Spring 2012, Web Issue 14

Spring 2015, Web Issue 17

Spring 2014, Web Issue 16

Spring 2013, Web Issue 15

Spring 2012, Web Issue 14

Spring 2010, Web Issue 13

Summer 2009, Web Issue 12

Winter 2008, Extra Issue 11

Spring 2008, Web Issue 10

Spring 2007, Web Issue 9

Spring 2006, Web Issue 8

Summer 2004, Web Issue 7

Winter 2004, Web Issue 6

Summer 2003, EXTRA #2

Spring 2002, Web Issue 5

Winter 2001, Web Issue 4

Summer 2000, EXTRA #1

Summer 1999, Web Issue 3

Spring 1998, Web Issue 2

Spring 1997, Web Issue 1

A multidisciplinary
journal in the
arts and politics




     Paintings & Prints
     Poetry & Prose
     Virtual Facsimiles

Founding Editors:
Joe Brennan
Carlo Parcelli

Contributing Editors:
Bradford Haas
Rosalie Gancie
Cathy Muse
Mark Scroggins
Jim Angelo

Web Editors:
JR Foley
Rosalie Gancie
Nicole Foley

III.  Andante Sostenuto

They tell us to forget
the Golgotha we tread...
We who are scourged with hate,
A price upon our head.
They who have shackled us.
Require of us a song,
They who have wasted us
Bid us condone the wrong.

They tell us to forget
Democracy is spurned.
They tell us to forget
The Bill of Rights is burned.
Three Hundred years we slaved,
We slave and suffer yet:
Thought flesh and bone rebel,
They tell us to forget!

Oh, how can we forget
Our human rights denied
Oh, how can we forget
Our manhood crucified?
When justice is profaned
And plea with curse is met,
When freedom's gates are barred,
Oh, how can we forget?

- Melvin B. Tolson

a selection from:
Rendezvous with America

All essays, poetry, fiction, and artwork are copyrighted in the
names of the authors and artists,
to whom all rights revert.

Issue Index

David Jones Conference
March 29 & 30, 2012

J.R. Foley

Country Valley Press

   Carlo Parcelli:
  Book   /   Author page

   Wayne Pounds
  Book  /   Author page

   Eric Rosenbloom


              Robert M. Farnsworth

Melvin B. Tolson Revisited

Grant Jenkins

Melvin B. Tolson's
Ethical Experiment

The Philosophy of Otherness


        Tyrone Williams

The Pan-African-Americanism

of Melvin B. Tolson

              Aldon Nielsen
Tolson's Turn


              Kathy Lou Schultz

To Save and Destroy:

Melvin B. Tolson,
Langston Hughes,
and Theories of the Archive

              Jon Woodson

Melvin B. Tolson's
Harlem Gallery:

Alchemy, Codes, and the
Key to the Secret of Life


Melvin B. Tolson
and Oragean Modernism:

a few notes on

The Problem of Esoteric Writers
in American Literature


            Melvin B. Tolson

Reading from
Dark Symphony

along with Dark Symphony
from the Atlantic Monthly

Ex-Judge at the Bar

from Negro Digest October 1965
     Karl Shapiro discusses

The Poet Who Writes in 'Negro'
Down With 'The Tradition'
Decolonization of American Literature

and from
Negro Digest May 1965

A Curtain Raised
Melvin B. Tolson,

from Negro Digest
December 1966

Sarah Webster Fabio

Who Speaks Negro?

A Poet's Reply to Karl Shapiro


        from the archive:


Melvin B. Tolson


Kate and Benjamin Bell

      musical composition

T.J. Anderson:

Variations on a Theme

by M. B. Tolson


        Carlo Parcelli

Workingman's Tolson

a reminiscence



        David Jones' 'The Sleeping Lord',
Melvin Tolson's 'Libretto for the Republic of Liberia'
and American Empire

from The Crisis:

Hobart Jarrett

Adventures in

            from Negro Digest Jan 1966:

Dudley Randall
on Melvin B. Tolson

Portrait of a Poet as Raconteur

from the archive:

Melvin B. Tolson

The Sea-Turtle and the Shark

       Anne M. Cooke

The Little Theatre Movement
as an Adult Education Project
Among Negroes

Photos and Clippings

Langston Hughes on Race and Tolson
Tolson on Race and Class
Tolson with Shapiro, Kendrix, Hillyard Robinson

