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
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needs to be superseded by action, when poetry is action, and how to tell the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.