Speechless the Magazine

 To render. Be rendered. Awestruck. Awesome.
A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A.


Guest Star

Jawanza Dumisani Presents The World Stage

Heritage, Our Shifting Truth

Below: Poet Lynne Thompson's
parents and their '37 Ford coupe

Viewed as one of LA’s most vibrant and high spirited artistic hubs, The World Stage Anansi Writers Workshop has been an ark and an oasis. A place like church ‘cept no choir and no preacher. Poets bring the sermons. It's as if the air in and around the place were a mystic steroid for new voices, forging a strong presence in a tiny community from the very beginning. The Watts Writers movement out of the sixties and seventies fueled its coming with chiding and reverence. For over a decade its loose but no nonsense workshop conducted before an open mic with a “no bullshit rule” has helped shape some of the Southland’s most prolific voices. Established in the mid-eighties by jazz icon Billy Higgins and poet Kamau Da'ood, the venue has built a solid reputation and a high water mark in every genre from poetry to fiction.

I've presented poems by three World Stage writers—Peter J. Harris, Lynne Thompson and me, Director of Literary Programs—that open a window to our intimate family circles. They provide a tapestry of our shifting heritage and peer beyond the seemingly mundane life of growing up in close urban quarters. 

"Song for Two Immigrants" by Lynne Thompson was inspired by the above photo of her parents poised on the running board of a black '37 Ford coupe, her father looking like "nothing less than the black Clyde Barrow." The poem's variety of images represent her search to discover who her parents really were during her early youth.   

Music is an ever-present theme. It passes through Lynne's poem "How I Learned Where We Came From." It's the central groove in Peter Harris' "The Lost Song of Donny Hathaway."  In this piece recalling his parents' funerals, music cranks the celebratory mystery to a somber frenzy. His response is moving, though unsettling to the protocol of the procession. Yet his actions serve to orchestrate the moment as if he were an angel sent to quell the sorrow of an entire congregation. 

In my poem, "Daddy's Epitaph," the blues and folklore of my Father, son of a old sharecropper, is historically accurate and true as near tell. By contrast, this poem reaches across generations in a long sustained stride and crystallizes around death brought on over years by coal.

Both "Seed of Mango, Seed of Maize" by Lynne and my poem "The Sight of Her" are tiny anthems to women with giant spirits—spirits larger than the worlds they seem to navigate.


—Jawanza Dumisani


For more information about The World Stage and how to get involved, or to subscribe to the World Stage Newsletter, visit The World Stage Web site.

Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach