Category Archives: Poetry

Angela Davis & Jean Genet

The Protest Artist is like the ice upon a body of water; it’s the frozen lake – enabling the Activists (realizers of the vision) to carry themselves OVER the water to the other side, 

the artist is the bridge

the crossing is the activist, the arrival is the fight (revolution).  You can’t have one without the other.
The artist receives the prophecy, the activist must decide what to do with the prophecy.
The artist is the seer
the activist is the doer
(Somewhere in between…is the Actor)
—-preface to the poem “Coda for My Shadow”
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Angela Davis and Jean Genet in conversation, New York City 1969 at a​n Arts Festival. ​(Photo by Robert Cohen, circa 1969​ – ​ from page 69 of Art of Protest by TV Reed)
​The spring of 1969: as the Paris rebellions failed, a​ conference about the Black Panthers Theater took place in Oakland​,​ which ended in an argument about the direction the theater should take – ​ which by this point was in demise due to FBI infiltration...Angela Davis and Jean Genet confer before embarking on two separate routes to the same ultimate destination.
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ANGELA DAVIS: If only I could only revolt as well as you create plays

JEAN GENET: No, if only I could write as elegantly as you revolt…if my words were as dangerous as your eyes I would not have the urge any longer to dream of a future. Instead I’d be living it.
AD: Yes but I was endgaming to the end of our imagination; I picked up a gun while you could still pick up a pen.
JG: The pen is not mightier than the sword.   It’s just more scary.
AD: If our words and actions were one we wouldn’t have to have this discussion. We could overturn society’s injustice with the swivel of a gun and the precision of a play and so…the world would not be a stage it would be our sun. And the sun is merely a star.
JG: But unfortunately for a star to exist one must be surrounded by darkness.
AD: “Let’s make new light out of love and erase all the darkness that comes with it.”  (I read that somewhere last year.  I think it was Bullins or Jackmon who wrote it; Huey had it painted on the back wall of one of Fred’s theater spaces in Chicago.)
JG: Is that act one or two?
AD: It’s the whole play
Or when the play
JG: ceases to to be a play.

Teeming Towards Triple Threats: Revolution in Radio Drama for a Podcast Age Vol. I 

Stay tuned for further information regarding transmission and production of the recorded podcast series: “Rebel Radio: Audio Works for a New Age” – coming this fall in conjugal with Speller Street Films LLC. 


 

 

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‘A Saintly Madness’ – Vagabond artwork for the latest Cinematic Project by Brian Alessandro…

Speller St. Films recently asked Vagabond to do some artwork for Brian Alessandro’s demo short A Saintly Madness, the NY author and filmmaker’s latest cinematic project as he begins to make plans on the feature film itself.  I have the pleasure of working and developing this project with Brian Alessandro and A Saintly Madness marked my official return to acting in nearly two decades.   (Alessandro was the director of the  controversial Afghan Hound.)

A Saintly Madness is a true communal, Socialist project itself  &  is the result of the latest example in a humble group effort.  A reminder: As we cross-pollinate our talents and all we contain inside we will slowly leave something behind on the cave wall besides our bodies and our dust. It all starts here. These artistic collaborations are not important as they are necessary – and vital.

Ia-saintly-madness-dennis4x6

Vagabond’s Barbara Kruger inspired 1980’s NYC artwork for Brian Alessandro’s Urbane & Checkhovian ‘romantic comedy for rebels’

Vagabond, one of the last true DIY punk rock artists and a genuine Puerto-Rican-Protest Artist is one NYC’s unheralded master guerrilla filmmakers and a wonderful visual artist.  Read more about the artwork here:

https://nothingtobegainedhere.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/a-saintly-madness/

