Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Anthology of Rap: Adam Bradley, Andrew DuBois, editors

The Anthology of Rap

Adam Bradley, Andrew DuBois, editors

Yale University Press


Review by Rene Schwiesow

I know, long ago you wrote off Rap as a musical movement that had only minor impact. Perhaps that was at its inception during the 70’s or, perhaps, more recent than that. Rap, however, has clearly had an influence on both music and poetry and “The Anthology of Rap” is here to show you exactly why. Many of us bemoan the fact that kids these days do not appreciate the poetics of poetry. We discuss alliteration, rhyme, metaphor, and allegory at length; and we believe that young people have little interest in understanding their use.

I have a number of young people as friends on facebook. Very often the status they display is a line or two from a song. On occasion they break into a thread of discussion regarding those lyrics. They may not discuss the poetry as the older generation does, but they certainly do discuss it. Rap music and the hip-hop culture have gone a long way toward creating and inspiring an interest in poetry. Rap’s poetic form contains organized verses, generally sixteen lines in length and rhyme is a distinctive feature. Rhyme in Rap is used full, slant, monosyllabic, and multisyllabic. Rappers use their rhyme both at the end of lines and within the lines of their poetry. And you thought they were simply throwing words together without clear poetic intention.

The anthology is broken into three parts: Old School Rap, 1978-1984; The Golden Age, 1985-1992; and Rap Goes Mainstream, 1993-1999. Each section includes Rap musicians whose names have become household words. Artists such as Ice-T, Busta Rhymes, Ice Cube, Lauren Hill, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West are well-known on the music scene and their work has had great impact within our world.

When I showed my 21-year-old son the anthology he was delighted to see that Rap was being given credence in a literary context. As he opened the book to browse through the artists, Lil’ Kim jumped out at him and he smiled broadly – “I love Lil’ Kim,” he said. He added that he felt she was misunderstood. The anthology agrees. In a world where documentaries like the new film “Miss Representation” question the way in which society views females, Lil’ Kim’s hardcore, sexual, erotic lyrics have drawn criticism. Lil’ Kim and many of her listeners, however, understand that her lyrics are “radical acts of female empowerment.”

Queen Latifah holds a prominent place in Rap’s Golden Age. I was fortunate enough to meet Queen Latifah in San Francisco during the early 90’s and I have to agree with the anthology’s description of her “dignified demeanor and commanding presence.” She is known for lyrics such as “Evil that Men Do,” a gender disparity in structural poverty piece.

Tell me don’t you think it’s a shame

When someone could put a quarter in a video game

But when a homeless person approaches you on the street

You can’t treat him the same?

It’s time to teach the deaf, the dumb, the blind

That black-on-black crime only shackles and binds

You to a doom, a fate worse than death

But there’s still time left

To stop putting your conscience on cease

And bring about some type of peace. . .

And then there is Eminem. 50-Cent said, “Eminem was made for hip-hop.” In 2002 Eminem starred in the movie 8 Mile. My son was then 12 years old and begged me to allow him to see the movie. He had just received a new Eminem CD, the cleaned up version, and he was taken with his lyrical ability. I may never have seen 8 Mile if it weren’t for my son’s begging, so I went to the theater by myself to see the movie first – and much to my surprise I was amazed at the way in which the poetry of the rappers was brought to life. While Rap was created by the brown and black skinned, the white-skinned Eminem was becoming known and highly respected for his lyrical skill. He plays with persona and is known as three distinct personalities: Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers.

This is lyrical combat – gentlemen, hold your pistols

And since birth I’ve been cursed with this curse to just curse

And just to blurt this berserk and bizarre shit that works

And it sells and it helps in itself to relieve

All this tension dispensin these sentences, getting this

Stress that’s been eatin me recently off of this chest

And I rest again peacefully (peacefully). . .

And more:

And I just do not got the patience (got the patience). . .

To deal with these cocky Caucasians who think

I’m some wigger who just tries to be Black ‘cause I talk

With an accent. . .

