Tuesday, December 1, 2020 5:08 pm
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Tam Fiofori is celebrated as a filmmaker, photographer, journalist and documentarian. Not many people know that he was once a poet.
I was pleasantly surprised when the legend we simply call Tam sent me the scan of his three poems published in the esteemed journal Evergreen Review.
Tam signed off his message to me with the following words: “Maxim, these are for your eyes only o…no go begin playing pranks releasing them o, please! Regards, from an ex-poet, Tamunominabo Fiofori.”
Well, I have never been known to obey rules, so I am going ahead here to disobey Tam Fiofori without fear or favour, and with no apologies whatsoever!
After all, Franz Kafka advised his friend and literary executor Max Brod to burn all his unpublished manuscripts after his death but the author’s request was disobeyed and the world was rewarded with the publication of the immortal classics The Trial and The Castle etc.
It is so thrilling to me that our own Tam Fiofori stood up to be counted amongst the writers of the Beat Generation in America.
According to Tam, “Actually, I was known as a poet in New York as from 1966, hanging out with Leroi Jones, Ted Joans, Alan Ginsberg, Gilbert Sorrentino, Gregory Corso and the lot.”
Incidentally, Allen Ginsberg in 1956 published arguably the most famous poem amongst the Beat Poets with his classic Howl:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…
Tam Fiofori’s three poems were published on Page 27 of a 1968 edition of Evergreen Review.
In the words of Tam, “These three poems were published in the prestigious Evergreen Review where the literary elite then were published.”
The three poems are republished below in this piece.
Tam’s brief introduction of the poems to me runs thusly: ‘The first poem, “Mama, Mama, Look At Sis” was written as a comment on Nina Simone who as a downbeat music critic after Ihad watched her perform for an exclusive white audience mostly male at an ultra upper class dinner nightclub. “Wear You Off My Mind” was about a scene in my white girlfriend’s apartment in London before I moved to the US. I quarreled with the editor for adding “s” to “need”… Originally it was…”maybe you need words”. The third poem is abstract based on watching a power pneumatic drill at work in New York City.”’
Tam adds for good measure: “I wrote many other poems published in Negro Digest/Black World…These are temporarily lost to me. Also, I had plays and essays published between 1968 and 1970. Then I gave up creative writing and concentrated on music journalism and managing Sun Ra.”
Tam’s publishing of his biography of the iconic musician Sun Ra whom he managed is being eagerly awaited.
Meantime, savour his three poems published in Evergreen Review:
MAMA, MAMA, LOOK AT SIS!
for the nite-club singers who never entered my blank dreams
Moulded in your sequin dress, round/
ed thighs locking legs and buttocks,
your blood-thick colored lips
gradually receed, over buck white teeth,
fixing your happy smile as you mouth love/
lyrics, in/to the cold phallic-silver
mike; cuddling it, bright eyes wide-open;
watching it turn in/to gold, you sing
you/r heart out to the same stone/
killers, who raped you/r mother, hung
her natural soul-man on the live-wire
you bold, and now slobbering; resting,
after a hard days work, they watch you,
knowing you’ll do any-thing, shake, shout,
shimmy, caress and love them, for that
gold, which soon will turn hot; smelt
In/to radio-active dust, unless we
forgive and rescue you from your/self,
sold as solid gold soul-currency,
In exchange for the/ir stony-heart!
beats, as they applaud your own swan!
songs of dead Love, and you say
Thank You/s over & over a-gain.
WEAR YOU OFF MY MIND
for Forest City Joe
Sitting here in your room staring
trying to bring flat faded posters
to Life, while you talk, asking me
Am I bored, tired, angry, hungry
and do I still love you?
Maybe you needs words, but
I am switched off; my
mind a million miles away,
down a highway thru the jungle,
walking, talking to myself.
White flags wave in the grey smoke mist,
forming fake zebra crossings against
the flow of Sky-Space-ways bringing-in
winds to blow the flags in/to ripples
of folds; clapping out a death tattoo of
brittle machine-gun repeater sounds;
beat/ing the dirt out of grey
whiteness, to leave the smoky-steam
of destruction, overhanging the air
as evidence of Life, attracting