Marvin X and Rashidah Sabreen on KPFA Monday, 9pm
Marvin X will be interviewed and perform on the Greg Bridges show, Monday night, 9 p.m., KPFA radio, online www.kpfa.org. The poet will be accompanied by vocalist Rashidah Sabreen. They will perform material from their upcoming CD The Language of Love, poems by Marvin X, Rashidah's original lyrics, vocals and guitar. Although she's been writing and singing since childhood in Philly, Rashidah's in league with her Philly sister's Jill Scott and India Iree.
Folk songs of love, a cry for male/female understanding. Rashidah is just now breaking out after marriages and child rearing. We expect a genius is at work and about to come forth. Hold onto your hats! Marvin is known to be overwhelming, but Rashidah holds her own with solid lyrics and vocals. You will be shocked at what you hear, the combination of poetry, lyrics, vocals and music. With only his poetic voice, San Francisco poet laureate emeritus devorah major went into a swoon when he read to her graduate students at the California College of the Arts recently.
When poet/critic Bob Holman called Marvin X the USA's Rumi, Marvin says it is one of the highest honors any poet can receive. Rumi, of course, lived around 1344 in Persia, but is the best selling poet in America. Marvin is probably the lowest selling, but sales have nothing to do with the quality of his work. Bob Holman reviews his work 2005 collection Land of My Daughters and his 2007 essays Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality :
Marvin X--The USA's Rumi
by Bob Holman
Bowery Poetry Club, New York City
Where I’d like to start this 2005 Poetry Roundup is Iraq, as in, how did we get there and how do we get back? The consciousness-altering book of poems that tells the tale, in no uncertain terms and yet always via poetry, is the astonishing Land of My Daughters: Poems 1995-2005 (Black Bird Press) by Marvin X.
Marvin X is the USA’s Rumi, and his nation is not “where our fathers died” but where our daughters live. The death of patriarchal war culture is his everyday reality. X’s poems vibrate, whip, love in the most meta- and physical ways imaginable and un-. He’s got the humor of Pietri, the politics of Baraka, and the spiritual Muslim grounding that is totally new in English –- the ecstasy of Hafiz, the wisdom of Saadi. It’s not unusual for him to have a sequence of shortish lines followed by a culminating line that stretches a quarter page –- it is the dance of the dervishes, the rhythms of a Qasida.
“I am the black bird in love
I fly with love
I swoop into the ocean and pluck fish in the name of love
oceans flow with love
let the ocean wash me with love
even the cold ocean is love
the morning swim is love
the ocean chills me with love
from the deep come fish full of love”
(from the opening poem, “In the Name of Love”)
“How to Love A Thinking Woman”:
“Be revolutionary, radical, bodacious
Stay beyond the common
Have some class about yaself…
Say things she’s never heard before
Ihdina sirata al mustaquim(guide us on the straight path)
Make her laugh til she comes in her panties
serious jokes to get her mind off the world.”
There are anthems (“When I’ll Wave the Flag/Cuando Voy a Flamear la Bandera”), rants (“JESUS AND LIQUOR STORES”), love poems (“Thursday”) and poems totally uncategorizable (“Dreamtime”). Read this one cover to cover when you’ve got the time to “Marry a Tree.”
Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality
by Marvin X
Review by Bob Holman
Last year Marvin X released his magnum opus, Land of My Daughters: Poems 1995-2005 (Black Bird Press), poems that put me in mind of Mawlânâ Jalâl ad-Dîn Muhammad Rûmî. He just published Beyond Religion Towards Spirituality, Essays on Consciousness (Black Bird Press, 2006), and all I can say, folks, is this is the Bible of the Hood and is bound to stir up plenty of opposition -- and maybe even cut through the BS to move towards God. “Imagine we are the generation of Parker, Coltrane, Dolphy, Monk, Duke, Bessie, Lady Day, Ella, Sarah, what on earth can follow us but the earth shaking children of tomorrow... who will smash the atmosphere with sounds...”
