit the ground
and immediately found
he spoke with the sound
of a Middle Georgia growl.
Granny Hazie put a Bible in his backpack,
and since his first steps,
Blue’s jeans have been held
against his slender hips
by a buckle etched in the
effigy of Saint Anthony.

The heart of the matter
is that he too easily mastered
the ability to attract and cheat
a poisonous youth.
Yet, those years,
though a bit misspent,
didn’t yoke him with
the horrible scars
made from settling, solitude,
or prison bars.

Today he lacks
the lethargic lifestyle of a man
that’s seen too much.
It’s a matter of perspective,
justified profanity,
and plenty of prairie
to prowl
at night.

The bottom line
is that
Blue’s lasting luxury
is the subsidy
he invested to make the past
less present.

This is a story worth telling,
since it’s the nexus

of why he sleeps so soundly.

Clifford also brought some music for this interview:

Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama perform "I Shall Not Walk Alone":

Ben Harper plays an Asher lap steel here:

Harper and Relentless7's version of "Why Must You Always Dress in Black/Red House" is live in Montreal:

Moon Taxi performs "Mercury" live in Austin:

And, of course, here is Bob Marley's "Redemption Song":

We'll close with Avicii's "Wake Me Up":

Clifford Brooks is a teacher, freelance writer, and poet living in North Georgia. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Georgia Author of the Year for his first book of verse, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics. Clifford’s next book of poetry, Athena Departs, is currently in the last stages of editing. His newest accomplishment, with the help of many brilliant artists, is the creation of The Southern Collective Experience, who will soon have a website of their own. His online presence includes TwitterInstagram; Facebook; and his personal website Cliff Brooks. Artistic snippets of his work (as created by Holly Holt, a member of The Collective) can be found on Pinterest here: Athena Departs; and The Salvation of Cowboy Blue Crawford.

Photo credit -- Matthew Polsfuss

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Contumacy by Paul Hawkins

From time to time, I may publish reviews of poets' chapbooks.  Here is the first!

Contumacy by Paul Hawkins published by Erbacce Press

Put Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Dickens, Keith Richards, John Mayall, and Sir Francis Drake into a blender, make a smoothie called the Golden Hind and put on your hat for an adventure. Gandhi, Thoreau, and Mandela refused to knuckle under or bend and so does Mr. Paul Hawkins in Contumacy. Poems float down like sweet snowflakes while bricks amass in walls. Paul boogies to the dry-fly while Troy scalds his balls. A nine stone William S. Burroughs break dances in a bed of dead batteries and bullet rain. Sounds, thoughts, images, and secret Oulipo dust are all sprinkled through this master opus of words. Edgar A. Poe and Dylan Thomas arm wrestle. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin play Scrabble. I thought of when Cheech and Chong got pulled over by the cops. The cop says, “Your eyes are red, have you been smoking dope?” Cheech replies, “Your eyes are glazed, have you been eating doughnuts?” Catch Contumacy from Erbacce Press and Pawl Hawkins, a great English writer, before he turns into Houdini and blows your socks off while your shoes are still on.

Catfish McDaris   1-23-2015

Paul Hawkins is also the co-editor of Boscombe Revolution.

To listen to Paul Hawkins' poetry, you may start here with "The Curl":

This poem "Tell Me" is from Contumacy:

"Drifting" will take you to Hawkins' own website:

Here is some Jack Walrath for you:

I can't find videos of the Jack Walrath songs that my husband plays, so here is some Charles Mingus for you:

On Thursday I will be posting an interview with Charles Clifford Brown III, so the blog-zine is truly branching out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Flash Fiction and Poem by Catfish McDaris

Catfish McDaris' entries in the Michael Brown contest are "100% true" and set in Milwaukee, just like the picture above.

