Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Best Minds of My Generation

Ginsberg wrote: “I saw the best minds
of my generation destroyed by
madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo
in the machin-
ery of night…”

But not me.

No,
I saw the best minds of my generation
resist their true insanity
and give up their imagination to Dead Steam.
The best minds of my generation are writing poems, but not sharing them
The best minds of my generation are not on the picket line, they’re being trampled by them
The best minds of my generation do not want to occupy
The best minds of my generation have a hard time ordering a cup of coffee
The best minds of my generation have no desire to follow idols
The best minds of my generation stay indoors or inside, off-the-grid, or out of bounds
The best minds of my generation are not being supported by grants or parents
The best minds of my generation create unheard symphonies and daydreams that would put a long-gone Maestro to shame
The best minds of my generation can’t seek some spiritual fix cause they are too busy remembering pin codes
The best minds of my generation aren’t interested in owning anything but their own lives
The best minds of my generation are caught between beepers and iPhones
The best minds of my generation mourn for all we already could not accomplish
The best minds of my generation no longer ask Why, but How?
The best minds of my generation realize that a man not offended by anything will stand for nothing
The best minds of my generation know that the pen is mightier than the sword
The best minds of my generation are not lost, they are simply…not found
The best minds of my generation don’t see their own potential & therefore they cease to imagine
The best minds of my generation don’t understand their times because they are not creating them
Instead, we’re willing to become like every other part of the universe and give up our identity –
desperate
to join the parade
The best minds of my generation could be beautiful –
If they could only see themselves
If they could only pause
& accept the failed status quo –
Infinitely being hurled at them
With the terror
& grace of a runaway train
& the tremor of the other poet’s great maxim: “The best lack all conviction.”

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Message to Fellow Artists (Another Rant in Between My Missed Dose)

A confessional sermon delivered at A.A.
(Artists Anonymous)

…and no, this is not just another midnight ramble.

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I come to you, my brothers and sisters, with nothing but love and understanding.

I am, by no means, greater, better, more talented, or more important than any other artist.  I’m not.  And I never will be.  However, that doesn’t mean I don’t know my own “worth,” that I am not aware of where I am at and what I could still create or achieve.  The life of the true artist is one of turmoil, daily struggle, anxiety, and sweat — peppered with overwhelming moments of bliss, pride, recognition, camaraderie, and success.  No one forces us to create, no one actually chooses to be an artist.  It chooses you.  “It” is something we give in to.  We follow it.  Like a sixth sense, a pied piper, a “formless hunch” as Peter Brook might call it.  So we do what we must, what we feel we are born to, and we hope we do it well.  The real artist, those concerned with the eternal murmuring of humanity and the spirit, are aware from day one that the game is rigged.  That the odds are stacked against us.  We know, innately, that our life’s work may not resolve itself in some pleasant happy ending or an armful of awards or endowments.  The artist hopes for a happy ending, but does not live his life — nor create his fictitious one — according to it or any sense of mainstream acceptance. 

I’m not sure what I’m getting at here.  Sorry, there’s sleep still in my eye — and I’m trying to shake off the last two phone calls we received this morning, asking us for money.  I told this person, not exactly a friend – but a stable acquaintance, that my wife and I did not have any money.   In fact, I told him we were just getting caught up on rent and were just getting acclimated to new day jobs that would enable us to continue developing and finishing some projects that would require some concentrated money and time.  This man scoffed, “What do you mean?  You’re a writer…You’re working a survival job!?”

“No, ” I said, “I’m working a job so I can do my art which will allow me…to survive.”

“Well, why don’t you borrow?”

“What planet are you on?  Borrow what from whom?  I don’t have parents, none of my friends are rich, and the one or two jerks I know with money would rather see my die before they would ever cut me a check.”

“Tsk, tsk…When are you going to learn?  Crowd-funding is the answer.  Kickstarter: that’s the way of the future.”

