Poet Emmett Wheatfall retired from his day job at the end of 2019, narrowly avoiding the rapidly changing workplace culture that often demanded mental compartmentalization amid an unprecedented pandemic. But he didn’t stop working.
“I had time,” Wheatfall told The Skanner.
“I had time to burn the candle late at night, trying to write…the pandemic just dominated our minds, and as I thought about it, I would get a phrase. And then those phrases would expand, and I’d work with them.”
The resulting volume of verse, With Extreme Prejudice: Lest We Forget, serves as both a living chronicle of his experience during the outbreak and a reminder that it isn’t over, regardless of cultural fatigue.
“I wrote it because I didn’t want us to forget,” Wheatfall said.
“I think we’re forgetting. And it may be a precursor to another volume later that takes a look at where we are now: We’re not sheltering in place to the degree that we were. We’ve removed masks. We have vaccines. People now don’t want to go back into an office, they want to work from home.
“I often think of the book title Love in the Time of Cholera. It was about a time, and this is a snapshot in time. And poetically, I hope we would not forget.”
The former assistant county administrator for Clackamas County long balanced his professional life with his work as a minister with his small non-denominational church, Remember the Hope, located in Northeast Portland; withfaith-based activism; and with a growing catalog of poetry, with his two previous volumes – As Clean as a Bone (2018) and Our Scarlet Blue Wounds (2019) – published by Fernwood Press, a Barclay Press imprint located in Newberg.
“My previous works were really collections of sociological, sometimes economic, sometimes racial (themes) – As Clean as a Bone and Our Scarlet Blue Wounds were kind of diverse portraits,” Wheatfall said. “This one was more thematic, so there’s a plum line that runs through it, and the plum line is pretty much the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He has set much of his work to music, laying down tracks on four albums that feature local musicians from the blues, gospel and jazz genres. Since 2014, he has sat on the nomination committee that selects Oregon Poet Laureates.
In other words, Wheatfall has spent a lot of time thinking about the role of poetry in our current political climate.
“I believe that poets are the secular prophets in our world today,” Wheatfall said.
“What I mean by that is we live in a day where our religious leaders are really ineffectual compared to where they were 30, 40 years ago. We are divided on the political spectrum. But going back to the bards and troubadours, it seems as if whenever there have been major social or political problems in the world, it was the poets that people listened to.”
More recently, he points to Pablo Neruda and James Baldwin as influential secular prophets.
“We are able to speak, and people will listen,” he said. “You look at Amanda Gorman, she comes out at the inauguration, and she’s almost like the next Maya Angelou of this time, because she spoke a poetic verse. People who never thought about poetry, they read her now.
“What has really helped poetry is young people and spoken word.
“I am blown away – our young people are knowledgeable, and you hear it in their spoken word work.”
But Wheatfall challenges what he views as sometimes naive calls for radical action.
“When I hear young people, especially in the poetry world, talking about revolution, I try to remind them that it’s great to be passionate about change,” he said. “But you’ve never fired a gun, you’ve never had to use a bayonet, you’ve never been wounded, so temper, to a degree – the imagery and the idealism, versus the reality of those things.
“Imagine for a moment the insurrection on Jan. 6. Those folks romanticized liberty. They thought back to 1776. The reality is, people were injured, killed, democracy was threatened, and history will not look kindly on them. So there’s a difference between romanticizing the ideal of revolution, but the practicality and reality can be way different.”
‘The Greatest Hitchhiker’
As a title, With Extreme Prejudice: Lest We Forget is evocative of many of the themes Wheatfall has explored in the past: issues of race, of socio-economic justice. But the phrase’s nihilistic subtext resonated with Wheatfall as he sought to encapsulate his reflections on living through COVID-19.
“Back in the early stages of the unfolding of the pandemic, we all remember how frightening it was and how so many lives were being touched in a mortal way,” Wheatfall said. “I remembered the phrase ‘with extreme prejudice’ as a military kind of terminology, which denotes that once you’ve been given the license to prosecute with extreme prejudice, that means you’re going to wipe everything out, everybody.
