Poetry for Southern California
Our Senior Editor G. Murray Thomas has put together the latest CD's in our craft for your ultimate listening pleasure (once you get the CD that is). We will provide listening selections when available. And from time to time Murray may review books, or broadsides or god knows what... This month Beth Amato reviews George McDonald.
"He discovereth the deep & secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him." —Daniel 2:22
George McDonald is a mystical poet anointed in the struggles and stories of the everyday. He doesn’t have too many years, but he inhabits them with many places, people, and experiences. He has brought tastes of St. Louis and Louisiana out L.A. way, resulting in a cascade of words that sound like they’re sitting on a porch sipping iced tea with a sprig of mint on a hot day.
I could be
And I could be rock
I could be bebop
Or hip hop
But I’m not
I’m just a
Somewhere between soul and r&b
But I speak
Somewhat like jazz….
But I’m blues mostly
George may be blues, but he’s created a CD that plays like R&B; this is Quiet Storm poetry. This is a bath with rose petals and candles burning poetry. This is what all those female poets are complaining is missing in their lives when they get up on stage – a dose of George McDonald.
George is a poet of intimacy. In live performance he connects to each and every person in the room with a super smooth voice that lends itself to recording. On The 8th Day, his voice comes into your world and sits you down, puts your feet up and invites you to listen.
Searching is his ode to the female spirit and the soulmate he knows exists somewhere to be found. It is an ode to anima/animus, yin/yang – the male acknowledging that divinity in life is delivered to him in a female form:
happily drown in your waters
I am baptized in you
Your spirit has found my soul once again
And I have found…peace in a familiar place
The opening of Louder recalls Stevie Wonder’s anthem “Living for the City.” George’s version is a temptation pie he is trying not to take a piece of; it’s a call to abstention in the midst of chaos; it’s a meditation on the forces of evil closing in and turning up the volume. This piece is notable for its lack of victim pretension and its filmic imagery, which continues in Homie, a portrait of a brother gone wrong:
just momentary moments of madness
yet to be captured on 35 millimeter
So for now…I’m using the stage as my canvas
painting words clearer than HDTV
Using vivid colors like deep reds
accompanied by rich greens
and every color in between
The sound full of texture and tones.
I’m saying something meaningful,
as if I was older,
and saying something back to me
George never forgets his role as storyteller. His narrator is always in control, always dictating the destinies of his characters. Like a preacher, he is unafraid to remind his listeners of the lessons with the hope that they will come away from his poetry better, maybe a little bit readier to love, but also a little bit more watchful over the devil round the corner. He never forgets for a moment that these cautionary tales are meant first and foremost for himself, knowing there but for the grace of God, he goes.
In Super Nigga he exhorts the lords of hip hop for turning away from their spiritual side:
you are the earthly essence of god
A perfect creation
A proverb of truth
A fundamental principle
and no, you are not a Nigga.
George finds his righteous anger on this track, leaving his laid-back delivery at home and adopting an in-your-face tone that works with the funky grooves and vocals.
George is not afraid to tackle big issues – his world is populated with angels fallen, from small-time pimps and preachers to lost women. Each brings stories of the ravages of street life, addiction, sin, and disease. His gift is in making these stories enjoyable and accessible, in making the audience see themselves in the poor souls who wander George’s lost streets.
There is something haunting in much of George’s best work. Last Mourning is an elegy to his father, with a simple dolorous trumpet line behind the vocals. He recalls some of his father’s last advice:
buy a dependable car. Don’t go for flash.
A pretty bow won’t sustain you forever
Even keep a spare,” He always kept five.
His motto was, “who cares if you can only drive one?”
all your bills first and then have fun.”
I’m still working on that one.
sleeping with a woman beyond fucking,
do it slow, remember you have all night.”
He laughed and said, “that was a hard lesson to learn.”
George’s father comes alive again during the brief interlude of this piece. As George speaks, we can feel his father receding, leaving trace elements of age and experience on the young, yet-to-be-poet George McDonald.
The production on The 8th Day is top-notch for a poetry CD; the tracks are layered, there are solo pieces and pieces fully orchestrated. Along with friends and family like Jaha Zainabu, Mayda del Valle, Joshua Silverstein, Raymond L. Parker, Chel E. Mac, Tau Flagg, Phurst Lady and others, he creates a spoken word CD that is all George: laid back, kinda sexy, a little nasty, sinfully soulful, always filled with humor and meant to uplift.
George McDonald is a poet you like spending time with; he can tell a good yarn, rhyme a good line, and even cook a mean salmon patty. The 8th Day is a clear expression of his style, his flow, his groove and his poetry.
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