“If the mate leaves, we should be happy. Why would you want to keep someone who wants to go? If she wants to be with Joe, let her go -- you don’t own her. If she wants, she has the human right to give Joe some pussy. I know you don’t like it but get over it. Don’t kill her and Joe behind the funk. The world is full of infinite possibilities. God will provide wou with the perfect mate... Let go and Let God.”
Poet/novelist Mohja Kahf Reviews Marvin's 1995 collection Love and War
Love And War
Have spent the last few days (when not mourning with friends and family the passing of my family friend and mentor in Muslim feminism and Islamic work, Sharifa AlKhateeb, (may she dwell in Rahma), immersed in the work of Marvin X and amazed at his brilliance. This poet has been prolific since his first book of poems, Fly to Allah, (1969), right up to his most recent Love and War Poems (1995) and Land of My Daughters, 2005, not to mention his plays, which were produced (without royalties) in Black community theatres from the 1960s to the present, and essay collections such as In the Crazy House Called America, 2002, and Wish I Could Tell You The Truth, 2005.
Marvin X was a prime shaper of the Black Arts Movement (1964-1970s) which is, among other things, the birthplace of modern Muslim American literature, and it begins with him. Well, Malik Shabazz and him. But while the Autobiography of Malcolm X is a touchstone of Muslim American culture, Marvin X and other Muslims in BAM were the emergence of a cultural expression of Black Power and Muslim thought inspired by Malcolm, who was, of course, ignited by the teachings and writings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
And that, taken all together, is what I see as the starting point of Muslim American literature. Then there are others, immigrant Muslims and white American Muslims and so forth, that follow.There are also antecedents, such as the letters of Africans enslaved in America. Maybe there is writing by Muslims in the Spanish and Portuguese era or earlier, but that requires archival research of a sort I am not going to be able to do.
My interest is contemporary literature, and by literature I am more interested in poetry and fiction than memoir and non-fiction, although that is a flexible thing.I argue that it is time to call Muslim American literature a field, even though many of these writings can be and have been classified in other ways—studied under African American literature or to take the writings of immigrant Muslims, studied under South Asian ethnic literature or Arab American literature.
With respect to Marvin X, I wonder why I am just now hearing about him—I read Malcolm when I was 12, I read Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez and others from the BAM in college and graduate school—why is attention not given to his work in the same places I encountered these other authors?
Declaring Muslim American literature as a field of study is valuable because recontextualizing it will add another layer of attention to his incredibly rich body of work. He deserves to be WAY better known than he is among Muslim Americans and generally, in the world of writing and the world at large.
By we who are younger Muslim American poets, in particular, Marvin should be honored as our elder, one who is still kickin, still true to the word!Love and War Poems is wrenching and powerful, combining a powerful critique of America ("America downsizes like a cripple whore/won't retire/too greedy to sleep/too fat to rest") but also a critique of deadbeat dads and drug addicts (not sparing himself) and men who hate.
"For the Men" is so Quranic poem it gave me chills with verses such as:
for the men who honor wives
and the men who abuse them
for the men who win
and the men who sin
for the men who love God
and the men who hate
for the men who are brothers
and the men who are beasts"
"O Men, listen to the wise," the poet pleads:
there is no escape
for the men of this world
or the men of the next
He is sexist as all get out, in the way that is common for men of his generation and his radicalism, but he is refreshingly aware of that and working on it. It's just that the work isn't done and if that offends you to see a man in process and still using the 'b' word, look out. Speaking of the easily offended, he warns in his introduction that "life is often profane and obscene, such as the present condition of African American people." If you want pure and holy, he says, read the Quran and the Bible, because Marvin is talking about "the low down dirty truth."