“It’s practically merciless.
“I thought about during that time how many lives we were losing in senior homes and assisted living. There was no discrimination, whether you were a child or an elderly or a healthy person, and that whole concept just kind of overlaid the pandemic in its early days.”
In a review of With Extreme Prejudice, Portland poet A. Molotkov characterized Wheatfall’s work as “observational truth-telling,” a description Wheatfall embraces.
In this style, Wheatfall’s “Freddy’s Stimulus Check” describes the poet enjoying three square meals a day and managing his investments while so many others – Black Americans disproportionately among them – struggle with financial insecurity.
In “Every Nation Under the Sun,” Wheatfall refers to COVID-19 as “The greatest hitchhiker on earth.../making its rounds.”
“It moves throughout the world unimpeded,” he told The Skanner. “It finds the ride and it will hop on a train and go as far as the train will take it…
“It’s a vagabond.”
“The genesis flowed out of being in the moment,” Wheatfall said of his newest volume. “I was in the water when the water got turbulent, and I figured out how to swim.”
Every time you were mentioned in the Oregonian, Suzanne saved the article or column for me! I am sorry to say that she passed away last Sunday, but she was as at peace with her life and her death as a person can be. She was 95, a good old age. She asked me to thank you again for sending her your books of poetry. She was very taken with your words and greatly appreciated your sharing them with her. She meant to write you a letter and felt bad that she lost the strength to do so.I hope you and your family are well and stay so!Warm wishes,
REVIEWS: Our Scarlet Blue Wounds
Ifirstexperienced EmmettWheatfall’swork at a poetry reading.Itwas no bar, with none of the jazz music he often readsalongside, but at least it wasout loud.Wheatfall’swork sings best when read out loud. His musical ear shows, as does his deep roots in blues poetry like Langston Hughes’. More than any of the rhythms, though, or the intoxicating sounds, his reading revealed his deep belief in poetry. In his eyes, “Poets are the secular prophets of our day.” The magic of poetry is its ability to offer a different worldview: people can see past their biases to another’sexperience of the world.And forWheatfall, this belief exceeds idealism. He enacts it throughout his newest book,Our Scarlet Blue Wounds.When I got home I sat down to read the collection, cover to cover. What struck me most wasWheatfall’sability to incorporate language from our broader context, drawing from the Constitution, Ta-NahesiCoates, and the base of the Statue of Liberty. He also repeats his own lines, both within and across poems. These repetitions form echoes of themselves, refrains that carry through the diverse tones ofWheatfall’sreflections. They also echo the blues, that ancestor of African American poetry.Wheatfalldoes not work in the vogues of today. Even as he addresses contemporary issues, he remains oriented towards a greater poetic vision.When introducing his poems, he cited Neruda as the poet-prophet, a writer people read to see past the divisions of politics to the truth of the world itself.Thisvisionof poetrylies not in the individual poet spilling their own heart, but in the individual poet witnessing the larger world.Our Scarlet Blue Woundshas poemswitnessing the sacrifice of soldiers, poems witnessing theaggressionagainst immigrants,andpoems witnessing the violence against the black body. Itcontainsa broad and deep view of our nation at this moment.These poemsmove pastnegativity,tellingthe truths about our world in order to envision a more just future.After the reading, I went toWheatfallto thank him for his work.When I admitted I had not boughtthe book,unable to afford it,Wheatfallpressedbills from his walletinto my hand. I tried to say no, butWheatfallinsisted. It felt not so much a gift as a necessity: forWheatfall, these poems need to be shared more than paid for; they must go out and be listened to and passed around. When I returned from the counter witha copy of the beautiful book Fernwood Press has printed, he signed the front page:Ana, Imagine with me! Emmett.Indeed,Wheatfall’s is a work of deep imagining. He invites the reader into the world as it is and the world as it could be. I am grateful not only for the poetry itself, but forWheatfall’spresence as a lover of and believer in poetry. We must not forgot the potential of words in this form. If you can, find yourself a copy ofOur Scarlet Blue Woundsand listen to the truthWheatfallworks towards. It is a beautiful book, with the ideal image on the cover, capturing both the red of all of ourblood and the blue of the bruises we bare.
