From the ground up I am a fighter and a worker. My work is born of an older world, of people in touch with the earth, connected by spirit, moved by planets and moon. People with their hands in the dirt, people who fight to protect their relationship to the land and water. I never saw myself becoming a writer. I wanted to live so viscerally there would be little time for writing. And so I have: I swaggered and quested from the rustbucket womb of Detroit through military intelligence and dissident vagabondage and into the arms of New Orleans. But the need to document this rough life and to communicate the body’s wisdom from an underbelly perspective has driven me to find a shorthand of essential reality. Poetry dawned on me, especially in the years when I was hopping freight trains and tree-sitting ancient redwoods, cedars and doug firs. It has always been poetry with purpose. I started to have an inkling of the magical power of word serving community. As I have researched and learned, I’ve come to see myself in the lineage of druids, bards and griots of the past. Most of my skill is employed live, one on one, on the stage, in the street. But it is also the poet’s craft to sit well on the page, and channel the rage into a touchstone for coming generations.
Recently I have channeled this fiery tongue through the archetype of the Loup Garou, a Louisiana living legend of wolf people; tragic martyrs of the land, sin-eaters and scape goats. The performance piece had great impact here in New Orleans and toured the east coast and as far as Novi Sad, Serbia. The text of the piece became my first published book. It has led to my involvement with another tale of land loss and cultural disappearance in South Louisiana which will debut in October 2013 entitled, Cry You One.
Prior to that Hurricane Katrina lent an urgency to my poems of the city in the form of a poetry album entitled Illusion Fields, produced by Mark Bingham of the fabled Piety Street studios. I worked with over twenty musicians on that album and it has opened doors in the musical world for me. Being of bardic lineage, poetry and music coexist well in my work. This recently led to my inclusion as the only verbal collaborator in a documentary and album entitled Liquid Land, produced by Simon Berz and Michelle Ettlin, as well as a tour in Switzerland this winter. As much as it was a great honor to collaborate with these innovative jazz contemporaries, my heart still beats to Detroit rhythms and so I have finally picked up an old Danelectro guitar and joined forces with a few toughs from the neighborhood to form a rock band in the traditions of Gang of Four, Patti Smith and the Stooges. I’ve been honing my abilities to improvise whole songs with lyrics, melody and transitions all included.
There’s a litany of other work from my curriculum vitae: publications like Constance and Howling in the Wires, acting stints in Threepenny Opera and Sweeney Todd, playing bass on an Ed Sanders album, chapbooks and festivals and residencies and teaching gigs. It’s all work, it’s life. I’m not too interested in the accolades.
All this creative fire still hearkens to an ethic of proletariat pride. I still make my living by working construction or tending bar or washing dishes. I expect for most of my life it will be the same. I do feel a responsibility to get the work out there in the world, to complete the creation in book form or as a produced play or an album. I am concerned with the application of poetry, as well as the fine lyric and the spiritual root. I like what this craft is doing to me. It hurts, but I like it.