For all that, the poetry of Marvin X is like prayer, beauty-full of reverence and honor for Truth. "It is. it is. it is."A poem to his daughter Muhammida is a sweet mix of parental love and pride and fatherly freak-out at her sexuality and independence, ending humbly with:
it's on you
Other people don't get off so easy, including a certain "black joint chief of staff ass nigguh (kill 200,000 Muslims in Iraq)" in the sharply aimed poem "Free Me from My Freedom." (Mmm hmm, the 'n' word is all over the place in Marvin too.) Nature poem, wedding poem, depression poem, wake-up call poems, it's all here. Haiti, Rwanda, the Million Man March, Betsy Ross's maid, OJ, Rabin, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and other topics make it into this prophetically voiced collection of dissent poetry, so Islamic and so African American in its language and its themes, a book that will stand in its beauty long after the people mentioned in it pass.
READ MARVIN X for RAMADAN!
--Mohja Kahf Associate Professor / Dept. of English, Middle East & Islamic Studies,
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville
Comments about Marvin X
He like Malcolm, dares to say things fearlessly, in the open (in earshot of the white man) that so many Negroes feel, think and speak on the corner, in the barbershops and urban streets of black America….
Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality by Marvin X is a dangerous book, for it reveals the inner workings of capitalist and imperialist governments around the world. It's a book that stands with and on behalf of the poor, the dispossessed, the despised, and downtrodden.
He’s a needed counselor, for he knows himself on the deepest personal level and he reveals that self to us that we might be his beneficiaries. --Rudolph Lewis, editor, Chickenbones
People who know Marvin X already know him as a peripatetic, outspoken, irreverent, poetic “crazy nigger,” whose pen is continually and forever out-of-control. As a professional psychologist, I hasten to invoke the disclaimer that that is in no way a diagnosis or clinical impression of mine. I have never actually subjected this brother to serious psychoanalytical scrutiny and have no wish to place him on the couch, if only because I know of no existing psycho-diagnostic instrumentality of pathology of normalcy that could properly evaluate Marvin completely.—Dr. Nathan Hare, Black Think Tank, San Francisco
When you listen to Tupac Shakur, E-40, Too Short, Master P or any other rappers out of the Bay Area of Cali, think of Marvin X. He laid the foundation and gave us the language to express Black male urban experience in a lyrical way. -- James G. Spady, Philadelphia New Observer
His writing is orgasmic!—Fahizah Alim, Sacramento Bee
He comes in the spirit of Imhotep to bring peace of mind to the world. — Ptah Allah El, Richmond CA
He’s the new Malcolm X! Nobody’s going to talk about his book, HOW TO RECOVER FROM THE ADDICTION TO WHITE SUPREMACY, out loud, but they’ll hush hush about it.—Jerri Lange, author, Jerri, A Black Woman’s Life in the Media
Marvin X's autobiography Somethin' Proper is one of the most significant works to come out of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It tells the story of perhaps the most important African American Muslim poet to appear in the United States during the Civil Rights era. The book opens with an introduction by scholar Nathan Hare, a key figure in the Black Studies Movement of the period. --Julius E. Thompson, African American Review
--Lorenzo Thomas, University of Houston, Texas
He has always been in the forefront of Pan African writing. Indeed, he is one of the innovators and founders of the revolutionary school of African writing. --Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
I welcome reading the work of a “grassroots guerilla publicist” who is concerned with the psychological/intellectual freedom of his people. I think of Walter Rodney as the “guerilla intellectual” who was organically connected to the grassroots. Key book here would be The Groundings With My Brothers [and sisters].
Or Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like. I think though that Dr. M. is closely affiliated with Frances Cress Welsing’s Isis Papers: Keys to the Colors (along with Bobby Wright’s thesis). Of course we need to also consult that classic: The Black Anglo Saxons, and Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie. What I am most impressed with is Dr. M’s Pan-Africanist perspective. We all need to “Detox” as Dr. M states, wherever we are in this world. So the Pan-African element is important. Du Bois knew this, and many of the other giants.
Coming Soon from Black Bird Press
The Wisdom of Plato Negro Parables/Fables
’s Rumi!”—Bob Holman USA
Jeremiah, I presume! –Rudolph Lewis
The Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables and Fables
by Marvin X
Publication date: May, 2010
Suggested donation $100.00
Pre-publication donation $50.00
Black Bird Press
1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley CA 94702