Eugene B. Redmond and Cultural Documentation

[By Jerry Ward]

Eugene B. Redmond turns seventy-five on
December 1, 2012.  It is obligatory to
make a few notes about his legacy to world culture and the world of letters.
How many of his fellow writers has he
helped to scrub a river’s back by publishing them in Drumvoices Revue?  How has
his invention of the “kwansaba” enriched poetics?  How does his extensive collection of
photographs, housed in the Elijah P. Lovejoy Library at Southern IllinoisUniversity Edwardsville, constitute an invaluable archive for
research on writers and artists?  How do
Redmond’s poems exist as works of art and as models for work to be assumed by
individuals in a tradition, by people who have not committed artistic or
intellectual suicide?  What impact has
his neologic signature had on our use of poetic languages?  How does his now classic Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry (1976) serve as our
prototype for critical, humanly engaged scholarship?

Answers to some of these questions may
be contained in Redmond’s new book Arkansipp
Memwars: 1962-2012, Poetry, Prose & Chants
.  Observe a hint about the special conscience
and consciousness that mark Redmond’s critical imagination.  He uses a soundsoulular gesture to refashion memoir as memwar. This transformation exposes the function of aesthetics in
the social space occupied by our political and cultural investments.  Memwar
is mano a mano, an adult reckoning
with inevitable principles of uncertainty. The gesture is a response to
Adesanya Alakoye’s request (tell me how willing slaves be), to June Jordan’s
assertion (I must be a menace to my enemies), and to Gwendolyn Brooks’
admonition (first fight. then fiddle). The gesture is one that a man makes when
he steps outside the comfort zone of ego to do battle for his people.
Redmond has mastered the art of using
the simple neologism to create a mindscape. 
And his conflating geographic territories in Arkansippi reminds me of how John Oliver Killens cooked down with
black fire Nina Simone’s “Mississippi, Goddamn” into the gumbo of his novel
‘Sippi (1967).
Just as Robert Hayden paid homage in
“Frederick Douglass” to a man who had a “dream of the beautiful, needful
thing,” so too ought we pay tribute to Eugene B. Redmond for his lifetime of
work in the field of “Parapoetics” where
is an applied science:
         Re-wraped corner rap;
         Rootly-eloquented cellular, soulular
We ought to pay tribute to Redmond for
all of his cultural documentation, or ,in the words of Jerry Herman from the
blurb assigned to Sentry of the Four
Golden Pillars
(1970), his “challenging man’s inability to control his
savage quest for power in our modern nuclear jungle.”  Redmond is the poet-artist-thinker for all
our seasons.