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Our Scarlet Blue Wounds" by Emmett Wheatfall.]
Our Scarlet Blue Woundsby Emmett Wheatfall is a book of poetry that examines America, race, inequality, pain, and hope. This talented poet examines the foundations of the United States of America and asks if we are fulfilling their purposes. Clearly writing through eyes that have beheld scarlet blue wounds, he declares over and again that we are not. However, his poems are not all anger and despair. This is a book authored primarily to encourage black readers, but it also reaches out to others who have experienced injustice. In "To the Negro," Wheatfall says, "Do not seek refuge in your past/The door to reentry is closed" and, "That gift by the French to America/It was meant for you, too." In the introductory poem, referring, I believe, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Wheatfall writes, "from 55-year-old timber, let us whittle a new age." What a beautiful call to action this is!Our Scarlet Blue Woundsshares its title with the first poem in the book. Additionally, the phrase "scarlet blue wounds" is used in several poems, which acts as a device that pulls the book together. I found the choice of scarlet and blue critical. First, to me, it is vivid imagery of a severe cut surrounded by bruising. Simultaneously, it pulls out the colors of the American flag. This imagery begins on the cover, with a slightly out of focus picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., done in red, white, and blue. Why is the picture out of focus? Because, perhaps, we have lost clarity of what Dr. King advocated. Wheatfall's poems are finely crafted. The author uses many different stanza formats, keeping the reading experience interesting. He is skilled at implementing repetition of lines for emphasis, both within and among poems. He additionally uses free verse, lines from scripture, alliteration, and other devices. I especially enjoyed his uses of imagery, like this quote from "American Abstract," "Segregated fields of mustard-colored poppies bow/ and bow. Most -- blurred images." This next item may sound like a trivial point but stay with me and overlook the poet nerdism. I like the placement of the poems in the book. They are placed on separate pages, allowing them to stand on their own. Beyond that, I think having one per page makes reading poetry more of an experience than if poems are jammed together. Considering one poem in front of me allows me to focus on it and see what can be drawn from it as an individual piece. I found only two typos in the book. They were not distracting, and they were certainly not enough to deduct a star. Some poems are glib, some are encouraging, and some are downright angry. All encourage the reader to consider the weight of each poem's words. Because of the strength of the content and the professional editing, I rateOur Scarlet Blue Wounds4 out of 4 stars. This book is evocative literature. Since the target audience is black Americans, I recommend it to all readers who are interested in African American studies. However, I also think anyone who has felt neglected by society would find confirmation in these pages. Trump fans will want to stay clear of it since he is the topic of many seething poems. I would also not recommend it to supersensitive white Americans. Any prospective readers should know that only one poem contains borderline profanity.
