Thursday, October 06, 2005
Eternal Music for Lorenzo Thomas
eye glasses as big as snares framing his face, the bass-black jacket draped over his skeletal shoulders, the moustache and his puckered trumpet lips. harryette mullen once said, "in the poetry of lorenzo thomas, there is often an implicit soundtrack behind the words, an allusive, unheard but remembered music." there's no use debating this observation. but i would like to mention that there was also an "implicit soundtrack" to the man: the bluesy guitar riff of his voice, the slow saxophone stride of his gestures, the jazzy swagger of his chalk. lorenzo loved music and this love touched everything he did: his poetry, his lectures, the interaction with colleagues, admirers, students--what better mentor could a novice poet have? i consider myself lucky to have sat across from him, listening to him explicate the inner-city incantations of amiri baraka or the now nostalgic chorus of leadbelly's new orleans (the rising sun blues). once, in the cluttered chaos of his office, we spoke of 2pac and the influence of hip-hop culture on audiences across the world. immediately, his encyclopedic memory shuffled between history and thinly warped records spinning in the living room of a tenement in new york and he brought to my attention the direct influence of african americans on our culture. he never quoted. he sang. and i knew this influence all too well. i saw it all around me. in the streets. in the books. in the music. and the love for rhumba kept him going, knowing that music, in whatever form: democracy, love, poetry, formed the path toward resurrection. "those who love the music made his memory live," according to lorenzo's poem "historiography." well, i love the music, we all do. nor shall we forget the dances.