April into May Poems

The Voices*


by Maryclaire Wellinger


(for Doug)

Do the opposite

of what the voices tell you.

They come from people,

                        spirits who have died.


Some are still alive

and they will grow weaker;

sooner or later

                        they will give up.


You think they are devices

      implanted in your head

      by someone,       a god?

                        They are not.


How do I know?

I was born with

insight and wisdom,

wisdom and insight.


The charismatics think you grow

      into this,

      but I was born this way.


The universe does end,

      it is not infinite --


      but is shaped like a half moon

      with a black hole

      moving through it in the middle

and we are moving

                              through it.


The stars were made

      when a lightning bolt

      kissed a whisper,

      creating all those bright stars,

                              so many.


Maybe the voices are from God.


*This is a "found poem", heard and transcribed by myself in 1993 when I worked as a "counselor" at a residence for the "mentally ill", men and women diagnosed as psychotic and/or schizophrenic, in Lynn, Massachusetts. Doug's illness was caused by brain damage from a serious auto accident.  His intelligence and charisma were dramatically apparent when I heard him lead a discussion around the diningroom table -- about the origin of "the voices" everyone heard.  I have transcribed his words exactly and the words took the form of this poem. m-c.



A Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke*
translated by Susanne Dubroff in 1987
God only speaks to you before he makes you,
then he leads you quietly out of the night.
But the words as you begin,
the cloudy words are:
Emerge from your sense, go
to the farthest edge of your longing,
clothe me.
Be a fire behind things
so that their great shadows
envelop me.
Let everything happen:  beauty, terror.
Simply walk:  all feeling near.
Don't allow yourself to leave me.
The land they call Life
is close by.
You will know it
by its heaviness.
Give me your hand.
*Published in the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Spring 1999.


There Are No Gods
by D. H. Lawrence
There are no gods, and you can please yourself
have a game of tennis, go out in the car, do some shopping,
           sit and talk, talk, talk,
with a cigarette browning in your fingers.
There are no gods, and you can please yourself--
go and please yourself--
But leave me alone, leave me alone, to myself!
and then in the room, whose is that presence
that makes the air so still and lovely to me?
Who is it that softly touches the sides of my breast
and touches me over the heart
so that my heart beats soothed, soothed, soothed and
            at peace?
Who is it smoothes the bedsheets like the cool
smooth ocean when the fishes rest on edge
in their own dream?
Who is it that clasps and kneads my naked feet, till
            they unfold,
till all is well, till all is utterly well? the
            lotus-lilies of the feet!
I tell you, it is no woman, it is no man, for I am alone.
And I fall asleep with the gods, the gods
that are not, or that are
according to the soul's desire,
like a pool into which we plunge, or do not plunge.

'The Sax Bit'

by Ted Joans

This poem is
just a poem of

This bent metal serpent/ holy horn with lids like beer
mug/ with phallic tail why did they invent you
before Coleman Hawkins was born ?
This curved shiney tune gut/ hanging lynched like/ J
shaped intitial of jazz/ wordless without a reed when
Coleman Hawkins first fondled it/kissed it with Black
sound did COngo blood sucking Belges frown ?
This tenor/alto/bass/baritone/soprano/moan/cry &
shout-a-phone ! sex-oh-phone/tell-it-like-damn-
sho-isa-phone !What tremors ran through Adolphe
Saxe the day Bean grabbed his ax ?
This golden mine of a million marvelous sounds/black
notes with myriad shadows/or empty crooked tube of
technical white poor-formance/calculated keys that
never unlock soul doors/white man made machine saved
from zero by Coleman Hawkins !
This saxophone salvation/modern gri gri hanging from
jazzmen's necks placed there by Coleman Hawkins
a full body & soul sorcerer whose spirit dwells eternally
in every saxophone NOW and all those sound-a-phones
to be


Ted Joans Reading 1959 right:
Ted Joans Reading


by Diane di Prima

You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology
a cosmogony
laid out, before all eyes

there is no part of yourself you can separate out
saying, this is memory, this is sensation
this is the work I care about, this is how I
make a living

it is whole, it is a whole, it always was whole
you do not "make" it so
there is nothing to integrate, you are a presence
you are an appendage of the work, the work stems from
hangs from the heaven you create

every man / every woman carries a firmament inside
& the stars in it are not the stars in the sky

w/out imagination there is no memory
w/out imagination there is no sensation
w/out imagination there is no will, desire

history is a living weapon in yr hand
& you have imagined it, it is thus that you
"find out for yourself"
history is the dream of what can be, it is
the relation between things in a continuum

of imagination
what you find out for yourself is what you select
out of an infinite sea of possibility
no one can inhabit yr world

yet it is not lonely,
the ground of imagination is fearlessness
discourse is video tape of a movie of a shadow play
but the puppets are in yr hand
your counters in a multidimensional chess
which is divination
& strategy

the war that matters is the war against the imagination
all other wars are subsumed in it.