Revolutionary belief rarely breaks as a crashing wave, spilling smoothly through society. Wheatfall, with Our Scarlet Blue Wounds, offers a discrete cultural reflection that operates like water’s gentle lapping, wearing away stone. His poems grind at fossilized belief systems still in authority. An astute poet’s language can layout emerging cultural terrain that’s not easily accommodated by mass-media packaging, or a challenger’s political platform. With confidence in his intimacy, Wheatfall speaks to those of us who haven’t fully appreciated where we are. As individuals. Or as a society. As norms tumble down around us, this wordsmith serves as a pathfinder. We’ve left the Age of Enlightenment that created fertile ground for an American Revolution. With a maelstrom of tweets designed to crash news cycles, when data transfers at the speed of light; a poet’s pause, to distill our reality, is grounding. Fetching from history, pitting truth against media handlers’ propaganda, Wheatfall serves as a scout for consciousness ... setting compass points in our Age of Dizzy. Traveling through Our Scarlet Blue Wounds is like finding a new route to a home you’ve lived in for a decade. You may pass through bad neighborhoods depicted with bracing reality, but readers will likely realize they’ve been commuting on autopilot. Not only have we failed to perceive side streets, feeding the flow of 21st-century belief; but attentive, meditative readers will occupy their actual residential conditions with new awareness. When a Citizen Poet speaks to you of “un-blurring,” listen to him. Your vision of where we’re at will sharpen. With all confidence in your continued achievement,
Roger David Hardesty , Social Justice & Civil Right Activist
Thank you so for coming to speak to the second graders at our school. Since your visit, we have seen a big change in our students. They are now so excited to learn and study the craft of poetry! Their creativity has blossomed, and it has been so fun seeing them move beyond the realms of the standard writing practices of second grade. You left a little magic in our classroom during your visit and now each of our students is saying they "want to be just like Emmett!" You are such an inspiration to all of us and we feel so blessed to have had that time with you. You have such a gift, and I am glad that Paul and Sherry encouraged me to reach out to you. Our students have written thank you cards for you, and I would love to send them your way. What is a good address to send them to? Thank you again,
Jasmine and Mary Jasmine Bush
2ndGrade Teacher (2B)
Fernwood Press – Announcement!Saturday, March 2, 2019
Each year, the Eric Hoffer Award presents the da Vinci Eye to books with superior cover artwork. Cover art is judged on both content and style. The da Vinci Eye is given in honor of the historic artist, scientist, and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. This is an additional distinction beneath the Eric Hoffer Award umbrella.
We received word yesterday morning that Emmett Wheatfall’s book,As Clean as a Bone, had been nominated!
Eric Muhr Publisher, Fernwood Press
Book Review: As Clean as a Bone
From "the perspective that black," Emmett Wheatfall gives us this collection of evocative meditations on the African American experience, meditations "seasoned with / the salt of [his] poetics." Ranging from a tribute to contemporary black women ("Election Evening in Alabama") to a lamentation spoken to Langston Hughes, these are moving poems that compel us--all of us who call ourselves American--to "...sing a new song / for what we are now."
Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita
Emmett Wheatfall'sAs Clean as a Boneis a collection for both the heart and the mind, a collection seasoned with the vital and invigorating salt of poetry and of wisdom. This remarkable book questions history, memory, culture. Its poems don't just talk: They wrestle with experience, they debate, they think and play, they sing out with love and pain. "Can we sing a new song?" Wheatfall asks. With their musical cadences and resonant depths, the poems in this new book answer back with a resounding YES.
poet, author ofLantern and Iron String
"Do you know what I mean?" Emmett Wheatfall asks--a question he poses in poem after poem, sometimes in agonizing and sometimes in darkly humorous ways. Emmett calls upon us, his readers, to exercise our imaginations as we read As Clean as a Bone, to know what he means about the black experience in America and in the world.
poet, author ofdeath will come
Emmett Wheatfall's latest bookAs Clean as a Boneis just that. Taking his title from James Baldwin, Wheatfall has produced a work that gets to the core of things. "I question myself," he writes, and whether his subject is race, justice, inequality or a "little black bo." his poems speak with power and credibility. Time spent withAs Clean as a Boneis time well spent.
poet, author of The Promise of the Trail
September 18, 2018
Husted (Bette): Learn the Stories of Oters
But because I’ve been thinking about racism, I keep coming back to last month’s featured writer, African American poet Emmett Wheatfall, whose book “As Clean as a Bone” takes its title from Baldwin: “You want to write one sentence as clean as a bone.” Wheatfall’s response to HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s remark that “Slaves were immigrants coming to America in pursuit of the fledgling American dream” feels bone-clean: “Show me boat manifests listing each slave by name.” “I’m as shattered as my slave ancestors were back then,” Wheatfall writes. But he adds, “What was broken then is being reassembled.” I hope so. I do know stories help.
