Book Review: Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing)

If you read books about music, as I do, then you likely know the name of writer Peter Guralnick, whose explorations of the blues, of Sam Cooke, of Sun Records, of Elvis, and many more go deeper than most books do to the heart of what music is and how strong the heart of performers beat.

In his recent collection of essays, entitled Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing), Guralnick keeps his attention on the music but also turns it on himself, too, as a writer who found himself on the music scene because of a passion and used his skills as an interviewer and a researcher to make visible the terrain of artists, particularly those from the South, and particularly those black artists whose work paved the way for rock and roll and modern music.

The book is a gathering of mostly shorter pieces, and some of the best take a look at the raw talent of Howling Wolf, the expansive innovative energy of Jerry Lee Lewis, and the soulful enigma of Solomon Burke, and much more. A consistent thread through the pieces here is the humanity and patience of Guralnick as he weaves in the stories and the impact these men (for they are all men that he looks at here) have had on American culture.

I also found the pieces about Guralnick as a writer intriguing, as he talks about his own feelings of inadequacy in talking with the musical greats he so admired, and how his father and grandfather (both doctors) supported his idea of being a writer at an early age, instilling confidence that following your passion will lead you somewhere (although sometimes, that somewhere is not always where you think your passion will lead you).

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

CLMOOC Postcards After the Pandemic

CLMOOC PostcardsCLMOOC is ramping up its regular Postcard Project, connecting folks around the world through the mail. The prompt to consider is: what will you take and hold onto when the Pandemic is over?

You can learn more about the Postcard Project here.

I have ten postcards about to be sent out this week and as I mulled over the question (prompted by our friend, Karen F), I began to realize there are some aspects of the lockdown life that will make sense as we move forward into somewhat normalized times again.

Peace (on the post),
Kevin

Book Review: Annotation

Annotation | The MIT Press

(Note: I was one of those people who took up an early invitation by the writers to add some thoughts via crowd annotation to an early version of this book)

Annotation and Curation seem to be critical skills and processes that might help us all thread together our disparate and often confusing online information flow in this modern age. When we annotate, we leave a trail of thoughts and discourse. When we curate, we pull those trails together in meaningful ways.

In the new book, Annotation, researcher/educators Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia (two people I know well from through the National Writing Project) explore the power of social annotation of texts through a variety of lens and make the case for a future in which our comments and conversations across platforms and texts could connect, and transform the way we think, learn, read and communicate with others.

Annotation Annotations

Comics made as annotation to Annotation

This small book from MIT Press has both historical references (the way annotations helped readers make sense or talk back to books in the margins of those books, that were then passed around communities) to the Talmud (religious text annotations across time) to the way annotation helps learners with reading comprehension and text questioning, through solo annotation (for oneself) and crowd annotation (writing in the margins along with others).

As someone who has used platforms like Hypothesis, Vialogues and NowComment and others to annotate with others on a variety of texts and media, and found the experience empowering and enlightening, I appreciated the many angles that Kalir and Garcia bring to the table in their book.

They raise critical and ethical questions of content ownership (does the writer of the text need to grant permission for online annotation?); whether platforms are texts and writing on those platforms, annotation (Is Twitter a text and tweets, annotations to that text?); how marginal voices might find a way to be heard amid so much noise of the world and power imbalance; and so much more.

Annotation will provide you with a deep look into how annotation has evolved into the digital age and leave you with the hopeful ideas that annotation has the possibility of pushing back against disinformation as well as becoming part of a larger quilt to reconnect our disparate online selves and words together, whatever the platform. And in doing so, Garcia and Kalir argue, the world might become a more interesting and more positive place to engage in with others, while solidifying your own presence.


There is a conversation underway about the book and ideas on Twitter with the #AnnoConvo hashtag.

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

 

 

Book Review: A Little Devil In America

I’d like to once again sing the praises of Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet and writer and podcast host, whose books, stories and essays — such as the ones that connect together in woven magic in his latest book, A Little Devil In America (Notes In Praise of Black Performance) — is insightful, emotional, unexpected and deeply attuned to the well of culture.

As a white, middle-class reader, I admittedly may not be his target audience here, as the world he unveils of Black dance, of Black music, and of family and neighborhood relationships is outside my own field of vision (the fault is mine, and maybe people like me, who too often fail to at least acknowledge the rich tapestry of the Black life beyond hip hop).

Abdurraqib’s expert creative command of language, of theme, and of connecting small parcels of story and history to a larger picture that then, quite suddenly and quite beautifully, narrows back to his own life at the end, in a scene between his brother and himself, is something to behold, and something to celebrate. Some chapters here read like poems and unfold like art.

What makes his perspective so interesting to me is his far-reaching love of music — from his discovery of the punk scene in his native Ohio to the emergence of Wu Tang in New York to a celebration of the artistry of Josephine Baker and Merry Clayton, and way beyond – and how he seamlessly shows how one can love a music, be part of that music scene, and still be separate from it, and how those conflicting elements, driven mostly by race, has long been at the heart of a conflicted America.

By the way, Abdurraqib’s podcast — Object of Sound — is also fantastic, as he chats with many creative artists on a variety of topics, some which resonate with this book and some with his other books. I still have to dig into his poetry, too.

Peace (sounding it out),
Kevin

A Jazz Poem for Mary Lee

Image found at Mary Lee’s Poetry Site

My friend, Mary Lee Hahn, is retiring and there are a bunch of people writing her poems today. I was thankful to be invited in. Mary Lee and I crossed digital paths years ago, and while our interactions come and go, I still read her poetry via blogs and RSS feeds and I get inspired by her teaching and sharing.

My poem for her came after the title of the jazz classic (Donna Lee) came to mind when I was playing around her name (Mary Lee) in my head. It’s a strange juxtaposition, I suppose, but the way Mary Lee riffs in her poems was the connection I was going for.

Bird probably wrote it
while Miles claimed it
but Donna Lee reached it:

that groove of notes
as sound poems, a skip dash dance
fluttering around the ear

I hear it forever in Mary Lee, too,
in every haiku or couplet;
she’s plundered

a dance dash skip
of rhyme and rhythm,
written wonder over years;

each verse of hers
a riff of hope:
how love overcomes fear

Peace (for a friend),
Kevin

Tagging #MarvelousMaryLee and #PoemsforMaryLee

Making MicroFiction (round one)

A friend on Twitter told me about a contest for 100-word-story MicroFiction, and that intrigued me, so I figured I’d give it a try. I’ve written what I have called Quickfiction before (also, flash fiction), and enjoy the constraints and creativity.

I even presented about this idea at NCTE one year:

The other day, the first round started up with a prompt (there are multiple rounds, in which finalists move ahead to a new prompt). There are quite a few people in the writing contest (nearly 7,000), with many “groups” (11o) that we are placed into. In my group, the genre was “horror” (not my favorite) and the action I had use was “shuffling cards” and the word I had to use was “wind.”

This is what I wrote:

A Game Of The Knight

Marina wiped blood off the face of the King. The card smeared with a streak across the eyes. She shuffled the cards and dealt out hands, ignoring the Knight’s chatter. It was getting more difficult for her to hold her cards as the darkness wore on. The Knight had won one hand and remained unscathed. She glanced at her cards, holding them close as wind rippled over the edge of the mountain. Marina played the King, feigning confidence, calculating how the game might proceed even as she slowly lost more of herself to the Knight.

Now I wait until July, apparently, to see if I make it to Round Two.

Peace (writing it),
Kevin