“The Anthology of Rap” is considered a landmark text. Rap, hip-hop, is more than just a phase, a passing fad. Rap is now a permanent part of our world culture. Rap is the words that the artists employ and those words reach deep, go far, and make statements that have the power to rock foundations. In the afterward, Chuck D states this about Rap: “For me, it taught different spiritualities, different aspects of culture and history, different languages and modes of speech. I hope this book will help more people get back to that.”

A worthy read for those who wish to expand their poetic horizons and to understand a genre that has lent itself to people for decades now, a genre that has no intention of fading away.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All of the Above by Jim Daniels

All of the Above

Jim Daniels

Adastra Press

ISBN 978-0-9838238-2-7

2011 $18.00

The poems in All of the Above loosely follow Jim Daniel's definition of ghazals in Outlier and Ghazels. He writes, "I have not adhered to the strictness of metrics and structure of the ancient practitioners, with the exception of using a minimum of five couplets. The couplets are not related by reason or logic and their only continuity is made by a metaphoric jump.”


“Buddy, he called, buddy. Speech oozed out

his infected eye. I knew the rest – kept walking.

I picked at the scab, but still it quickly healed.

No comfort in old scars.

Don't scuff those new shoes. The old familiar oops.

Stop hurrying and fix me something good.

You can't get a sunburn from a red moon;

nevertheless, don't stay out too long.

No matter how much I shadowbox,

the gravediggers still blow on their hands.”

The ghazels take me in, roll me in flour and pat me flat. Each poem brings me home and I’m immediately reminded of Virgilio's haiku, raw, sensitive and so so contemporary:


“The thermometer on the porch fell

the day they came to kick my brother's ass.

I never showed up behind the school

where Luckman waited with his friends.

Norman's boots sang down the hall,

a song memorized by Chilton's face.

A rose broke out above one eye, then his nose,

his lips, a bouquet I walked away from.

Kill-the-guy-with-the-ball was our favorite game.

Any ball would do.”

Now, this is what I'm talking about; poems that are not self-conscious, not revised to death (burnt). The whole book satisfies visually, the tactile paper, the intelligent design, and the clarity,

“sometimes I fall in love just watching someone chew gum.”


“My kite is loose. I chase a ball of string

unraveling in the street.

Village of the Damned was the first

movie I saw with a girl.

By closing my bedroom door until it clicked,

I kept my sick grandmother alive for years.

I once thought I had a lot of power

but it was only a handful of red kisses.

There's only one set of rules:

Hold on. Let go.”

All of the Above, by Jim Daniels, is the perfect book to give to any one you care about. This book is a 'keeper'.

Irene Koronas

Poetry Editor:

Wilderness House Literary Review


Ibbetson Street Press
Web Site: Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Monday, October 24, 2011

“The Whore’s Child” by: Richard Russo-- Review by Samille Taylor

Endicott College Literature major Samille Taylor has reviewed a booklet put out this year by the Boston Book Festival: "The Whore's Child" by Richard Russo. "The Whore's Child" is a short story from a collection of stories by Russo of the same title. This is one of a series of reviews by Endicott College English /Creative Writing Majors for the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene.

One City One Story:
(The Boston Book Festival Publishing)
“The Whore’s Child” by Richard Russo
2 Canal Park
Cambridge, MA 02141

Review by: Samille Taylor

The short story "The Whore's Child" that Richard Russo has created is one that I shall never forget. With only seventeen pages Russo takes readers on a journey, that of Sister Ursula, a Belgian nun, in a college fiction writing class. The narrator of this story is the professor. The entire concept is absolutely brilliant, an extremely old nun in a writing class, full of young, emerging writers. At first I thought that this short story would be very comical and not at all serious. However, the journey was so much deeper than I first anticipated. By creating a story within a story the reader is submerged into the world of not only the professor who is reading Sister Ursula’s story, but also, the world, of Sister Ursula herself.

In this fiction writing class Sister Ursula lets the professor into her non-fiction story; that of her life-- a life the class thinks is purely fictional. At this point the story is a quick read simply because once started each page turns itself.

As the professor reads each of Sister Ursula’s submissions, I impatiently read for the page that described, in great detail, her next submission.