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When all is said and done

when the last betrayal has taken flight —unnamed you stand alone with a catalog of memories and actions. And like the Actor, it is our actions ultimately that define who we are, how we choose to fight or retreat. We all feel like the Nowhere Man sometimes…but maybe it is not failure or malaise that consumes, but risks that genuinely tried. Not “nowhere plans” but actual attempts – stabs at the wall, great failures perhaps – but proof one has lived and had thoughts and some passion for SOMETHING. And, if anything, at least my words can do what I can’t: resist trembling in the face of Capitalism and the force of obedience.  The “bastard literature” which may have given birth to my own madness is one that I claim with glee.  Radical art, protest art, works and ideas that rejuvenates every sense of urgency from the eyebrow to the bowels.  There is no more time for games. This ends it all.  Walk into the valley, the great wash of the sun. turn your back on mediocrity. make art that can’t – but tries – to alter the world.  And when they say you’re hateful, you’re diseased, you’re un-romantic – just let your sigh do the talking.  

The film “As an Act of Protest” returns to NYC on August 9th, 7PM, at the People’s Forum. A special free screening, open to all: https://peoplesforum.org/event/as-an-act-of-protest/

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Coda for My Shadow

The world is becoming more acquainted with the names of dead Black Men as opposed to living ones

We’ve been tamed and perverted

into caring

when a Black Person gets murdered

uttering liberal platitudes and marching

instead of fighting for them – when they are alive. We’re all in collusion. Black men, in particular, like Christ or the Artist, are preferred dead. They’re easier to love and remember then. We prefer to mourn the dead rather than praise the living. While it is true most people on the planet — living or dead — don’t deserve an after-thought in the cosmos, there are still uniquely luminous individuals among us,

quite often they are loners or at the end of the line

or perhaps they startle when entering the café

or mesmerize when crossing the street,

sometimes it’s their words or voice we remember

or the scent of their clothes.

But it is safe to say that these people are never in positions of power. When they are — their murders sting, but they don’t surprise. Instead, we pretend we’re shocked when a harmless child or a struggling beaten down member of the Proletariat get killed. But all along we were just riding beside that Police Car, dispatching ourselves to the Fascists and believing in the sacrifice of our own

rather than the annihilation of a system

that seeks to destroy the Colored Man

with text, on screen, over radio, and in flesh.

Imagine a world where there will be no more funerals because there will be no more soil left to cover the bodies of the exterminated.

 

[The splendid painting “The Proud Father” above is by the South African painter, Gerard Sekoto, 1947. ]

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Sometimes even an outlier becomes heard…

You cannot have a revolution without having an art to go alongside it.  Sometimes that art is living itself, sometimes it’s the expression of the angst through blood. Sometimes the tears mean more in the glimpse of 24 frames per second. Sometimes, often in actual life, there is no time for tears — and certainly no poetry that comes along with it.  There is nothing romantic about headaches nor oppression.  Yet we choose to ignore and malign our beautiful crazy visions and inner horror for the sanctity of a television news report or streamed web video of the apocalypse we’ve been led to believe in and worship.  We opt for the button-downed pathology of Wynford Marsalis as we step on Sun Ra.  We resist the spaceship for the bank teller.  While the world is as it is because we will it to be…it is also our responsibility to admit that we foolishly resist both the revolutionary visions of artists and the forlorn mad-men who have been misled and let down. “Revolutions are not fought in, of, or by poems,” as Umar from the Last Poets conceded in As an Act of Protest.  But it certainly helps to have those poems going up into the sky like fireworks…and hoping that their residue settles onto a willing recipient before the final ax falls or before the final step of the American gestalt is taken.  You can’t clap with one hand.  But you can still wield a sword.  Or a pen.

 

Design for the 2014 Chicago screening (Ben Starr)

[original design by Benn Starr, (c) 2014, originally created for the 2014 Chicago premiere]

 

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As an Act of Protest Returns to NYC!

The insanity of racism.  The terror of truth.  The horror of repeating history. The pain of consciousness.  And the power of art.

