Anthology of Angst

Anthology of Angst, or from the Black Arts Movement Forward

 

These poems and musical selections represent works spanning from the Black Arts movement to those pertinent to the present moment.   They offer a voice that speaks, often loudly, to analyze and critique American culture and injustice, especially pertaining to the African American experience.  These selections engage the reader in a decades-long conversation that seeks to destabilize the status quo and generate new thought and promote constructive social change.

The following are mini-essays, written by each editor of this group, intended to introduce each poet or performer and their work, in chronological order starting with Baraka and moving forward towards present-day. As editors, we wanted to represent the passage of time from the Black Arts movement up to a current moment; we wanted to include writers one would likely find outside of a formal anthology as well as some work, like that of Baraka, to ground our choices within an ongoing, decades-long critical conversation.

These selections engage the reader in a decades-long conversation that seeks to destabilize the status quo and generate new thought and promote constructive social change. Through chronological presentation, we seek to show the sustainability of the spirit of critique Baraka and his contemporaries began offering during the 1960’s by moving forward through diverse artists and forms.

These selections bridge the gap and perhaps blur the lines between work meant for consumption via reading and those meant to be experienced in a performative context—these divergent artists and their personal approaches unite their critical tone and serve as the tie that binds their work within the conversation.

Amiri Baraka- Black Art (1966)

At the beginning of Black Art, Amiri Baraka writes, “Fuck poems and they are useful” which fully captures the frustration artists experience attempting to evoke significant changes through art. Art has the ability to inspire global social evolution or fall flat and never be recognized. Baraka responds to this conundrum by demanding black art be hard-hitting and urge the public to eradicate oppression instead of sitting idly by. Black Art is the first work in this anthology as it addresses what change inducing art should be. In the case of Black Art and the works that follow, such change is incited by works fueled by frustration when subtle messages have not accomplished the goals of the artist. The messages of these works are overt and address oppression head on. Baraka calls for “Hearts Brains Souls splintering fire,” works that plunge the reader or listener into the heart of the matter and cause them to respond with a similar aggressive rise to action. Black Art not only calls for “poems that kill,” it is in of itself a poem that kills, “shoots guns,” and tackles racial problems in American society in a manner that is assertive and easy to understand. Baraka channels his frustration into a poem meant to inspire likeminded artists to follow in his steps towards inciting immediate change and the artists included in this anthology have answered his call.

– Seth Johnson

Public Enemy- “Fight the Power” (1988)

Public Enemy became the voice of loud, unsatisfied, politically motivated, hip-hop standing representatives of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. They are a direct medium from Amiri Baraka as the consciousness for racial and social equality comes back into play and we find that the world is very much afraid of this new sound. Rap has taken the world for a spin because it’s loud and aggressive and Public Enemy is no exception to the rule. They have numerous songs dedicated to the liberation of black minds such as, Fight the Power.

Listening to Fight the Power it comes off as a possible act of violence and a questionable message of militant operations. Reading the lyrics aloud, however, we catch the rhythm of the song through his steady rhymes and it becomes more of spoken word poem that with enough individuals chiming in on the chorus it becomes a chant to pump your fist to. In the following lyrics we find Chuck D much like Baraka announces his agenda with formidable attitude to tear down the structures and unite the people.

Fight the Power, Fight the Power

Fight the Power, Fight the Power

Fight the Power, Fight the Power

Fight the Power, Fight the Power

As the rhythm designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhymes
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us tough
from the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange

Where Black Art and “poems that kill” flow with frustration of what it should be, “Fight the Power” attacks music and sound all together. From the high pitched and random noises of the backbeats in the background to the thumping bass, this song is designed to catch your attention. If not for the people calling it “noise” even more so for the people it is addressed to. This song should make you feel empowered to recreate and build to a better life for the black community. Why should we still be second-class citizens? No more condemning White American views for we come from greatness. We will celebrate black life without oppression, stigmas, but with complete acceptance from the “powers that be” because we are here and we are going nowhere. This song comes with purpose, which makes Public Enemy dangerously timeless.

 – Ashley Harrison

 

Saul Williams- “Coded Language” (2001)

Our next piece in this anthology comes from the American rapper, singer, musician, poet, writer, and actor, Saul Williams, in the form of a poem called “Coded Language.” In this poem entitled “coded language” Williams calls out the misappropriation of some of our, African American, language. For instance, the phrase “Keep It Real” is now socially synonymous with being Ultra-Violent. He posits that this is no longer the case and violence will no longer be the face of the hip-hop community, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, in relation to this poem. The overall meaning of this poem is that, we all, not just African Americans, are responsible for making an art.

“We now know that the heart is the philosophers’ stone

Our music is our alchemy

We stand as the manifested equivalent of 3 buckets of water and a hand full

Of minerals, thus realizing that those very buckets turned upside down

Supply the percussion factor of forever”

 

This is the most inspirational section of this piece. These few lines imply that what we have been searching for is within us and we can use it to make pure music, or another form of art, and we don’t need anything else, other than ourselves, we are the instruments.

The way that this ties in to the anthology is that it promotes the uplifting of people as a whole, which includes African Americans. It also helps promote a new look on African American art. Saul also engages the reader in a decades-long conversation with his connections of our music and diasporic drums. This poem also helps to challenge the dominant voices of current and create new ideas working towards positive change in today’s society.

 -Jontavius Lewis

 

Tyler, The Creator ft. Hodgey Beats- “Sandwitches” (2010)

Tyler the Creator and Hodgy beats are both members of an alternative hip hop crew called OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), or just Odd Future for short. The group was formed in 2007 and has a dark and unorthodox sound. The difference in the sound of their work does not discount the fact that the purpose and theme of their work is similar to the poets in the Black Arts Movement. In Verse 1 Lines 7-12, Tyler makes a comment on the condition of himself and his community when he says “I’m jealous as shit, cuz I ain’t got not home meal to come to”, and contrasts his community with those “with dads and moms/ With nice homes, 41ks, and nice ass lawns.” The tone and production of the song make it obvious that the rappers feel anger and passion about the subject matter. The outro of the song spoken by Tyler the Creator explicitly states to the audience that there is deep meaning to their song. Through out the song Tyler and Hodgy are representing for their crew “Wolf Gang” and argue that their work is real in meaning and artistry. This poem has characteristics similar to both the tradition Black Arts poetry and hip-hop culture.

Rhys Lutz

 

Morgan Parker-“Song of the Carefree Black Girl” (2014)

Morgan Parker is a young female African American poet living and working in Brooklyn, New York.  She earned her B.A. in creative writing and anthropology at Columbia and her M.F.A. at NYU.  She is an active participant in the literary community, organizing events and editing at Coconut Magazine and The Offing.  Her work challenges readers on the level of conceptualizing those about us, writing poems with multi-layered characters, who represent both the mundane and transcendent aspects of the human experience.  The poem chosen for this anthology can be accessed at http://90smegryan.com/track/morgan-parker-song-of-the-carefree-black-girl. This poem appears to the reader simultaneously as a print poem and as a version read by the poet along with a musical component, featuring the slow jam groove of Roy Ayer’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” as a backing sample.

In “Song of the Carefree Black Girl” from August 2014 via 90’s Meg Ryan, Parker uses free verse, but the words flow with a subtle rhythm.  She blends the mundane idea of listening to music and sending text messages with the concerns of an African American feminist poet’s critique.

Parker works on layers of critique and juxtaposition, calling out male-generated stereotypical images of women and deconstructing that gendered opinion from the inside out. She references her identity as a woman and an African American, speaking to her own literacy as a poet and critic. Clearly, Parker moves the conversation about femininity, intellect, and race, forward with her work.  Her verse functions on multiple layers simultaneously—free verse following a loose musical rhythm, socio-intellectual, gender, and racial critiques—to achieve a fluidity of style that, at once, creates a new voice and cadence different from other poetic voices, and creates a conversation with older, established voices and aesthetics that are pertinent to the ongoing study of the situation of women and African Americans. 

