Keep The Funk: Shootin’ Up Poetry in New Orleans
It’s August 1996 and I’m in New Orleans
standing outside The Howlin’ Wolf Club.
I’m here to produce yet another Beat Generation
spirited 48-hour non-stop music and poetry INSOMNIACATHON
and I’ve been burning up the road day and night
with no end in sight. I’m feelin’ burnt out, tired to the bone.
So I’m searchin’ for a fix of poetry to shoot into my blood
to rejuvenate my spirit. I’m calling on Bill Burroughs
and Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. But I haven’t found my
orgone accumulator my new poetry yet and my head
is hangin’ so low it’s draggin’ the ground. I’ve known nothin’
but failure lately. And I’ve been burnin’ the candle at both ends
so long there’s nothin’ left of me but smoke and ashes.
So I’m wonderin’ if the time has finally arrived for me to become
cinder for that long distance never endin’ railroad track
to nowhere. My spirit screams out for help and in a flash
I hear Allen Ginsberg whisper “Take a hand. Share the word.”
And out of the blue the poetry gospel starts flowin’
through my groin and my gut and my heart and my head.
And my oh my I jump and shout and sing. Yes, right in front of
The Howlin’ Wolf Club. I’m grabbed hold of by the poetry spirit.
And now someone’s singin’ and bangin’ on a piano.
So I open the door and peek in and lo and behold
there’s Dr. John doing double-note crossovers
and over and unders. He’s doin’ his
oola-mala-wala and ZU ZU YA YA.
He’s playin’ and speakin’ in tongues right here
in the middle of the holy New Orleans’ afternoon.
And out of the blue I find the poetry I’ve been lookin’ for.
I look up and there’s the full moon smilin’ at me
from over the Mississippi River and I think of Algiers
and Bill Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady
and I think of Neal’s flame gone gone gone.
His naked body lying beside those
long distance never endin’ railroad tracks to nowhere.
And I hope all the poets and musicians
performin’ at this 48-hour non-stop
music and poetry INSOMNIACATHON
hell I hope all of us
keep the funk
keep that fuck you flame alive.
Don’t let the system break you.
Don’t let life break you.
And I hear Dr. John playin’ that piano
and singin’ his boogie woogie end of the world blues.
And in that moment I know my reward
is in the experience of poetry.
And right here right now I’m in New Orleans
with all these poets and musicians who somehow know
the magical power of poetry.
The word sets us free.
And I think about Allen Ginsberg
and what he said about takin’ somebody’s hand
cause we’re all in this together.
We’re pullin’. We ain’t pushin’.
We’re lettin’ it be.
We realize that when one of us is lifted up
we’re all lifted up.
And I realize that Poetry is Life
and Life is Poetry.
And I feel an energy risin’ through me
growin’ strong comin’ from poets and musicians of all ages.
And I don’t feel like failure anymore.
I feel good. I feel strong.
I feel reborn into Poetry, into Life.
And it feels like resurrection, rebirth.
Rebirth into poetry.
Right here. Right now.
Keep the funk.
Shootin’ up poetry in New Orleans.
©2020 Ron Whitehead All rights reserved.
“I have long admired Ron Whitehead. He is crazy as nine loons, and his poetry is a dazzling mix of folk wisdom and pure mathematics.” – Hunter S. Thompson
Ron Whitehead’s Brief Bio: Poet, writer, editor, publisher, scholar, professor, activist Ron Whitehead grew up on a farm in Kentucky. He attended The University of Louisville and Oxford University. As poet and writer he is the recipient of numerous state, national, and international awards and prizes including The All Kentucky Poetry Prize, The Yeats Club of Oxford’s Prize for Poetry, and many others. In 2006 Dr. John Rocco (NYC) nominated Ron for The Nobel Prize in Literature. He was inducted into his high school’s (Ohio County High) Hall of Fame, representing his 1968 graduating class.
Ron has edited and published the works of such luminaries as His Holiness The Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, John Updike, Wendell Berry, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, BONO, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs, Rita Dove, Douglas Brinkley, Robert Hunter, Amiri Baraka, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and hundreds more.
Ron has produced over 2,000 Arts Events, Happenings, and Festivals throughout Europe and the USA. He has performed thousands of shows around the world with some of the best musicians and bands on the planet. He recently returned from a Scandinavia Tour with French rock band Blaak Heat and from two New York City trips where his new books “blistered asphalt on dixie highway: Kentucky Basketball is Poetry in Motion” was released by Finishing Line Press at the historic Poets House, and “DISOBEY” (with Jinn Bug) was released by Underground Books at The New York City Poetry Festival.
Ron’s work has been translated into nearly 20 languages. He is the author of 30 books and 40 albums. His newest books include MAMA: a poet’s heart in a kentucky girl (Transmission Press/Indiana), blistered asphalt on dixie highway: Kentucky Basketball is Poetry in Motion (Finishing Line Press/Kentucky), Quest for Self in the Ocean of Consciousness: Ibsen, Hamsun, Munch, Joyce: The Origins of Modernism and Expressionism (Cook Creative/Kentucky), DISOBEY (Underground Books/NYC), I’d Never Shoot a Man While He’s Washing Dishes: Arcturian Love Songs (Long Steel Rail Press/Kentucky), A TAOIST NUN TEACHES ME IN 14 DREAMS (Underground Books/NYC). His three newest albums (all three with sonaBLAST Records/Kentucky) are PRAYER, with Harry PIckens on piano and Aaron West on violin, THE STORM GENERATION MANIFESTO & Other Rock n Roll Poems, and DRAGONS, both with The Storm Generation Band. His next books, KENTUCKY BOUND: poems, stories, and songs (TransMission Press) and “Death Threats, Hunter S. Thompson and The Dalai Lama” (Underground Books/NYC), along with his next album, Songs and Poems from The KENTUCKY BOUND Concert (sonaBLAST! Records) will be released November 17th.
To book Ron Whitehead for performances, reading, speaking engagements contact:
919 Cherokee Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40204
502 396 5141
Ron Whitehead’s official website is http://www.tappingmyownphone.com