the ultimate famine is the starvation
of the imagination

it is death to be sure, but the undead
seek to inhabit someone else's world

the ultimate claustrophobia is the syllogism
the ultimate claustrophobia is "it all adds up"
nothing adds up & nothing stands in for
anything else



There is no way out of a spiritual battle
There is no way you can avoid taking sides
There is no way you can not have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
you have a poetics: you step into the world
like a suit of readymade clothes

or you etch in light
your firmament spills into the shape of your room
the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

A woman's life / a man's life is an allegory

Dig it

There is no way out of the spiritual battle
the war is the war against the imagination
you can't sign up as a conscientious objector

the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance
it is a war for this world, to keep it
a vale of soul-making

the taste in all our mouths is the taste of power
and it is bitter as death

bring yr self home to yrself, enter the garden
the guy at the gate w/ the flaming sword is yrself

the war is the war for the human imagination
and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you

The imagination is not only holy, it is precise
it is not only fierce, it is practical
men die everyday for the lack of it,
it is vast & elegant

intellectus means "light of the mind"
it is not discourse it is not even language
the inner sun

the polis is constellated around the sun
the fire is central


A Poem from "Pieces"
by Robert Creeley
Such strangeness of mind I know
I cannot find there more
than what I know.
I am tired of purposes,
intent that leads itself
back to its own belief. I want
nothing more of such brilliance
but what makes the shadows darker
and that fire grow dimmer.



"Eat at O's:  A Portrait of Charles Olson"
by Mark Fisher       March, 2003

War on the Mind in a Time of Love
by Charles Olson
quartermasters and filibusterers
was the beginning
of the new
and all those who heark back
to a better time
ought to get out, they'll never
make it
Now this doesn't mean
one has to put up with
the present, clearly
the successors
of the quartermasters and the filibusterers
ain't anything, they're
worse, they're
out the other side, gone
beyond. They make nothing,
and much of it.  They sell
what you quickly
can't make use of (a lady
naked on a horse,
a child
making connections,
a tree
stripped of leaves)
will overcome
the attention,     leisure
can't be filled
with art
Traffic managers
have no desire



(Sonnet LIII)

O wet kisses, the poem on the page
Can tell you about teeth you've never dreamed
Could bite, nor be such reassurance! Babies are not
Like Word Origins and cribbage boards        or dreams
of correspondence!              Fucking is so very lovely
Who can say no to it later?


(Sonnet XXXV)

You can make this swooped transition on your lips
Go to the sea, the lake, the tree
And the dog days come
Your head spins when the old bull rushes
Back in the airy daylight, he was not a midget
And preferred to be known as a stunt-man

Ted Berrigan

Two sonnets from Ted Berrigan's early masterpiece
"The Sonnets," a sequence of seventy-eight short poems
originally published in 1964.




Crying all night long

crying kaegol kaegol

That potent cry

makes a rice paddy


Makes a rice paddy to

give to the poor

Sang-seo, good to see you again

Here are some for Kum-sun too


Look at the morning fields

such a colorful bride

All the frogs are asleep from

crying all night long


kaegol kaegol






"Frog" Poem by Ko Un


Translated by Don Mee Choi








Poem #1779

by Emily Dickinson,

--To make a prairie, it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.


Saint Emily in My Mirror       April, 2003
INI Digital Collage          M-C Wellingerr


"Pollen" by Gary Snyder


"Pollen" by Gary Snyder

POLLEN. California, PA: the unspeakable visions of the individual, 1986. FIRST EDITION. Fine. Rare broadside postcard poem by Gary Snyder  issued in a limited edition by Arthur Knight. Printed on both sides.