-Daniel Lamb

 

Amiri Baraka- “Black Art” (1966)

 

Poems are bullshit unless they are

teeth or trees or lemons piled

on a step. Or black ladies dying

of men leaving nickel hearts

beating them down. Fuck poems

and they are useful, wd they shoot

come at you, love what you are,

breathe like wrestlers, or shudder

strangely after pissing. We want live

words of the hip world live flesh &

coursing blood. Hearts Brains

Souls splintering fire. We want poems

like fists beating niggers out of Jocks

or dagger poems in the slimy bellies

of the owner-jews. Black poems to

smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches

whose brains are red jelly stuck

between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking

Whores! we want “poems that kill.”

Assassin poems, Poems that shoot

guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys

and take their weapons leaving them dead

with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland. Knockoff

poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite

politicians Airplane poems, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .tuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh

. . .rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . Setting fire and death to

whities ass. Look at the Liberal

Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat

& puke himself into eternity . . . rrrrrrrr

There’s a negroleader pinned to

a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting

in hot flame Another negroleader

on the steps of the white house one

kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs

negotiating coolly for his people.

Aggh . . . stumbles across the room . . .

Put it on him, poem. Strip him naked

to the world! Another bad poem cracking

steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth

Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets

Clean out the world for virtue and love,

Let there be no love poems written

until love can exist freely and

cleanly. Let Black people understand

that they are the lovers and the sons

of warriors and sons

of warriors Are poems & poets &

all the loveliness here in the world

 

We want a black poem. And a

Black World.

Let the world be a Black Poem

And Let All Black People Speak This Poem

Silently

or LOUD

 

Source: Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979)

 

Public Enemy- “Fight the Power” (1988)

1989 the number another summer (get down)

Sound of the funky drummer

Music hittin’ your heart cause I know you got sould

(Brothers and sisters, hey)

Listen if you’re missin’ y’all

Swingin’ while I’m singin’

Givin’ whatcha gettin’

Knowin’ what I know

While the Black bands sweatin’

And the rhythm rhymes rollin’

Got to give us what we want

Gotta give us what we need

Our freedom of speech is freedom or death

We got to fight the powers that be

Lemme hear you say

Fight the power

 

As the rhythm designed to bounce

What counts is that the rhymes

Designed to fill your mind

Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived

We got to pump the stuff to make us tough

from the heart

It’s a start, a work of art

To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange

People, people we are the same

No we’re not the same

Cause we don’t know the game

What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless

You say what is this?

My beloved lets get down to business

Mental self defensive fitness

(Yo) bum rush the show

You gotta go for what you know

Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be

Lemme hear you say…

Fight the Power

 

As the rhythm designed to bounce

What counts is that the rhymes

Designed to fill your mind

Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived

We got to pump the stuff to make us tough

from the heart

It’s a start, a work of art

To revolutionize make a change nothin’s strange

People, people we are the same

No we’re not the same

Cause we don’t know the game

What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless

You say what is this?

My beloved lets get down to business

Mental self defensive fitness

(Yo) bum rush the show

You gotta go for what you know

Make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be

Lemme hear you say…

Fight the Power

 

Elvis was a hero to most

But he never meant shit to me you see

Straight up racist that sucker was

Simple and plain

Mother fuck him and John Wayne

Cause I’m Black and I’m proud

I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped

Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps

Sample a look back you look and find

Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check

Don’t worry be happy

Was a number one jam

Damn if I say it you can slap me right here

(Get it) lets get this party started right

Right on, c’mon

What we got to say

Power to the people no delay

To make everybody see

In order to fight the powers that be

 

Saul Williams, “Coded Language” (2001)

Whereas break beats have been the missing link

Connecting the Diasporic community to its drum woven past

Whereas the quantized drum has allowed the whirling

Mathematicians to calculate the ever changing distance

Between rock and stardom

 

Whereas the velocity of the spinning vinyl

Cross faded, spun backwards and re-released

At the same given moment of recorded history

Yet at a different moment in times continuum

Has allowed history, to catch up with the present

 

