Monday, November 15, 2010

A Review Of Joby, Uninterrupted: Bittersweet Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies

This is a new review of my book, Joby, Uninterrupted: Bittersweet Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies, taken from The Poetry Market Ezine, Vol.10, Issue #2, written by LB Sedlacek.


"Joby, Uninterrupted -- Bittersweet
Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies
by Joseph Powell
ISBN 978-0-557-10424-6
Copyright 2009
133 pg.
To order:

Review by LB Sedlacek

Poems taken from his past poetry books
"Mofo' Risin'" and "Blood on the Page"
plus new selections make up this new
collection from Joseph Powell.

Powell's subject matters range from
personal heroes to writing poetry or
being a poet to love poems. Mostly
free verse, Powell's poetry reflects
his own probable reverence for life
and, of course, writing.

Powell's poems are written in such a
way that most readers can get what he's
getting at or they can impose their
own perceptions and possibly arrive
at the same point. I read at least
one poem by a different poet nearly
every day and to me the straightforward
ones with something to say are the ones
I remember.

Joseph Powell definately has something to
say. His works resonate with a local
prescence, a suburban habitat, and
grounded themes.

In "Blood on the Page," Powell laments
trying to get words down on the page
and to survive life as a poet.

From "Blood on the Page":
"...My pen's getting duller by the
minute/So I stick it down my throat,/
Hoping something 'll come that way/
But all I get are dry heaves...."

"Face" is a sweet delicate love poem:
"The sun rises/Just to greet your
smile." "Season of the Poem" is a
rhyming poem about writing that
plunges on into reading (or the
lack thereof) and other current events.
"Cut my finger on a razor blade/
My baby just ran out of Kool-Aid/
And I'm still waiting to get paid,/
or laid, which is better/ When it's
wetter./It's the season of the poem./
Don't mind me/or try to find me/lost
in a haze/gone for days/(or however long
it takes/to finish this poem)/this
poem is wack/but not for lack//of
rhyme or reason--/It's the season/
of the poem;..." The poem
"Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn" about
Gwendolyn Brooks is reminiscent
of something you might read by her.
From "Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn"
(for Gwendolyn Brooks)
"She real cool. She/ Old school.
She/Wrote truth. She/Fool proof..."

While Powell's poems may be too
contemporary for some, they provide
an opportunity for the every day
reader to see it, to get it, and
to most likely like it and that's
what you want if you want your
poetry to be read and heard. Powell's
got that voice that will stick in
your head, and linger a bit in the brain.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Be Young, Gifted, And Black

Sometimes I come across words or lyrics that speak for themselves. Those below are a case in point. Co-written by Nina Simone for her friend and fellow writer, Lorraine Hansberry(author of the classic, "Raisin In The Sun") and recorded by such artists as Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and even Elton John, it's one of those songs that will stand the test of time and continue to speak volumes for generations to come. 'Nuff said!

To Be Young, Gifted And Black
(Music & Lyrics by Nina Simone & Weldon Irvine, Jr)

To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean

In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that's a fact!

Young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There's a world waiting for you
This is a quest that's just begun

When you feel really low
Yeah, there's a great truth you should know
When you're young, gifted and black
Your soul's intact

Young, gifted and black
How I long to know the truth
There are times when I look back
And I am haunted by my youth

Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it's at

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Few Words, Some Tears, And Waiting For A Kiss That May Never Come

The words never come fast enough
I want my fingers to bleed from typing them
My eyes filled to overflowing with tears that burn
My throat constricted with the scream that won't ever be loud enough

I want God to kiss me full on the lips
And tell me to my face that He/She loves me
I want to know why my father was never man enough to care
Why I had to learn on my own what I feel I still don't know
I want my dreams to be my reality and my reality my dreams
At least then I'll understand why I yell during the night

I want to live in a world where truth is not based
On what side of the tracks you live on, or
How much money you have, or
which party you belonged to, or
what label you choose to wear.
I don't give a damn what you want to call me,
unless you want to call me by the name my mama gave me.
That's all I will allow you.

I would love to live in a world where poets commanded the same respect
As presidents and heads of state, kings and queens.
Where their words were considered in decisions that affected our societies.

