Sunday, May 6, 2012

Art Invitational May 18 for Soyinka's "Ever-Ready Bank Accounts"

Poetry Scores' Spring 2012 project is Ever-Ready Bank Accounts by Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate in Literature from Nigeria. As Professor Soyinka told The Alton Telegraph, Poetry Scores is "a very special celebration of creative collaboration."

On "special" for you this spring:

* Andrew Torch is guest co-curating an Art Invitational to the poem at Mad Art Gallery (2727 So. 12th St.) 7-10 p.m. Friday, May 18 (it's also a silent art auction)

* meanwhile, the three-man orchestra bicycle day from our sister city Istanbul is scoring the poem on our commission. We plan a vinyl LP release in Istanbul, with digital downloads in St. Louis and everywhere else.

"Ever-Ready Bank Accounts" began its life as a prison poem, first published in Wole Soyinka's collection of solitary detention poems, Shuttle in the Crypt (1972). Soyinka endured a very peculiar, sub-legal incarceration in the turmoil surrounding the Nigerian Civil War. This story is told for all time in his prison memoir The Man Died (also 1972), to my taste one of the 20th century's most bravura performances in prose.

I reread The Man Died recently on an exploratory Poetry Scores mission to Hilo and Honolulu, Hawaii. I'll aim to blog about it while we're producing the Soyinka project. Here's a first post:

The Man Died reads as a composite text, where a free man has drafted new thoughts over the often desperate and at times crazed scribbles of an unjustly detained man. I remembered that he scribbled new thoughts between the lines of the few books he had with him during his captivity, but I was amazed to see one of the books in which Soyinka wrote his prison poems and journal was Primitive Religion by Paul Radin.

Paul Radin! Paul Radin has a spot on the shortest short list of Poetry Scores' ancestors. Radin did all the original ethnography on The Winnebago Indians, whose migrations used to include the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the source of our home city, St. Louis.

The Winnebago's startling trickster cycle concludes at the river confluence. We know about that today thanks to Paul Radin, who in The Trickster left us (in my personal opinion) America's greatest prose (ethno)poem. I borrowed my first copy of The Trickster from Heather Bascom, who had an enormous influence on the rocks bands from which Poetry Scores evolved.

I have read most of everything Paul Radin did on The Winnebago. You could poetry score all of it, actually. Our rock band Three Fried Men scored a fragment of The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian, Radin's as-told-to Sam Blowsnake memoir. Here is that song.

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