Kwansaba: Donna Summer

KWANSABA: DONNA SUMMER

by Kenny Fame


Trademark hair out to there. Red lipstick
stamped to the seventies like a napkin.
String of hits kept spinning like disco
balls. Spinning like memories of needles stuck
in the groove of an LP– repeating
like an eight-track tape. Stuck in
the dashboard of my dad’s old Buick.


-refers from the word red in Rose Hunter’s poem Magenta and Peridot

  1. You took me back to the 70’s with this one! Thanks!

  2. Lorraine Caputo

    While this is quite a nice poem, it is most definitely not a kwansaba, a poetic form developed by East Saint Louis Poet Laureate, Professor Emeritus of Southern Illinois University and editor of Drumvoices Revue, Eugene Redmond.

    The kwansaba is defined as: “A kwansaba is seven lines of seven words, with each word containing not more than seven letters” (http://www.siue.edu/~atheisi/aboutme/kwansaba.htm; also: http://www.siueblackstudies.com/2010/03/kwansaba.html).

    A number of words in “Kwansaba: Donna Summer” violate the seven-letter limit.

    I am very familiar with this poetic form, as my kwansaba was included in issues 12, 13, 15 and 16 of Drumvoices Revue (see: http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=/sie_drum; also: http://connection.ebscohost.com/tag/CAPUTO%252C%2BLorraine).

    Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your feedback. This could start a really interesting conversation about fractured forms. When you vary a form can you still call it that? I think of the trend for not quite sonnets etc.

  4. Experimenetation with traditional poetic forms is fantastic. It is what keeps breathing life into poetry, stretching the boundaries.

    However, in my opinion, poetic forms with spiritual significance should be kept intact — including the Japanese haiku, tanka, rengu, etc.

    The kwansaba is one of those poetic forms based on a spiritual significance. As the article (http://www.siueblackstudies.com/2010/03/kwansaba.html) explains:

    “The word ‘kwansaba’ is derived from ‘Kwanazaa,’ the African American holiday founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa, a seven-letter, focuses on and celebrates seven principles …

    In an interview, Redmond explained

    We, members of the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club, being a community-based unit, wanted to express the origins and principles of kwanzaa—and Black Culture—via an aesthetic system with poetry at the center. Hence, the kwansaba which allows us to promote an ‘original’ AA poetic form and celebrate the principles of kwanzaa through the ‘kwansaba candle lighting ritual.’ Aware that the Arabic numeral ‘seven’ has many meanings and implications for African peoples and others the world over—seven wonders, ‘seventh son’ of DuBois—we think deeply about the astrological, numerological, and spiritual associations of “seven.’ “

  5. The haiku is a good example of two different schools of thought. The 5-7-5 is strictly followed by some poets, but not by others. The Japanese use a character-based written system, so they are writing in characters, which translate as syllables in romance languages. Or not. Depending on which school you follow. Any form can have a different school of thought. But if a poet transgresses too far off the path, then it can’t be called the same form, IMO.

  6. I’ve invited others to join in this conversation as well because I think it is a really great topic to dig into. Joshua makes a great point with haiku as well, which is where I was going to go next. American Haiku is very different from Japanese Haiku so who really owns the rules of that form? For those who held Haiku in kind of place of spiritual reverence does it bother them to see so many people not including, for example, the seasons in their Haiku?

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