I forgot what I said, I know I shouted, belched, cursed, nearly strangled my phone (I wished I still had our old home phone — I could have engaged in that most righteous act of — literally — cutting the cord of the phone.  I did this over ten years ago, when Chase Bank took over the theater I was directing in Harlem.  I was young and manic then, but that one act — cutting the telephone cord — was like a holy ritual; to sever the negativity, the “non-believers,”  the satanic offerings…Sorry, I am losing myself here, bear with me as I be-bop back into my brain and get back to that original thought.

Artists, who are we?

There is nothing pretentious or self-important or pompous about reveling in that majestic title that describes our lot.  Somewhere, at some point in the eighties I think (this is all conjecture, I was just a kid in the 80’s) — the idea of the “artist” became fodder for fashion and news media, I suppose Warhol had a lot to do with this. In fact, he himself was the motivating force behind all this, he was the gross pimp-charlatan of actual ideas and feelings and concepts. Remember, it was not that he gave us Heinz soup — but that he coerced the rest of the country (the world) into regarding ADVERTISEMENT AS ART.

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A step further now in the 21st century: art is supposedly in the hands of everyone; the internet and the establishment media have pawned this idea that “everyone is an artist” without admitting the fact that 90 percent of us have nothing interesting or honest to say. Hell, it doesn’t have to be original — but it should at least be honest.

And who should we blame for this?
Ourselves, of course. The artists who have accepted their curse, their stigma, those of us who wear our disease like a badge of honor: we screwed up here, folks. We betrayed each other.

Instead of us taking pride in the ten-year creation of a damned good novel NO ONE MAY EVER READ or appreciating our own skill in the pains we took to choreograph a ballet or record our own music, we have allowed Pop Culture “madmen” to tell us who we are, what we do, and how to do it.

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I was a theater director here in NYC, when the last crumb of social freedom and artistic urgency still burned brightly, and anybody in the theater will tell you: it’s about many things, but it ain’t about the money. I left the theater for too many reasons to get into, but even at the tender age of 24 I was directing, producing, developing plays and actors…and PAYING EVERYONE INVOLVED.

How? By working whatever job I could, even if it had nothing to do with the arts. In fact, I got more money and support for my revivals of Jean Genet and James Baldwin in the “corporate” sector than I did from the so-called “Arts funding” community. Sure, I could have used Kickstarter had it existed then and it would have helped, but the bottom line is that if you’re going to talk the talk, you must walk the walk. At least half the cash I raised for the plays I produced uptown came from other people in the area; at one point in my life all of my construction co-workers were throwing me money so I could keep my theater company alive. That was gangsta. That was hard. That… was romantic.

No one wants to work and save their money for their own projects anymore. Everyone expects other people to drop a dime as soon as they say they are producing a movie or writing a book. What?? There are people starving and you want me to give film school brats money so they can do what exactly? NOT pay their actors or crew…so they can get into some absurd film festival? You want me to give you a $50 donation so you can adapt Moby Dick for the digital age? Kiss my ass, I rather give that money to a poet who is destitute but can make 4 sentences on a napkin rival Rilke!
Who are we kidding? (And to top it off, I’ve seen more Kickstarter campaigns that were interesting than the actual project itself!!)

It takes a lot of guts to ask people for money and to show them exactly what you are going to do with that money. I don’t mean to make them feel “cool” about giving you money, I mean honestly try to explain and defend your vision of life. It builds character looking into someone’s eyes and just talking about your work, not “pitching” – but simply…explaining. Now, it’s all about selling yourself to an internet site so you can raise money. Imagine Picasso or Miles Davis or Phyllis Hyman or Bill Hicks doing a “campaign” for their project. Exactly.

The idea of Kickstarter was a tremendous resource for artists – despite the fact that Big Names and Hollyweird babies like Zach Braff and now Spike Lee are usurping the tiny corners of the world once inhabited by independent artists. And when I say independent artist – I mean literally an “independent” vision. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or spend. But in 2013 MONEY has now become synonymous with art, quality, etc. It is pathological and it is becoming more and more dangerous.

