Harryette Mullen, Naomi Shihab Nye, at Round Top
In April (cruelest month) news came in that Harryette Mullen, inspiration for the song below by X (lyrics in part by Harryette), won the Jackson Poetry Prize for $50,000. She lives in Venice, Calif. and teaches at UCLA, and, although it is tough to find video of her reading her own work, there are several examples on YouTube of Harryette extolling (and reading) the work of Bob Kaufman, a Beat whom she has argued remains obscure, neglected by those who have carried on the Corso-Ginsberg-Kerouac-Ferlinghetti legacies .
While Bob Kaufman, who said, “my ambition is to be completely forgotten,” may have wished rhetorically for obscurity, Mullen persuasively argues that his anonymity among the not-forgotten Beats is because he was an African-American Beat poet .
YouTube notwithstanding, poetry is still clearly a live event and one which attendees of Round Top Festival Institute will be enjoying this coming weekend of April 30-May 2. In Manhattan one could go hear Ginsberg read Howl or others read it at St. Marks in the Bowery while looking out for the man himself in his supp hose entering the Sloans on Fifth Street, yet while now people decry the decline of the magazine it is the decline of the bookstore or oasis for poetry reading that should be equally protested. Poetry festivals reflect that the impulse to poetry is a bards impulse to sing verse in shoutouts, deep speaks, and all matter of sonority with mellifluence argument and caterwauling. Naomi Shihab Nye below.