The Joshua Tree Tour Poetry

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-05-13)

Before and after Mumford and Son sappeared on stage, the lights came up and we saw projections of words on the screen to the right of the screen. The inclusion of this poems were tipped ahead of the show when news that Parliament of Canada’s Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke had licensed two poems to the production.

But it was not just Clarke’s poems that scrolled on the screen, there were a number of poets and writers who had work displayed on the screen.

The poems were displayed immediately after the opening act and continued until the opening music by The Pogues was heard. At one point the poems did start over and looped back to the initial poem displayed, and a number were shown twice.

The poems varied from a long multi screen piece by Carl Sandburg titled “Prairie” to a very short untitled piece by George Elliott Clarke that read: “Male is partly female, because female / Carries male. To whit, Gender’s not a jail,”

The full list we were able to identify are below:

  • Margaret Avison – “Thaw”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Untitled (Gender is not a Jail)”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Kaddish for Leonard Cohen (a la maniere d’Allan Ginsburg)”
  • Joan Crate – “I Am a Prophet”
  • Elizabeth Alexander – “Praise Song for the Day”
  • Carl Sandburg – “Prairie”
  • Naomi Shahib Nye – “Kindness”
  • Naomi Shahib Nye – “United”
  • Lucille Clifton – “Let There Be Now Flowering”
  • Walt Whitman – “I Hear America Singing”
  • Jamila Woods (Collaboration with Chance the Rapper) – “Ghazal for White Hen Pantry”
  • Rita Dove – “Wingfoot Lake”
  • Yusef Komunyakaa – “Facing It”
  • Alberto Rios – “The Border: A Double Sonnet”
  • Elizabeth Alexander – “Preliminary Sketches: Philadelphia”
  • William Matthews – “Why We Are Truly a Nation”
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti – “The World is a Beautiful Place”
  • Robert Pinsky – “An Explanation of America: A Love of Death”
  • Margaret Avison – “Winter Sun”
  • Margaret Avison – “Thaw”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Untitled (Gender is not a Jail)”
  • George Elliott Clarke – “Kaddish for Leonard Cohen (a la maniere d’Allan Ginsburg)”
  • Joan Crate – “I Am a Prophet”

There was one additional poem by Yusef Komunyakaa that we were unable to identify.

In Seattle, the poems once again scrolled before and after the opening act. As expected, we were able to identify some additionally pieces, our list is below:

  • Walt Whitman – “Leaves of Grass”
  • Sherman Alexis – “Powwow at the End of the World”
  • James Dickey – “The Strength of Fields”
  • Shirley Geok-Lin-Lim – “Learning to Love”
  • Pedro Pietri – “Puerto Rican Obituary”
  • Robinson Jeffers – “Juan Higera Creek”

Some of these poems replace more Canadian items such as the poems by Canada’s Poet Laureate, Clarke. Other changes noticed in the screen content included replacement of Canadian politician Chrystia Freeland’s image with that of Melinda Gates.

These were not the only poems seen in Seattle, many from the Vancouver list above didn’t appear, and we saw Sandberg’s “Prairie” three-times in Seattle.

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