I don’t care that Steven Speilberg or George Lucas are fearful that the Hollywood system will be dismantled soon. Who gives a damn? It should be dismantled, I can’t wait! But…will that mean that the future is some bloated Hollywood director standing on the corner of Beverly Hills with his hat in his hands asking for a hand-out? These people don’t need money to make their movies..they have all the money they need. They’ve all lost their minds.

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Real artists will find a way to make their art, regardless of how much money they have. Money ain’t everything. Even a junkie will find a way to get high without a dime in his pocket.

I say help the needy, not the greedy. Take all that money and make something worthwhile: homes, healing centers, health systems, habitats…for all. Just to start.

In this corrupted world of “Reality TV” and sampled music and shadows of real expression, artists should not feel ashamed or embarrassed by their positions but should speak out and demand that we as creators take back some of the power we have freely given to Businessmen, Advertising freaks, media spin doctors, and hollow, shallow, meretricious celebrities.

Artists and Activists have let the ball drop. It is the Businessman’s job to screw over the artist. It is the Artist’s job to reveal that the Businessman has no soul.

No scratch that: Everyone has a soul.
But it is the Fascistic-Greedy-Money-Grubbers that resent that twitch inside…and it is the Artist’s job to express some of that shame for them.

Be proud to be who you are and seek to truly say something in this lifetime.

Be more interested in ten living poets than ten dead ones.
Stop giving your money to film schools and take that money and just make your own movie.
Support artists in your own neighborhood or start with artists in need who may be of a similar ancestral or cultural background.
If possible, collaborate, trade ideas, have arguments, and make love to other artists. Understand that the time is now, the seeds must be planted now. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. In fact, if you’re as nuts as I am and you’ve read this far: try to cross-pollinate and if you’re older and wiser, lend some of our time or energy to a younger artist’s enterprise. Or maybe just offer to provide honest constructive criticism.
If you have no money, barter. Trade and help each other. In fact, maybe this is where we should start. I’ll write for you, you paint for me, Aliyah can cook, Curt can drive, etc. Find the naturalness, the “real-ness,” the folk art within any medium – all over again.

Try – very conscientiously – to disown any influence from pop culture, school, the established mores of art, etc. — and develop your own ideas and put them forth like a strong handshake, a bright smile, or a passionate bear hug. We must rid ourselves of the hateful, hollow, dangerous, and miraculously socio-pathic tendencies of the establishment’s corporate media. Whether it’s Fox 5 or MTV or Harper Collins. At this point, I suspect they are all the same. So for the independent-minded writer who self publishes but salivates at Hollywood movies — I have to take the time to make him understand he is part of the problem, not the solution.

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There is no reason why the arts and the artists have to feel abused, overwhelmed, or irrelevant because they are not on Page Six or at some awards show or being groomed by MOMA.

Politicians stick together, so should Artists. Things are only “bad” because they have divided and conquered us. We are the new colonized, oppressed, and forsaken. And we hail from all walks of life, all races, all countries. Even the ones that don’t exist yet.

Remember who you are, why you do what you do, what means most to you…and what keeps you honest. Remember that if money were an indication of talent, insight, or importance than everyone on the top ten right now would be more important or special than Billy Strayhorn, Janis Joplin, Emily Dickinson, John Cassavetes, and Van Gogh. And that’s just for starters.

Get your priorities straight: we need money, obviously. But we don’t need to pander and humiliate ourselves consistently for money in order to embark on projects not worthy…
I think the challenge here is for artists to take the arts and all that it implies into their own hands and start figuring out new ways of seeing, feeling, and sensing again.
The arts, frankly, needs…art.

And so I say once again: A shot in the dark, a mark on the cave wall – that’s all we are.
And that itself is precious enough.

Support living artists or you will see no visions or receive any prophecies.

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Truth

Some see truth in a painting, others in a jar of cookies.
If it’s a biblical passage that sets you straight or a steady job — who cares?
People only care — or the system will only care — when you’ve violated its laws
or created
your own.

