Praise the Word! A Review of the New Anthology by a Gathering of the Tribes

Word: An anthology by a Gathering of the Tribes is brand new; it’s a gorgeous, slim and glossy volume of photographs, art works such as paintings, photographs, collage and even a comic strip, as well as many poems. The cover photo, taken by Gaia Squarci, is of Steve Cannon’s graceful hands poised in front of a red and gold painting by David Hammons (Fantasy in Flight II) which once covered a living room wall at Tribes’s original Lower East Side location.

            Each poem in Word is accompanied by a piece of visual art; each piece is by a different artist and each one complements the other. Contributing poets to Word include Dorothy Friedman August, Ron Kolm, Chavisa Woods, Sarah Ferguson, Steve Cannon (who is a poet and novelist as well as the founder and proprietor of Tribes), Michael Carter, Carl Watson, Eileen Myles, and Edwin Torres, as well as poets who have passed away such as Jayne Cortez and John Farris. Works of visual art by Eugene Hyon, Steve Dalachinsky, Crosby Coolest, and Yuko Otomo are also included, among many others.

This collection is comprised of new pieces and old ones, of beloved Lower East Side writers and artists who have been published in many Tribes anthologies as well as newcomers. One of the most memorable pieces in the collection is Bob Holman’s lively poem, “This is It!” which is accompanied by “Mountain Top”: a colorful and kinetic painting by his late wife, the great artist and early benefactress of Tribes, Elizabeth Murray. It is romantic, funny, and wild.

Quincy Troupe’s poem “A Singer’s Siren Calling in Marcus Garvey Park; August 24th 2013” is also a personal favorite for its lush romantic language and stream of consciousness-style of wordplay. It is accompanied by the collection’s second piece by David Hammons: a photograph of his politically apropos sculpture, “Orange is the New Black”, a two-headed demonic dog covered with nails.

The pieces in Word are varied in meaning and tone: many deal with dark themes including tragedy, political corruption and personal loss, while others serve only to remind the reader of the joy that is being alive, which is why Holman’s “This is It!” struck a chord: it’s all about singing while you have still a voice, and singing with all your heart and breath and soul, even if things seem hopeless.

The publication party for Word took place at Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project on April 1st and was packed to the gills. With readings by the featured poets, live music, and open mic performances, it was a great celebration worthy of Tribes’s reputation as being a hub for all kinds of different people, ideas and conversations. Word was published in-house by Tribes and is available for purchase in book stores and online.