I’m so pleased to share this interview with you! Arnold Adoff has been a friend and mentor to me for some time now, and we can all benefit from his wisdom, insight, and experience in the publishing industry. Stay tuned because illustrator R. Greg Christie will be featured soon. Arnold’s words and Greg’s images are perfectly paired in this beautiful book—a wonderful gift for a child, teen, or adult.
I once had another children’s book author mock the reference to Charlie Parker in my picture book, Bird. His point was that kids listen to hip hop, not jazz. Talk about your decision to write about the blues—a musical genre, a time, and place (the rural South) seemingly far removed from today’s youth.
the blues is the foundation stone for all of our “popular” music(s)….
and think of that solid rock so powerful it can propel into the air and float and spin
through decades and geographies:
from robert johnson and itta bena, mississippi …
to nina simone and tupak and (even) the beatles….
this is always known and always understood….
is more difficult to discern…to have registered on developing sensibilities…
is that sense of history…the movements from the rural south(s) to the town and cities
of the north…
(and my riff on the george santaya philosophical line: those who not study their histories
are inevitably doomed to repeat and repeat the mistakes (and meaningless
mediocrities) which weaken into self-destruction and marginalization….)
a people grows and moves and reaches beyond itself/selves
in all forms of communication…all forms of art….
if we are aware…if we teach our young…
if we remain rooted in this moment and are able
to also trace backwards….
all the trails remain:
from baraka to langston backwards to blues….
from clapton to big joe turner and backwards…to blues….
from malcolm and martin backwards to garvey and tubman to blues….
from fifty cents to muddy waters to bessie smith to the blues….
these geographies should be part of required curriculum in every school (black and white and
and yes, it is always a continuing struggle…to go backwards when vast media machines
pull us forward into something new to buy….
so blues and jazz always require the active energies of one generation onto/into the next….
the blues lifts the listeners and heightens feelings and thought(s)
the blues is a s u r v i v a l music…a tool…a weapon of self and self love(s)….
Technology is changing the way many people write. As a poet, tell me what you think of Twitter and other platforms that require concise communication. Is this a promising moment for poetry?
my thumbs are too old to (even) text…let alone tweet….but i remain open to all forms
of communication from all generations of readers and listeners and friends….
personally: i have been poeting “seriously” since around 1946…and the math tells me
thats almost 65 years…or loving language and respecting the music as well as the meaning of the language made into the pieces of poems and “poet’s prose….” i work out an idiosyncratic “shaped colloquial
speech” style which requires the space and spaces on a page…to mean something…and to sing….
this is a time of wonderful poetry… and performing crap…as in all art forms…and in all times….
marketing and promotion and self-promotion strategies like facebook and twitter do what they were designed to do….barely communicating the bare bones of thought or piece of information…all the juice of language removed…the nuances…the conflicting and parallel meanings….
and in the end…there is only convenience…a taco in the car…moving forward again…but to w h e r e….
and in my darker moments…i can’t help wondering what will be left of the tree when the bark (and bite) is gone…and the juice is gone…and shaving down humane human communication to its thinnest
stalk…leaves only the vulnerabilities….
be controlled or be destroyed….