Review: As Clean as a Bone
Emmett, my Nubian friend, and the Last King of Africa (and therefore the First King of Africa): Wow! This thematic collection of poems is a landmark along your brilliant path. I need to reread so many and ponder them. And then I need to sit with you in that wine bar and talk about them, about you, about the world around us. (But no pinotgrisfor me; I prefer immersion in reds). Sherry and I have been reading these aloud to each other, which is how poetry should be experienced. You have laid bare so much of yourself. You have shined a bright spotlight into the dark shadows cast not only by yourself but those cast upon you Brother Emmett--thank you for this. This is an incredible work...
It was nice meeting you andenjoyablelistening to you perform your poetry. As Joan mentioned, I think, when she introduced me, I am the point person for the Oregon Poetry Collection at the University of Oregon. The collection, which was started by the OPA at the State Library and is now housed at the UO, aspires to offer a comprehensive representation of works by Oregon Poetry, from the beginnings in the late 19th century to the present. I see that we do not have any of your books in our collection and thus invite you to send us your work for inclusion in the collection...(Basically, two copies, one archival and one for the circulating collection, are sent to me). Best regards,
Jeff Staiger,Ph.D. Humanities Librarian (English, French, Italian, Classics & Philosophy) Knight Library University of Oregon
Reviewby River Roads Reading Series (2018)
I first heard Emmett Wheatfall present as the keynote speaker at the2017 OregonPoetry Association conference in Portland. I wasimpressed and invited him to present at the River Road Reading Series (RRRS) here in Eugene. We are a group of Eugene authors (mostly poets) sponsored (in kind) by the River Road Parks Department and with a small grant from the Lane Literary Guild. We usually invite three authors, mostly Eugenean, but sometimes a guest from afar.And so, Emmett drove down from Portland to present. His reading was inspiring, theatrical, creative, and a great pleasure to experience. The audience was at first skeptical, mostly middle and older aged, white,middle-classpoets, not used to such a big, boisterous, bold, and yes, black,personality. But they soon were taken in by his honestheartfeltpoetry, his enthusiasm, intelligence and charismatic personality. Emmett's reading was a grand success. I think Emmett could enrapture most anyaudiencewhen given the chance, but especially, to my mind, he ought to be giving presentations in our schools. His accessible and yet intelligent style could introduce young people to poetry in a way that might leave them with a lifelong desire to read, write and create. In our present racially divided world, as a black poet, his presence would inspire black youth to feel pride in their blackness, aself-respectoften denied them, I fear, while giving white youth as well a black adult to look up to, and giving all youth, of whatever culture or color, a role model worth following. And so, thank you,Emmett, for coming our way. I'm glad the sun was shining for you, although, I can't really take any credit for that ...Yes, but I'm not so sure that all the "bigger, blacker guys" could have so quickly“crossed over" and reached the ever so sedate, ever so white audience we had that afternoon. You did something special. My very best,
Review by Conversations with Writers (2018)
Thank you so much for your resoundingly successful presentation at Conversations with Writers last month. Everyone was blown away by your wealth of knowledge, your exuberant reading style, andyour lovely poetry. Here, finally, is the write-up I promised you. Emmett Wheatfall is a poet who has it all, musicality, voice, passion and above all knowledge of his subject. When Emmett presented on February 26,2018,at Conversation with Writers our audience of dedicated poets and writers was enthralled. His presentation was highlighted with many examples of his own poetry that he was gracious enough to share with us. Through exploring these poems we were encouraged to discover the way he hooks the reader into deeper engagement with the poet’s tools of repetition, alliteration, personification, andmetaphor. Emmett likens his honing of the craft of poetry to “The Whittling of Sticks.” He declares, “It’s in the GRIND, ENDURANCE, and the never taking ‘NO’ for an answer that the writer finds perfection.” After his spirited discussion, we were presented with a writing prompt of threestreamsof consciousness paragraphs.Eventually,we rearranged, condensed, and developed these paragraphs into poetry. As agroup,we felt energized and elated by our results. By the end of our two-hour session—over far too quickly for most of us—we were happy to have been prompted along the path of self-discovery. Thankyou, Emmett,for your inspiring lessons. Best,
