My Thoughts, for Penny

Wow, one week since my last post, and that one was just a place-holder. I’ve become a bad blogger, haven’t I? Time for a quick brain dump . . .

I downloaded Japanther’s latest album, Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt, a week or so ago, expecting the Brooklyn duo’s usual snarky electo-punk, and got some of that . . . but also got something mind-blowing and unexpected as well. I don’t know how or why they managed it, but a solid 20 minutes of the album is devoted to long, spoken-word pieces featuring rudimentary Japanther instrumentation behind a pair of epic poems written and read by former Crass drummer/anarchist/cultural provocateur/artist Penny Rimbaud.

Now, I love writing poetry, and I love reading poetry, but a general rule I detest hearing poetry read, especially when it’s done competitive slam-style. The magic of the word works for me on the page, but rarely does it take flight for me when it’s performed, and I am forced to perceive it in the author’s voice and cadence, rather than creating my own internal sonic soundscapes for it.

But these two long pieces, “Africa Seems So Far Away” and “I, Thee Indigene” just riveted me, despite my normal loathing of the form being offered. I loved what Penny wrote, I loved the language he used to write it, and I loved the way he read his words, in a voice that was equal parts Jhonn Balance (Coil) and Arthur Brown (“Fire”). “I, Thee Indigene,” in particular, moved me, because it is built with traditional structure, form, and rhyme, and evokes spiritual and emotional archetypes and motifs which seem to have become passe and looked-down-upon in contemporary poetry circles, but which are hallmarks of my own writing, antiquated though it may be (see links at lower right for proof).

I’ve tried to find the texts of these poems online, and have yet to be able to. They were published in a small, limited-edition chapbook version, with second edition to be issued in “early 2009,” so I’ll nab me one of those as soon as it’s available. For a taste, though, here’s a little snippet called “Outro,” which ends the Japanther album. I have no idea if this is how Penny’s line structure or punctuation appear on the page, but it seems correct to the eye and ear, and I like it very much (lyrics presumably copyright 2008, Penny Rimbaud):

What are we but the soul looking for itself?
What are we but the cast of divinity’s shadow?
What are we but the shapeless form of arrival,
A silent voice in the wilderness of reason,
Dancers beneath the face of death?
Tell me then . . .
What kindly faeries enchant this place?
What madness is it that we do not see the beauty of love
or feel the touch of grace?

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