Sweet Jesus

The symphony leader was a master violinist. He borrowed a three hundred year old Stradivarius violin valued at six million dollars for a concert at a church. After the concert he departed the building by a darkened parking lot with no security and headed for his car. Two men with taser guns zapped him and made off with the valuable instrument. The entire police force was on high alert and finally captured the two robbers. The violin remained missing. At the same time a five day old African-American baby girl was kidnapped. News reports on all television and radio channels gave more importance to the violin than the missing infant. The violin was carried first on the news and given more time for updates. The homicide and vice department of the police were assigned to find the violin. Finally the baby was found in the next state in a duffel bag at a gas station in the middle of winter. The baby had been outside for twelve hours, but miraculously was fine. The violin was found two weeks later in an attic with no damage, the rich owners never came forward and revealed their identity. All of Milwaukee paid the overtime for the police force. I’m just glad my prayers were answered.  

It's interesting that the police in Milwaukee are called the Po Po.  I had thought that it was just a Maryland thing.  (One of my students a while back wrote a poem about the Po Po.)  

 Beware of Po Po

Annoyed Starbucks customers were
trying to enjoy their morning coffee,
but a young black man fell asleep in
the sun on a park bench in their view

The man wasn’t homeless or stoned
or bothering anyone, the yuppies got
out their cell phones and complained,
instead of buying him a cup of java

Three po po cars arrived, they hit the
man with a baton, he raised his hands
to protect his head and surrender and
then they shot him fifteen times

This happened in April 2014 near Red
Arrow Park in Milwaukee, it is now
December and no one has been charged,
sometimes taking a nap could be fatal. 


Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. His best readings were in Paris at the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore and with Jimmy"the ghost of Hendrix"Spencer in NYC on 42nd St. He’s done over 25 chaps in the last 25 years. He’s been in the New York Quarterly, Slipstream, Pearl, Main St. Rag, Café Review, Chiron Review, Zen Tattoo, Wormwood Review, Great Weather For Media, Silver Birch Press, and Graffiti and been nominated for 15 Pushcarts, Best of Net in 2010, 2013, and 2014, he won the Uprising Award in 1999, and won the Flash Fiction Contest judged by the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2009. Catfish McDaris has been published widely. In The Louisiana Review, George Mason Univ.Press, and New Coin from Rhodes Univ. in South Africa. He’s recently been translated into French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette Univ. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I'm going to post images of some of Catfish's chapbooks, starting with Prying.

A review of the book and interview with the three collaborators follows below:

I'll finish with some violin for you.  

Here is Regina Carter's "Pavane Pour Une Enfant Defunte."  Yes, she is playing on a Stradivarius violin:

She performs "Lady Be Good" with the Ray Brown Trio here:

This is "Ain't Nobody" from 2005:

Finally, I'll include her version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," which is actually Cassandra Wilson's version since it was her album--and her vocals:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Catfish McDaris Returns Us to Monk

copyright 2015, Ed Schelb

Tonight poet Catfish McDaris returns us to the Monk contest--with a little help from Ed Schelb's photocollage above.  Enjoy!

Elephant Tusk Boogie

Fingers chasing each other, notes
pouring forth like champagne

Horns blowing elephant love
feet tapping snapping bo bapping

Bass booming vibrating magic rhythm
crooning words of desire desperation

Monk said his mama looked like a
gorilla and he could  never find 

Her nipples for all the damn hair
at least he could bend a note on

His piano like a blacksmith making
horseshoes and all the girls smiled. 

Six Headed Dog

They stayed together way too long
like a rusty worn out El Camino,
they should’ve read the writing on
the wall and said it was all over

When she used a chainsaw on Monk’s 
piano that he’d written Round Midnight 
and Blue Monk and fed him dog food
for meatloaf,  that was the final straw

Theolonius caught a boat sailing for Cuba, 
where the mojitos were strong and cold 
and the tobacco sweet, and the women 
were vanilla and fantastically beautiful. 

Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. His best readings were in Paris at the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore and with Jimmy"the ghost of Hendrix"Spencer in NYC on 42nd St. He’s done over 25 chaps in the last 25 years. He’s been in the New York Quarterly, Slipstream, Pearl, Main St. Rag, Café Review, Chiron Review, Zen Tattoo, Wormwood Review, Great Weather For Media, Silver Birch Press, and Graffiti and been nominated for 15 Pushcarts, Best of Net in 2010, 2013, and 2014, he won the Uprising Award in 1999, and won the Flash Fiction Contest judged by the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2009. Catfish McDaris has been published widely. In The Louisiana Review, George Mason Univ.Press, and New Coin from Rhodes Univ. in South Africa. He’s recently been translated into French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette Univ. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Let's see if I can dig up some more songs by Monk for you.  

Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra play "Let's Call This":

I can't believe that I haven't posted a version of "Straight No Chaser" yet.  Here is Monk in Tokyo:

I'll include "Bolivar Blues," also from Japan:

The last clip is of Monk dancing:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Poems by Abdul Kabir Abu Irfan (or Prince Adewale Oreshade)

Another poet I've met through Facebook is the Nigerian-American Abdul Kabir Abu Irfan (or, since the beginning of 2015, Prince Adewale Oreshade).  This evening I'd like to post some of his poems for you to enjoy.  As you can see, a number of his poems are addressed to friends.

 a bird in the sky
for jennifer aduro.

i have heard of a jennifer, that one
the wife of arthur, the queen of england.
i have heard of a jennifer, that one
the free bird in the sky. i have heard of her.

i have seen her flight, as her wings
calmed the wind, and her subtle speed
touched the trees. i have seen her slide
down the spring with arms in the air.

i have seen her open her wings wide
with fear of nothing. nothing scares her
i see her fly steady, over the meadows
and the seas. i have seen her fly.

i see jennifer, not in camelot, and not
with merlin. i see her not with arthur
and not in the midst of war, no, not war
or poverty. i see jennifer in this blue sky.

with her being full of grace, and her
smiles filled with hopes. i see her feet
with blackberries, apples and oranges
strung to her ankles, those elegant pair.

i see jennifer walk in peace, wish for
fun. place to place with heart of silk.
to and fro her flight in the blue sky
she wished me well, yes, she spoke.

she wished everyone well. she flew
high and high, until our mouths were
open to the clouds. she is jennifer
the graceful bird in the deep blue sky.

olives and doves
lures of all beings
immersed in peace

violins and cellos
enchanting to the ears
recite me your poems

own my ears
never stop the rhymes
you bard of peace

inject all souls
brighten our hearts
empty our sorrows
(an acrostic for oliver onyibe) ‪#‎JustBecause ‪#‎Hehe

send her to the north
her highness will come home
and own her space of bliss

delicate and precious
ebony filled with beam
melody of the north

align with her in the south
reach for her voice;
yearns of fame

- release your whim
and touch horizons -
new worlds of truth

never seek the dim
own the stars
lose the wreath

amplify your words
own this realm
yours is the ink of lith

emulsion of souls

(an acrostic for shade mary - ann olaoye)

I don't think I've posted a version of "Ruby, My Dear."  Here is the Barry Harris Trio's version of this song:

Imagine the birds flying on this song!

I think that I've posted "Pannonica" on the blog, but I am going to add it here:

Here is a version of "Well, You Needn't":

I'll finish with Monk's version of "Caravan."  It's a relatively late performance:


Friday, January 16, 2015

In a Mother's Voice (Amber Smithers and Joan McNerney)

Today I'd like to focus on poems in a mother's voice.  These are for the Michael Brown contest.  The first poem is by my former student, Amber Smithers, a young woman who may become a filmmaker.  (She has so many interests, and I'm glad that she decided to participate in this contest!)

A Lullaby to My Son

Hush little baby,
Don't you cry.
Mommy's not gonna let you die.
Don't let those demons
Take your light. 
I'm sorry I wasn't there that night.
But now mommy's gonna win this fight.
Mommy's gonna love you through the night.
Hush little baby,
Don't you cry.
Mommy's gonna make sure you survive. 

-- Amber Smithers

I am not sure that Joan McNerney's poem is also a mother's voice, but it speaks to the pain that a mother faces when she loses a son to violence.  As women who are not mothers, neither Joan nor I can imagine what it is like to lose a child in this way.