Director of Conversations with Writers
Peterson Entertainment, LLC wishes everyone a safe and happy Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. Over the years, we've (Emmett andI) made and collaborated on a lot of music, events, and special occasions. This is not the kind of company that pushes our religious views, or politics, or views on anyone. We do support our artists in their views and help them make statements with their music. Sometimes they are powerful and lasting statements. One such track is "Miles to Go" from Emmett Wheatfall. Emmett has become a poetic force in the Pacific NW. We have collaborated togetherforseveral recordings and made great music. This track comes from the recording "Them Poetry Blues" for which we received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council of Portland, OR. It features the some of the greatest blues players in the NW: Peter Damman on guitar, "King" Louis Pain on organ, Carlton Jackson on drums, and late, great Jim Miller on Bass. Aswewerein the booth hearing this being laid down, Dennis Carter (engineer) and I were both speechless as we knew we got something special, meaningful, and timeless. Please take a moment to reflect on Emmett's message over this very special American holiday. Share and tag your friends if it speaks to you. Feel free to post your thoughts below.
Peterson Entertainment Llc - January 15, 2018
Emmett Wheatfall as Langston Hughes-Dead Poets Poetry Reading: November 4, 2017
"What happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" Lately,we have all been wondering, and we talked about this as we prepared the refreshments table in the foyer and the sound in the auditorium.Langston Hughes himself arrived fresh out of the Harlem Renaissance, and seeing that he was early, sat down at the grand piano and tuned up the room. The event was theSilverton Poetry Association's 27th Dead Poets Reading.The tradition is that the reader dresses and speaks as the dearly departed poet did in life, and for this couple of hours he or sheisthat poet.And so in the contemplative space designed by Alvar Aalto in the Mount Angel Abbey Library, Emmett Wheatfall shook the hands of poets Alejandra Pizarnik and Matsuo Bashōand introduced himself as "Langston Hughes, just off the train". On stage, the poet pulled us into the mostly rocky and sometimes fabulous life he lived.The poetry made the distance from 1930s America fall away.
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
The booming blues in his voice engaged and moved us, right down to that question, nearly whispered: "Or does it explode?"
Review by Vere McCarty
Silverton Poetry Association
OPA Conference: October 13th, 2017 at University Place Hotel, Portland
Emmett Wheatfall keynote address: Can Poets Change the World?
It was a magical start to our cherished annual conference in a time when many people feel hopeless and helpless, Emmett reminded us of our power. As poets, he told us, we possess the ability to connect with others, to transfer meaning, to incite, inspire, and reassure. Communication, after all, is what poetry is about. Communication comes from the same root asa community. In these times,a communityis the only real protection we have: Emmett'swords,and his vibrantpresencecoached us all to remember what we already know: how to communicate, how to make contact, and why it matters. Conference attendees were asked to rank events they attended from 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (highly satisfactory).Emmett Wheatfall's keynote address scored an average of 4.7 out of 5. In workshops throughout the weekend, I heard people say: "Since Emmett Wheatfall tells us poets can change the world..." a testament to the lasting effect of his words on our conference. Let's hope these words remain with us all, as we go on about our business of life and poetry.