These are just some of the words I have
I'm sure there are more but
They don't come fast enough
It probably doesn't matter
Because the right people will probably never read them
And even that doesn't matter.
But for now, I'll continue to try to make my fingers bleed
And let my tears fall
And let loose the loudest scream I can possibly muster
And wait for a kiss...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thoughts While Sitting On My Couch On A Saturday Afternoon

So, I'm sitting here on my couch, pen in hand, yellow notepad on my knee, blues playing in the background on the TV--the air is chilled and my mind seems blank. Actually, that's not true--there are words and images flowing through like a strong current, but they're muddled and blurry and I'm not sure which one I should grab and put down on paper. Writing, like a lot of things in life, doesn't come without at least a little bit of effort. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I am, more than anything else I could possibly be, a writer. It would probably help tremendously if I adhered to that old adage--that a writer writes. Probably just as much if I remembered what a TV producer added to that statement at a screenwriting conference I attended some years ago--"assholes talk about it." I think I'd prefer to be the former rather than the latter, though I'm sure at one time or another, by at least a few people, I've been considered to be the latter. Not that I care to know. Probably safe to say that any one of us, at some point in our lives, has been an asshole.

But...I digress, though from what I have no idea. Right now, I guess I'm just stream-of consciousness-ing it, which can be fun and sometimes produces some really good stuff. I know it's been difficult of late to sit down and write much of anything, because my focus has been on trying to find a job, which is also frustrating, not to mention soul-draining. I'm of the mind that there's nothing more taxing on the soul than to be able-bodied and willing to work and not being able to find work, regardless of how much effort has been put into securing a job. Talk about the blues!

I find myself living vicariously through the writers I read and the works they've produced, whether in the newspaper, magazines, books, and/or the Internet. Although, I continue to aim for the reverse to be true. It would be gratifying to know that there are people out there who are living vicariously through my work or, at the very least, are being inspired and entertained by it. But again, this leads us back to the earlier point that writers write and, though I've produced some work of note, I hope, I could and should be producing more. But then again, the impetus of such an action should be, first and foremost, to my satisfaction and fulfillment of the desire to express myself, before I consider anyone else's benefit from it. As noble as the concept of producing art for the masses is, the artist has to be able to find contentment in the expression and the fruits of that expression before it is subjected to an audience.

So, as I sit on my couch, pen in hand, yellow notepad on my knee, blues playing in the background on the TV, surrounded by the chilled air, my mind starts to fill, along with the words and images swirling to and fro like a strong current, with the notion of me--the writer, the artist--in his daily struggle to create art, to express himself, to live, vicariously, through his own work. 'Nuff said.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Letter To My Father, Whom I Never Really Knew

Dear Edward,
I am writing this letter with the understanding that you will most likely never see it. It's been over 25 years since the last time I saw you and it wasn't, if memory serves, under the best of circumstances. You were chastising me, if I remember correctly(I am at an age where my memories aren't as clear as i would like them to be), for ditching school. It might just as well have been for something else--our relationship, such as it was, was such that the only times I ever saw you fell into two categories:(1)when I needed money(for movies, ball games, etc.), and (2)when Mama was either too tired or beside herself to punish me and felt that you needed to be involved. Which brings us to the irony involved in said relationship--that other than being able to provide money when I needed it, the fact that you felt needed or responsible enough(or whatever) to be involved with my disciplining, but yet, didn't have the same urgency or leanings to be involved with me at any other phase of my growing up or my development into manhood.

You probably never knew this, and I've since only ever expressed it to a select few people, but because of the infrequency of our times together, I thought you were my uncle. I think I was around 10 or so, when during one of my frequent visits to the clinic, Mama had written your name on the line marked "Father" on my medical history form. I wish I could say I was shocked, surprised, dumbfounded or at the very least, curious enough about this bombshell of information to broach this subject with Mama. But I wasn't--I don't know why--and I didn't--again, I don't know why. Needless to say, I wish I had been and I wish I had. But more to the point, and central to the reason that I'm writing a letter that will probably never be seen by its intended audience, I wish with every fiber of my being, from the vantage point of a man still struggling to find himself all the while trying to be a father himself, that you had been man enough, gave a damn enough, to reveal yourself to be the father that I needed, at the time that I needed one.

Looking back, I wonder what could have possibly gone through your mind all those years, through your heart, developed in the very pit of your soul, that led you to not being there for me. Never teaching me about sports or playing catch with me; never being present during any of my school functions--the times I won certificates or awards; being there when I started being interested in girls, to tell me how to treat them and how to be confident around them; to be there for many of the crucial decisions I would have to make in my life, including where I went to school and what I wanted to be.

