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L-VIS Lives

Local poet and author Kevin Coval has been performing a one-man show at Victory Gardens scheduled to run through April 14th based on his L-VIS LIVES! and while I haven't seen the show, I can highly recommend it if it's anything like the book.

I admit I was skeptical at first - another bunch of obvious observations on race dressed up as insight in the form of "racemusic" poems! I was wrong, and it didn't take Coval long to win me over. It happened on the second poem describing the journey of Coval's white suburban rapper. That poem is called "the crossover." Here's a taste.

there was apartheid at the schools, apartheid in the lessons we sat thru. nelson mandela was in america. his name was chuck d. his name was krs-one. what is a Black Panther? there is apartheid on the bus home. there is apartheid in the lunchroom. the sides of the city we don't visit, were told not to. there is apartheid on the television. bill cosby aside.

there was a tape deck. a walkman. there was no apartheid in the music. no separation in the library. books endlessly check-out-able. there was holden. the hero Huey P. the wandering protagonist in the midst of all that quiet. the new music to soundtrack the walk to school. the music truthed. the music was middle finger fuck you. fuck you actor reagan who sent uncle dave crazy back into the streets. fuck you actor reagan who warred on the drugs my mom did. what you know about three jobs and two kids and running from landlords. the music was solace and ammunition. alone and one in the chamber.

In my notes, after reading this, I just wrote: YES.

It's even richer hearing Coval read it over music and accompanied by video:


Each poem is another episode in the story of a kid attaining knowledge and figuring out how to - and who to - represent. He discovers Style Wars, Al Jolson, Tupac . . . Bill Ayers and Rick Rubin make appearances. He gets schooled.


poems about birchwood are bullshit, he writes in "white art - after Amiri Baraka."

we want poems to stop lying
in showers of middle-age heartbreak &
cancer, fucking grad students ain't noble.
poems that grab
new yorker subscribers
by their neckties, hang them in Morning-
side Heights, Harlem, West Wicker Park,
River North, University Village like pinatas
summertime shooting galleries, gentrified
chickenshit wax-that-ass museum displays
of quaint colonialists discovering a cafe.


The white boy knows something is wrong, though. As cultural theorist Homi Bhabha argues, the oppressed possess a double-knowledge those from the oppressor culture can never attain; they know both cultures.

the whiteboy wants
a company, a crew
to accompany, a band
a brand, the whiteboy
wants his brand/name
uttered in tears
and ciphers


This is without a doubt an unusually compelling discourse on race and culture - but one that shouldn't be unusual at all.

"This is a story that's based on 150 years of American cultural history," Coval told the Mundelein Review. "There have been a lot of different historic white boys who have been drawn to black cultural redemption. Rather than examining the lives of these men individually, this show is about the phenomenon and the archetype of the white boy in a black mask."


Comments welcome.


Posted on April 4, 2012

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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