For the Mothers


Don’t think
              think about it
              that he is dead
                    you won’t see him again
                    you are alone but
                    you still look for him
                    the call came
                    his young body gone
                    all the love in the world won’t bring him home
                    you still look for him
                    you are alone but
                    you won’t see him again
              that he is dead
              think about it
Don’t think


-- Joan McNerney

Below is a picture of Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who outlived her only child by forty-eight years.

I'll finish with some more music for you.

Here is a link to a performance of Dan Furman's "For Emmett Till":

I also wanted to add Bob Dylan's "The Death of Emmett Till" although I'm not sure how long the video will be up.

Here Nina Simone sings "Revolution" and "Strange Fruit," adding her commentary on the role of the artist in society.  Note that this video includes graphic images of victims of lynching.

Gregory Porter's "Mother's Song" is more hopeful and soothing but I wanted to end on a different note:

Monday, January 12, 2015

I Sing & Harmattan Song & The Coin of Life

Recently I met the Nigerian poet Adelaja Ridwan Olayiwola on Facebook, and tonight I'd like to share some of his poems with you.  (He shares his poems freely on Facebook, so if you would like to read more of his work, you may go to his timeline to see what he is working on.  Many of his poems comment on Nigerian politics, so reading them may be a good way to learn more about this country.)

The picture above is of the harmattan, the dry season's wind.  Adelaja's second poem is inspired by it.  


I sing the song of a land

where everyman is a patriot
and every station is a peacestead.

I sing of tomorrow
snail-slow like lullabies

soothing the pains of my people
petting the troubled children to rest.

I sing of change
like poets of all ages

calling from the
minarets of their pen
preaching peace from the pulpit
of sorrow-scattered sheets.

I sing of hope
like a chorister

rehealsing the songs of a new beginning
humming without beats along the street.

I sing of a land
and I sing of tomorrow

I sing of change
and I sing of hope.

I sing,
... yes, I will sing
...until diaries date my death.

My Harmattan Song

The cold 
and chill is here again
The skin 
is drying quick again. 

Gloss on 
lips I see again
Socks and 
gloves on men again. 

–no effect again
come in vogue again. 

Leaves litter 
the yard again
pick and pick again. 

A.C is free 
for all again
The rich won't 
boast to us again. 

The haze is here, 
it is harmattan again
Let's play safe 
perhaps, to witness another one again!


Sweet and sour
Hard and soft
On and off
Tender and tough

Head and tail
Pass and fail
Short and long
Weak and strong

Life tosses on like a tiny coin
Like a stream –in twos, all around it runs
It comes and goes like the daily sun
It smiles –it cheers, it also mourns.

Island and lake
Break and make
Up and down
Smile and frown

Left and right
Dull and bright
Front and back
Light and dark

Life tosses on like a tiny coin
Like a stream –in twos, all around it runs
It comes and goes like the daily sun
It smiles –it cheers, it also mourns.

Come and go
High and low
Give and take
Real and fake

Fast and sluggish
Kind and fiendish
Nut and bolt
Sink and float

Life tosses on like a tiny coin
Like a stream –in twos, all around it runs
It comes and goes like the daily sun
It smiles –it cheers, it also mourns.

Sleep and wake
Still and shake
Sun and moon
Ago and soon

Nasty and holy
Many and only
Home and away
Will and may

Life tosses on like a tiny coin
Like a stream –in twos, all around it runs
It comes and goes like the daily sun
It smiles –it cheers, it also mourns.

Love and hatred
Rich and wretched
Poem and prose
Friends and foes

Stretching and bending
Rising and falling
Grave and cradle
Busy and idle

And on and on
Life tosses on!


For your musical accompaniment, let's start with Stan Getz and Chet Baker's live performance of Sonny Rollins' "Airegin" from 1983:

I also have the Miles Davis Quintet's version from 1954:

To go with "The Coin of Life," I am adding Dorothy Ashby's "Life Has Its Trials" from her phenomenal Afro-Harping:

If you would like to listen to jazz from Nigeria itself, here is the singer Somi's performance in Lagos:

Another Nigerian jazz artist who has won international acclaim is the trumpeter Jumbo Aniebiet:

Some of you may remember High Life, so here is the Ubo Jazz Band of Africa: