Transcircularities: New & Selected Poems


Much like the vibrant, riveting reading performances for which he is so well-known, Quincy Troupe’s award-winning poetry is pure rhythm and deep bass beats that barely stay on the page. This magnificent new volume captures Troupe’s voice stronger than ever as he issues celebratory and pointed statements on jazz, sports, love, art, literature, American life, and the sublimity of it all.

Winner of a Peabody and two American Book Awards, Quincy Troupe has published several books of...

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Much like the vibrant, riveting reading performances for which he is so well-known, Quincy Troupe’s award-winning poetry is pure rhythm and deep bass beats that barely stay on the page. This magnificent new volume captures Troupe’s voice stronger than ever as he issues celebratory and pointed statements on jazz, sports, love, art, literature, American life, and the sublimity of it all.

Winner of a Peabody and two American Book Awards, Quincy Troupe has published several books of poetry and two bestselling books about Miles Davis. He is a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California, San Diego.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A multi-award-winning veteran of performance poetry and of the printed page, California's first official poet laureate demonstrates his ebullient and undimmed powers in this capacious selection from his eight previous books of verse. Troupe (Weather Reports, etc.) got his start in the late-'60s heyday of the Black Arts movement, and that era's focus on speech rhythms and syncopations bore fruit in Troupe's striking early poems: "the kids of chicago have eyes that are older/ than the deepest pain in the world." Throughout his career Troupe has paid close attention to jazz, eventually penning two books of prose about Miles Davis; his verse returns continually to swing, bebop and free-jazz giants, imitating, commemorating or praising Coltrane, Duke, Bud Powell and others in a series of musicianly poems culminating in the recent "Back to the Dream Time: Miles Speaks from the Dead." Troupe's forms, driven by performability, range from ecstatic odes to overtly political expostulations. Recurrent topics include the poet's extended family; the nature of poetry as performance and praise; and the poet's sense of particular U.S. locales, from the Manhattan of early work to the California coast that provides the occasion for his most joyful new poems. Other new work continues Troupe's success in familiar modes of praise and prophecy. A memorial to an admired painter praises his "new kind of visual, tribal language,/ archaic & new, aural"; quips and rants describe "the way some crazed white people have attacked/ the entire world," while the extended meditation "9/11 Emergency Calls Coming into Manhattan" shows "what terror really is, really feels like, is the dread you are thinking of now." (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566891370
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Featured on two PBS poetry series, Troupe is the author of seven volumes of poetry including Transcircularities, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Minnesotabased Talking Volumes bookclub selection. In addition to children's books on Magic Johnson and Stevie Wonder, Troupe chronicled his friendship with Miles Davis in Miles and Me, soon to be a feature film.

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Read an Excerpt


New and Selected Poems
By Quincy Troupe


Copyright © 2002 Quincy Troupe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1566891353


Chapter One


With soaring fingers of flame
you descended from Black Olympus
to blow about truth and pain: yeah,

just to tell a story about Black existence.
Then the flames left your fingers and soul,
came winter you lay down
in cold snow
and was cool.

But during bebop-filled avant-garde summers
you weaved slashing thunderclaps of sound
weaved spells of hypnotic beauty,
blew searing extensions of sublimation.

Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions
Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions

Hurtling thru spacelanes of jazz
a Black Phoenix of Third World redemption.

eye say Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions
Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions

With immortal pure sounds of brotherhood
turning and churning inside you,
boiling and steaming and exploding,
until reaching a stratified piety
whose deity was universal truth

eye say Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions
Trane Trane runaway train smashing all known dimensions

In sheets of sounds of injustice
youpoured forth the bitter truth, the agony,
the pain, but making even that
seem beautiful too

J.C. J.C. John Coltrane, J.C. J.C. John Coltrane

You blew your fingers to smoking cinders
preparing for the "Ascension,"
blew beautiful sad death songs
on "Kind of Blue" mornings,
blew love on "A Love Supreme,"
now the ages await you,
beyond the infinite darkness
where the "Bird" of bebop slumbers.

But rage rage rage Coltrane!
Rage against the taking of a vision
Rage rage rage Coltrane!
Rage against the taking of Life!
For after Life eye know of no other vision.

And there is no guarantee
that one will follow bringing sight
to the place beyond my perception.

But eye concede to time/scarred myth of grand possibility.
eye concede to this, but to no more;
cause my life been filled with grand possibilities
but most have shut their doors.
But this be no mere cry of self/pity.
naw, eye don't look at life that way.

Eye am the pessimistic realist
who sees death as final and ugly;
waxed faces, unreal smells in mortuaries;
and flowers that rot upon mounded clay.

If Ojenke or Curtis Lyle were to die
eye would cry. Eye would remember times
that we ate and drank and laughed and chased
beauti/ful Black Women thru streets of Watts together.

Eye would remember new poetry
read in back rooms;
eloquent statements on the pig's inevitable doom:
bringing restoration of the waste of the people,
and that waste resurrected from the dance
upon smoking cinders of love.

Eye see death-as only eye can-
as a hushed kind of deep vast silence,
where roosters never crow
to herald the leaving of deadness,
where the clanking of chains is soundless
when dragged across the bottomless floor;
death is the infinite vigil beyond the door of Life:
death is the lengthening ocean of night
where there shines no light.

Yeah!-eye admit it!-death to me seems forbidding!
Descending into unexplored pits all alone;
pits of inescapable gloom where the air is heavy and dank,
where all flesh has fallen away leaving bones,
and soon the bones are no more,
only the crumbling grave/stone remains
to tell about who you were.

Death is weekends where great hornmen remain silent;
the "Bird" Lester Young Eric Dolphy Clifford Brown
except on ancient scratched-up records
on phonographs of old/timers
who lounge speaking of the good/old days
of dilapi/dated or polished rooms.

Those who followed you thru spring
thru summer thru autumn into winter,
those who watched you scatter the phalanx of jazz
and send them reeling and searching for cover,
those who remember your cry from "Round Midnight"
beauti/ful, esoteric, searing, when it flamed over
the entire sky, prelude to earth shaking thunder and fire
of "Equinox," these friends
who acknowledged your greatness quite early
will weep the hardest and the earliest.

Those who were familiar with your agony.
Those who were familiar with your pain.
Those who felt the hotness of manhood
surge like flames thru their veins, yeah!
these are the ones fear will not claim: they will cry;

"Kulu Se Mama" "Kulu Se Mama" "Ole" " Ole" Coltrane!
"Kulu Se Mama" "Kulu Se Mama" "Ole" "Ole" Coltrane!

Those who felt the prick of hypodermic death needles
hung off loaded in some shabby dark room,
who drinking wine and dying chased america's illusions
thru cold rank streets steeped in delusion
garbed in the evil mantle of white doom,

who sucked and fucked and jived and shucked
in strait-jacket tombs of insanity,
who came to the game in hopeless pain
and thought his mangled body to be the cobras fangs;
who died just to be doing something different.

Who were witch doctors of intrigue.
Who were voodoo/men of death.
Who were ghosts called hunger.
Who were men called sweat;
not men of "SEN-SEN" smelling death,
but men of halitosis smelling death!

Who shot "smack" to ease the pain
of rapes by savages of innocent Black Mothers,
who shot "smack" to ease the torture
of lynchings by white savages
of noble Black Fathers,
who shot morphine to ease the agony
of "Blondes have more fun" type Black spinsters.
These ebony maidens who are prostitutes of the soul
who hoped and groped thru the "Jackie" mystique
went plunging and decadent into the "Twiggy" mystique;
lost Black beauti/ful Women: chasing images of impossibility

while dancin and swingin to the down blues beat
of the philosopher of the Black masses, yeah!
James Brown James Brown Black Brown James Brown!
splendid rhythm of hips that sway
sing you not a song for the Trane?
sing you not a tune of lamentation
for this sacred bard, this jujuman-like you
whose song was about pain and love
and whose heart was very gentle with love?

And you Johnny Mathis, nightingale with the clearest of chime,
will you not croon the Trane a line
of love and enduring admiration?

And what of you conceited weavers of rhyme?
You Poets, spilling unfinished drinks
upon the carpets of these times
sitting mesmerized by cheap wine
writing: "It's time it's time to write those lines
but I'm too drunk to do it now,
I'll wait until tomorrow to do it,
but it's time, it's time."

And tomorrow coming and going
leaving unquenchable footprints of yesterday,

and you the fearless warrior-poet
lying stone cold dead in your lead head
gripping an unfinished poem to Trane in your head.

Death has no sympathy for the unfinished.
And of genius and greatness? it feels
not one way or the other.
It simply comes like the exalted thing that it is:
alone, and unescorted into any room-this room perhaps!
bringing news of dimensionless wandering.

Yeah Trane! I'm gonna weep for you!
As will Miles blowing sad songs of style!
As will Poets writing wondrously sad elegies cry!

Yeah! I'm gonna weep for lost and pain Coltrane!
But during moments of future clarity
eye will see you as Black John the jujuman,
Black Phoenix who soared sky high! and even beyond!
breathing love fire light upon a dark vast night
speaking about years of monumental human agony!

Trane Trane John the Baptist, Ohnedaruth,
immortal burning flame of Black jazz,
jujuman running wild over galloping Black Music,
eye give to you this poem of remembrance,
the most sacred gift this poor Black man has.

Trane Trane John Coltrane, you came and while here
breathed light love upon cold red sky
dripping with blood death and fire
so that Black music love
would not falter and die,

eye say rest rest rest Coltrane
Trane Trane John Coltrane
and sleep the deep sleep
of all the ages....

for Calvin Hernton


the earth is a wonderful
yet morbid place
crisscrossing reaping complexities
of living

seeking death

we go
with foot/steps
that are either heavy or light
(depending upon your weight

your substance)

go into light, or darkness
(depending upon the perception
of your vision)

we flounder, we climb
we trip
we fall
we call upon dead prophets
to help us


they do not answer

(we hear instead the singing in the leaves
the waves of oceans, pounding)

we see sheer cliffs
of mountains polished by storms
sculptured to god's perfection

we see the advancing age of technology
see soulless monsters
eating up nature's perfections
hear wails & screams
& sirens howling

but hear no human voices calling

we sit at the brink of chaos laughing
we idle away time
when there is no time
left us

we jump out of air/planes with no parachutes
we praise the foul mad/men of war
we are pygmalions
in love with cold, bleak stones

& aphrodite is not here
to save us
seeking death

we come to origins
forks in the road of indecision
shaped like wishbones
& we go down unknown roads
seeking light in an ocean
of pure darkness


journey if you can
to the far poles of the world
there you will find flocks
of sick birds
dying in the blue sea that is sky
you will find herds of animals
huddled together in the snow

against the cold
with no feeling or touch
of each other, no knowledge
no love, dying in the fierce
blowtorching cold
yet they graze eagerly
into seas of light
meeting darkness


& the mind is so wide
& wide again
so broad and deep
& deep, again
far down we go so slow
to find knowledge
sad songs of who we are
but go slow from here
from everywhere, effendi
go slow into sadness
of who we are
where we are
go slow into slow dance of what
you are
go slow into beauty
of space & time & distance
every breath that you breathe
for it is precious
go free into sun/lit days
fly free like old african ibises
confronting the wind
swim long in the currents of these times
like the dolphin
plunging through blue waves

for time is holy

& the faces that we see
upon the curl of the foam
of the fingered blue waters
are the faces of the world, sandstones
falling through hourglasses
& deposited upon these shores
& they are seeds
in need of nourishment
in need of beauty, requesting wisdom
are children of the universe, glissando falling
upon these death-littered shores
that are reefs breaking rabid waves
seaweeds that remind of varicose veins
peeping up through the skin of these transparent
shallows-churning red waters beating up against
savage rocks, spiked with bones-
surrounding these islands
where all life buries itself
under rocks & sand


we must investigate our bodies
we must investigate our sources of beauty
we must investigate our exalted images
the parade of decayed heroes that we cheer
that we help invent
we must probe & descend into life/styles
like surgeons seeking cancer
we must cut away with truth's scalpel
all verbose flesh, all diseased portions
we must fly free & weightless
as a summer breeze
to nests in truth's sanctuary


& the shell is bursting
from within
from without

& in order to go out
we must come in, again
so come in, come in, again
go out, go out, again
go out there now, effendi
to the sweet places

where the good folks gather
talk to everyone
for everyone is someone whose life is important to someone
to everyone
whose flesh is a/part of your own


so come in, come in, again
go out, go out, again

be beautiful for all people of the world

walk back into streets that are ours, effendi
walk back into hours & years carrying joy

go now, go now, go now

do your thang
do the righteous thang
for the world
for the world
to save the world
to save our children

