Allison Adelle Hedge Coke curates poems by writers who have influenced her own writing through their creative leadership, mentoring, or poetics of belonging. She introduces Juan Felipe Herrera’s invitation to a spirit of generosity and care (“Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way”), Quincy Troupe’s musically attuned tribute to his father (“Poem for My Father”), and Arthur Sze’s transformative vision that unites intelligence with grace (“Adamant”). To close, Hedge Coke reads her poem “Ghost,” acknowledging the role voices from the past can play as educators for the living.
You can also watch a celebration of Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas (2011), an anthology edited by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, on Voca.
Julie Swarstad Johnson:
[00:00:02.70] Thank you for joining us today for Poetry Centered, the podcast that features recorded poetry readings from Voca, the audiovisual archive at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Each episode features a contemporary poet who curates and introduces selections from the archive. I'm Julie Swarstad Johnson, here to welcome you to the show.
[00:00:25.05] Our host today is Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, poet, writer, scholar, distinguished professor at UC Riverside, and the author of numerous volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Burn. She's also edited numerous anthologies, including the Effigy series, gathering work by indigenous writers of North America and the Pacific. In this episode, Allison shares work by Juan Felipe Herrera, Quincy Troupe, and Arthur Sze, poets who have educated and influenced her through their creative leadership and the belonging they create for others.
[00:01:02.05] Allison closes with an evocation of another kind of educator, the ghosts who linger with us. Allison, thank you so much for guiding us today.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke:
[00:01:13.89] Allison Adelle Hedge Coke recording at Kaimuki, Oahu. Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way, Saturday, March 14, 2009. This poem feels like a keystone, a poetry, a milestone of poetic rich with words in song and story throughout dozens of books and recordings. A call for us to come together with abundance and love. It is an early hint of the force that would be gathering all of us poets, workers, thinkers, players, learners, teachers, all of us together to do more, to see more, to taste and to experience more. To breathe and to bless more.
[00:02:01.28] It is a landmark and a wave to ride upon this poem. Juan Felipe Herrera is a laureate of laureates, poet's poet, a fantastic poet leader, and the times we moved through. Herrera, is for me, and so many others, a gift that continues to make offerings that delight and encourage us no matter our pain. He's forgiving of all of that and helps us to transcend what it is to rise again together. He's a gatherer, a leader, the real deal.
[00:02:34.31] Come into this poem with a heavy heart and leave it with lightness. That is the gift you will connect to here. This is Juan Felipe Herrera reading Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way.
Juan Felipe Herrera:
[00:02:52.15] Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way. It's like 1970. Let us gather in a flourishing way, and this is I think what we're all doing today, and Patty and Chris and the whole team and the press is doing and all the writers. And my nephew, Jesus, and all of you here today.
[00:03:17.86] Let us gather in a flourishing way with sunluz grains abriendo los cantos que cargamos cada día. En el young pasto nuestro cuerpo para regalar y dar felize perlas, pearls of corn flowing, árboles de vida en las cuarto esquinas. Let us gather in a flourishing way contentos llenos de fuerza to vida. Giving nacimientos to fragrant rios dulces frescos verdes turquoise strong carne de nuestros hijos rainbows.
[00:03:53.41] Let us gather in a flourishing way en la luz y en la carne of a heart to toil tranquilos in fields of blossoms juntos to stretch los brazos tranquilos with the rain en la tranquilos with the rain en la mañana temprana estrella on our forehead. Cielo de calor and wisdom to meet us where we toil siempre in the garden of our struggle and joy.
[00:04:18.73] Let us gather offer our hearts a saludar our águila rising freedom. A celebrar woven brazos, branches ramas. Piedras nopales plumas piercing bursting figs and aguacates. Ripe mariposa fields and mares claros of our face to breathe todos en el camino blessing seeds to give to grow maiztlán en las manos de nuestro amor.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke:
[00:04:55.80] Poem for My Father, Friday, April 27, 2001. I chose this poem, a tribute, Quincy Troupe wrote for his father, Quincy Trouppe Senior, an all-star catcher in the Negro leagues as it is their 100 year anniversary. They were giants then, and their legacy remains so today. As always, Troupe, whose own name gives us a sense of touring, of motion, brings us keen perspective of identity and breaking out into stylistic maneuver.