We do hereby declare reality unkempt by the changing

Standards of dialog, statements such as ‘Keep it real’

Especially when punctuating or anticipating modes

Of ultra-violence inflicted psychologically or physically or depicting

An unchanging rule of events will hence forth be seen as retro-active

And not representative of the individually determined is

 

Furthermore, as determined by the collective consciousness

Of this state of being and the lessened distance

Between thought patterns and their secular manifestations

The role of men as listening receptacles is to be increased by a number

No less than 70 percent of the current enlisted as vocal aggressors

 

Motherfuckers better realize now is the time to self-actualize

We have found evidence that Hip Hops standard 85 RPM

When increased by a number as least half the rate of it’s standard

Or decreased at three quarters of it’s speed

May be a determining factor in heightening consciousness

 

Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face

Of the unchanging the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth

Equate rhyme with reason, sun with season, our cyclical relationship

To phenomenon has encouraged scholars

To erase the centers of periods thus symbolizing the non-linear

Character of ’cause and effect reject mediocrity

Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that

Which as been given for you to understand

The current standard is the equivalent

Of an adolescent restricted to the diet of an infant

The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional

And deformative symptoms and could not properly mature

On a diet of apple sauce and crushed pears

 

Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness

The role of darkness is not to be seen as or equated with ignorance

But with the unknown and the mysteries of the unseen

 

Thus, in the name of

Robeson, God’s Son, Hurston, Ahkenaton

Hathsheput, Blackfoot, Helen, Lennon, Khalo

Kali, The Three Maria’s, Tara, Lilithe, Lourde

Whitman, Baldwin, Ginsberg, Kaufman, Lumumba

 

Ghandi, Gibran, Shabazz, Shabazz, Siddhartha

Medusa, Guevara, Gurdsieff, Rand, Wright, Banneker

Tubman, Hamer, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane

Morrison, Joplin, Dubois, Clarke, Shakespeare

 

Rachmninov, Ellington, Carter, Gaye, Hathoway

Hendrix, Kutl, Dickerson, Ripperton, Mary, Isis

Theresa, Hensbury, Justlove, Plath, Rumi, Fellini

Michaux, Nostradamus, Nefertiti, La Rock, Shiva

 

Ganesha, Yemaja, Oshun, Obatala, Ogun, Kennedy

King, Four Little Girls, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Keller

Biko, Perone, Marley, Magalin, Cosby, Shakur

Those who burnt, those still aflamed and the countless unnamed

 

We claim the present as the pre-sent, as the hereafter

We are unraveling our navels so that we may ingest the sun

We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us

We are determining the future at this very moment

We now know that the heart is the philosophers’ stone

 

Our music is our alchemy, we stand as the manifested

Equivalent of three buckets of water and a hand full of minerals

Thus realizing that those very buckets turned upside down

Supply the percussion factor of forever, if you must count

To keep the beat then count

 

Find you mantra and awaken your subconscious

Curve you circles counterclockwise, use your cipher to decipher

Coded Language, man made laws, climb waterfalls and trees

Commune with nature, snakes and bees let your children

Name themselves and claim themselves as the new day, for today

 

We are determined to be the channelers of these changing

Frequencies into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama

Photography, carpentry, crafts, love and love, we enlist every instrument

Acoustic, electronic every so called race, gender and sexual preference

Every person as beings of sound to acknowledge their responsibility

To uplift the consciousness of the entire fucking world

 

Any utterance unaimed will be disclaimed

Will be named Two Rappers Slain

Any utterance unaimed will be disclaimed

Will be named Two Rappers Slain

 


Tyler, The Creator ft. Hodgey Beats- “Sandwitches” (2010)

[Intro: Tyler]

Nigga had the fucking nerve to call me immature

Fuck you think I made Odd Future for?

To wear fucking suits and make good decisions?

Fuck that nigga, Wolf Gang

 

[Verse 1: Tyler]

Who the fuck invited Mr. I Don’t Give a Fuck

Who cries about his daddy and a blog because his music sucks? (I did!)