Book Of Urizen, W.Blake, 1794

Book Of Urizen, W.Blake, 1794

“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”
— William Blake

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My Final Scream: Punk & Poetry

“EVEN MORE POWERFUL LIVE THAN IT WAS ON THE PAGE! BRILLIANTLY STAGED BY NINA FLECK -A STRONG MIX OF WORDS & MUSIC THAT CREATES A DIFFERENT THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE…KANGALEE WILL BE FOUGHT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, BUT HE ALREADY KNOWS THIS.”
– Reg E. Gaines, NYC Downtown Urban Theater Festival Director, 2011
Tony-Award Nominated author of Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk

Dennis Leroy Kangalee as The Nomad Junkie fronts his theatrical punk band in "Gentrified Minds" (2011)  [photo by J.Lehrman]

Dennis Leroy Kangalee as The Nomad Junkie fronts his theatrical punk band in “Gentrified Minds” (2011) [photo by J.Lehrman]

Every now and then it is healthy to remember your personal war stories. From time to time, I will share bits and pieces of past works that might fit such a definition. Below are lyrics to the title song of my 2011 performance piece, “Gentrified Minds: The NY Horror Vol.2,” a musical spoken-word piece about gentrification. I was coming out of a long deep-seated emotional stir regarding the virulently corporate-friendly gentrified nature of NYC. It was stifling, sad, and arresting to feel like an alien in my hometown. My wife and muse Nina Fleck, pushed me to express my views about it all in a theatrical piece that combined our love for poetry, protest, and punk in one. It was meant to be a dagger in the side of the suburbanization/homogenization of New York City. To this day I don’t know a single soul who has gained anything as a result of the gross over-development of NYC. And if they did gain, it was just more money…and they were probably already rich to begin with. The project came to a swift halt in 2012 but it was one of the most thrilling and freeing experiences I ever had. It was the tail end of a long phase that gave birth to a number of poems in the guise of my “Nomad Junkie” persona and it was my last sigh in a tense chain of ‘holy rants’ and aggressive works that I construed to be viewed as poetic grenades. In the end, I was reminded that protest art doesn’t really do much to the status quo, but it does affirm the tremors of each choir member you may choose to preach to. And that’s all right, because that says a lot. It solidified my belief that the nature of true rebellion can never be popular. For when it becomes tamed — so does one’s passions.


Gentrified minds
Speak in gentrified times
Of gentrified ways
In gentrified days
With tongues that they stole
From mouths that they sold
In order to live “that way.”

“That way” is the day
That you knew you would pay
For the sins of a hustler
Who gave birth decay
My gait ain’t my own
Nor the shoes that I own
Barely’s the air that I suck
Or the sounds that I groan —

We are
Gentrified Minds.

I have no culture
Only a vulture
That breeds on my dying days.

Click here to see video excerpt of the performance.

or visit this earlier post

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Visit this link for a glimpse into an earlier phase of my NY Horror series.

(c) 2011 by Dennis Leroy Kangalee; Words by DL Kangalee, music by Bob Kuch.

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Kitty Genovese

Anger is just rage with an ‘N’ to soften the blow.

Always look out for someone who cherishes books & then burns them.

first noticed the lack of outrage in the summer of ‘04
the year Republicans blew through NY like a shark in water
looking back over my shoulder
through the pinched elbow of time,
i can see it was merely a habit i had noticed,
a conscious “putting-down”
a fear of “letting loose”
elements of souls
not saved.
We have no anger. We have Facebook.

they have pathologized everything that is normal.
mtv created our generation
a holocaust of chic-violent-racist-woman hating nation
gave a boat of idiots who were weaned on Star Wars – cheapness & trash,
pimps & prostitutes,
& Lexus-wet dreams
& made sure they were dried like corpses
& believed in like rain

rage is of a past era
so we’re accused of romanticizing the human ‘error’
of civil rights
cause we’d rather crack open the skull of a depraved man
who refuses to give his seat to a woman
rather than call my black brother a nigger
or my white sister a bitch—
so we’re branded “Dinosaurs”
& my head aches & my teeth ache & i wonder where my son is, what my daughter could be —
They’ll have no anger. They’ll have Facebook.