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For obvious reasons, movies bearing a genuine social consciousness revealing our political climate are needed now more than ever. Not bright-light-Hollywood Drone– productions. But hand-made cinematic ‘Molotov cocktails.’ A Protest Cinema.

On August 9, 2019 The People’s Forum will host a revival screening of As an Act of Protest slowly setting the stage for the imminent DVD release in the fall. Gritty, powerful and provocative movies can remind us of the power of drama and the impact artistic foresight has.

Not a superhero movie, but a film about the real desperation of trying to address the problem that something is “rotten in the state of Denmark.” If the new generations of activists want to advance theories, techniques, dialectics, and problem solving within the web of social diseases and political oppression ‎in America, they can start by dusting off the artworks that were created for them to be inspired by and to challenge. 

All revolutions need art. And this is just one example.

Spread the word!

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The People’s Forum – 320 West 37th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York, NY 10018

Friday, August 9th, 2019 at 7PM

FREE

contact spellerstreetfilms@gmail for more information.

 

 

 

 

…of a Failed Artist

my tears are those of a failed artist

my heart beats like the muted hum 

of a speed bump 

on top of a hill

my aches are those of a body un-worn

and worn out

seeking to stretch its limbs and flesh

across the space of time

always searching for the right moment

to dance

or just take a nice walk

running has ceased to exist

the only mad-dash is in my head

thoughts reeling

like the uncleaned movies

i could not make

the dismal drips of paint

i could not splash

all brewed in some slight

retardation of a brain-soul

that simply may have been 

too smart for its own good

or too dull instead where it should

have glimmered, have spawned

at least a dozen bright memories to 

be shared and recalled

as opposed to a handful of ‘dusty almosts’

that face is the mask 

of a king forced to wear the mask

of a jester

no

the face of a man

unable to face himself

because although he may have been 

a foot ahead of the others

when they finally arrived

he was unable to move

and he stayed in their dust

when their feet 

peddled

up that barckled mountain

splinters heaving back

into his eyes

that’s why they’re red

it’s not from his passion

It’s from his pain

when angst has no outlet

it eats itself

like a stomach hovering

over a stone cold prison floor

empty

or a malnourished child

dead before noon

but the hunger in an unrequited man

lingers forever

with the nausea

of a failed artist

or the shadow of a man

whose cast 

has grown tired 

of its subject

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Weir%20Building%201[1].jpg

Nina Fleck’s Weir Building 1 (as published in The New Engagement)

All responsibilities are thwarted when we concentrate on the tiny loans taken out on our life and the energy spent trying to be free

Like a cricket dancing beneath the glass —

Not realizing that every single shout and thrust of his body contributes to the demise of his legs which tremble not because he’s imprisoned

But because he can see through his walls.

It’s what we are missing and can’t attain that forever haunt us under Capitalism.

And art – a justifiable peaceful protest – is just a benign scream that tries to express the confusion of it all.

  • from “Kangalee: Monocords & Blitzes,” a featured excerpt of new poems in the recently published site & arts journal, The New Engagement

 

 

The Abandoned & The Broken…

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Love N Roll

Remembering Sibyll Kalf, artist-musician-mensch-dreamer-gypsy-extraordinaire.
 