to save yourself

Excerpted from TRANSCIRCULARITIES by Quincy Troupe Copyright © 2002 by Quincy Troupe
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Ode to John Coltrane 3
Poem for Friends 9
For Malcolm, who Walks in the Eyes of our Children 14
Come Sing a Song 19
South African Bloodstone 20
Profilin, a Rap/Poem 21
Midtown Traffic 24
Chicago 26
The Syntax of the Mind Grips 28
Weather Report in Lincoln Nebraska 2/8/71 30
White Weekend 31
Woke Up Crying the Blues 32
Vision 34
In Texas Grass 37
Three for the Biafran War 38
In Seventy-Five Syllables 39
In the Manner of Rabearivello 40
Dream Poem/Song 41
Rain/Time 43
Dream/Dance 45
Birds Fly without Motion to the Summit 46
Beneath the Bluest Sea 47
Embryo 48
Ash Doors & Juju Guitars 53
Up Sun South of Alaska: A Short African American History Song 54
These Crossings, These Words 57
Snake-Song Slithering Towards Evel 59
New York City Beggar 62
After Hearing a Radio Announcement 64
Steel Poles Give Back no Sweat 65
Snow & Ice 67
A Surrealistic Poem to Everyone & No One in Particular 68
From Richmond College, Postmarked - Manhattan 70
The Old People Speak of Death 73
Legon, Ghana, after Dark 75
Ghanaian Song - Image 77
Igbobi Night 78
Memory 79
Out Here Where 79
It Is Not 80
In a Silence of Bells 82
In Memory of Bunchy Carter 83
The Other Night 84
Flying Kites 85
Transformation 86
Fireflies 86
The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1984 87
Four, and More 89
Snake-Black Solo 93
Poem for Skunder Boghassian, Painter 96
Collage 97
My Poems Have Holes Sewn into Them 98
Skulls Along the River 103
South Central Vandenter Street Rundown 111
River Town Packin House Blues 112
Poem for my Brother Timmy 116
Old Black Ladies on Bus Stop Corners 118
River Rhythm Town 121
St. Louis Neighborhood 123
Whose Death Is This Walking 125
The Sky Empties Down Ice 126
Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, 1978 127
Eighth Avenue Poem 131
Poem for Lady Day & Dinah Washington 132
Image 133
Riff 133
Impressions 3 134
Impressions 8 135
Impressions 12 137
Impressions 15 138
Just Cruisin & Writin 139
Meeting 140
Harlem Late Night Lyric 141
The Day Strides There on the Wind 142
Memos & Buttons 143
Poem Reaching Towards Something 144
Las Cruces, New Mexico 146
It all Boils Down 148
116th Street & Park Avenue 150
A Poem for "Magic" 152
Leon Thomas at the Tin Palace 154
Untitled 3 156
Male Springtime Ritual 157
Eye Throw my Rope Tongue into the Sky 159
A Thought for You, Margaret 160
A Poem for Ojenke & K. Curtis Lyle 161
Southern Lyric; Ritual 163
Conjuring Against Alien Spirits 164
Passing on the Legacy 166
New York City Stream Poem 168
At the End 170
Perennial Ritual 173
Boomerang: A Blatantly Political Poem 175
Les Cayes, Haiti & Religions on Parade: 1984 178
In Jimmy's Garden 180
In Memoriam 182
Avalanche Aftermath 184
Porter, at 18 Months 185
Change 186
Simple Joys 187
Eye Walk 188
Tout De Meme - Nice & Malibu 188
21 Lines to Carnot, Guadeloupian Master Drummer 189
Poem for my Father 190
Poem for the Root Doctor of Rock N Roll 192
Reflections on Growing Older 194
Falling Down Roads of Sleep 195
Untitled 196
Following the North Star Boogaloo 197
The Sound, Breaking Away 203
Watch Out for Sound Bites & Spin Doctors 205
A Response to all You "Angry White Males" 206
Eye Change Dreams 209
Slippin' & Slidin' Over Syllables for Fun with some Politics Thrown in on the Side 212
& Syllables Grow Wings There 214
Looking at Both Sides of a Question 215
One for Charlie Mingus 217
Reflections 218
Collage 222
Avalanche 225
Let's Say You Are Who 228
The Absoluteness of Seconds 231
Borders: Improvisations on a Theme 232
Untitled 245
Chuckanut Drive, South of Bellingham, Washington 245
San Juan Island Image 245
Back to the Dream Time: Miles Speaks from the Dead 246
La Jolla 247
The Flip Side of Time 248
Flight 249
Stillness 250
Birth Form: Tercetina 251
The View from Skates in Berkeley 252
Song 257
Sestina for 39 Silent Angels 258
Forty-One Seconds on a Sunday in June, in Salt Lake City, Utah 260
Can You Chain your Voice to a River? 261
Gray Day in January in La Jolla 265
Time Line of Breath & Music 267
Two for the Piano Players at the Spruce Street Forum 269
Synchronicity in Bologna, Italy 272
Sighting Birds at the Beach 275
Mother 277
Jerez De La Frontera 279
The Point Loma Poems: Written for the Wastewater Management Project 282
The Point Loma Series of Halkus & Tankas 289
Your Lover's Eyes Speak 291
Come Closer 292
Broken in Parts: A Healing Song for Saxophone & Voice 293
Bells 298
Choruses 300
Words that Build Bridges Toward a New Tongue 305
In Remembrance of you, Italo 313
Bulletin from the Idiot Tube 317
Random Mishaps 318
Flying Predators 320
9/11 Emergency Calls Coming into Manhattan 321
Moving Toward the Open, the Light 327
Reconfigurations 329
Fragmented Solos, Patterns, & Textures; Other Worlds; The Paintings of Philip Taafe 331
Pulse & Breathe 334
What the Poetic Line Holds 335
One Summer View: In Port Townsend, Washington 336
Spring Day in La Jolla; 2000 338
Fast Lane 340
Memory, as a Circle 342
Shades of Blue for a Blue Bridge 344
Transcircularities 346
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