QPR Book Review
A Betty Carterian be-bop mumbo jumbo romp to a four-to-five verse orchestra.
I have reviewed two of George Edward Taits’s books of poetry over the years:
At War and
At Arms. For over two decades, I've witnessed him read several times (he actually never reads but recites from the remembrance of his soul) at various venues, from
libraries to community events; in fact, he was the featured poet to welcome Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe during the statesman’s visit to Harlem last year.
Tait’s latest offering,
The Baker’s Dozen: Selected Dance Poems of george Edward Tait, announces a culmination of the bard’s long journey of nourishing and cultivating prose until, finally, he has gardened what might be his most beautiful blossoms of words.
That is what Tait has been doing over the decades: fine tuning words into Betty Carterian be-bop mumbo jumbo verses and striving to make his words swing to the romp of a four-to-five verse orchestra. Published by Dance Giant Steps, Inc. and enhanced with illuminating illustrations
by Sir Shadow , The Bakers Dozen hoodoo hollers (and whispers) praise songs to continental and diaspric dance as an omnipresent, vital current in the muti-dimensioanl flow of African life – yesterday, today, tomorrow, to eternity.
‘Dance of Destiny’ (for Akousa Tait) is the one of two porems that reveals his tender, sensitive side. We certainly have witnessed his Zulu characteristics in
At War and At Arms. In some of those poems, the woman of his heart had to compliment his martial spirit; however in
‘Dance of Destiny,’ written for his wife Akousa, we get a seasoned soldier who realizes that one must make time for personal moments of peace for ones self and mate. Listen to his Smokey Robinson-like love chants on the dance floor of love:
Give me your hand, my dear
And let us dance
into the dawn of destiny
A dawn without a
dusk, my dear
Let the cosmos
contrast of our continuum
And let us dance
our duet on the
I read ‘The Bakers Dozen’ twice; once silent, and the other time aloud, as suggested by Dr. Lonetta M. Taylor Gaines in her introduction. I enjoyed the silent read, but reading it aloud was more dynamic. Reading ‘At the Ball’ is about partying at a dance hall, and
the first three or four lines leads to that conjecture:
Before the ball
The dance floor waits
A hardwood anticipation of
Then the dancers appear:
It is not until the later verses that the reader discovers that the poet is choreographing and excellent basketball game. One can almost hear the screeching of sneakers, the husky grunts of big men with swan-like moves as they leap and run with an awe-inspiring
beauty captured on the poets moving canvass:
The dancers dance
From pick and roll patterns
to post-up pyrotechnics
From sliding screen
set-ups to slam-dunk shockers
From anecdotal assists
The dancers dance
basics and the
It is in ‘Move-sicians’ that the poet speaks volumes to the value of dance in the struggle of African peoples for human dignity. European and euro-American dance is too often funeralized in its movements – an on-stage, public opportunity to display sexual parts in
leotards. In ‘Move-sicians,’ the poet notes that dance makes African peoples’ universe come alive. The beat of the dancers hearts and pulsating percussions are one; dance movements becomes a living entity in their marriage, out of that wonderful, soul-stirring celebration of that
marriage, the people are reborn and reenergized. Dance – African dance is one with life: it’s in prayer, work, war, marriage, birth, death.
As sunwater tempos and timeless
While the cosmic pulse of a sacres past
Rises into selfless possession
As the drumbeings dazzle
& make art the alter ego
The Bakers Dozen is a continuation of Tait’s warnings that the white collective’s war on African peoples must be resisted. Culture is a major weapon used by the white collective to instill inferiority in Africans, destroy their
self-respect and their titanic potential, to mis-educate, incarcerate, and to perpetuate mentacide (mind kill). Tait, in
The Bakers Dozen, reminds us that dance is one of the cultural tools that Africans, consciously or unconsciously, use to express and inspire the
protracted struggle against the white supremacist war declared by the white collective.
Yusef Abdus-Salaan is the author of
Killing Sam, a play about the life and times of R&B singer Sam Cooke.