johnsu01 (johnsu01) wrote,
johnsu01
johnsu01

Lorenzo Thomas, 1944-2005

Lorenzo Thomas died this morning, on the 4th of July. He was 60 years old.

I had him as a teacher for a week during the summer of 2002 at Naropa University.

He was kind and smiled very widely. He taught us about the political roots of Calypso and Reggae in the West Indies, and how we should consider this whenever we wanted to bump it in Boulder. He taught us about Griots, "The Language of Secrecy", Deep Talk, and the way sitar music is notated (this was somehow related to Arabian epic poetry). We talked about the Black Arts movement, the FBI, Ronald Reagan, James Bond, "Mississippi Burning", and the Screen Actors Guild. We wrote poems based on ancient African proverbs.

He contemplated the relationship of poetry to political action --- when poetry needs to be superseded by action, when poetry is action, and how to tell the difference. He urged us to do the same.

My impression is that he put much more energy into being a teacher and a community figure than he did into advancing his own literary career. I know I've only met a few people in my life who had such quiet strength.

As I'm turning the pages in my notebook from that time, I see the date at the top of the page. July 4, 2002. Unfortunately, I took very poor notes. I remember just wanting to listen.

Tags: diary, lorenzo thomas, naropa, poetry
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