Beat & Beyond: A Gathering Cento


I want to hear the poem! Read the fucking poem! 


I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and you cheated me out of it 

Dooka dooka soda cracker. Does your momma chew tobacco? 

Yuppies! Wittgensteins! Arise! 

Put your art up on the sidewalks in Tompkins Square Park, use the subway. Let the City be
    your gallery, your book, your stage
Just Say No to Family Values 


A man gently lifting the body of a dead child from the sea 

Are you breathing, are you lucky enough to be breathing? 

I have always been at the same time woman enough to be moved to tears and man
   enough to drive my car in any direction 

rapid the ooze in the clotted nothing 

O donut shop with rows of tasty zeroes
(You can leave this out)

Lookin good and movin fast 

You say you are leaving yourself behind. I stand beside you, waving  

If your momma chews tobacco. Dooka dooka soda cracker. 

Ordinary as chinchilla fur, ordinary as grasshoppers 

Get your cut throat off my knife 

In minutes the image gets a million likes, Instagram attention from those 

      who watch in warmth from rainproof homes. 

Rise up and abandon the Creeping Meatball 

Once this was all black plasma and imagination  

A jumble of ladders to reach us over the walls 

The stars are a memory system 

God makes an impenetrable screen of pure sky, pulsating, undulating, casual 

Sunrise in outer space/ love for every face 

Tell them the Blind Guy sent you

We gave a party for the gods and the gods all came 


Lines from Steve Cannon, Len Chandler, Diane Di Prima, John Giorno, David Henderson, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure, Margaret Randall, Ed Sanders.

Cento curated by Bob Holman


The Lines

  1. Steve Cannon, “The Only Paid Heckler in NY”
  2. Michael McClure,  “Ghost Tantras”
  3. John Giorno, Title of poem in Cancer in my Left Ball
  4. Len Chandler & Bob Kaufman, “Green Green Rocky Road”
  5. Joanne Kyger, title of poem in As Is
  6. Steve Cannon, “A Gathering of the Tribes Manifesto”
  7. John Giorno, Poem title & painting
  8. Diane di Prima, “Revolutionary Letters”
  9. Margaret Randall, “Not In Your Neighborhood"
  10. Hettie Jones,  “Weather”
  11. Hettie Jones, “Hard Drive”
  12. Ed Sanders, “Soft-Man 2”
  13. David Henderson,  “4th July”
  14. Joanne Kyger, 
  15. Hettie Jones, “Hotter than July, 1982”
  16. Margaret Randall, “You Say You Are”
  17. Len Chandler & Bob Kaufman, “Green Green Rocky Road”
  18. Michael McClure, “Double Lion Dharma"
  19. Diane DiPrima, “Nightmare 6”
  20. Margaret Randall, “Not In Your Neighborhood"
  21. Ed Sanders, Yippie flag, not allowed into evidence at trial of the Chicago Seven
  22. Michael McClure, Commissioned sidewalk poem, Embarcadero, San Francisco
  23. Ed Sanders, “The Time of Perf-Po”
  24. Diane di Prima, “Notes on the art of memory”
  25. David Henderson, “Eternity”
  26. Joanne Kyger, "Terrace Road slumps into the Canyon "
  27. David Henderson,  “Love in Outer Space”
  28. Steve Cannon, “Valediction”
  29. John Giorno, Painting



From Sing This One Back To Me

Sing This One Back To Me

How Kora Was Born

The Loving Father’s Song

From Picasso in Barcelona

Rembrandt Coupe

Book Cover


Sing This One Back to Me

As sung by Papa Susso to Bob Holman

Honeybee honeybee deep in the honeytree
Do not tell me to suck dry the tips of whip grass
Swan sway swan sway Ganges flows all day
Would you send me off then to the blasting seas?
Tale singer nightingale crooner carousing on the leaf drip
Who dares say, Excuse me, quiet please, eat dry leaf clippings
This robin rocking tail lit by the fullest moon
Try to redirect to fogbound swirl, see what happens to you
My feet on the lotus? No, my feet are the lotus! 
All God? Gosh, I was looking over at you – shh.
No need this talking, this poem so obvious, shh.

Sing this one back to me. 

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How Kora Was Born

As sung by Papa Susso to Bob Holman

This story begins long long long long long long long ago
So long ago that it was a place not a time
There was a man
He was so alone
The only person he could talk to was Africa
Luckily there was a tree nearby
Even more luckily behind that tree
That’s where his partner was hiding
All the sun and all the water were condensed
Into a single tiny block
Which the man planted in the sandy soil
He blew and he blew on that spot
Each time he blew he thought he heard something
What he was hearing was of course his partner singing
The man didn’t even know what singing was
Because he could only talk
He couldn’t sing yet
So he blew and he listened, blew listened blew listened
And the plant pushed out dark green
And began to twist and grow
A vine reaching for the breath
And stretching towards the song
(Because it was made from sun and rain, remember?)
So at the end of the vine that was the calabash
And the tree it was not a tree anymore
It was the neck and handles
That was when the man’s partner Saba Kidane
Came out into the open (but that’s another story)
And the breath and the singing and the vine?
Well, there are 21 strings, what do you think?
And now you say what about the bridge and the cowhide
And the rings that tie the strings to the neck
So you can tune the kora
Hey, what about the thumbtacks that hold
The cowhide taut over the calabash
And the resonator hole
Well you go right on talking about all that
I’m playing kora now
Next time I’ll tell you about the cow

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The Loving Father’s Song

Papa Susso’s Poem for His Young Children

Moussa, Kinda, Fatoumata, Sarjo, Abdullah
The first time a father tells his child
The child is nowhere to be seen

The second time
What is that strange buzzing I hear

The third time the child
Must go get something to eat

And then on the fourth time
The child starts to hear something

When I tell you it the fifth time
You say to me, Are you talking to me

And on the sixth time you reply,
What language is that you are speaking

By the time I have told you the seventh time
The words become a song and the poem becomes the kora

And you must learn it my little griots
And then you can repeat the story

And the story goes like this:

48 years I have been working, 
Spreading the word of the griot
Spreading the word around the world
And sending the money home to you

And Sankung is here
And Al Hassan is here
And Fatou is on her way
And Mariama is on her way
And Karamo is on his way

And I think I may be on my way
On my way back to the Gambia
To return to the griot life at the Koriya Musa Center
for Research in Oral Tradition at Sotuma-Sere

So my dear children
Who carry the word of the griot
From my father Alhaji Bunka Susso, jalikuntigi of the Gambia
Through me to you and back to the first Susso who made the first kora
I sing the song of the father who tells the children
It is time for them to begin
The new generation of which I sing
And which you will live and carry on
And buy each others’ tickets and pay for each others’ rent
And teach each other the ways of Africa, the US, and the world
And know this song is the loving father's Father Song

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Rembrandt Coupe

In 1900 the future
Opened up its arms
I invented the car
And Rembrandt

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Book Cover

Take off your clothes
I will make a book cover
And put a photo of me on the back
To make sure it sells

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Blown bit by bit to bits
Biting her vein one morning
While she slept the rooster
The terraces of Barcelona
Of course I know the red will
Seep will seep the sleep
But blue will blue to shape 

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