Actually, I do remember a rare outing with you and your family, but again, my memory gets cloudy when it comes to filling in the details and, truth be told, it obviously didn't leave a lasting impression on me--the way the aforementioned key points and your presence therein would have.

You know, for the life of me, I don't even know what you did as a job or for a career. What your interests were, your likes and dislikes, what your growing up was like, how you met my mother. You see, I mention these things because they're some of the things my stepdaughter knows about me--she knows me so well that she can draw me from memory and place me in any context to where it is unmistakable. Because I made it a point from the first day that I started dating her mother to get to know her, from our first game of Clue to watching cartoons, to going to most of her school functions, and getting to know her friends. I know I haven't been perfect and probably made many mistakes, but you know what. The fact that she was able to stand in front of over 125 people at our family commencement ceremony three years ago and express how I stood out over the men her mother has dated(which to this day is remembered as a highlight of the event)and how she sees me as a father, over the one, like you, helped to bring her into this world, leaves little doubt in my mind that I must have done something right, in spite of my lack of knowledge and experience.

Maybe you and Mama didn't get along; maybe you weren't meant to be together; maybe...maybe...there's a lot of possible maybes. The maybe that stands out in my mind is that maybe, in spite of any ill or hurt feelings, of pride, of whatever the hell it was, that maybe you could have been the man I needed and the father I wanted and not the man I'm trying so desperately not to become and the father I never really knew.

I can't honestly say if, after all these years, I want to see you. I don't even know if you're still alive(which, if you're not, some would say would render this letter a moot point--I'm inclined to think otherwise, because, if nothing else, I needed to write this letter, for catharsis as well as giving me something to write. Not to mention the lost art of writing letters, but that's neither here nor there). I almost wish a letter was unnecessary, if it could be replaced with the memories of a father who was there. But if I've learned anything in this life is that wishes are for fairy tales. There is more I could write here, but it wouldn't scratch the surface of what I feel any more than what I've already written here. So I will close this letter, with neither forgiveness(don't know if it's warranted or if I have it in me) or forgetting(which I know I can't). This will just have to be. 'Nuff said!


Sunday, May 02, 2010

cooley high - part 1of 12

A clip from one of my favorite films, "Cooley High", written in 1975 by Eric Monte and the inspiration for the TV series, "What's Happening?". I'm still inspired by and seek to aspire to the dream of the lead character, Preach, played wonderfully by the great Glynn Turman, to be a successful Hollywood writer, which is what happened to Monte, the writer and creator of the film.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Re: Passing Strange

When film meets theater, enhanced by rock and roll, it becomes a uniquely magical experience. Such is the collaboration of filmmaker Spike Lee and musicians Stew and Heidi Rodewald in the theatrical film version of the Tony-Award winning, Broadway musical, Passing Strange. Highly recommended! Check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Honor Of National Poetry Month...

In honor of National Poetry Month starting up tomorrow and running through the entire month of April, I am recommending(actually, begging and pleading!) that those of you who read my blog, order a copy of my book, Joby, Uninterrupted:Bittersweet Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies. It's 79 poems, written over the last 20 years and running the gamut of topics from love, jazz, family, faith, doubt, death, and how I've seen the world during the course of that time frame. They range from whimsical to intense and intensely personal--I can't do it any other way. The poems are inspired by and influenced by my literary muses including James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Marvin Gaye, Langston Hughes, among others. I can say, with almost absolute certainty, that you will not be disappointed and it will be a welcome addition to however you celebrate National Poetry Month, if you celebrate it at all and I hope you do. If there are any artists in our nation that should be celebrated, it's poets. They are literary filmmakers, whose words are mini-movies for the mind and soul(God knows, it'd be nice to be compensated like most filmmakers!). So, do yourself a favor and those in your sphere of influence who may also love poetry, and direct yourself to the attached link and buy my book. And if not me(WHY NOT?!), then celebrate a poet, any poet, this coming month. Check out a local reading(there's literally one almost every day of the week at any coffeehouse or bookstore in any major city); borrow a book or two from the library; and there's plenty to discover via the Internet(hint, hint). In any event, happy National Poetry Month. Accept some verse into your life--you'll be the better for it. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was life. Peace, shalom, as-salamu alaykum, shanti.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

But You Still Call Me...

This is a new poem, just written this morning, and inspired by recent events. It may be revised or retained as is. Let me know your thoughts. They might be taken under advisement....might be.

But You Still Call Me...

I fought for your right to freedom of speech,
But you still call me nigger;
Fought for the right to live in your neighborhood,
But you still call me nigger;
I’ve taught and raised your kids,
Cleaned your houses,
Mowed your lawns,
Made your lives easier to manage,
But you still call me nigger.

I’ve fought in all your wars,
Sacrificed myself on the battlefields,
So that you could live,
But you still call me nigger.

I’ve marched in the streets for freedom—
For yours and mine, and our children’s children;
Been stoned and beaten, spit at and cursed,
Without fighting back,
But yet,
You still call me nigger.

I’ve brought laughter into your homes,
Entertained you on stage and screen,
Given you reason to cheer on the fields of play,
And you still call me nigger.

I’ve discovered advances in medicine
To help prolong your life;
Fought for health care for those of you
Who don’t even have it;
Even attained to the highest offices in the land,…

But you…





© 2010 Joseph Powell

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Man Of A Certain Age

I'm trying very hard not to become that guy. You know the one who wakes up one morning and realizes that half his life is gone and he has nothing to show for it. That the dreams he once had and the goals he had planned have fallen by the wayside and become all but distant memories. You know, that guy. Maybe one of you is him. But I know I don't want to be, in spite of the seeming path leading in that direction.

I'm four years shy of 50; almost 23 years have passed since my college graduation, where I was supposed to have the whole world in front of me. Like many before me, I had bought into the whole dream of going away to college(of which I was the first in my family to do so), meeting the woman who was going to be my life-partner, raising at least 2.5 kids in a beautiful suburban home, outside of a major city, working several years at a job I loved, was qualified for, and couldn't imagine not doing. But, as fate would have it(or, as was often said in the churches and the Christian college I attended, "it's all part of God's plan for your life"), the dream gave way to certain realities of life. Like John Lennon so eloquently put it in song: "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans." Job instability, unemployment, a succession of dissatisfying jobs in three different states, missed opportunites, a series of failed relationships including one that ended in divorce, the fatal loss of a best friend--the list goes on and on, leading me to where I sit now.

Yes, there have been a few bright spots along the way--a second marriage to a woman who wanted to make a life with me; a young daughter who, though she was spawned by another, could've been of my own making, and who, in spite of the evil that's called "teenage", makes me proud and swells my heart everyday; I just recently released a complete volume of 20 years worth of poetry. These are things that I do not take for granted or consider lightly.

But I hunger for more and I'm not talking about wanting to belong to a certain class or attain to a higher status. I've rekindled my dream of wanting to be a writer, full-time and successful, like so many of the ones that I look up to and whose works have inspired me. I would love to see something of mine on the big screen(and it wouldn't even have to be a blockbuster--just knowing that people are watching and enjoying something that I created--there's nothing like it). I've even dreamed, from the time I was a child, of walking the red carpet at the Oscars, nominated for an award that everyone has buzzed I was certain to get.

I still would like to get that house, though maybe not necessarily in the suburbs, but maybe close enough to walk to the ocean. I'm envious of people who get to do that. And I've always wanted to be the son, who having attained success, is able to parlay some of that into the form of a house for his mother. I'm also envious of those who get to do that.

I would love to travel more--there are scores of places that I've never been to, that I would love to visit--Africa, Paris, Rome, Australia, the Holy Land, just to name a few. I'm envious--you get the picture.

To boil it down, I would love to be able to live beyond my expectations and my life experience up until now. To have my life account for more than what it has at this point. There has to be more to my life than working jobs that I hate, paying barely a living wage or one that can hardly sustain a family, and never being able to venture beyond one's parameters or environment. To know that people, other than your family and friends, are benefitting from the fruits of your creative labor. To live a life worth celebrating and remembering. To become that guy, who at a certain age, is able to look back and say, what a life I've lived and what a difference I've made.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Re:Joby, Uninterrupted...

If any of you have bought a copy of my book, Joby, Uninterrupted:Bittersweet Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies(1989-2009), please leave a review at the site of purchase(whether Amazon, Lulu, or Barnes & Noble). I'd certainly appreciate it. And for those of you haven't purchased a copy...what are you waiting for?!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Are The World 25 For Haiti - Official Video

This is as amazing as it was 25 years ago, with a few additional twists and changes. 'Nuff said!