Ted Joans: Poet Painter/Former Villager Now/World Traveller
Ted Joans, edited by Wendy Tronrud and Ammiel Alcalay. Lost & Found, , $15 ISBN 978-0-9976796-0-1
Joans (1928–2003), a poet, painter, trumpeter, and restless visionary, was a lesser-known but pivotal figure in the Surrealist, Beat, and African-American literature movements. This dual chapbook of archival materials offers a neon-lit cross-section of Joans’s endeavors in painting, memoir, fiction, and correspondence in the decades during America’s postwar cultural upheaval, when Joans took to heart mentor André Breton’s dictum that “existence is elsewhere.” Whether seen in the “chance-filled paradise” of black expatriate Paris, chronicled in adventures with Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes, or in his sharp-tongued guide to Africa (he lived for long periods in Timbuktu, Mali) that contrasts with those of colonial forebears (“If you are the low cultural type, and deliberately seek self-destruction… I shall describe to you what desert dying of thirst is all about”), these texts reveal a persona capacious enough to nurture friendships with Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Miriam Makeba, Stokely Carmichael, and Amiri Baraka while maintaining an uncompromising stance toward American cultural dysfunction. Joans’s wide-ranging forays propose surrealism as the only sane response to a world askew, and many of his sentiments remain eerily pertinent: “I hope that the guilty policeman are taken to a gutter-ghetto guillotine. The entire globe has seen their televised violence.” (Dec.)
This review has been corrected; a previous version misspelled an editor's name.
Reviewed on: 11/21/2016