LIVE OR DIE: The great Alice Lovelace was the featured poet last night at Poetry at Portfolio Center. The audience was small, but appreciative, and I realized today that, in a rush, I had sent out an email last week saying the date for the reading was February 6 rather than January 6. Stupid me. Anyway... Alice is best known for her political and social commentary poetry, but last night she unleashed some of the most personal work I've ever heard. Most of it was centered around death and loss, but it was stunning and beautiful. She read poems for her mother, her mother and brother, who have all passed on. After the reading, Alice said she was more comfortable now trying to get these memories on paper, and I encouraged her to keep at it. She's absolutely one of the best poets in the world.

It was interesting to hear Alice launch into these "death poems" since the last week or so have been filled with tragic passings. We lost the great poet Tory Dent, who died of an AIDS-related illness on Dec. 30. Dent's poems were often long and self-indulgent, but the work was so powerful that it could not be denied. I admired her candid style, and her decision to write what she wanted, how she wanted, despite her critics. Her collection HIV, Mon Amour is a staggering piece of work. If you've never read Tory Dent, it's time to discover her now. Her poetry will live on. Her poem, Palea, is at the end of this post.

Yesterday we also heard of the death of Lou Rawls, who had one of the best voices in R&B and soul music ever. You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine still gives me shivers when I hear it. That deep voice and all the emotion he put behind his songs, not to mention his work with charity. He will be missed.

Also this week, the tragedy of those coal miners in West Virginia, dead in an unsafe mine owned by fatcats who allowed the families to believe for three hours the men had survived. Shameful. I hope the families sue the company right out of business.

I've only ever wished death on one person...publicly anyway...and that's Pat Robertson. This week he said God had punished Israeli PM Ariel Sharon for ceding parts of the Gaza Strip to Palestine. Oh, Pat, you dumb motherfucker. Why can't you have a massive stroke that completely eliminates your ability to speak? The only one who needs a little smiting by God is you, Pat.

Palea
by Tory Dent

Only my mouth taking you in, the greenery splayed deep green.
Within my mouth, your arm inserted, a stem of gestures, breaking gracefully.
Into each other we root arbitrarily, like bushes, silken, and guttural.
Palaver, we open for the thrill of closing, for the thrill of it: opening.
The night was so humid when I knelt on the steps, wet and cold, of prewar stone.
A charm bracelet of sorts we budded, handmade but brazen, as if organic.
I cannot imagine the end of my fascination, emblazoned but feather-white too.
The gold closure of this like a gold coin is, of course, ancient.
Why can't experience disseminate itself, be silken and brazen yet underwater?
A miniature Eiffel Tower, an enameled shamrock, a charm owned by its bracelet.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Should I be ashamed for never having heard of Tory Dent and Lou Rawls? :)

GAV
Collin said…
Tsk, tsk. I MIGHT be able to forgive you Tory, but Lou Rawls?!! Come on...get hip! :)
jenni said…
I just ordered that Tory Dent book a few days ago--I'd heard mixed reviews, or rather I'd read them, but decided to give it a try nonetheless. Hope I like it.
Collin said…
Tory's work has always been a bit polarizing. Kind of a "love it or hate it."

"HIV, Mon Amour" spoke to me as a writer and gay man because I have friends living with HIV/AIDS and had a family member die AIDS related illness. Sure, it's self-indulgent writing...sometimes way too long, linebreaks from hell, but her imagery was always stunning, even when it was too much.

I'll be interested to see what your take on it is.

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