Tiel Aisha Ansari, Oregon Poetry Association
WELCOME HOME (2017)
As promised, I will now give you my impressions of "Welcome Home" Conceptually, this is a cohesive work. Following the young man's life after his service in the Korean War sets a fitting tableau for the pieces included, and I feel you set the stage nicely. One gets a clear picture of the boy-turned-man coming home. The recurring narrative helps to tie the pieces together well. I highly enjoyed "Cleophus" and found him to be a character I wish I knew more about--perhaps he could befleshed outmore fully in a future piece. (His vibe somewhat reminded me of Jim Croce's "Bad Bad, Leroy Brown"--a real scoundrel). I wish there had been a bit more conflict in his interaction with our protagonist, but it also showed that the young ex-military man was not to be trifled with by a seedy never-do-well like Cleophus Sims. "Mr. Piano Man" is a fun turn that paints a picture of the young man looking to impress Dara Denard. The developing romance keeps an appropriate pacewithinthe time period, which I found to be a refreshing change from the slap-dash relationships that are portrayed in movies and TV shows these days. (romance works best in low-gear).I felt that the drama of Dara's sudden death in childbirth seemed a bit rushed--there wasn't much prelude and it was basicallydroppedinour laps. It also seemed that our hero lacked a sort of rage and denial that one would expect from a person in that situation (i.e., there should have been the 5-Step progression typical when dealing with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). I appreciate the nods you gave not only to PabloNerudabut to your own works in "To the Memories"--a nice touch for fans of your work. "Brown People Were Here" was a fun in conclusion--I must give kudos to the pianist James Blackburn for this cut, as well as his other work. I really liked how he took the innate syncopation of "I Dream at Night" and turned it into a musical phrase to match. All in all, this definitely is one of your best works. Its theme is solid and comprehensive, taking the listener on a personal journey in the young man's life. I must also mention the progression I've seen your "brand" as an artist. The new logo gives you that "professional" feel, and I hope you'll continue to include it in your future works. It has been my pleasure to both assist and read/hear your poetry over the years. I hope my input and opinions have been helpful to you. I recognize in you the truesoulof a poet, and I'm looking forward to many more years of experiencing the works you shall produce.
Eric Alder. Poetry Editor
Lofton A. Emenari
BroEmmett, I cannot begin to tell you how much this CD has affected me. Brother, the opening poem "Welcome Home" had me crying like a baby!!! I was overwhelmed with emotion.
Lofton A. Emenari, WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago
Hi Emmett, I wanted to share with you the response I've [been] getting from the KHMD interview--ALL good! And, I 'm surprised at how many people heard it!... Themost common comment [about Welcome Home] was how interesting and new this "genre" is! I totally agree! I think you could be a pioneer, Emmett!
James (Jim) Blackburn, Pianist and Composer
Peterson Entertainment – (No#)
Emmett Wheatfall is a published poet from Portland, Oregon, with five books of poetry in print. This is his fourth CD and the third collaboration with producer/saxophonist Noah Petersonin puttinga selection of Wheatfall’s poems to music. As the title suggests, the backing hasa touch of the blues this time out, albeit a suave and sophisticated blues with Peterson’ssaxand Nathan Olsen’s piano to the fore on most tracks. For the most part, Wheatfall’s vocalizing is more akin to recital thanasong, and while comparisons can be made to Omar Sharif, Oscar Brown Jr., Mose Allison and Amiri Baraka and the dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, listening to this disc is a distinctive experience. Thematically, the material ranges fromBlack Eyed PeastoSunday MorningtoBig Womento what used to be called “protest songs” to, of course, poems of love and loss. Barbara Harris adds vocal support to onetrack, and pianist Janice Scroggins, who died this May at age 58, is showcased onMr. Janice Scroggins & Her 88 Keys. Elsewhere, the band is rounded out by guitarist Peter Dammann, organist Lous Pain, the late bassist James Miller and drummer Carlton Jackson, who along with Peterson and Olsen, sound equally at ease with the seductivecressofCome Away with Meandthe Tramp-inspiredriff that drivesThat’s What I’m Gonna Do. What really makes this album special, though, is that Wheatfall tells stories that are both personal and local, so that the listener gets to know something about the artist and his world. In that respect, it recalls the work of earlier blues poets such as Sleepy John Estes and Lightning Hopkins, and stand in welcome contrast to the usual blues clichés.