M.B. Tolson
The Fire in the Flint

Walter White and The Work of a Mob

Dust Bowl Theater Programs for
Fire in the Flint

Two pages of the script for
Fire in the Flint

       Melvin B. Tolson


Foreground of Negro Poetry

      from the archive:

Melvin B. Tolson


from Two Notebooks



Felton G. Clark
and W.E.B. DuBois

A brief letter exchange
regarding Melvin B. Tolson

Jan 25, 1927 / Feb 4, 1927


      A Selection of
Book Covers

& Other Items of Note



Melvin B. Tolson
and Liberia

a few items
from the archive



Two Letters

Alain Locke to Tolson

George Schuyler
to Mrs. M.B.Tolson (Ruth)
regarding BLACK NO MORE


Music Score
Rendezvous with America
with music by Raymond Morris
Wiley College, 1943

M.B.Tolson & the Wiley College Players
Dillard Arts Festival Drama Calendar
May 4 - 5, 1938

Microscope and Telescope
[c.1946] Speech Notes on
the NAACP Oklahoma Conference

Draft Typescripts of Poems

  To The 'Ibhri

  The House of Heafod
   final draft

  John Henry, His Legend
   final draft, 22 pages

  The Anatomy of Courage

  Masks of the Middle Voice

  The Barrel

  Madame De Tory's Lover

Draft Typescript Samples of Poems

  Hydrogen Bomb

  Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

  Harlem Gallery

Three One-Act Plays
(original typescripts)

Bivouac By The Santa Fe

The Fence War

"Transfiguration Springs"
from Upper Boulders in the Sun
The Oklahoma Golden Anniversary Play



The Dust Bowl Players

Theater Programs

with images of the players

   Tolson Links

James Farmer,
Gwendolyn Brooks,
Ronald Walcott,
Raymond Nelson, Richard Wright,
Allen Tate / Poetry Magazine,
audio, video & reference.




Part 1:

Vestiges of Miriam


Joan McCracken

      In this issue...

      MELVIN BEAUNORUS TOLSON was an educator, an organizer of sharecroppers, a scholar, a renowned debate coach, a playwright, a small town mayor -- but most enduringly, and most intriguingly, a major poet in the High Modernist line from -- but also in significant ways counter to -- Ezra Pound and, especially, T.S. Eliot. Dying, age 67, at the height of his slow-building public recognition, embraced by white literati, rejected by Black Nationalists, Tolson experienced a strange fate. Never forgotten, neither has he received the general attention he deserves. But the vigorous flamboyance and seductive mystery of his poetry have continued to fascinate scholars.

      Then in 1999 the University Press of Virginia brought out "Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson," gathering in one volume all the poetry published in his lifetime, with an enthusiastic introduction by Rita Dove. And in 2007 The Great Debaters hit the theaters, with Denzel Washington playing a Prof. Mel Tolson who was a rigorous and inspiring college debate coach by day and a fearless organizer of Texas sharecroppers, both white and black, by night. In between FlashPøint #4 printed a Brad Haas Review of "Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems which for the last decade has consistently gotten some of the most hits of anything in FlashPøint. So attention is being paid. But now we want to celebrate Tolson's poetry in a very big way.

      FlashPøint is especially pleased that many of the leading Tolson scholars have contributed to this issue. Foremost among them, Robert Farnsworth, author of the major Tolson biography, Melvin B. Tolson 1898-1966: Plain Talk and Poetic Prophecy, in "Melvin B. Tolson Revisited" deftly sketches the prime developments of Tolson's career, with particular focus on Harlem Gallery: Book I, The Curator and Libretto for the Republic of Liberia.

      In "Melvin B. Tolson's Ethical Experiment and the Philosophy of Otherness" Grant Jenkins discusses an "ethos of experimentation" in which Tolson embraces "the experience of being othered by a dominant culture," courting contradiction and exploring what has been left out of both dominant white and black views of the world."

      Tolson's complex and seemingly contradictory attitudes toward "race consciousness," the situation of Africans in America, and relationships between African-Americans and Africans is explored in Tyrone Williams's "The Pan-African-Americanism of Melvin B. Tolson".

      Aldon Nielsen addresses Tolson's determination to write "the first modern Negro epic" in "Tolson's Turn".

      Kathy Lou Schultz considers in "To Save and Destroy: Melvin B. Tolson, Langston Hughes, and Theories of the Archive" how Tolson and Langston Hughes used their poetry as an "archive" of African American "accomplishment" to counter Eurocentric efforts to keep such accomplishment outside historic consciousness.

