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Literature

Remembering Ron Allen

'Godfather of open mics' and more

MT Photo: Bruce Griffin
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Published 9/1/2010

"Ron was one of the heroic figures of the Cass Corridor in the '70s and '80s," wrote one fellow poet, Tyrone Williams, at an online discussion board. "A true Detroit legend, a master and an excellent fellow and stalwart friend," artist Maurice Greenia Jr. wrote in an e-mail.†

Those were typical sentiments heard after Ron Allen, having fallen into a coma following a massive stroke July 31, was removed from life support at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on Aug. 10. The Detroit stalwart who would have turned 63 next month — an Army veteran (Vietnam) who found redemption in art, mooring in Buddhism and a calling to share what he'd discovered — had been facing significant health challenges for years, and relocated to Los Angeles in 2007. There he continued to write and see his work staged; he also brought texts and music together in the band Code Zero.†

A co-founder of the seminal H.I.P. (Horizons in Poetry) in the early 1980s, his influence was seminal on the arts in Detroit, his own work flowering in poetry and mind-stretching theater pieces. He was, wrote Rayfield Waller in a 1995 MT profile, "a godfather of open mics and poetry readings in Detroit bars and cafes."†

Online at metrotimes.com, you can read Waller's profile, coverage of the beyond-category experiences Allen put on the stage and another memorial poem by Aurora Harris. —W. Kim Heron

Trembling in the Temple of Tears at the Feet of Buddha
Ron Allen 1947-2010

After Allen Ginsberg

Who stood in the concrete fields and alleys of the Cass Corridor

With hope as wild as weeds in the everyday sidewalk cracks

Of Detroit. Deep pockets filled with poetry and Black Arts

Theater that could tell the truth of the future beyond our hidden dreams.

 

Who understood and shared the phraseology of Donald Goines

A holy language — spun it into surrealistic parables

And laid them upon the dead bones of America's sunken chest.

A blood fever of poetry and ideas to bring new life to our city.

Hipster, futurist, teacher of the theater and poetry of backroom cafés

Who knew the way to the heart was through song and word and not

Through the lackluster academy and institutions that built themselves

Upon their own self pride while quickly diminishing and condemning

The outside world of the streets into the skull cages of formalism.

Who knew the plight of the Bantu before America understood,

And who held twenty-four-hour peace vigils sitting Shiva for freedom

And equality in South Africa before the television and newspapers would

Report the daily murders and violence in the broken houses of Soweto.

 

Who held, with tenderness, the grieving hands of Detroit mothers

And grandmothers whose children had been lost to murder — killed

By other children in the mean streets of Detroit under vanishing skies

Of gray smoke, blue metal revolvers in the night.

Who put prayer in motion through Zen workshops and

Provoking koans that kept folks thinking of and dreaming for

New answers in the universe of ourselves beyond the here and now

And beneath the heart and skin of God.

Who was aware of the brewing hatred in America's "post-racial"

21st century between city & suburb, black & white, rich and poor.

The invisible barriers that continue to kill the spirit and destroy

Who we are and what we should become.

Beautiful Buddha angel spirit who left Detroit to live

In warm sunshine of Los Angeles and to build

Another community of art and life in a distant city

Where pain was as real as the broken hearts

Of our Detroit. Where theater was not respected nor welcomed.

Where you took Zen meditation to the nth degree,

And beyond the long road that led you

Through Vietnam, Cass Corridor, LA and back

To your Detroit — of community and grace.†

You now, sweet Brother man, have returned to us

To live forever in the shade trees of our memories.

Eastside forever Ė reminding us always of who we all can

Be if we trust each other and heal and nurture

Each other back to life once again in the spirit of love and art.

—M.L. Liebler

Detroit poet M.L. Liebler's Working with Words is to be released in October by Coffee House Press. Write to letters@metrotimes.com

=============

From Inside the 6

For poet Ron Allen, 1947-2010

by Aurora Harris

I - August 8, 2010 8:24 a.m.

Outside looked summer hazy gray

Reading poem from 1999 poetry workshop

I said she is the snowstorm then

Eight twenty three three tones

I hear three electronic Buddhist tones

Three quick high pitched Buddhist tones

Eeeee eeeee eeeeee

A technological bell warning through ether

Through window into my left ear

Communication of the OneOne tone

I know what time it is

We know what time it is

We were talking about violence peace

The Up From Cityís Devastation Here

Coq a vin in moderation man

With his toe-less dancing feet

Craving Temple Bar two-step heat

That you talking tones to me?

Everything you said you donít want

Virgo to Virgo Iím handliní it

Just found list of Buddhist Temples

Just called Peter phone is ringing

Just called Peter itís only 6

Even the text message is Buddhist

call buddhist temple for ron please

Buddhism - Wilshire Center & Los Angeles Area

I found list of numbers Ron

&&&

Iím throat singer saying it Ron

 

So you can be Laughing Buddah

Remember I told you about books

Books of dead titles not so?

Egyptians, Tibetans, titles have different meanings

Western words changes meanings and understanding

I will break the six now

It was all about ether

It is all about nonviolence

It was all about peace

It is all about peace

 

II - August 21-22, 2010 9:43 a.m.

Speak to me

Speak through rising chronic tears

Speak through velvet nights awakening sound

Gray, rainy morning haze

Polish my ears with shattering tropes

Speak into a semblance of light

Broken patterns of woven night sky

Speak to me

Speak through uninterrupted street words

Speak inherited heartbeats

Speak into the secret sauce of jazzy dreams

Spit shine planets with stone washed fingers leaking poems

Speak a stack of verbs walking surreal sky

Speak dialogues of twisted friction in frameworks of truth

Speak to me straight like a wall of oceanís waves

Speak through genies in cactus needles

Rub a peyote trip out of penny in your pocket

Speak into rhythmic grinding of ego into bone dust

Speak a deluded soul into blue streaks of meditation

Taste molecules of your existences

Speak to me, brother

Float past graffiti rainbows talking backwards

Float past the Bhardo of Dharmata into pure Buddhahood

Float on the luminous path of the Wisdom of Discernment

Speak to me, Speak to me

Black birds gather on telephone wires for 11:00 a.m. morning music

Black birdsí bodies dotting the sky/ are simple notes / of this morningís beauty

You appearing as 4/4 time/ treble clef 8th notes / F B D E with/ rests in between

You speaking vibrational bird song on electric currents of chatter

You speaking through memories of erratic streams

You who milked the nipple of being

You who blows through a thighbone trumpet

You who appears as a swarm of fireflies

Speak to me, brother Speak to me

 

Note: The Egyptian Book of the Dead is known as the "Spells of Coming (or Going) Forth By Day"

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is known as the "Bardo Thodol" ... a guide for the dead and dying.

Aurora Harris is a Detroit poet and educator who blogs at auroraharris.blogspot.com.

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