Tracie Morris

Poet, performer, and scholar, Tracie Morris works as a singer, sounds artist, writer, bandleader, and actor. She is at the forefront of the burgeoning international spoken word scene. She made a name for herself in the early 1990’s at the Nuyorican Poets Café (the spoken-word mecca of New York)—named champion of both the Nuyorican Grand Slam and the National Haiku Slam in 1993. Morris went on to win acclaim for her collaborations with other artists, particularly jazz musicians such as Donald Byrd and Vernon Reid.

Morris wrote the lyrics for choreographer Ralph Lemon’s epic “Geography,” (Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1999) and is currently at work on a commissioned project for The Kitchen. Her tough and sassy hip-hop rhymes have been featured in many anthologies, as well as on radio and television, and she has toured extensively here and abroad. The Brooklyn native was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, New Faces/New Voices Fellowship, and a Franklin Furnace Artist in Exile grant, and has published two collections of poems, Chap-T-her Won and Intermission.

Poetry Center Reading:
Spring 2001

Get Away 1928

for Marvin Sewell

Pack up and hit it
Road warrior got the
Big one

Like the Dipper
Urban area — a trip
Far gone

Click on the dusty boots
separated troops
Movin’ on
Movin’ on

Take him off the farm
Seen the Parée
Uh Huh

Hard to ‘yes, boss’
After francophillic
got some

Brothers swung low
Belles chimed
Sweet french quiches

“Boy” in the US
All man to

Scared the Crow
Plot-condemned–no way
couldn’t keep him

Flee to the
steel belt (work-related
health reasons).

Rusty got the clay
still baked to his
pained face

Collard green and hoe cake
withdrawal from his
momma’s place

Foul hawk breezing through
with the Negro
northern news

you ain’t never far away
enough to not need
the blues.

From INTERMISSION (Soft Skull Press, 1998)

Las Brujitas

bubble, bubble
toil and double
dutch too much
turning into trouble

tapping time ’till
we just can’t take it
chanting rhymes when
moments make it

blessed and cursed
being double handed
leaning to the left
strands deftly commanded

understudies be understanding
switchettes fidget digits
turning dispell, casting
breaking curses

portal dimensions
simple phrases
making mischief
not to be phrased as
bracelets clink
in sync thinking
sweethearts’ names
invocation through
games and–

“…tell me the name of…”
“Miss Lucy had a baby and this is what she said…”
“…saw James Brown sitting in the gutter…”

even when Ali needed mo’ machismo
he put dopes on a rope with a
butterfly float, flippant wrist
let loose noose’s grip

like girls we did
reworking the kinetics
left-turn, right-turn
over-handed aesthetics

feet thinking double-time
meter reason school’s
in season, flip in, flouncing
guild’s lillies

dust clouds breezes–
ten little drummers
summon up old stories
speak in tongues

old soul buster’s shoes
got the blues and browns
round white fronts
tassles flat down

keeping up chatter
through patter
in the ‘pation
vibes ‘verberating
teeny-bopper ‘timidation
tensile strength
making it stand
knot still yet grand

ain’t random
We clasp our hands
in tandem.

From INTERMISSION (Soft Skull Press, 1998)

Writers Are My Nepenthe

with apologies to Ted Joans

Writers are my nepenthe. They alone saved my soul more akin to
peyote than some mundane substance. The best kind of therapy.
Workshops and journals get holy sometimes. My jones gets going.
They are sanctified stages. But other places are like certain com-
mercial hospitals (where bloods are sold). I don’t dig their evange-
lists. I be on the side of the free but don’t come cheap. Ain’t into no
slave labor. Writing is still my nepenthe. Makes me feel better
’cause I hear the messengers. From: the right reverend amiri/seer
sonia/sister sandra maria/the wizard wonder/uncle etheridge/cler-
ic rakim/minister morrison/saviour sekou/baba john/deacon diva
lisa/empress erykah/rector victor cruz/zoastrian zora hurston/trix-
ter darius/freemason mosley/fundamentalist yusef/priestess pat
landrum/heirophant hattie gossett/holy roller nona hendrix/ecu-
menical ethelbert/monkess jayne cortez/guru babs
gonzalez/preacher quincy/his funkness formerly known as/deacon
steve cannon/ and sunday teacher ted joans/they let me lay my
burden low. they are the runaway from which I go! yeah, so, writers
are my nepenthe. Writers are….

From INTERMISSION (Soft Skull Press, 1998)