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February 10, 2003

 
 

Meet John Sinclair

On February 4 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors officially commended poet, musician, and political activist John Sinclair for his long and illustrious career.

The following poems by Sinclair appear in his latest book, Fattening Frogs for Snakes:

The Healer

for Ira Podnus & Carol Schwaner
 
John Lee Hooker says: My songs

are like poetry. Some

are pretty heavy so heavy

I can hardly carry them. 

 

Sometimes on stage,

when Im singing them,

it gets so sad

& deep & beautiful,

 

I have to wear dark glasses

to keep the people

from seeing me crying.

Im not kidding. The tears

 

just start running. With the words

that Im saying & the way

that I sing, sometimes I give

my own self the blues.

 

Detroit

September 20, 1989

 

"Fattening Frogs For Snakes"

for Dennis Formento & Arthur Pfister

 

Coming out of Mississippi,

out of the mouths

of the children

& grandchildren of slavery

right around the turn

of the 20th century,

 

calloused fingertips

pressed down on the strings

of beat up guitars

on small town street corners

or broken down back woods joints

in the darkness of Saturday night,

 

or on a bright Sunday morning

in a ramshackle clapboard church,

making music

to praise the Lord, & give thanks

for another back breaking week

in the cotton fields of the Delta

 

for this was music created

as much to escape

the rigors of share cropping

& brutal manual labor

as to shape a new form

of expression through song)

 

& the Delta blues sounded forth

out of Mississippi

on crude recordings

cut in make shift studios

by enterprising white men

from the North, & sent out

 

on 78 rpm singles

from Paramount & OKeh & Columbia

to enter & reshape the lives

of people of every description

all over the world the Delta sound

ringing all up & down the line

 

like a National steel guitar

frammed in some little jukehouse

in the middle of the woods,

or the amplified blast

of an electric guitar

plugged into the wall

 

in a nasty street comer bar

on the South Side of Chicago,

the sound of Mississippi

carried up from the Delta

into the factories & tenements

of the cities of the North

 

where peoples could make a living

outside the cotton fields

& be paid in cash dollars

at the end of every week or two

& conduct their lives

in the ways that they saw fit

 

& the music sustained them

as it had in the South, trans-

forming the industrial noise

of the urban landscape

through amplified harmonicas

& pounding pianos

 

& the crashing of drums

& the Fender bass a music

of such great power

& incredible beauty

& depth of emotion, so deeply rooted

in the lives of the people

 

that their bitter experience

could be shaped into art

of the highest possible order

that would inform

all of popular music

for the rest of the century

 

but their rewards

would never come, & the white man

would reap the fruits

of their artistic labors

as if they were bolls of cotton

in a 9-foot croaker sack

 

& the music of the Delta

would be appropriated

& exploited beyond measure

by the descendents

of the slave holders, & their bank rollers

to swell their bulging coffers

 

& nothing would be returned

to the people of the Delta

& their music

would be taken away

& they would be left

to face the terrible future

 

of life in the ghetto

with nothing to sustain them,

nothing to carry them

through the horrors of modem life,

nothing but the watered down sound

of what was once their music

 

played back at them by white people

on every television set in America,

nothing from the billions of dollars of profits

to be realized from their creations,

nothing to the creators,

nothing to the people who created them,

 

not even the dignity

of being recognized

for the enormity of their contribution

to the cultural life of our nation,

nothing to the blues men,

nothing to the blues people

 

this is what they mean

when they talk about the blues,

this is what the blues is all about: 

"fattening frogs for snakes"

& watching the mother fucking snakes

slither off with the very thing you have made

 

New Orleans

March 7/August 31/September 12-14, 1999

Ferndale, MI

October 22-24,1999

New Orleans

November 13-16/December 18, 1999