Michelle Tea shows love to The Armageddon of Funk in her column “Overdue Books!” on the RADAR Productions blog and guess what? I like that. You might like her sane rant in the same column on book covers and her plea to publishers to give writers the power to influence their cover art. Michelle will be practicing what she preaches by letting writers pick their cover art for the forthcoming Sister Spit Books imprint at City Lights Books. RADAR Productions was named “Best Literary Night” in 2011 and I am anticipating a 10-minute slot of my own on one of those nights. So keep your eyes peeled to this blog’s “Appearances” page for the particularities.
Ms. Tea writes:
“Poet Michael Warr’s Adrienne Rich-blurbed (score!) new poetry collection, The Armageddon of Funk, is full of life and death: people living with the scars life gave them, people dying of religion, living on public transit. It travels from San Francisco to Chicago to Africa to Stockholm, carried on the poet’s smart, observant, opinionated shoulders. Conversations with cab drivers, setting Clarence Thomas straight about what it is to be lynched, the passing of time wrapped in culture. This is a really strong collection, with A REALLY STRONG COVER! Look at how handsome a book can be when the publisher lets the author pick the artwork! Tony Fitzpatrick’s ‘The Oil Beast’ flicks it’s creepy-magical gryphon-y tongue at you, and the poet thanks him with a dedicated poem and lots of love and the bookshelves everywhere rejoice at the arrival of a hot-looking volume. If we’re going to fight the good fight against digital readers than publishers need to step it up with covers! So, get this book, enjoy the poetry and then turn it face-out on your shelf like the piece of art it is.”
As for the link between the poem “My Father’s Favorite Pastime” and Tony Fitzpatrick’s cover art I actually dedicated the poem to Tony at least five years before I asked him if the “Beast” could grace the cover of AoF. I have been privileged to have his art on the cover of all three of my books. He based the art for my first book of poems, “We Are All The Black Boy,” on the first eight poems of the original manuscript way back in 1991/92, when Tia Chucha Press was already empowering the exchange between poet, visual artist, and books.
“The Oil Beast” was the image that struck me when in early 2011 I visited tonyfitztpatrick.wordpress.com to see what the artist had been up to. When I left Chicago and returned to live in my hometown San Francisco in 2007, the last thing Fitzpatrick said to me was “Who is doing the cover for your next book? I’m doing the cover for your next book.” When I selected the “Beast” I had no idea it was part of his Katrina Series and that “No. 9” stood for the Ninth Ward. I would not exist were it not for New Orleans, where my parents met, and since many of the poems in this new book are what I call “poetic memoir,” becoming aware of that connection sealed the cover art decision for me.
The first poem in the AoF, “My Father’s Favorite Pastime,” is dedicated to Tony because of his devotion to the Sox. I am a baseball idiot. Don’t know a rpm from a vcr. Still one of my most persistant childhood memories is of my father taking me to a Giants game at Candlestick Park. I was in awe of the experience, of my father’s affection, and of our commonality with Willie Mays (read, listen to, or see the poem). It was also memorable when I tagged along with Fitzpatrick to Wrigley Field (“…the tabernacle of baseball…” which I think are his words) where he wears his Sox cap. We learned more about each other during that game than all the years we’d already known each other. I always come away from a baseball game with a glowing sense of comradery and community, of having shared something rare, while still understanding baseball no more than before I entered even the tabernacle.