"Gary Snyder's Haiku (Spoken on Desolation Mountain)"
by Jack Kerouac
Talking about the literary
life--the yellow
It is raining--
    I guess
I'll make
Some tea.
Selected Haiku from "Desolation Pops", 1956*
by Jack Kerouac
(1)                                                         (4)
Morning meadow--                               Run after that
         Catching my eye,                            Body--run after
One weed.                                             A raging  fire
(5)                                                         (6)
Work of the quiet                                  Sun on the rocks--
    Mountain, this                                       a fighting snag
Torrent of purity.                                  Holds on.
(7)                                                         (8)
A stump with sawdust--                        The smiling fish--
a place                                                  where are they, 
To meditate                                          Scouting bird?
(9)                                                         (19)   
Me, my pipe,                                         Ship paint  
   My folded legs--                                      on        
Far from Buddha                                an old t-shirt 
 Bred to rejoice,
 the giggling
 sunshine leaves
Snow melting,
streams rushing--
Lookouts leave the valley.
(photo left) of snow melting
creating a "rushing stream"
near Desolation Peak in the Cascades
(22)                                                     (28)
Debris on the lake                              All the insects ceased
   --my soul                                              in honour
Is upset                                              Of the moon
(29)                                                    (33)
The taste                                            Aurora Borealis
    of rain--                                               over Hozomeen--
Why kneel?                                        The void is stiller
(38)                                                    (47)
What is a rainbow,                            Thunder in the mountains--
    Lord?-- a hoop                                    the iron
For the lowly                                     Of my mother's love
(71)                                                    (72)
Chipmunk went in                             Aurora Borealis
    --butterfly                                             over Mount Hozomeen--
Came out                                          The world is eternal
*On June 18, 1956, perhaps replicating the experience of Han Shan, the Chinese poet to whom the Dharma Bums was dedicated, Kerouac isolated himself on Desolation Peak. For 63 days he reflected on nature and wrote in the spirit of Zen Buddhism. See Jack Kerouac, Book of Haikus, edited by Regina Weinreich, Penguin Poets, New York, NY, 2003.

Fire Lookout Station
Where Kerouac Wrote these Haiku
Desolation Peak

North Cascades National Park




 by Lee Sung-Bok


translations Ó 2002 by Hye-jin Juhn and George Sidney




when I first called out Nature! there was

a dull sound from far away     the sky is a bell

when I called out Nature! in a smaller voice,

trees came down with open arms     you are the mountain 

when I called out Nature! for the last time,

the spring overflowed and wet my feet     I lay with my stomach pressed

to the ground and silently threw up the words not said 



in the mist, his voice wasnt heard,

the shape of his mouth disappeared, and only the hand gesture...the trembling

fingers--     as though unable not to, he turned around,

and slammed against something--a door--and a giant

fir fell slowly to the ground, and rolling on down,

churned up waves, which were me 



Again It Rains


 by Lee Sung-Bok


translations Ó 2002 by Hye-jin Juhn and George Sidney


again it rains, and a sleepless body leaves home

again it rains, and dead fish fall from the sky

again the insane spring mumbles in a green peach

and gnats grope each others bodies

again the chin drops from the neck of a crying child

and sadness and pain combine and become muddy water


corruption and anger combine and become fire

a man and a woman combine and become sweat

but things that dont combine go alone along the river 

a dead sister dies again


come quickly, break the curfew of the rainy night

come quickly, wife of Houjin     come

and combine sawdust and toenails to make dough for rice cakes  

order up a cripple and a hunchback to sing a childrens song

mate an old king and a caterpillar to beget a sick son 

come quickly    

roost on a rainy night with gentle roosters and sing along with them


Stars wheel in purple
 by H.D.
 Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.




by H.D.
You are as gold
as the half-ripe grain
that merges to gold again,
as white as the white rain
that beats through
the half-opened flowers
of the great flower tufts
thick on the black limbs
of an Illyrian apple bough.

  Can honey distill such fragrance
As your bright hairó
For your face is as fair as rain,
  yet as rain that lies clear
  on white honey-comb,
lends radiance to the white wax,
so your hair on your brow
casts light for a shadow.


"BACHANAL," 2001


My Lover's Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

by Diane di Prima

for Sheppard



These eyes are amber, they
have no pupils, they are filled
w/a blue light (fire).
They are the eyes of gods
the eyes of insects, straying
godmen of the galaxy, metallic
Those eyes were green
are still, sea green, or grey
their light
less defined. These sea-green
eyes spin dreams on the
palpable air. They are not yrs
or mine. It is as if the dead
saw thru our eyes, other for a moment
borrowed these windows, gazing.
We keep still. It is as if these windows
filled for a minute w/a different

Not blue, not amber. But the curtain drawn
over our daily gaze is drawn aside.
Who are you, really. I have seen it
often enough, the naked
gaze of power. We "charge"
the other with it / the leap
into non-betrayal, a wind
w/ out sound we live in. Where
are we, really, climbing
the sides of buildings to peer in
like spiderman, at windows
not our own