1967-2016
The quirky perennial outsider Sibyll Kalff

The quirky perennial outsider Sibyll Kalff

The death of a friend made me realize not how fleeting life is or how precious moments are, but how little time we actually shared enjoying ourselves.
She was aloof, eccentric, and at times utterly mysterious.  A fellow outsider artist, we’d hear from her, correspond intensely over several weeks…and then not again until years later.  Always in waves.
Through her I was introduced to the work of poet Robert Mitchell (rest in peace) and Lynda Crawford, who was one of the first (if not the first) American editor to publish my poetry in North America (Manhattan Linear poetry magazine/site).  Nina and I met Sibyll online in 2005 while living in Berlin, slowly emerging from our own hell and getting involved in a whole new phase of living, feeling, and being. She read some of my poetry, admired Nina’s photography and began to send us recordings of her music and sound poetry – many of the songs, in fact, with texts by Robert Mitchell.  We fell in love with Sibyll’s spirit.  She, in her own idiosyncratic way (she would always share our art work with whomever she’d come in contact with in Cologne and in return we’d do the same) represented the Last of the Romantics. She was peripatetic as we were and always seeking, searching for the next landing on that great mountain we all climbed – or tried to: Transcendence.  Her death sent chills up my spine because the last art-work she sent to us recently was a hand-made notebook she wanted me to use for some new poems I was intending to write and send back to her.  I never did.  Another collaboration that will never take place.
Sibyll, you were relentless in your optimism — or rather in your insistence on being hopeful in the face of all that life’s ugliness and daily unnecessary cruelty flings at us…But that’s also how we as artists burn out.  The desperation for something better, for a life in flow, for some harmony in and out of all that we do…Sometimes it never comes.  When good spirits fall to their knees – it is not they who lose out. It is the rest of the people in the universe who never got a chance to experience just a glimmer of what you share with some of those lucky enough to have been in your orbit – however briefly.
Thinking about the child-like rawness and the lovely crudity of your art-work, of course my mind goes back to the heart and soul of rock and roll which you loved so much…and in particular the punk of NYC’s old hey-day.
Sibyll, I know you yearned to return to the Big Apple. But trust me, NYC did not deserve your death. While a person’s death doesn’t matter as much as their living — there are constellations of energy in thie life that simply do not warrant our impassioned pleas or cries of resistance. New York has not been the city you first visited in the 1990’s in nearly 20 years and maybe it was good in a way that you never returned to see the mess and disappointment it became.  It, and the world, has changed so much, too quickly — that the promissory notes you clutched tightly became worthless.  And maybe you sensed that something around you too was just simply not worth it.  And I don’t blame you. Your courage is inspiring.  I hope your exit was joyful, wherever you bowed out…and I hope you keep them honest in the artistic pursuits beyond the stars or the molten lava.  Wherever delicate and beautiful souls like you go.
This song is for you, darling.
The Jim Carroll Band: “People Who Died”

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October 18, 2015 (for Mulu)

And you will die with the Star of David

Twisting before your eyes

Blood on a stretcher

In the middle of Beersheba’s

Final countdown

Of a night it not only owned,

But created in the 67th year

Of the century before

A century when all things came to a head

Like teeth

 

The fatal blow was not the sound

Of lost little shoes doing a jagged tap-dance

Along the gravel at Dachau

But hearing the words of its Nazi guard

Echo in the mouth of a Jewish spinster

Who achieved a crooked morning glory

By sending the final death blow

Into the body of a Brown Man

With a boot heel that had

More certainty than Meursault

An Arab, an African –

All the same

Israel’s arid assurance

As crooked and brisk

As von Verschuer’s scalpel

Rattling on the limbs

Of the bloody mantra

“You will die with the star of David

Burning in your eyes”

Mulu Habtom Zerhoma, a wounded Eritrean, is evacuated from the scene of an attack in Beersheba, Israel, on Oct. 18, 2015. [AP Photo/Dudu Grunshpan]

Mulu Habtom Zerhoma, a wounded Eritrean, is evacuated from the scene of an attack in Beersheba, Israel, on Oct. 18, 2015. [AP Photo/Dudu Grunshpan]

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So this is how we live.  This is what goes on.  Everywhere, somewhere.  Israeli security officials said a 21-year-old Arab citizen of Israel, opened fire in a southern Israeli bus station, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding 10 people. Zerhoma died of his wounds after an Israeli security guard fired at him, apparently thinking he was the shooter!  CCTV revealed an Israeli security guard shooting this African man as he crawled on the ground and outraged Israeli news sites said the man was kicked by bystanders as he lay in a pool of blood. ‘We have sewed the seeds of Kitty Genovese’
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