[00:05:30.71] His original, what I call his running style of writing, like Miles Davis' playing, like calligraphers developing a new method of highly stylized writing, like those ballplayers serving up the madness of life in a field game ending at home plate. Troupe and his tremendous artistic movement through the world has a poetic that is more than adventure. It actively familiarizes us with each entry, giving us an amic belongingness in the saturation of beingness. Something Troupe definitely delivers.
[00:06:05.56] Informs us, delivers us. We pass the information into a realm. We are immersed in the feeling. It's music. He homes us. In this poem, Quincy Troupe brings us into his father's world, ways and the coolness of a father's presence to his child. Troupe is an influence who has given me a grip on poetry I'm truly grateful for.
[00:06:33.54] I was raised by my father in his complex and wild tributes and immediate kick for me. The realness of it, like a dance, we are deep within. I love it. Let yourself unwind fully and escape into the scene playing out here while you take it to the bleachers for his brave performance by Quincy Troupe of Poem for My Father.
[00:07:04.03] And now, [INAUDIBLE] read one for my father. This is in honor of Charlotte because she's from Saint Louis and so I thought I would do this. My father was a great baseball player and he played in the old Negro leagues. One of the most famous baseball players to come out of that time, probably the second greatest catcher of all time in the old Negro leagues. And so this poem is kind of set in the late '40s.
[00:07:26.40] Poem for My Father for my father Quincy Trouppe Senior. The other thing is all the films that you see on the Black baseball league, whenever you see any of those films, they're my father's films. He took those home movies.
[00:07:40.59] Father, it was an honor to be there, in the dugout with you, the glory of great Black men swinging their lives as bats, at tiny white balls burning in at unbelievable speeds, riding up and in and out a curve breaking down wicked, like a ball falling off a high table.
[00:07:58.15] Moving away, snaking down, screwing its magic into chittlin circuit air, its comma seams spinning toward breakdown, dipping, like a hipster bebopping a knee-dip stride, in the Charlie Parker forties. Wrist curling, like a swan's neck behind a slick black back cupping an invisible ball of dreams. And you there, father, regal as an African, Obeah man, Obeah man. Sculpted out of wood, from a sacred tree, of no name, no place, origin.
[00:08:27.31] Thick branches, thick woods branching down, into Cherokee and some place else long. Way back in Africa, the sap running dry crossing from North Carolina into Georgia, inside grandmother Mary's womb, was your mother, and had you there in the violence of that red soil. Ink blotter news, gone now, into blood and bone graves of American blues.
[00:08:50.56] Sponging rococo truth long gone as dinosaur. The agent-oranged landscape of former names. Absent of African polysyllables, dry husk, consonants there now, in their place, names, flat as polluted rivers. And guitar string smile always snaking across some very virulent, American, redneck's face scorching, like atomic heat, mushrooming over Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
[00:09:15.82] The fever blistered shadows of it all, inked as body etchings, into sizzled concrete. But you, there, father, through it all, a yardbird so riffing on bat and ball glory, breaking down the fabricated myths of White Major League legends, of who was better than who. Beating them and their own crap game, with killer bats, as Bud Powell swung his silence into beauty of a Josh Gibson home run, skittering across piano keys of bleachers.
[00:09:45.04] Shattering all manufactured legends up there in lights, struck out white knights, on the risky slippery edge of amazement. Awe, the miraculous truth sluicing through steeped and disguised in the blues, confluencing like the point at the cross when a fastball hides itself up in a shimmie, slider, curve breaking down and away in a wicked, sly grin. Curved and broken down, broke down the back of an ass-scratching Uncle Tom, who like old Satchel Paige delivering his famed hesitation pitch before coming back with a high, hard, fast one, rising, is sometimes slicker, slipping and sliding, and quicker like a professional hitman.
