January 9, 2021

Uncle Tam is of New York of the Poets

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

 

 

 

 

 

I was pleasantly surprised when Tam Fiofori sent me the scan of his three poems published in the esteemed journal Evergreen Review.

I’d known him all these years, like most people, as the legendary filmmaker, photographer, journalist and documentarian.

 

The message expands the list of his titles.

Tam, as we call him, signed off his message to me with the following words: “Maxim, these are for your eyes only o…no go begin playing pranks releasing them o, please! Regards, from an ex-poet, Tamunominabo Fiofori.”

I have never been known to obey rules, so I am going ahead here to disobey Tam Fiofori, with no apologies.

Tam Fiofori and his Sun Ra Book

You remember: Franz Kafka advised his friend and literary executor Max Brod. to burn all his unpublished manuscripts after his death. but the author’s request was disobeyed and the world was rewarded with the publication of the immortal classics The Trial and The Castle etc.

It is so thrilling to me that our own Tam Fiofori stood up to be counted amongst the writers of the Beat Generation in America.

According to Tam, “Actually, I was known as a poet in New York as from 1966, hanging out with Leroi Jones, Ted Joans, Alan Ginsberg, Gilbert Sorrentino, Gregory Corso and the lot.”

Allen Ginsberg, in 1956, published arguably the most famous poem amongst the Beat Poets with his classic Howl:

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…

Tam Fiofori’s three poems were published on Page 27 of a 1968 edition of Evergreen Review.

In his words: “Evergreen Review was where the literary elite of the time were published.”

The three poems are republished below in this piece.

 ‘The first poem “Mama, Mama, Look At Sis”, Fiofori explains, “was written as a comment on Nina Simone after I had watched her perform for an exclusive white audience, mostly male, at an ultra upper class dinner nightclub”. He had gone to the performance as part of his job as a critic with Downbeat  Magazine.

“Wear You Off My Mind” was about a scene in my white girlfriend’s apartment in London before I moved to the US. I quarreled with the editor for adding “s” to “need”… Originally it was…”maybe you need words”.

Nina Simone, Comments on her performance birthed a poem

The third poem is abstract. “It was based on watching a power pneumatic drill at work in New York City.”

Tam adds, for good measure: “I wrote many other poems published in Negro Digest/Black World...These are temporarily lost to me. Also, I had plays and essays published between 1968 and 1970. Then I gave up creative writing and concentrated on music journalism and managing Sun Ra.”

Tam’s publishing of his biography of the iconic musician Sun Ra whom he managed is being eagerly awaited.

Meantime, savour his three poems published in Evergreen Review:

 

MAMA, MAMA, LOOK AT SIS!

for the nite-club singers who never entered my blank dreams

Moulded in your sequin dress, round/

ed thighs locking legs and buttocks,

your blood-thick colored lips

gradually receed, over buck white teeth,

fixing your happy smile as you mouth love/

lyrics, in/to the cold phallic-silver

mike; cuddling it, bright eyes wide-open;

watching it turn in/to gold, you sing

you/r heart out to the same stone/

killers, who raped you/r mother, hung

her natural soul-man on the live-wire

you bold, and now slobbering; resting,

after a hard days work, they watch you,

knowing you’ll do any-thing, shake, shout,

shimmy, caress and love them, for that

gold, which soon will turn hot; smelt

In/to radio-active dust, unless we

forgive and rescue you from your/self,

sold as solid gold soul-currency,

In exchange for the/ir stony-heart!

beats, as they applaud your own swan!

songs of dead Love, and you say

Thank You/s over & over a-gain.

 

WEAR YOU OFF MY MIND
for Forest City Joe
Sitting here in your room staring
trying to bring flat faded posters
to Life, while you talk, asking me
Am I bored, tired, angry, hungry
and do I still love you?

Maybe you needs words, but
I am switched off; my
mind a million miles away,
down a highway thru the jungle,
walking, talking to myself.      BARE BEARERS
White flags wave in the grey smoke mist,
forming fake zebra crossings against
the flow of Sky-Space-ways bringing-in
winds to blow the flags in/to ripples
of folds; clapping out a death tattoo of
brittle machine-gun repeater sounds;
beat/ing the dirt out of grey
whiteness, to leave the smoky-steam
of destruction, overhanging the air
as evidence of Life, attracting
the next victims with the/ir
blood-less whiteness.

 

 

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