INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
Karyn M. Wolven
Paul B. Roth
OVER MY HEAD
Over my head, I hear music in the air...
--A Negro spiritual
Music, over my head, divine; in my groin, profane
mating in uncommon coitus of melody and counterpoint.
Sounding in my heart's bedsprings, in my soul's cloistered
cell; behind the twelve symmetrical bars of racial memory.
My song, an abstraction, the wail of fatal spirit descending
down into matter, into the prenatal wetness of birth canal,
into the subjective chaos of infancy and early childhood,
into the magic circle circumscribing unfulfilled,
unregenerate substance; activating the latent birthgifts of
the race; setting in motion a process to make the abstract,
real; and to make the song, flesh...
My song, enfleshed in Africanisms, enslaved, bound to the
harmonies and discords of Europe; my song, a naked
savage in a dying church, chained to a pew. How strange
this integration of heredity and environment. Aty anthems
reek of Ragtime, my hymns of Rhythm and Blues; my
offertory sentences are progressive improvisations, my
doxologies, Boogiewoogie tapestries. On the other hand,
my Jazz is littered with mysticism, my Ballads belabored
with biblical imagery, and much of the sex in my Blues is
exalted. How strange the body of my song. How will it
mature? Can it reproduce itself in the minds and hearts of
My song, heated red hot in the forge of the church, in the
fires of adolescent love, then immersed to tempered
hardness in the confluent Neptunian rivers of Rock and
Roll, Motown Soul and down home Blues. My song,
dissolving in acid, was neutralized and reconstituted by
basic Bebop, progressive and unfettered Jazz. My song, a
matrix wherein the dynamic interplay of polarities, male
and female, them, traditional and modern, conservative and
progressive, black and white resolve themselves,
synthesize, build -- my home in the woods, my house by
the side of the road from which the forces of my selfhood
My song, enfleshed with definite form and emerging from a
matrix it has itself created, is released through the voice
upon the world outside. My song craves an audience,
critical performance feedback to assimilate, to evaluate;
seeks a great musical work to serve, and ultimately to
become. The feedback comes, sometimes harsh, sometimes
exacting. And so begins the polishing; the embellishments,
the distinctive touches for which I am to be known. My
song, a lifesong, whose lyrics are a lifepoem; whose form,
key, melody and harmonies are the sounds of a self
Having sung my song with power and conviction with
every trick of technique, every embellishment of phrase
that I know, have learned over a lifetime, I take time to
reflect on the reviews, on the criticisms of my performance.
I find my song wanting. It poorly communicates that ray of
spirit within me, that which would vitalize its earthy
contents. It seems devoid of spiritual experience. I must
look for new material to incorporate into my song; that
might ignite my own spiritfire to flux my worldly lyrics,
my sensuous melody to its basic elements; down to
its rare mettle. Over my head, I hear the music of the
spheres; I hear a song of perfection...
I have found a new stage upon which to sing my song, I
have restructured its melody, changed many of its lyrics,
altered its rhythms. My voice has deepened, my phrasing
more precise and my delivery has improved. I have learned
to close that creative circuit which eliminates the distance,
eliminates the difference between myself and my audience.
I can take the energy they lend me, step it up and give it
back to them in an oscillating crescendo of emotive power;
I can feel them feel what I am feeling. My song has grown
as I have grown; perhaps one day it may become a part of a
new world spiritual, an ornament or accent or a minor
melodic passage, -- and I, a part of a new world order.
MIGHTY, MUSTAPHA AND
Like three salty tears
We streaked the face
Of Kaduna; left wet trails
Of booze and beer from
The Durbar to Club 69
To the Costain.
Two of you celebrating
Your youth; me, reclaiming
Three poems of affected
Virility; three separate rites
Of passage for
Mighty, Mustapha and Me.
Like three vectors intersecting,
We converged at public points;
Paying for nightly love and
Laughter, for bargain bushmeat
To sate our gnawing hungers.
The two of you play for sport;
Me, to stoke affection.
Stars about to nova; three ruthless,
Reckless ruses were
Mighty, Mustapha and Me.
Like three endings to a bad play
We dared check the final curtain,
But down it inevitably came
Scattering the actors.
Mighty, to Saudi Arabia;
Mustapha, to Kaduna intrigue;
Me, to uncertain Zaria.
Lost to the chord; three trifurcating
Mighty, Mustapha and Me!
Joseph McNair, Miami