Adam Mansbach 2008

Adam Mansbach  books  events  bio  music  interviews  other writing 


genius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delightsgenius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delights
Subway & Elevated Press
Paperback $9.95
ISBM 0-9666469-5-9


Adam Mansbach's debut poetry collection, genius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delights, gives us a glimpse at what overused terms like "hip hop poetry" should, but seldom do, refer to.

Hip hop is only occasionally the subject matter of Mansbach's poetry -- alongside topics like race, family, consumerism, academia, love, jazz, popular culture and religion -- but a hip hop sensibility infuses his work. He collages words and ideas like the best DJs, samples voices, rhythms and ideas with a skill and wit worthy of the RZA or DJ Premier, twists and invigorates and layers language with up-to-the-minute wit.

And yet, Mansbach is more in the tradition of T.S. Eliot than he is in keeping with the contemporary poetry scene. His best pieces, like Eliot's, are long, winding narratives which shift from topic to topic, their structures revealing themselves cagily. Poems like "It's Your World Tour," "Black Marbles," and "Sticknmove" are searingly insightful, strikingly personal, and often hilarious attempts to grapple with the complexities of life. As with Eliot, the uninitiated may have to grab a reference book to properly understand all of Mansbach's allusions, but in this case the privileged insiders are more likely to be genius b-boy cynics than scholars.

Mansbach's scope of reference is so wide, though -- as Michael Eric Dyson, author of Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, has written, he is "equally comfortable with high cultural classicism and vernacular vibrations" -- that his work is challenging to almost any reader. In a single piece, it is not unusual for Mansbach to cite cultural markers as diverse as Phil Ochs, Eryka Badu, Wallace Stevens, George Wallace, Grand Wizard Theodore, Phase 2, Tennessee Williams, and Shaharazad Ali, to name just a few of those who crop up in the first few pages of the expansive "It's Your World Tour."

In shorter pieces, Mansbach is often more pointed. In "Frontlines," he discusses the gradual process by which academics lose touch with reality: "late at night you gaze/at the titles on your university housing pinewood bookshelf/and beg james baldwin's forgiveness/because the fire this time stopped burning after two degrees/leavin you strong enough for a man/but ph.d balanced against outrage/like the scales of justice." In "Gotta Be," the tongue-in-cheek subject is his own obsession with Nikes, and in "Veen" he envisions a world in which "God plays time" like drummer Elvin Jones. "Knight in Shining Karma" explores fear and vulnerability in love relationships, drawing on kung fu movies and cold war terminology to do so, while "A Visit With My Brother David" is a poignant, straightforward narrative about a trip to prison.

The only thing longer than the title of genius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delights is the talent of its author. Adam Mansbach's poetry is dense with music, with insight, and with honesty. His is that rarest of poetry collections: one destined to become dogeared.

still life moving

adolescent barrio lotharios
memorize & recite 

	cinematic cadillac advice	

					holdin summer night summits
					on other people's cars

got romance down to a science   like alchemy  

& more than happy 
to explain
how to get to second base 

					by feelin up the cleavage 
					in the virgin/whore dichotomy


girl lean over & unlock yo door   hey

don't unlock it   ho 

							everybody nods & then
							my man tris 

							raises the bar
							on that foolishness
							like buss this						  
if a chick doesn't think 
rakim is the illest mc ever

			then man i can't fuck with her on any serious level

everybody nods      			i squint 
						into my brew
						& try to strip 
						the concrete off the streets

imagining harlem 
when these hills 
were covered with trees 
& teemed with dinosaurs		

i smile around my straw 
replace papi's cornerstore 
with a triceratops

& reflect that cats ain't got
no less hardheaded 
since the mesozoic era
on this block

					for evidence you can check
						        my homey brett   

						the projects' best defense 
						against a t rex on the flex

				          even the way 
						he offers you a beer 
						is like a threat

dudes been known to jet
rather than deal with him & yet 
you gotta give the cat respect

				                  the crazy
						spic-mick deck you in a sec 
						blackbelt meathead
						lives in a world without regret

now & forever
the unofficial president 
of the neighborhood pride association

					meaning the only one    old school enough 
						to scrap for his block's reputation

one of those
dudes whose 

broma favorita's pissing 
right where people chillin
instead of over on the wall 

 				cats pick theyselves up quick 

askin what the fuck's the matter 
							with you 
									as they scatter

					only response they ever get is laughter

busybody blockparty mamis 
swoop offa stoops 
like pterodactyls

if they smell a fight

						but nowadays not much jumps off 
					       to get them moving

it's just cats sittin chillin   bullshittin
							doin nothin

empty cervezas frias jutting     from the pavement 
									like stalagtites

a lack of activity 
partly due  
to the market's 
relative stability

						twelve years ago
						in the late 
						shitisfuckedup period 

						this block was hyperactive

						knee deep delirious
  						in a crack economy
					    oldtimers got war stories like iraqis

				but today				
				a little bit of lley
				& lotsa weed
				is all you see

next to the roti spot
some muneca even opened a boutique       

it's always empty
but then again so is papi's deli 
except for overripe platanos 
stale dutchies & brew

the tv repair shop
except for electronic junkheaps 
& four mujeres gordas 
playin poker in the backroom

& the unisex salon
except for three bored bellas 
watchin telenovelas 
& a clownmouthed pink lipstick wearin 
anciana from my building 
who stops in with her dog to talk 		

only business on its feet appears to be
the chinese takeout kitchen 

which in addition to flippin 
sweet n sour chicken 
& pork fried rice
has now diversified 
in order to embrace a wide
multicultural variety 
of shit you can fry 

let me tell you
you ain eaten 
until you had platanos szechuan style          

								straight out the wok 									
								with a little soy sauce

							     don't think that shit 								     
							     won't hit you off 

cats go in there so much 
they know everybody's name     address     diet

				if he notice you ain orderin enough iron
				money throw some spinach 
				in with your kung po shrimp           
									  no extra charge

even got free delivery 
for when you too treed up 
to walk a half a street up

					so it's no wonder 
					styrofoam combination plate containers 
					greased with emptysqueezed 
					packets of duck sauce
					blow across 
					the sidewalks of the block

as coolbreeze dances 
with the merengue					
jimmy's blastin on his box 

					     two a.m. & no 
					     callate silencio 
						from viejos in windows
						no noise reports    no cops

	plus when they do roll through they strangely cool
     all they say is quiet down or move it to the park
i'm telling you
rita got a fat ass

				pass the blunt	

						   damn it's still too goddamn hot	
			wish mami'd sent me to summer camp like ramon

man fuck that nasty coldass lake & fuck ramon
tomorrow we gonna take a wrench to that fire hydrant 

						  & go swimmin citystyle


Adam Mansbach  books  events  bio  music  interviews  other writing