Eyes of the Moose
by Maryclaire Wellinger
Sometime after the sun
falls below the ridge--
Fritz, no Rin-Tin-Tin,
hides beneath the bed
from the mad noise of boys
shooting off caps in the field--
eyelids closing, we make love.
Your stars          are out there
floating above the wave-
crest of Mount Cranmore.
We are in here, sleeping,
for the mountain has left.
The eyes of the moose        are out there
           glowing beneath branched antlers
before the sun kindles the pond
to red with light.
At dawn the mountain gives us back.
Fog is firing the mountain's cache
of mist onto the imprint
          of horse hoof in the field,
onto our tin roof.


Winter March

 by Mark Fisher


Dear M-C,


There are no poems in me this morning


I thought I felt one rub against my neck,

but it was only the draft of an old western.


Mr. Rumsfeld says we can do it alone.


He just dropped a 21,000 pound ordinance

on a military reservation in Florida.


First footfall on a winter march

to the sandstorms of Eden.


Don't forget to let the cat in.







Four fragments of poems
by Sappho
I confess
I love that
which caresses
me. I believe
Love has his
share in the
Sun's brilliance
and virtue.
At noontime
When the earth
is bright with flaming
heat falling straight down
the cricket sets
up a high-pitched
singing in his wings
I took my lyre and said:
Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become
a speaking instrument
Although  they are
Only breath, words
which I command
are immortal




by Andrew Motion

  The fourth

Anniversary weather:  I drive
under a raw sunset, the road
cramped between drifts, hedges
polished into sharp crests.

and I have it by heart now:

on this day in each year

no signposts point anywhere

but east into Essex,

and so to your ward,
where snow recovers tonight
the ground I first saw lost
four winters ago.

Whatever time might bring,
all my journeys take me
back to this dazzling dark:
I watch my shadow ahead

plane across open fields,
out of my reach for ever,
but setting towards your bed
to find itself waiting there.

    The first


What I remember is not
your leaving, but your not
coming back - and snow
creaking in thick trees,

burying tracks preserved
in spiky grass below.
All afternoon I watched
from the kitchen window

a tap thaw in the yard,
oozing into its stiff sack,
then harden when evening
closed with ice again.

And I am still there,
seeing your horse return
alone to the open stable,
its reins dragging behind

a trail across the plough,
a blurred riddle of scars
we could not decipher then,
and cannot heal now.

    The second


I had imagined it all -
your ward, your shaved head,
your crisp scab struck there
like an ornament,

but not your stillness.
Day after day I saw
my father leaning forward
to enter it, whispering

'If you can hear me now,
squeeze my hand', till snow
melted in sunlight outside
then turned to winter again

and found him waiting still,
hearing the slow hiss
of oxygen into your mask,
and always turning to say

'Yes, I felt it then',
as if repeating the lie
had gradually made it true
for him, never for you.

    The third


Three years without sight,
speech, gesture, only
the shadow of clouds
shifting across your face

then blown a world away.
What sleep was that, which
light could never break?
What spellbound country

claimed you, forbidding you
even to wake for a kiss?
If it was death,
whose hands were those

warm in my own, and whose
astonishing word was it
that day when leaving
your sunlit room I heard

'Stay; stay', and watched
your eyes flick open once,
look, refuse to recognise
my own, and turn away?

Shonksmill Bridge, Essex, England
Infra-red Photo by George Jackson, 1997

    The fourth

The evening falls with snow
beginning again, halving
the trees into whiteness,
driving me with it towards

the end of another year.
What will the next one bring
that this has abandoned?
You are your own survivor,

giving me back the world
I knew, without the years
we lost. Until I forget
whatever it cannot provide

I'll always arrive like this,
having no death to mourn,
but rather the life we share
nowhere beyond your room,

our love repeating itself
like snow I watch tonight,
which spins against my window
then vanishes into the dark.