[00:10:26.35] The deadliest of it all, the sudden strike like that of a brown bomber's crossing right of Sugar Ray Robinson's, lightning, cobra bite. And you, there, father, through it all, yeah. Catching rhythms of Chono Pozo balls, drumming, like Cuban conga beats into your catcher's mitt, hard and fast as cool papa bell jumping into bed before the lights went out of the old Negro baseball league, a promise, you were father, a harbinger, of shock waves, soon come.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke:
[00:11:08.29] Adamant, Thursday, November 14th, 2019. I made a direct request to Arthur Sze for this next poem. I'm exceptionally thrilled Sze has a new and collective works with Copper Canyon press, The Glass Constellation. This poem will be included within it. I first read Adamant in his 10th book Sight Lines. A gorgeous collection.
[00:11:35.34] Arthur was my first poetry mentor. His teaching and his work changed my life, literally gave me direction. I'm a better person from having met him in the time I did and having learned so much from him during the two years I studied with him and all the years following. There's not another poet like Arthur. He's a rare human. A deep and graceful poet whose intelligence and sense of curiousness of everything surrounding us is often coupled with the stark realities of human existence, with geographies and physiological presences we're born from and collide into.
[00:12:18.66] And the science of our beingness and its beauty hold us like some cosmic glue to find luster in everything, no matter the pain. Somewhere in this poem, you're likely to find yourself. Hold on tight. The lift there it's like tumbling rocks. Here's Arthur Sze reading Adamant.
[00:12:45.84] Adamant. Deer browse at sunrise in an apple orchard, while honey locust leaves litter the walk. A neighbor hears gunshots in the bosque and wonders who's firing at close range. I spot bear prints near the Pojoaque River but see no sign of the reported mountain lion. As chlorophyll slips into the roots of a Cottonwood and the leaves burst into yellow gold, I wonder, where's our mortal flare?
[00:13:32.25] You can travel to where the Tigris and Euphrates flow together and admire the inventions of people living on floating islands of reeds. You can travel along an archipelago and hike among volcanic pools steaming with water and sulfuric acid. But you can't change the eventual, adamant body.
[00:14:01.83] Though death might not come like a curare-dipped dart blown out of a tube or slam at you like surf breaking over a black lava rock, it will come. It will come. And it unites us, brother, sister, boxer, spinner, in this pact, while you inscribe a letter with trembling hand.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke:
[00:14:39.72] All three of the poets we just listened to have educated me greatly and have influenced me profoundly in this time. So too have other voices, including tremendous voices from past times, sometimes their ghost lingers still and they, too, educate. This next selection is one of a chorus of ghost that appear in my fourth book of poetry, Blood Run. A verse play that I pressed with Salt Publishing in the UK.
[00:15:16.67] The effort was composed during a long fight to protect the site and served as some of my testimony that succeeded to conserve and create Good Earth State Park.
[00:15:34.22] Ghost. With red winged Blackbird grace we raise red grass as we pass over. Field, hill, meadow. To swirl our motion, wobbles, leaves causes scarlet bee blossom pimpernel, tall grass to swing as if they run. We swirl loose dust, white, red, fine powder, live sparks, and afternoon sunlight. This familiar rustle has been known since time and this world began. Leaves amaranth, goose foot, lamb's quarters, knotweed, and niece. Reed tobacco if you meander long. Some of us have skeletons nearby.
Julie Swarstad Johnson:
[00:16:35.52] Allison, thank you so much for sharing those poems with us today and leading us to reflect on the ways that influences and educators shape us. Listeners, we're grateful to be here with you. Two weeks from now on April 7th, we hope you'll join us again for an episode hosted by Peggy Robles-Alvarado. Thanks again and we hope to be with you soon.
Diana Marie Delgado:
[00:16:57.24] Poetry Centered is a project of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, home to a world-class library collection of more than 80,000 items related to contemporary poetry in English and English translation. Located on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, the Poetry Center Library and Buildings are housed on the indigenous homelands of the Tohono O’odham people. Poetry Centered is the work of Diana Marie Delgado, that’s me, and Julie Swarstad Johnson, with support from
Diana Marie Delgado:
[00:17:27.81] Explore Voca, the Poetry Center's audiovisual archive online at voca.arizona.edu.