I just got critiqued, reviewed, commented upon, and paid attention to, by two talented, socially conscious, and highly prolific culture critics – D. Scot Miller and Wanda Sabir. I am happy to share both of their takes on The Armageddon of Funk (AoF).
D. Scot wrote a review for “The City Lights Booksellers & Publishers’ Blog,” where I have the privilege of sharing space with the poet giovanni singleton, author of Ascension. D. Scot skillfully navigates and contextualizes singleton’s work, writing “Concise, playful, and profound, Ascension promises a few discovery with every reading.” I urge you to read the full review titled “D. Scot Miller on Giovanni singleton & Michael Warr.”
Miller wrote of the AoF:
Adrienne Rich, who ascended this week at the age of 82, called Michael Warr’s poems, “the real thing,” and Warr’s latest collection, The Armageddon of Funk (Tia Chucha Press) proves yet another of her prophesies.
Through “poetic memoir” we join his navigation through the “apolitical,” rigid morality of his Jehovah’s Witnesses upbringing – and his father’s crisis of faith - in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point in “Then He Became The One”,
“Tracing wet footsteps to the bathtub we found our
mother’s Watchtowers and Awakes floating.
Pages of holy literature, our father baptized before
leaving for work, bled ink in their watery grave.”
We follow Warr through the revolutionary theories and free love of Black Panthers and Marxists; the promise of a bourgeois future from bank executives; a screaming soldier brandishing an AK-47 in his face, and on to a parched crisis in the Sahara in “Desert Lost (Leaving Timbuktu)”,
“Choked on petrol spiked with water,
by traders at Timbuktu, our Land Rover dies
in the desert, where Exxon is an illusion.
A barren landscape shifts into trees
as hologrammed-Africans wave us into
the inferno on foot.”
And further, to a man who has lived an exciting life as a poet, mostly watching and listening; excavating the gems of his experiences. The adventure lies not only in the settings and sights of Warr’s remarkable life, but in the telling. The title poem, for example, is an evocative list covering over fifty years of American history from “Watts rebels” and “Ginsberg Howls” to “Howl turns fifty” and “Voting rights are extended another inadequate quarter,” all tied together by a nut paragraph that simply says, “My only worry, at ten years old, is what will happen to the world if James Brown dies?”
As a kid who used to worry about the same Armageddon, I’m looking forward to the day I can create such a list, and such a chronicle, with as much black grace, fierce wit, and hard-fought compassion.
Wanda Sabir and I took off on an expansive exchange that covered such seemingly disconnected subjects as Hegelian philosophy, rape, Chicago as a center of black revolution, Robert Mugabe, broken chocolat, and more on her internet radio program “Wandspicks.com.” All of those topics were connected because they are encompassed in The Armageddon of Funk. Sabir wrote the following after the interview:
Warr’s book is separated into cryptically. One poem might tell the story of a lifetime or several as is the case in Scars (21) and Street Signs, Convolutions, and other California Coincidences (24-25), which looks at four lives and a scarred resiliency that resurrects. Many of my favorite pieces in this collection have to do with the inside out nature of Warr’s trajectory whether that is “Man within the Boy” (19) or “Warriors” (56-57), “Hallucinating at the Velvet Lounge” (45) or a praise song for the muse in “Her Words,” for Gwendolyn Brooks (46-47) and “Duke Checks Out Ella As She Scats Like That” (69-70).
Covering a lot of territory linearly and spatially, one wishes for an annotated walkway. Yes, I can appreciate the Warr’s sojourn, yet when I hear how high the mountain, how steep the cliff, how wet the road, how precarious the meal–I want to know what the words reflect in a pool competing with passing clouds.
I am missing a lot. . . . Poetry, while vivid pats itself on the back for brevity–Warr’s work screaming so much more (smile). This is another reason to see him live, then one can ask the poet for the back story hanging out in the wings.
It was interesting hearing Michael talking about his relationship with the publisher of his books (3), Luis Rodriguez and his friendship with Patricia Smith, both poets just out here not long ago and both hailing from Chicago, where Warr lived for quite some time. Both friends sent Warr messages that he was one of the winners of The Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards, “Honors Books for Poetry Award, an award which has not included poetry before now. The conference is in Anaheim this year in June. I was even more intrigued when “Comrade Warr” spoke of interviewing the soon to be president of Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia.
One can take nothing for granted in Funk. It is certainly a book that reflects a journey the poet has trod. The Armageddon of Funk takes us there and brings us back. It is often hard to hold onto one’s breakfast as the bungee cord rips us across the Sahel and its multiple tributaries often traveling in counter-intuitive patterns. Rivers flowing up instead of down.
Warr’s writing lends itself to the natural rhythm of language melted between two chunks of chocolat”[his] alchemy changing [us] from stone into sugar” (63). It’s the nommo in us, the space between Armageddon and Funk that we are born (again).
D. Scot Miller is a Bay Area writer, visual artist, teacher, curator. He sits on the board of directors of nocturnes review, and is a regular contributor to The East Bay Express, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Popmatters, and Mosaic Magazine. 2011 San Francisco Arts Commission recipient for AfroSurreal San Francisco Project, Miller is author of The AfroSurreal Manifesto and is completing a book of AfroSurreal poems, and his Afro-surreal novel, Knot Frum Hear.
Wanda Sabir is a Bay Area activist, journalist, and creative writer–poetry and fiction. She host a bi-weekly radio show, publishes a monthly African Diaspora-centered calendar, and reviews film, theatre, literature and performance art via: wandaspicks.com. A columnist in the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper where she is Arts Editor, she has covered the arts scene for over 25 years. She is primarily interested in art for social change. She believes artists are the true revolutionaries, their work filled with raw uninhibited passion. She co-founded MAAFASFBayArea.com 17 years ago; it is an on-going healing ritual for people of African Descent. Her daytime gig is teaching composition to community college students.