Friday, April 21, 2006


Because Kevin Bell just mentioned his interest in Elouise Loftin --

I first heard of poet Elouise Loftin thirty-one years ago when Ishmael Reed wrote a review of her work for the WASHINGTON POST. Reed described Loftin as a poet who "writes Abby Lincoln-visceral-screaming poems . . . She writes Pearl Bailey sashaying, defiant, hands-on-hips (Nina Mae McKinney) poetry, and she can glide tenderly like Sarah Vaughan's voice. . . . And when she gets 'Street' it's not the strained condescending 'rap' of some rhetorical descendants of Ingersoll, but Bed-Stuy 'Street.'"

That was long enough ago that I hadn't yet heard of Nina Mae McKinney either. For that matter, I had to look up Ingersoll to see what he had to do with that era's rapping.

There was no way you could read that review, though, and not want to read the poetry that Reed was writing about. Which is how I came to equip myself with a copy of BAREFOOT NECKLACE, a book that, fortunately for me and for other readers, incorporatd the earlier JUMBISH. Reed was right this time, and champions of today's rap might do well to check out this lyric predecessor. Here's an example:

They'll Nevah Get Me

the way my eye
balls dry up and flake
away down the front of
my sweater and on my shoes
and people ask what are
you looking for
the way my lips fight my
teeth turn white and crack
like pumpkin seeds the children
bless the streets with
this is the pain
today i saw your face in
a book
flesh grinning and dancing
across the page hiding the
pain or ignorant to it
that is then how it was
you'd say
that is now how it is
you should remember
i see more of you
my eyeballs flaking down
my face chest and shoes
like this
nothing changes sometimes
the degree of blindness
is more or less varied
i want to see
with less pain
i thought today
its all about a
battle for mind
and who's got yours

The woman who wrote that poem had not yet turned twenty-two years of age.

Loftin still lives in the New York area, but is now known as Hanna Loftin. You can hear her recite her poetry on the recording CELEBRATION by Andrew Cyrille, where she collaborates with the likes of David S. Ware and Jeanne Lee.

Here are a few sections from fetich poem

today is st. april fool's day


man one say somebody keep rippin

his name off the mailbox

drivin him up the walls


man two lost his car

cant drive his life

around no more


dag gone said the dog

side of me startin to bark

trees dont take to my piss

i'm in an awe full fix


Anonymous said...

whoo whee! Man, I love this. I can hear it sing to me.

Randall Horton said...

okay so i'm like three years late to the party...but since i read about ms. loftin in black chant and the every goodbye ain't gone anthology i have been enamored by her work. just now reading barefoot:necklace and wondering why don't we have more work by this poet, sort of reminds me of the carolyn rogers situation, who i think is a poet more than the category that she is being lump into...these two women are so much a like it is scarily good....