Yak Ballz Does T. S. Eliot

it seems strange, like yellow smoke
pushin’ up against the window panes
and ain’t a damn thing changed
i know, cause i been trying to find an antidote
while women come and go
talking of michelangelo

What! These lyrics wafted past me this weekend during a family gathering, and stopped me in my tracks. Has somebody finally turned my favorite poem ever into a hiphop track? And if so, what the hell took them so long? The track is Homework by Yak Ballz, a rapper from Flushing, Queens. The mermaids are slinging crack, and it’s all good.

Yak depicts a scattered literary mind here, and I can relate, since I’ve been scrambling to catch up on my pile of urgent new fiction while also grappling with several history books about the Vietnam War and Watergate that recently assaulted me. I’ll be writing about my history research project soon, and I also regretfully gave up on a novel I was impressed by, Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel. but ultimately couldn’t finish because the frenetic pitch of the narrative confounded me completely (why is the undercover agent ex-wife of the gentle-souled religious cult leader wearing a fat suit and what does this have to do with North Korea?) even though I was attracted to Maazel’s hard-edged satirical voice as well as to the book’s obvious references to a classic novel about loneliness, Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut.

I persevered lightly with this work of hysterical realism for weeks but ultimately had to free myself, and I also gave up on reading Taipei, the latest Tao Lin, even though I always like Tao’s sweetly vulnerable style. I’m now beginning a novel I know I’ll love, Sparta by Roxana Robinson, because I’ve dearly loved every novel Roxana Robinson has ever written.

Then I’ve got an advance galley of Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker to contend with (this is a sequel to The Anthologist, a rare case of a Nicholson Baker novel I didn’t like, but I do like the title Traveling Sprinkler, so I’m pumped for a mixed reaction). I still haven’t found a copy of another new novel by a favorite author, The Childhood of Jesus by J. M. Coetzee, which was released around the world but not yet in the USA. Till then, at least we’ve got him on Twitter.

Tech-wise, I’m still fooling around with this site’s new Facebook feed (now visible on the front page, a work in progress) and considering doing more with Facebook integration. I’m also grappling with twelve years of archived Action Poetry content, which I’ll hopefully be presenting in a newly organized format soon, and we’ll kick off the summer Action Poetry next week. There’s my hurried report … now listen to Yak.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!