usef Lateefs Detroit: Latitude 42' '30' Longitude 83. I Jazzheads will surely recognize this data as the title of a 1 969 recording on the Atlantic label, long unavailable and now at last reissued on the CD format along with three other beautiful Lateef sessions. Look for the reasonably priced package calling itself The Man With the Big Front Yard. The Detroit album blew ourminds with strangely mesmerizing funk done up in Yusef s cheerfully eccentric manner. Closing youreyes, you let him take you there: Li vingstone Playground, Bishop School, Eastern Market and Belle Isle; Woodward Avenue, honest to goodness, and the spine-tingling immediacy of Russell and Eliot - some serious blues! Look out over industrial haze and backyard barbecues as the tenor sax explains That Lucky Old Sun. Somebody up there at Atlantic records is having an attack of good impulses ! Simultaneously alongside of the Lateef set we see four rare albums by Rahsaan Roland Kirk from the same period - 1969 through the early '70s, again tucked into one inexpensive package. Most exciting is the inclusión of Rahsaan 's masterpiece, "Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle." Where is Detroit? Look under your feet. This place is called Mish, and no corner of it is separate from the rest. Our little rose garden in Ann Arbor where the 18-year-old black Burmese cat likes to sun herself is the same Mish as the intersection of Brush and Lafayette. Detroit, Detroit. The Hurón River and the Detroit River are one and the same, inseparable from the waters of your body and those big white clouds up there booking for Ontario. There is no separation. Maybe "Detroit" means something more beautiful and righteous than any of us can ever fully explain. Are the corn fields Detroit? Is Detroit a wild herb garden in the process of outliving the. rats and docks of the debased waterfront, back before decay , and flowering to the present day when the houses which were built in the mid-19th Century are lovingly renovated instead of being torched by crackheads for nothin better to do. Never betray the oak savannah of our tobe. Prehistorie Detroit and points outward; there is no separation. "Detroit" is another way to conjúgate the magie word "Mish." Flash of old bakeries in Hamtramck and suddenly skate hundreds of miles west to where you're sitting alongside of Route 31 between Benzonia and Manistee. Chipmunks live at the base of balsam fir among beech and thirsty maple. 90 in the shade, ozone alert day: please to not be idling your engines. Across the highway someone planted corn. Less than half of itcame up. Now the erop struggles. Next field over, potatoes did better. Nearly all of them took. And every bit of this is Mish. Two beeches grew into one. Thirty feet up, curling branches become two again. There is no separation. Woodpeckers, tiny green caterpillars, impossibly miniscule ants. Robins only pause. When moss and fungus collaborate, a lidien is the original face, before the soil was bom. Where sand and shade commiserate, I am a fern. There are many of me beneath these trees. Back in the Motor-Detroit across the face of Mish, other shore of other lake which is the same lake only different, columbine grows wild, cali it ranunculaceae. Wild too the roses, seven leaflet sets. Wild apples too if you look real close behind an abandoned factory. Acres of grape vines gone wild as the sumac. Umbelliferae, see? Carrots and cumin, cilantro. Gramineae is grasses, dance with mint family, dandelion, morning glory, caléndula, chive. Com Mother sends it up of her own accord through the wild thyme. This is not a vacant lot. There is no vacancy. Turnips self-regenerate here. It is sacred land. All land is sacred. This turf is riddled through with questions: The Romans invented concrete. What's it doing here? When the sun comes up, Mick Vranich is out getting ready toreplace somebody ' s kitchen floor. First he sits in his ride and carefully examines the face of the land. Maybe he's got time for writing down a few of his lines as the words rise up through the soles of his feet, travelling the marrows to where the heart meets the brain . Perhaps he reflects upon the curse the chieftai ns sent out over the battlefield when the land and all sentient beings thereupon were being invaded by greedheads 150 years ago. They said something like: "This you should know. One cannot own land. A curse upon it for as long as those mentalities shall govern then the land shall reflect the very maliciousness of yer avance. You shall see it spelled out in the places you have tried to kill with your ownership. You may come and go but the land shall wait for righteous honest hearts and minds to recognize the blessing and act accordingly ." Mick has another very special name: "RADNIK PISAR means WORKER WRITER in the Serbian language, and was a name gi ven to me by a cousin, from my Father' s side, in Yugoslavia." RADNIK PISAR is also the title of a book of poems published in 1983 by the 2x4 Press in Detroit. I picked it up at Shaman Drum Books here in Ann Arbor not long ago, along with another volume, BOXER'S BREAK (1987 Past Tents Press, Detroit). The very first poem in RADNIK shows us an 18 year old Mick working "the scrap pit in the steel mili in Detroit at the edge of the river in the winter of 1964 the war was brewing it was 1 5 below zero outside and 20 above zero in the scrap pit. my hands hurt. it was midnight." The words are never inconsequeritial. Nothing unnecessary . Right in front, both feet on the ground with no frills, no fluff. This is refreshing in a time when so many standup comedy routines try to pass for poetry (and the marketing of "comedy" in itself wreaking havoc with our genuine collective sense of humor.) Hearing Mick read is best of all; as much as I love the written word, nothing quite like Mick has ever been heard. When he speaks there's none of that pushy muscleman stuff; no huffing nor spitting, no hype. Mick is simply telling us what he's been seeing. Poetry is not punchlines. Poetry is visión. (Standup comedy can't see for lookin.) While he might very well be entertaining he arrivés at this happy consequence by virtue of being honest. He commences, continúes and culminates within the magie circle of the ritual function, which Anthony Braxton tells us is the highest function. Few poets work so naturally in ritual time as does Mick Vranich. He speaks softly and distinctly, holding to a gravity I associate with oil of mandrake, the glacial thaw currently known as Lake Superior, and the hungry ghosts of the slag heaps of East Detroit Mick's use of the guitardefies description; it is every bit as unique as what he does with heart and voice. His cassettes "Cloak of Skin" and "The Black Box" are highly recommended, as is the compactdisc"IdolsofFear."The cassettes feature his "Wordband" ensembles, while the CD consists of unaccompanied voice readings which will most Iikely change your life forever. Best of all, we have a chance to hear Mick Vranich with his expanded organization, the Detroit Crew (including a scratch man !) live in performance at the Club Heidelberg Saturday July 1 8th. I'll bring some of my poetry too: I' ve assembled a chamber ensemble, The Sonnenlicht Project, featuring veteran bassist Ted Harley and including Stuart Bogie with members of the Transmission band. We will be honored to open for Mick Vranich, and I invite you to come and hear this precious, brilliant, remarkable human being who with his clear and present energy can and will transform the lives of those who share nis space. There is nothing more powerful than the honest truth.
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