take some responsibility
stop blaming your kids
you don’t hate anything cause you don’t love anything
you don’t love cause you’re consumed with fear
you say you hate your landlord but you give him all your money
you say you hate the war but you’re glad it’s bright & sunny
you won’t give to a man without a job
but you’ll pay your taxes so Uncle Sam can maim and rob!
eat your pizza & shut up
we’ll join you if you’re ready to sweep —
we’re not preachers
we’re cleaners
sent to take out
the morning trash

everything is personal cause there is no business
just opportunity for the rich to get richer while you defend them.

Call me when the guilty decide to bleed.

We have sewed the seeds of Kitty Genovese.

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Sandpaper Tongue

“It’s not that I dislike children – it’s what they might become. If I had to bear witness to my child’s lack of success I’m not sure I’d be able to handle it. I barely handle my own.”

She laughed, she thought he was being cute. But there was nothing cute about his situation. There was nothing cute about being caught, once again, in the rut trying to keep up, stay sane. He was beyond trying to be witty and he saw nothing admirable or clever about his choice of words or how coolly detached she thought he was. He was not cool and not detached and there was no pose he could stand.

All the armor, all the powder from his make-up had been removed, the streaks of paint had left his soul just slightly bare as if a cotton round dipped in witch hazel had wiped across the face of his soul leaving him cleanly exposed but less raw and agitated. All he could feel now was great remorse for everything he had not accomplished, a peculiar sadness – but not one that could erupt in tears, but rather a frozen gloom that clung to his face like a hockey mask, weighing his temples, the bridge of his nose, and the folds of his chin where all the despair had curled up like a cat preparing to die.

He felt nothing except for the dry sandpaper of his tongue.

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All Trees Have Wombs

All trees have wombs

All lovers have time to choose

The death that they can put in their shirts

And iron out in the morning.

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Henry O.Tanner's "Thankful Poor"

Henry O.Tanner’s “Thankful Poor”


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The General’s son studied the picture with the patience and skill of an art expert, gliding his hand over Nancy’s crayon streaks of torture and sentiment.

“It’s Bruno,” he finally said, putting the picture down. And he rubbed his eyes the way he’d seen the General do or the way adults do when they remove their spectacles.
“Who? The bear?”
“Yeah. He was a bear in the forest. They called him Bruno and he returned to the area for the first time in over a hundred years…and they shot him.”
“What!?”
“Yup. I saw it on the news on Wednesday. After we had dinner in the rec room.”
The General started to pace. “They killed – ”
“They shot him, General. As he was bathing.”
“Perverts.”
“What’s a pervert?”
“Someone who shoots bears.”
“Have you ever shot a bear?”
“Do I look that sick to you?”
“I’m sick. Maybe I’ll kill a bear, too.”
“Never. I wouldn’t allow it.”
“Why do they kill horses?”
“Cause they can’t shoot artists.”
“What?”
“They starve ’em instead.”

— excerpt from my 2006 novella, Where Ladybugs Go to Die

Where Ladybugs Go to Die

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A Broken Man

i’m a broken man, not all there in the head
sometimes i feel free only to discover the valise i bought
was the spine of another man’s pants —
purchased with love, out of his very first paycheck

and i should have felt something,
i should have mourned
for my greed and my cheap reasoning
that i deserved a shroud on my back
more than he deserved to walk
but i am a broken man
i can not get my own legs back
i can not recognize where i am at
i am a broken man like teeth pulled apart
maybe no gaps in my smile,
but —
holes
in my heart.

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For the Beautiful Madmen

all my life i thought i was tough
until i saw a man who’d used his own excrement
to fertilize a garden for a year and a half
knowing it would be destroyed.

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