Langston’s Birthday

I got my script back from Allison. Much to do. I’ve got to limit, focus, and develop an immense amount. I keep repeating:
The catalyst for change is Katrina. The vehicle is music.

Katrina required us all to improvise in the most elemental way. All rules were off. As Allison aptly stated, “Everyone had to engage in improvisation. It was a difficult place. And it was not like improving a standard.” Okay, maybe I’m paraphrasing. She sounded more succinct and commanding.

Yesterday was the birthday of Langston Hughes and the start of Black History Month.

Cab Calloway leads the band in this video. I wish I knew who was reading Hughes’ poem. I listened to a bunch of version’s of the song “Weary Blues” at all different tempos. In the versions with that are slower, I was struck by how the melody mirrored “St. James Infirmary.” You know that tune.

A video short I found of Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B.” The use of the reader’s white voice suggests the inner-conversation Hughes might have had regarding how to engage with the larger white community while being himself.

Awhile back, I went to a poetry reading at Latter Library. One of the poets, Jerry Ward, a professor at Dillard, grabbed me with his evocative, concise poems. I hunted down a book he edited entitled Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African-American Poetry. In the book I encountered the poet Etheridge Knight for the first time.

I keep coming back to his poem “Belly Song” because it utilizes some of the same images I’m exploring in my script: water and salt.

Etheridge begins the poem with a quote that might resonate with anyone who went through Katrina and came out on the other side.

” You have made something
Out of the sea that blew
And rolled you on its salt bitter lips.
It nearly swallowed you.
But I hear
You are tough and harder to swallow than most…”
— S. Mansfield

One of Knight’s most renowned poems.

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About Nicole M.K. Eiden

I'm a New Orleans filmmaker.
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