The first installment weighed in at a robust twenty-five pages, which detailed the suffering of a young girl taken to live in a Belgian convent school where the treatment of the children was determined by the social and financial status of the parents who had abandoned them there. As a charity case and the daughter of a prostitute, young Sister Ursula (there could be no doubt that she was the first-person narrator) found herself at the very bottom of the ecclesiastical food chain (Russo 7).

The fact that the students in the class do not know that Sister Ursula’s story was non-fiction makes what Russo has created even more intriguing. Here is a scne in the classroom where the students do a dissection of the sister's life:

““I would like to see more of the mother, though,” one young woman conceded. “It was a major cop-out for her to die before they could get to the hospital.”

“You wanted a deathbed scene?” said another. “Wouldn’t that be sort of melodramatic?”

Here the discussion faltered. Melodrama was a bad thing, almost as bad a misogyny.

“Why was the daughter sent for?” wondered someone else. “If the mother didn’t love her, why send for her” (Russo 17)?

Their criticism of her story frustrated me because she can’t just change the story; it’s non-fiction, it’s her life. However, as stated before, I enjoyed the fact that the students did not know this. When I finished reading I didn’t want the short story to be over; I wanted more from Russo, the professor and Sister Ursula.

One of the most enjoyable moments of the short story, for me, were the final pages:

“This was her first college course, she explained, and she wanted the other students to know that she had enjoyed meeting them and reading their stories, and thanked them for helping her with hers” (Russo 18).

In this section it became clear to me that Sister Ursula did not take the class to learn how to write but, rather, to learn how to tell her story; a story that had never been listened to. Through Richard Russo’s short story "The Whore’s Child" readers are left with the lesson: you may be able to revise fiction but one can never revise one’s past.

Samille Taylor is a 20 years old English Literature major at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. She is a writer, and a poet. She told the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene: " My life is a metaphor waiting to be explored"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of DRIVE-BY VIGILS poems by R. Zamora Linmark

Review of DRIVE-BY VIGILS poems by R. Zamora Linmark, Hanging Loose Press, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217,, 82 pages, January 2012, $18

Review by Barbara Bialick, author of TIME LEAVES

This novelist-playwright-poet has a voice that I have not personally heard of until now—that of a Filipino-American who was born in Manila, educated in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has lived in Madrid and Tokyo. A well-regarded writer, his bio can be found in the Wikipedia. He was the recipient of U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission and NEA fellowships, and two Fulbrights. He has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Hawaii and the University of Miami. He lives between Manila and Honolulu.

Unfortunately no birth date is given, so it’s difficult to pigeonhole his generation. He would be difficult to pigeonhole anyway, being that he has distinctively sad, satirical, sardonic and angry poetry that could certainly expand into novels or plays that must be, well, a bit weird, but certainly interesting and well-done.

An urban sort and possibly gay, consider his poem “Some Kind of Wonderful”:
“I wanted to save my dandruff for winter./I wanted the school’s most-wanted truant to give me his stud earring then French kiss me in the library./I wanted my heart to break out and lip synch to “Try a Little Tenderness”/I wanted Psychedelic Furs to accompany my pink, beat-up imaginary Karmann Ghia to the Senior Prom./I drove a secondhand white Ford Escort./I gave my prom date a Swatch watch in lieu of a corsage….”
And on it goes. Just open up the book anywhere and read. It’s sure to intrigue you.

Since the title refers to vigils, take a look at the poem “Reunion”: “Before Jessica sent back the chicken,/the black widow dropped by to show/off her latest husband. Then Ching arrived/bringing the latest typhoon body count/from the motherland we sometimes call/home…/I kept on/and on about sleep-deprived evenings/in the Hamptons hitting me so hard it felt/like ten thousand vigils…”. What this is really about eludes me. If you don’t get something, just keep on reading. Something like “steel and aluminum” will be “slowly shining/Into pots and pans…”

R. Zamora Linmark wrote two prior poetry collections, PRIME TIME APPARITIONS and THE EVOLUTION OF A SIGH (both from Hanging Loose Press), and two novels, the best-selling ROLLING THE R’S, which he adapted for the stage, and the just-published LECHE. He is working on another novel and a play BUT BEAUTIFUL.