      Then there is Jon Woodson. In two essays -- "Reading Melvin B. Tolson's Harlem Gallery: Alchemy, Codes, and the Key to the Secret of Life" and "Melvin B. Tolson and Oragean Modernism: a Few Notes on the Problem of Esoteric Writers in American Literature" -- Professor Woodson calls into question every conventional view of Tolson's own accomplishment... which he finds considerable all the same. Researching the Harlem Renaissance, to which Tolson was a late pilgrim, Woodson discovered that one thing most of the Harlem writers had in common, but did not publicize, was a devotion to the system of self-development devised - in Europe - by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, and propagated in America by A.R. Orage and friends. Woodson presented his findings in To Make a New Race: Gurdjieff, Toomer, and the Harlem Renaissance. It was Harlem Gallery, in conjunction with P.D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous, which first led him to his investigation. His first essay here explains what he found in Tolson's epic.

A Note on the Archives & other
internet resources

      An author's work finds its way into the world in often unexpected ways. A poet-warehouse worker unloads a skid of remaindered Twayne books in 1977 (see Workingman's Tolson) and finds a poet with a "revolutionary/workingman's vigor", and a "more mature, passionate and experienced voice than even our greatest High-Modernist hot house flowers like Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Zukofsky and Olson..."

      Years later this interest carried through to the rest of the FlashPøint staff, who put a Tolson issue on our agenda for an unspecified date. Finally, with a visit to the Melvin B. Tolson Papers at the Library of Congress and the interest of the noted Tolson scholar Robert B. Farnsworth, we were ready to produce our issue.

      This issue tries to supplement the old with the new. We offer new essays by passionate & intelligent Tolson scholars who continue to carry Tolson criticism forward from the early Shapiro / Fabio / Tate debates. However we provide links or reproductions of some of that early criticism (including Gwendolyn Brooks, Ronald Walcott, and links to an Allen Tate 'Opinion' and a Lorenzo Turner review) to give newer Tolson fans a chance to catch up on some of those early critical responses.

      We confess to an excitement at seeing the handwritten cross-outs and rewrites of the poet on typescripts of Harlem Gallery, Hydrogen Bomb and the Libretto for the Republic of Liberia and have included facsimiles of them here.

      We've included selections from two handwritten notebooks: the spiral bound Ready Stenographer and the hardbound Sterling Record book. We hope the selections provide at least a flavor of the day-to-day insights that Tolson preserved by jotting them down in his notebooks. For example, the "Ready" book is aptly ink-titled on the cover "Ideas and Poems."

      We also provide copies of items that caught our critical eye - for example the page of a letter to Benjamin and Kate Bell where Tolson discusses Shapiro and calls himself "Marxist," a page of the musical score by Raymond Morris of Rendezvous with America. And more.

      And we include images of the programs of Tolson's theater group, The Dust Bowl Players. Tolson took seriously Dubois's advice that what was needed was a Negro Theater "about us", "by us", "for us" and "near us" (The Crisis, July 1926). He brought Sartre, Inge, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and others to the citizens near Wiley College in Marshall, Texas and Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. We provide three of his own plays, Bivouac By The Santa Fe , The Fence War, and "Transfiguration Springs", as well as a small section on his adaptation of Walter White's novel Fire in the Flint.

      But, to our minds, Tolson's literary excellence was in his poetry. So Carlo Parcelli selected seven of what we believe to be previously unpublished poems from the Archive to present here, poems that show Tolson's range and power: To The 'Ibhri, The House of Heafod, John Henry, His Legend (22 page final draft), The Anatomy of Courage, Masks of the Middle Voice, The Barrel, Madame De Tory's Lover,

      You'll find many other other items on Tolson, some from the archives and some from the vast resources of the internet, which we've aggregated into the issue to simplify the experience of accessing them.

      Finally, as to the 'difficulty' of reading Tolson - rather than being 'exclusive', it's Tolson's 'inclusivity' of the world that attracts us.

      Then with a complete change of subject from Melvin Tolson, Joan McCracken further develops the story first unfolded in FlashPøint #10 ("As Kingfishers Catch Fire") with SENT -- Part 1: Vestiges of Miriam & Part II: The House that Jack Built."

     We are eager to hear from you, especially about this issue, so please tell us what you think: flashpnt@hotmail.com!