Philip Levine wrote unflinchingly and with nuanced craft about American working class life. Levine died on Saturday, February 14th, at the age of 87. Hear him talk about and recite his poem, “They Feed the Lion” at the National Endowment for the Arts website.
Read more on this elder and former Poet Laureate of American poetry, and his influence on poetry readers in this discussion in The New York Times. Levine’s work is known especially to our nation’s working class and immigrant writers who engage questions of labor, relationships and social justice.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Kafui Attoh, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies here at the Murphy Institute, to discuss his original spoken word piece “The Bus Hub,” among several other spoken word pieces he created eight years ago. “The Bus Hub” is a brilliantly executed and thoughtfully arranged piece in which Attoh transforms his field notes at a Bus Hub in Syracuse into a multimedia work of art. By setting his field notes to an originally composed acoustic guitar loop, he makes a broad and vibrant observation of this pocket of the Syracuse urban landscape come alive with a bustling energy that should be familiar to most any East Coast city dweller. The litany of bus routes which act almost as a refrain pull the listener into a frenetic and detailed space wherein the narrator and witness transfers his system of record into a report of place, space, character, language, custom and condition.
A transcribed version of the “The Bus Hub” as well as other perspectives on this piece can be viewed in the ACME journal.
A Dialogue Between Voice and Drums,” live at
The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY
on October 23, 2010.
“A firespitting evening with drummer Denardo Coleman, featuring a voice celebrated for her political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Cortez’s literary work and impassioned activism, inspired by the ideals of human dignity and social justice, have been called blues poetics, part of the foundation of hip hop and performance poetry. Denardo Coleman is a musician, composer, producer and drummer with the Ornette Coleman Quartet.”