B Jenkinsby Fred Moten, Charles McGovern (Editor), Josh Kun (Editor)
The fourth collection of poetry from the literary and cultural critic Fred Moten, B Jenkins is named after the poet’s mother, who passed away in 2000. It is both an elegy and an inquiry into many of the themes that Moten has explored throughout his career: language, music, performance, improvisation, and the black radical aesthetic and political/i>
The fourth collection of poetry from the literary and cultural critic Fred Moten, B Jenkins is named after the poet’s mother, who passed away in 2000. It is both an elegy and an inquiry into many of the themes that Moten has explored throughout his career: language, music, performance, improvisation, and the black radical aesthetic and political tradition. In Moten’s verse, the arts, scholarship, and activism intertwine. Cadences echo from his mother’s Arkansas home through African American history and avant-garde jazz riffs. Formal innovations suggest the ways that words, sounds, and music give way to one another.
The first and last poems in the collection are explicitly devoted to Moten’s mother; the others relate more obliquely to her life and legacy. They invoke performers, writers, artists, and thinkers including not only James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Frederick Douglass, Billie Holiday, Audre Lorde, Charlie Parker, and Cecil Taylor, but also contemporary scholars of race, affect, and queer theory. The book concludes with an interview conducted by Charles Henry Rowell, the editor of the journal Callaloo. Rowell elicits Moten’s thoughts on the relation of his poetry to theory, music, and African American vernacular culture.
“Poetry as inquiry. Poetry as communication through time, space, and distance. Poetry as a collection of personal connections to people, places, memory. Poetry as elegy. Poetry as commentary. Poetry like’“riding a bus in the city.’ . . . Under the surface is a deeply intellectual inquisition, a purposeful pursuit of understanding: self, culture, family, race, people, music. It is lyrical, polysonic, fresh. Moten is both a “high” theorist and an “experimental” poet. It is poetry in relation to the world through the self. It is not just an imitation of music, but an embodiment of what is at the heart of the music in question. The essential center of it. “ - Kristina Erny, University of Arizona Poetry Center
“Fred Moten can’t stop won’t stop blurring genres, modes, lexical registers,
disciplines and the whole damn phenomenal world, in an ecstasy of creative
permission so liberating that it verges on the terrifying; this book is almost
too beautiful to read.” - Maria Damon, XCP
“Like the work of the many subjects of these poems, Moten’s latest book is a nuanced yet exhilarating avant-garde fusion of theory and improvisation.” - Lori Tsang, Multicultural Review
“Fred Moten’s newest collection is a roll call, a syllabus, a discography, church. These poems are a family reunion, where relatives from different branches literally make conversation, the hard way, by creating the common language as they go. Listening in is a pleasurable challenge; to paraphrase Coltrane, what I didn’t understand, I felt emotionally. I fell in love with the table of contents and was still giddy at the final words. ‘It’s a little [less] alone.’”—Evie Shockley, Rutgers University
“If the blues is really the poetic spirit of a people, that place deep in the unconscious where emotion, dream, and intellect commingle in flammable combinations, then Fred Moten is one of the greatest bluesmen of our generation. Thank you, B. Jenkins, for the fire.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
disciplines and the whole damn phenomenal world, in an ecstasy of creative permission so liberating that it verges on the terrifying; this book is almost too beautiful to read.”
Read an Excerpt
By FRED MOTEN
DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2010 Duke University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter Oneb jenkins
Her territory sunflower, insurgent floor time in real time in the field museum-bertha lee and her lyric ways and her urban plan. up and down the regular highway and every two-tone station, passing through to cure, for preservation to unfold it all away, she put the new thing in the open cell, one more time about the theory of who we are.
In the names away in blocks with double names to interrupt and gather, kept dancing in tight circles between break and secret, vaulted with records in our basement, where the long-haired hippies and afro-blacks all get together across the tracks and they party, everybody sown like grain and touched in stride.
Now the cold new reckoning is tired and you've been waiting for a preferential song. the multiplex should be in the frame like bodies in a house way back in the woods, fled in suspended projects like the real thing, posed for the midnight trill. essential shtetl of the world stage, born way before you was born, move the administered word by breathing, to hand beautiful edge around. gayl jones my daddy drank red soda pop. once he wanted a fleetwood, then he wanted a navigator, so he could navigate, check out his radio towers, deliver flowers, drive back to give me long kisses, watch mama burn her books. said nancy wilson can't sing but she can style- hold back the force of random operators/ return to the line refuse to punctuate. a moon- but his actual drive was watching clay circle, tight-breath'd hunch, tight shoulder. sweet nancy wilson was just cold analytics: the difference between a new coat and the one with ink on the pocket, calculate like a fat young minister, strokin' like clarence carter, increase like creflo dollar. mama and me stayed up over the club, cried sometimes in the same broke off the same piece left each other the last piece practiced the same piece got warm on the same. however, I'm so full this morning I have to try and make you understand billie holiday grain, you changed on the hill past baker, grain of sand, ignored every star, folded every grain seared to any other voice once knew. never any other voice once knew just seared to darken lavender to night of the old new ooh ooh and the old new moon, wait a while, piercing through, her seizure closes, after an own aunt of mine, a triptych before the break like clear satin, microphone grain, fitted whisper like a crack and pin. in satin on fifteen rough edge surround me. you're breaking my heart. like clear satin thick water streamed out your mouth. the pitch of your transfer went from way up high. a man held your air in his hands till bright condensation ripped your voice back to the desert air before the broken fruit stand, it's a little alone, it's a little alone, the echo anticipate, the hard bloom underbreath, the album eruption. urge graphics bend grain and strife come turn the grain again grain, fifteen grain, her long secret road of hiding, surge and observation roland barthes wanda jean allen who was gene talking to if she wasn't talking to the ones who were enjoying her abjection and the prospect of her death and her death? the fourth and fifth fifths of oklahoma the video refusal the open thing partially the strife enjoy the I'm 'on' kill something the rasp and destiny of the servant girl the c-melody the trusted one the disavow and holiday and execute the disavow apologize the whispering objection kendall thomas jeanne moreau refuse the elevator to the falsify, arise arise. refuse the brand new scar and whole to mute the homily. close and track (hold and send, hold and send I lost you I love you, it's a little alone wave river wave savannah leave. arise between the wall and held. sent to refuse arise miles davis charlie jenkins for phase till one was left to let the others know. pass the underground song by hebron curve, ghost apron, haze but look ayonder keeping on. the last crop was rich and thin. that big but he was always just that small. lean miles against the wheel till one and here I am for elegy and underground, stride and suffer, spiced peaches, almost bent too far for one last strut, the protest and arrive. james brown or start with d end Aguszda Diaz. this is a social art to get the sound of the voice in writing. art of social development and phrase abstraction. relation to social reality is higher than any realism. but the sentence is an abstraction. so there are two, deformations, extensions, fragmentations and augmentations leading up to the twist and crusha these minimum standards in flame as ifah hhh (and thrust in big revolution, hidden drum unhhchun) for a treatise on the politics of sound henry dumas new air in marianna is aloft in mountain home. like ra the form is visible but it comes back curved but not eroded in the leaning air. soft in helena terrible in sweet home like a pearl but faded black. fishbone the fucked up globe desegregation band. fold sweet bird cold be free bass world new ground jailed eights, world's set. broke in small fly packs, change the move make deep come back, trace a pattern on the edge, a crack in universal city's magic fade along the track, black paladin, off and out to school. the holy sphere experimental band joseph jarman elvin jones, malachi favors, steve lacy on the one hand the right hand that the left hand is fluted. on the other hand I give away my hand, advance in touches, but she slowly in her shawl, half-flute full shell). stretched polyphone, the el on division continuing the city for an ell (thin line, yellow shimmers, thin line, evidence and cherry alexander weheliye, lygia clark, ed roberson the chance became a method. songspeak and the folded animals and the penetrated exile. tropical devotion in the form of deviant scholarship. the form for disturbing flowers shhhhh. lean to the secret whole in buildings. lena's airshaft. loss's party! sherrie tucker, francis ponge, sun ra where the universal girl from magic city, the pre-holiday gardenia, cultural student of perfect image perfect meadow? Please wait. pantomime daughters shriek inside out overdub, scar, swing before trumpet, flute, fade half-flute harfleur and cherry gary fisher  me and rodvan went for doubles and doubles. rodvan took me for doubles and doubles. doubles and doubles and doubles and doubles in alleys. told me a story bout him and his boys eating doubles and doubles. the alley was for beatings. excess invasions and secret tents, long puppets and wild meat. doubles and doubles of secret passage and doubles without accident. doubles and beatings and accidental revenue. dance all night in the basement for secret meetings. hold out your hand with gifts and open secret greetings. innings and innings and doubles and doubles and doubles. small sharp spice and paste of chick pea, roti plump like the palm of my hand, doubles and doubles of underground carolina. gather the ones who are looking for nothing but trouble in the new colonial office, everything stained with love and hate for the flavor of repeating. doubles and doubles and doubles.  people saying always already known reality and sometimes it's that you say some shit. this is Gary's performance Gary in the music too Gary on the scene and in the scene. Gary Fisher want you to be attached to this pocket totality and essence Gary Prince Gary Jacobs. blow the last autobiography of secrecy and reticence more wild than beloved with fever and grasping how he looked at this. can you? can't you? beautiful coming and going and passionate bind (on the one hand judy on the other hand), eve, my injury is always behind me singing prove it on me midnight sun, stomp, sugar, shoo bee doo bee I want to be free  how long you wait for everything is you. I fill the pitcher up. I sing in boxes.) me and Gary moved into the house you left and never saw each other again. Rodvan started jacking people up on the corner, syncopation like a housekeeper, welcoming. meanwhile I'm packing this bullshit up. on the other hand I think I'll make me a world. broke off the wide way up to the eloquence of gesture let your head turn, let your blush spread. but other than the barbarism of reading your own shame, sing, too, while we just laugh and come and laugh and run because we too baroque to pay attention yopie prins teddie hates that he loves jazz and loves that. june steals breath from breathing, totes air from tables, bangs by singing, friends with posing, oboes the burdened palisade.
