Monday, August 11, 2014

Lloyd Addison after the Eclipse

 I owe a debt of gratitude to Marjorie Welish and David Henderson for inquiries that brought me to this recent book by the incomparable Lloyd Addison. Marjorie had been trying to find Addison to invite him to her school. Turned out he was no longer in Brooklyn, so Marjorie had turned to David Henderson and Erica Hunt for an assist in the search. As it happens, David was the person who put me in touch with Addison a decade ago, when Addison was still in Brooklyn. That earlier contact had led to a brief correspondence and to Addison's sending me the entire run of his remarkable journal Beau Cocoa

The trail led Marjorie and David to Newport News, and in the process they came across a reference to the fact that Addison had published this volume in 2009 with an Indian publisher, Sanbun of New Delhi.  Thus did the work of  one of the more obscure  American poets remain yet more obscured. Sad to say, this search also brought word via Clarence Major that Addison had passed away. I have not yet been able to confirm any facts about the last years of the poet, but I did get in touch with Sanbun, who promptly printed up a copy of the book for me.

LE/G/ENDERS offers 176 pages of Addison's sui generis writings. This more than doubles what had been readily found in public places, given that about the only thing most people were able to lay hands on was his long ago entry in the British Heritage series of African American poets and appearances in anthologies of the sixties and seventies. Addison was an important member of the Umbra group; it was one of his poems that gave the group its name. I'll have to double check against my files, but at first glance most of this book looks new to me. The acknowledgements indicate that one selection is reprinted from the Umbra journal, and another from a 1973 issue of Essence magazine.


Lost at age 10 & never found again
until 35yrs labor (&thru mother)
your only letter backed with
Expect A Miracle -- a religious inspiration

have carried a torch forever -- 40 years
have reminisced as if it were Camelot --
& not Newport News Virginia

"Camelot" and "not" -- a typical Addison move that says so much about the distance from the sixties to now.  I hope a way might be found to bring more of Addison's work to readers. I hope that, as there is now a small group doing really great work on Russell Atkins, we can spur others to read and to write about Addison, whose influence reached much farther than his printed words.  I'll be writing more about Addison's work in the future. In the meanwhile, check out this essay of mine that Manuel Brito published in Spain, which includes some illustrations:

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