We’ve recently added two episodes of The Writing Life, one featuring Sekou Sundiata and the other Edward Hirsch, to the growing HoCoPoLitSo YouTube channel.
In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life”, poet and cultural historian E. Ethelbert Miller talks with poet and jazz musician Sekou Sundiata. Both men grew up in East Harlem housing projects, and Sundiata says the many cultures and voices of that neighborhood are heard in his poetry. The “citizen poet,” as Sundiata calls himself, arose in the 1960s and 1970s, when he started writing activist poetry, poetry that appeals democratically to many. Sundiata explains that he and his band arrange the music and the poetry he authors in a synergistic way. “Poetry is part of the music itself,” Sundiata says. The music and rhythms of the black church experience, as well as blues, affect his work, he says. “For me, the blues is a philosophical stance.” His poetic influences include Gil Scott Heron, Amiri Baraka and Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose “Naked History” album is poetry and music people can live with, a goal Sundiata looks to attain with his own work.
On this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life,” poet Michael Collier and mid-westerner Ed Hirsch huddle in shirt sleeves to talk poetry. Not only American, but international poets he read in translation, says Hirsch, enable him to discover his vocation. From his fifth book of poems On Love, they consider “The Poet at Seven,” “Colette,” and the moving “Ocean of Grass.” Recorded in 2000, the show features the pair discussing Hirsch’s seminal nonfiction book, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry.