Rest in Power: Guru

From DJ Premier’s blog:

“I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options. I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting.”

Another innovator has passed on to the next part of the journey. I recognize Guru for taking advantage of the opportunities the hip-hop community gave him and transforming those opportunities by extending hip-hop’s reach into the world. If we had stayed on Guru’s path, the collaborative possibilities would have massive. Instead, we let the record execs take over and chose to be myopic with our culture and birthright. I feel this tug of vintage hip-hop calling me back and asking to speak through the poetry. Word.

Peace to you, Guru. Spread the music on the other side.

Rest in Power: Alfred Arteaga

Alfred Arteaga
Originally uploaded by geminipoet

I didn’t know you very well, Alfred, but you were generous in your spirit and with your words. You once asked me, “How’s work?” I said, “You know, same ole 9 to 5.” You said, “No, not that. Your real work. How’s the writing?’

I will say that the work is going well but I wish I could hear more of your work. Instead, I will go back to what you have left for us. Thanks for this.


From Espistles 1-6 (courtesy of

April 26, 2005

Dear Alfred,
While wondering how to begin this project, I came to the conclusion that I should discuss the issue of most relevance to my writing, which is myself. Poetry is often an act of narcissism. Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially self involved, I imagine myself in a house full of mirrors, each one depicting the different ways in which I view myself. My poetry is a way to both keep myself from being trapped in an endless montage of self reflection, as well as to project those images in a cohesive shape to others, in some ways, as a form of self validation. Don’t misunderstand me; I write for myself, I have to in order to get words on the page. However, in the back of my mind, I must also consider what other people will think.

Herein lies my insecurity; should I be able to write happy poems or is poetry simply better or more interesting when there is an element of some more dangerous or subversive emotion? Perhaps when in that numbing haze of being in love or lust, I shut off some part of my intelligence. It could be the part that is a bit darker, more thoughtful and rebellious. Maybe what makes me happy is a bit commonplace, kisses, sunny days, etc, but what makes me sad or angry is more unique and therefore more interesting a source to write from.


So to answer your question, let me pose another. How could you not find poems of pain and loss more efficacious than those of romance and love? You prize the endeavor of poetry but lack faith in its efficacy. You write poems that reach out to the reader but do extol the triumph of love. You are more interested and find more art in disharmony than in harmony. Love poems must strike you as naive and somewhat facile. But because you espouse ambiguity, unfinished meaning, and the breaking of expected order, my answer cannot be that simple. Take the image of the stone at your poem’s end. I cannot know without doubt whether it is of a ring or to be thrown.


Rest in Power: Reginald Lockett

After Aracelis Girmay’s reading at Books Inc. last year, I was hanging off by the bookshelves checking out some titles when I see Reginald Lockett also checking out some books off the shelves. I recognized him from a Cave Canem reading a few weeks earlier. So as I am looking at him, he looks over at me, and a conversation starts happening. We talk poetry, his and mine. Reginald offers his phone number and address, says he’s going to be a little busy in the next month but to hit him up soon so we can talk more.

I would love to say I took him up on that offer but I didn’t and that is my bad. But that isn’t going to be my lasting memory of Reginald Lockett.

I will remember the man I saw walking through the Jack London Square Sunday Farmer’s Market. Walking proud and happy with his fresh greens, and local products. A man and a place, poet and city. Even when that city is grimy, the poet still makes it shine. I say, “Oakland, with all its danger, is so beautiful,” and I see Reginald Lockett.

Oaktown, CA

Absorbing a taste of magic,
trying to figure the flavor,
twelve minutes past midnight,
Thursday morning,
walking somewhere on San Pablo,
I stop in an obscure juke joint
for two, three beers.
The tinkling sound of a quarter
in the jukebox.
Blues twanging guitar.
Lucille putting it
down on the table where
you can see it, feel it,
and know it’s real.
Man rocking to her
sensuous rhythms.
Eyes shut tight.
White and gold teeth flashing
on his paint smeared
black face.
Lucille, B.B.’s lady,
talking about “Friends.”
I remember them
in the right light
in Friday and Saturday
evening breezes,
harmonizing, signifying, and
guzzling Greystone, Thunderbird,
Ripple and Green Death.
I think about the way
the purple, yellow, read, pink,
and loud sky baby blue slacks, sweaters,
and coats
beamed in the street light’s glow.
The Stacey Adams and alligator shoes
that smiled.
Sweet Charlie,
fried, dyed,
and laid to the side
in a one button Continental suit,
High Boy shirt, wide paisley tie and burgundy
pimp shades, winning every game
at Moon’s Pool Hall.
Cadillac dreamers hanging in there
where we still die unnatural deaths
at the hands of imported cracker cops,
anal retentive educators,
mentally constipated politicians,
and conceptually incarcerated
drug dealers
in a town, in a town, in a town,
in a state, in a state, in a state,
in a nation, in a nation, in a nation,
so bad,
even the birds sing bass.

from The Party Crashers of Paradise

Dedications and memories of Reginald from those who knew him:
from Al Young’s website
from Elmaz Abinader’s blog
from Interchange
More poems by Reginald Lockett
Poets from all around will read from his work on KPFA Radio 94.1fm on May 30th from 12 PM – 1 PM Pacific Time.