Three Poems from "Instruction Paintings"
by Yoko Ono
(painting for cowards)
Drill a hole in a canvas and put your hand out
from behind.
Receive your guests in that position.
Shake hands and converse with hands
1961 autumn
Let Water drop.
Place a stone under it.
The painting ends when a hole is drilled in the
stone with the drops.
You may change the frequency of the waterdrops
to you tase.
You may use beer, wine, ink, blood, etc. instead
of water.
You may use a typewriter, shoes, a dress, etc.,
instead of stone.
Hang a bottle behind a canvas.
Place the canvas where the west light comes in.
The painting will exist when the bottle crates a
shadow on the canvas, or it does not have to exist.
The bottle may contain liquor, water, grasshop-
pers, ants, or singing insects, or it does not have
to contain.
1961 summer


A sestina
by Michael McClure
and we are silver candles
smiles on roses
newborn babes
otter consciousness
and night shades.
We are ghostly shades
and the shapes of black
bonfires that melt through consciousness.
Perceptions are candles
and we are babes
who imagine the thorns of roses.
The petals of roses
make pink and blue shades
and scents over babes
who fear no black
in the hugeness of consciousness.
We are the autumn of consciousness
giving birth to spring roses
by the silverware next to the candles.
Not all of the shades
nor all of the purple and black
convinces us we are other than babes.
You know we are babes.
Each thing is our consciousness.
The cave is black
but it is filled with roses.
And though we draw the shades
we light the candles.
The bright glow is from the candles
in the hands of babes
who outline the shades
of perception in consciousness.
See there are roses!
They stand in the black.
Those are candles of consciousness
that show we are babes and floating roses.
We are shades of flesh turning on black.


No Problem Party Poem

by Diane di Prima

first glass broken on patio no problem
forgotten sour cream for vegetable no problem
Lewis MacAdam's tough lower jaw no problem
cops arriving to watch bellydancer no problem
plastic bags of melted ice no problem
wine on antique tablecloth no problem
scratchy stereo no problem
neighbor's dog no problem
interviewer from Berkeley Barb no problem
absence of more beer no problem
too little dope no problem
leering Naropans no problem
cigarette butts on the altars no problem
Marilyn vomiting in planter box no problem
Phoebe renouncing love no problem
Lewis renouncing Phoebe no problem
hungry ghosts no problem
absence of children no problem
heat no problem
dark no problem
arnica scattered in nylon rug no problem
ashes in bowl of bleached bone and Juniper berries no problem
lost Satie tape no problem
loss of temper no problem
arrogance no problem
boxes of empty beer cans & wine bottles no problem
thousands of styrofoam cups no problem
Gregory Curso no problem
Allen Ginsberg no problem
Diane di Prima no problem
Anne Waldman's veins no problem
Dick Gallup's birthday no problem
Joanne Kyger's peyote & rum no problem wine no problem
coca-cola no problem
getting it on in the wet grass no problem
running out of toilet paper no problem
decimation of pennyroyal no problem
destruction of hair clasp no problem
paranoia no problem
claustrophobia no problem
growing up on Brooklyn streets no problem
growing up in Tibet no problem
growing up in Chicano Texas no problem
bellydancing certainly no problem
figuring it all out no problem
giving it all up no problem
giving it all away no problem
devouring everything in sight no problem

what else in Allen's refrigerator?
what else in Anne's cupboard?
what do you know that you
haven't told me yet?
No problem. No problem. No problem.

staying another day no problem
getting out of town no problem
telling the truth, almost no problem
easy to stay awake
easy to go to sleep
easy to sing the blues
easy to chant sutras
what's all the fuss about?

it decomposes - no problem
we pack it in boxes - no problem
we swallow it with water, lock it in the trunk,
make a quick getaway. NO PROBLEM


which is a mind, beats out
and floats
and fills the resonance of space
with its extension of my face
and toes and hair
in sound
that's made
--it goes!
The sun-cup
in the sunny, dewy
reflects back the touch
of bright in the raptor's eye.
The songs we sing are no more
nor less than the deer mouse
This light--these plaster walls--
are both my skin,
like histories,
like sighs!
                              at once.
grows thin
                                      to be
the solid
of consciousness,
the final self
I start
to realize.
by Michael McClure, from "Antechamber & Other Poems"
New Directions, New York City, 1975.


Song to My Muse
by Maryclaire Wellinger
She is starfish soaked in sun
radially symmetrical in form--
when you take her
from the dorsal view, or the ventral view
from either perspective,
you will see her five arms
fall against the seabed
extending from her  central disk
of brain and flesh.
During the Act,
she is dismembered
but she is a member of class Asteroidea,
has the power to regenerate.



More poems will be collected and selected by the March Hare.