robert farris thompson why everything got to mean something? you can too make up the real thing which ain't nothing like no letter, nothing fresh in the mind like a model, but the 'leventh eye like a reprograph reprobate ethnograph seen nine times, twelve times, move me, groove me like John Taggart. but your suit and stance are most too fresh as every atom making up the real like that in slipped penetration nouveau hear this afro afro afro music listen to some of this super black music welcome, philosophy! brent edwards as cleanhead vinson as bob o'meally, thorough dome. complaint, with threads then braid through grain (pump up the jam. break the jam. theory of the jam is brent edwards. of the mix before. the spray of the cross long echo. the mute and dream of all the time but off the track) and contrabass. grave sandals free alphabet carafe d'eau alphaville drone accent grave. restrain blue that queen mab (but kidd glove (oakland guards) or betty switch induce my friend's bright twitch! bessie smith seance open-lid eyes called back a long time longed long long driven hold for a redelivery and giving you back what you keep- or a parable or romance photographer unidentified give breath John's gala brightness of James through the snow of another village or strange on the other hand your shit comes so heavy satin shadow for song for circle for long longed up under two perfumes, hair shines so shows shone so that it comes so hard on you pierce so blunt that you off to the side for and turn smile long long say she move through the black velvet curtain
jean-michel basquiat so people would notice em M crown I just made that crossing out air myself. thank you ohhh but not that mood there (c) zhagged with accent sans teeth jagged atmettiene time is now never heard so much pretty music before like that. I was surprised and filled. you know it's got to be new york that makes you question all that noise and tires, baskets, pallets. all about what it means to slip in boxes what they move early at the docks boatloads and docks and fucked-up carfulls. now whenever I see her bounce/arm bend more free time. did you have shoes on in that VanDerZee portrait? there. M and crown. track of bricks. vixtory alice key [ENTER THE SCENE] the short stairs from room to room the increments of groups some people walking and a hand touches somebody's event, somebody's coat. step down rise behind that yellow sweater fadelike song. this a gallery of octagons and the band's a train of steps up open windows frames wide matting and low running maybe the edge of the water. the half grand up ahead, in the street I started, before your used to be, open door, unclean corners, lab, labyrinth of manchester, andy kirk, andy cole, chanting, canton, noon to noon [TO THE AFTERPARTY] the framed-up trip of her name the afterparty. I gotta make a call. it's a little alone, it's a little alone, this ain't my edge, this inside edge. I'm on the massed up rack of these sound events like edward, posing in your bathtub, holds the shaft with an ear for painting, one fold, auburn rough mobile and object through well formed: a moon mobile and object through well formed: a mood
james baldwin hey somebody, some jewels lined up like hard flowers. pull that one jump the hidden balcony the air get pierced and snared and soft down to the street and roll to Fanelli's. the booming walk of goods all over the buckled street like Fred Hopkins. towers peeking over the corner of temples. somebody's window is covered by a book with pictures. hollow circle and round edge scream and shatter the material. a whole buncha ribbons like a choir. you can walk through the bookshelf to a bloody corner: pull foner and that late wagon creak to the next dockery. a little dug out cave out there in the broughton settlement. the bow of a fiddle and broke tea cup. a quilt made of grass and big ol' legs 'sleep in the other room. they shot her twenty-three times and hit her twelve. woke up when her back collapsed but that's all over now. the white on black like glare ride the chute the old-new city: mama and Ms. Key an 'nem whispering. if the phone ring somebody's plan and stall that cut pause distended horn recall. this is the end of the open passage: sullivan, tunapuna, that late night pan and worker's party, the logical jam of their future in my present of not only his bridge but these other bridges too, the band spread out into the audience, the cook sitting at your table, a little hard beauty's swallowing eyes, home through the sharp rapidness of some notes.
Excerpted from B JENKINS by FRED MOTEN Copyright © 2010 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Fred Moten is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. He is the author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition and the poetry collections Hughson’s Tavern, Arkansas, and I ran from it and was still in it.
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