Well, you fucking up, and truthfully I had enough

And fuck rolling papers, I’m a rebel, bitch, I’m ashing blunts (Sorry)

Full of shit, like I ate that John

Come on kids, fuck that class and hit that bong

Let’s buy guns and kill those kids with dads and mom

With nice homes, 41k’s, and nice ass lawns

Those privileged fucks got to learn that we ain’t taking no shit

Like Ellen Degeneres clitoris is playing with dick

I’m jealous as shit, cause I ain’t got no home meal to come to

So, if you do, I’m throwing fingers out screaming “fuck you”

I got ten of these Kennedy’s

Not Dom, but if I was a Dahm, I would be Jeffery

‘preme hat the color of a leprechaun with leprosy

I’m fucking ’bout it, ’bout it, like I’m Master P in ’96

It’s fucking immaculate, the way your daughter smacking dicks

Surprised she hasn’t taked the nasty dick inside her alley you

The Golf Wang hooligans, is fucking up the school again

And showing you and yours that breaking rules is fucking cool again

I’m going harder than a midget jumping over me

Chronic youth, I’m shoving blunt wraps in bitches ovaries

Punches to the stomach where that bastard kid supposed to be

Fuck a mask, I want that ho to know it’s me, ugh

 

[Hook]

Wolf Gang, Wolf Gang

It’s the Wolf Gang, Wolf Gang

It’s the Wolf Gang, it’s the Wolf Gang

It’s the Wolf Gang, Golf Wang

It’s the Wolf Gang, Wolf Gang

Wolf Gang, triple six crew

It’s the Wolf Gang, Golf Wang

Wolf Gang kill them

 

[Verse 2: Hodgy]

My love is gone for you mommy, you could ride in hearses

I’m sick in the brain dumb bitch, can you nurse this?

You told me life would never, ever, ever get this perfect

Then you smoke a J of weed, and take his kids to the churches

Uh, fuck church, they singing and the shit ain’t even worth it

In the choir, whores and liars, scumbags and the dirt, bitch

You told me God was the answer

When I ask him for shit, I get no answer, so God is the cancer

I’m stuck in triangles, looking for my angel

Kill me with a chainsaw, and let my balls dangle

Triple six is my number, you can get it off my Tumblr

 

[Hook]

 

[Verse 3: Hodgy]

It was hilarious, well it ain’t fucking funny now

I’ll push this fucking pregnant clown into a hydrant stuck in the ground

I step through the stomach, replace the baby with some fucking pounds

“My baby daddy shoot bricks, the nigga also shoot rounds”

Cause if I shoot blanks, oops, thanks

I’m right back in it dead yummy and her mildew stank

 

[Tyler]

Free Earl, that’s the fucking shit

And if you disagree, suck a couple pimple-covered dicks

Um, Wolf Gang, that’s the fucking clique

Golf Wang kill them all nigga, triple six

Fuck 2DopeBoyz, all them niggas bitches

We don’t need y’all, The Fader’s who we really fucking with, bitch

 

[Outro]

And we don’t fucking make horrorcore, you fucking idiots

Listen deeper than the music before you put it in a box

 

 

Morgan Parker-“Song of the Carefree Black Girl” (2014)

You bury our pleasure. The real

of it. Why we always gotta be on

some in-spite-of shit? My concern:

did I remember to record Scandal.

Did I choose the right bottle

of champagne. My hugged-up

hips. My gold lipstick. My headwrap.

My pain I owned and loved until

it had to go. My kale and chorizo

hash brunch. My kelly-green toes.

My literary tote bag. My man.

Giving it to me and serving me

seltzer in a martini glass. My

salaried gig. My side hustle.

Sometimes I remember my heart

beat is a djembe. My bookshelf

is full of us. I don’t want to give you

the satisfaction but we love our hair.

My body: okay I know. My body

is complicated. Historically

it belongs to you. But actually, stop.

I’m trying to text my mom.

So what I mean is I’m just

listening to Roy Ayers waiting

for the eclipse.