In Memoriam:  Ted Joans Lives
Ted Joans, 1928-2003
by Robin D. G. Kelley
May 16th, 2003 3:30 PM


"Jazz is my religion and surrealism is my point of view."

n May 7, Ted Joans, extraordinary poet and world citizen, joined the ancestors. If you didnt know Ted, then you couldnt really dig how the Village became hip in the 1950s. The truly "teducated" knew Mr. Joans as a tornado of a man, slight in stature, copper in tone with big dancing eyes, who spoke in up-tempo cadences, as if he swallowed a horn and had a rhythm section under his hat. Meeting Ted eight years ago, I learned to possess the power to pull the marvelous out of a pot or a champagne glass, a sliver of garlic or a tattered roll of paper, a memory, story, or song.

Born in Cairo, Illinois, Joans came into the world on July 4, 1928, but contrary to myth he was not born on a riverboat. He studied trumpet, sang bebop, and earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Indiana University before moving to Greenwich Village in 1951 and becoming a true bohemian. He was one of the original Beat poets, though you wouldnt know it from most Beat anthologies. He was the author of over 30 books of poetry, prose, and collage, including Black Pow-Wow, Beat Funky Jazz Poems, Afrodisia, Jazz is Our Religion, Double Trouble, Wow, and Teducation. Joans was the granddaddy of bringing jazz and "spoken word" together on the bandstand. When his former roommate, the great saxophonist Charlie Parker, passed away in 1955, it was Joans who began scrawling "Bird Lives!" all over Lower Manhattan.

A well-known black expatriate, Joans initially bypassed Europe and went straight to the Motherland in the early 1960s. Timbuktu became his home base, but he traveled around much of the worlda boho hobo and proud of itdoing poetry readings, writing jazz criticism, creating "happenings" as such events came to be called. He exchanged ideas with the leading figures of surrealism, hung out with Jack Kerouac, met an admiring Malcolm X, broke bread with Afro-Cuban painter Wifredo Lam and African American painter Bob Thompson, swapped bread tales with singer and hustler "Babs" Gonzalez, and played invisible man when the invites came with no bread. In recent years, he lived and traveled with his companion/compatriot, artist Laura Corsiglia Joans.

Joanss mantra was "Jazz is my religion and surrealism is my point of view." While Andre Breton acknowledged Joans as the only African-American surrealist he ever met, Joans main man was Langston Hughes. There are echoes of Hughes in Joanss poems and his performance style. In his best known poem, "The Truth," he warns us not to fear the poets among us, for they speak the truth; they are our seers, clairvoyants, and visionaries. Joans also knew that speaking truth is a dangerous thinghe called one series of poems "hand grenades" since they were intended to "explode on the enemy and the unhip." While his topics ranged from love, poverty, and Africa to the blues and rhinos, all of his writing, like his life, was a relentless revolt.

In 1968, Joans dispatched his nearly-forgotten "Black Flower" statement, a surrealist manifesto that envisioned a movement of black people in the U.S. bringing down American imperialism from within with the weapon of poetic imagery, "black flowers" sprouting all over the land. While some of the poems explode like a bomb, others only spring up like a toy snake from a can. His imagery is rich with humor, joy, and sensuality, all evident in works like the "Flying Rats of Paris" or the darkly humorous "Deadnik."

Joans died in his apartment in Vancouver, Canada. He and Laura had moved there after the acquittal of the officers who fatally shot Amadou Diallo; he vowed then not to reside in these United States ever again. When he left us, he had no money, suffered from diabetes, and was surviving by reading poetry and selling his personal papers to libraries. He had just completed his "Collaged Autobiography," a remarkable memoir waiting for the right publisher. Although one of his favorite lines to admirers who proffered invitations was "no bread, no Ted," money was never really his bag. He just wanted to get by so he could live life "surreally." He lindy-hopped on the "American Dream" and its attendant industrial work ethic and chose a life of play.

"So in my rather sorrowful impecunious state," he recently wrote, "I find myself filled to the beautiful brim with love and with this shared love I continue to live my poem-life." A few poets in the know have already left chalked salutes in the streets. Let the Village know: "Ted Lives!"

To read tributes by fellow poets to Ted Joans and his poetry, click on:

Mark Fisher's memory of surrealist jazz poet Ted Joans is printed here:

I met Ted Joans several years ago at the NYU Beat Conference. He was standing by himself in a crowded room, a small coffin in his arms. "What's in the coffin?" I asked. "Poetry," he smiled.


During his lifetime, Joans recited his poems throughout the Universe, from coffeehouses in New York to the middle of the Saraha Desert.  His books include:

  • Funky Jazz Poems
  • Beat Poems
  • All of T.J. and No More
  • The Truth
  • The Hipsters (a book of collages)
  • The Truth
  • Afrodisia
  • A Black Pow Wow of Jazz Poems

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