Poet Of The Week

Lemon Andersen

     November 18–24, 2013

Raised in Brooklyn, Lemon Andersen won a Tony award as an original cast member of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, for which he was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award. His staged memoir County of Kings: The Beautiful Struggle, produced by Spike Lee, premiered at the Public Theater in 2009 to rave reviews from The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Brooklyn Rail, among others. Since then, he has toured the one-man show–which took the grand prize at the 2010 New York Book Festival–at campuses and theaters across the U.S. and on three continents. More recently, Andersen was the feature of the internationally acclaimed documentary Lemon, screened in 2012-2013 at film festivals and performing arts centers across North America.

Edgar’s Bird

For when anger
turns to hate . . .

Hate turns
to scuffle
scuffle into brawls
battles into wars
it is because of the raven.

This salted mix of quail and crow
who descends upon our humble abodes
dropping off its parcel
of daunting
padded room dreams,
their haunting.

Bring him here alive
let us gather around in a corral
and watch the screws
untighten from its claws,
ungripping the minds
minds freed of knotholes.

Bring me the crown of the raven
so we can boil it in kerosene,
take away its pride
painful scars,
incinerate its love
suffering burns,
see its ebony blue stare
turn pale in the black night.

Allow it to never circle around
and cipher the gods of madness.

Nightmares are to be awakened
by the blaring star.

no matter how gothic in architecture
exist in a temporary façade,
and yet the raven
deep bile of feathers
born of the melancholy seed
pulls the blinds of the morning sun
and keeps the new day
from turning the frown
upside down.

This bird,
fowl of Hippocrates
turning over graves with its gawking,
perched upon the halo
of a weathered saint,
pecking away at the stoned path
to the heavens,
waiting for the cue of the Reverend
to give the last rites,
crucifying the wind,
waiting for the exodus,
for the families
soaked in sorrow to say farewell,
so it can hover in
finding folly
in the pastel shaded
grey petals of our kin,
scattering the bouquets to and fro.

This symbol of a mad man’s smile
reminds the sinner
to pillage the land and leave no fruit
Work the children into a dry bosom
motherless labor
in the name of its maker,
the great king apathy.
So go forth with sword and shield,
forth with gun and bow,
seek its keys out of your solitude.
For the loss of a loved one
shall finally have its rest,
its rhythm finally beating
to the tune of time healing,
once the talented ether in the sky
has come home to roost.

Bring me the crown of the raven
or we shall find ourselves
falling off the smokeless chimneys,
head first
hitting the ground
with a thirst
for the murderous
rivers of blood
cold hearted
murderous rivers of blood
and find peace,

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I was asked by the good folks at SA Studios in California to help them promote a movie starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. SA Studios asked me to pen and perform an original piece and perform at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery before a screening of the film. So I penned “Edgar’s Bird.” Really wild experience.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a play for the Public Theater and developing more television, although my first love is and will always be poetry.

What’s a good day for you?

Clocking in early hours of writing, feeling the sun rise on the imagination and going to see my girls. I have three daughters.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I have lived in Brooklyn all my life. My father was born and raised in Red Hook–it’s where he met my mother who came here from Puerto Rico when she was a teenager in the early sixties. I grew up in Sunset Park/Park Slope and moved to the Williamsburg side for the next half of my life to pursue writing and performance art.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

Greatest moment I had in Brooklyn was walking into a poetry reading for the first time in Williamsburg and I saw all these honest diverse voices just going for it. Life-changing.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Miguel Piñero is the founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and his book La Bodega Sold Dreams is untouchable, real mastery.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

None. Sorry, I don’t buy books in Brooklyn. Too segregated in selections. Harlem and Lower East Side for me.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Atlas Cafe on Grand Street is my spot. I’m the mayor there and have been using that spot to work and read for years.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

Chalk Gyms in the Northside. I love training and keeping a healthy body in tune with my mind.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

Lately all I have been reading are plays and scripts. So Lynn Nottage’s Ruined is great piece of drama.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the Nuyorican Soul,
And what I glorify you should respect,
For every word out of me as good gristled experience for you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

I’d rather not touch Jay, that’s sacrilegious.

Why Brooklyn?

Why Brooklyn? ‘Cause sometimes when we don’t want to identify with ethnicity we identify with what’s pure to our core … “To Spread Love.”