--Jim Dekoster. Page 56 Living Blues August 2013 Issue 232 Vol. 45, #4
Renown poet, Emmett Wheatfall lives in Portland (Oregon). In addition to 4 publications, he performs his poetry on stage, records albums to feature his work. The title of his most recent CD is pleasantly misleading.One will discover the musical landscape to be a lot closer to jazz than blues. The musicians are perfect, from the pianist to the saxophonist without forgetting the guitarist. Wheatfall’s baritone timber matches very well his writing even when he weaves in some touches of humor (That’s What I’m Gonna Do, Black Eyed Peas, and Big Women, the only real blues tunes with the piece titled eponyme). As one would expect of poetry, the author recites more often than he sings. This creates a sensation of repetition on top of slower beats despite a remarkable lyrical content: Miles to Go talks about civic duties, Alfie touches on the topic of Serendipity, Mississippi Mixed Girl deals withcross-racialrelationships, all, topics that Mighty Mo Rodgers would enjoy, read our article on page 16…On the edge of our spectrum, this is a piece of work essentially for lovers of beautiful lyrical content painted on the canvas of black music.DANIELLÉON (Translated byPARFAIT BASSALÉ)
Outre quatre recueils publiés, il se produit sur scène et enregistre des disques pour des lectures de ses œuvres. Le titre du présent CD s’avère toutefois trompeur car l’environnement musical est bien plus proche du jazz que du blues. Les musiciens sont excellents, du pianiste au saxophoniste en passant par le guitariste, alors que la voix de baryton de Wheatfall s’adapte bien à ses écrits même quand ils se teintent d’humour (That’s why I’m gonna do, Black eyed peas et Big woman, seul véritable blues avec le titre éponyme). Mais, versification propre à la poésie oblige, l’auteur récite plus souvent qu’il ne chante, ce qui crée une sensation de répétition sur des tempos lents malgré des textes souvent remarquables : Miles to go sur les droits civiques, Alfie sur la sérendipité, Mississippi mixed girl sur le métissage, des thèmes qui plairaient à Mighty Mo Rodgers, lire notre article page 16... Un peu en marge de notre spectre, essentiellement pour amateurs de beaux textes sur fond de musiques noires.DANIEL LÉON
SOUL BAG. BP 34, 93130 Noisy-le-Sec,France
Oregon Music News (OMN)
On this recordingEmmett Wheatfall’spoetry is generally presented as spoken word vocals, using many rhetorical and performance characteristics of traditional black preaching, backed by a stellar blues band. He occasionally sings and is joined on several numbers by vocalist Barbara Harris. Mr. Wheatfall has recorded several albums, and I found “Them Poetry Blues” to be his most enjoyable and interesting so far.
He's back and this time the music is better than ever. Emmett Wheatfall has scored once again with tremendous support from producer Noah Peterson providing an all-star blues cast of Pacific NW musicians: Peter Dammann, James Miller, Nathan Olsen, Janice Scroggins, Louis Pain, Carlton Jackson and Noah Peterson. Making the leap from jazz to poetry the newest lyrical poetry release from Emmett, "Them Poetry Blues" features stellar compositions, great performances anddown-homegood vibes for everyone to enjoy.
Music Industry News Network (mi2n)
Just received a new release by a guy out of Portland, Oregon named Emmett Wheatfall. He's a poet and the CD is spoken word backed by music. It's called "Them Poetry Blues." Some interesting stuff on this new release including a tribute to 1960's civil rights leaders called "Miles To Go." One cut is called "Big Women" (As in, "I like big women.")...
-Jazz Notes,SDPB Radio South Dakota
Loften Emenari,WPHK 88.5 FM (Chicago)
Emmett Wheatfall is a “Blues Poet” of the first order. His brand new CD release “Them Poetry Blues” (Peterson Entertainment) speaks the blues from beginning to end. Starting with the plaintive acknowledgement of our ancestors and life “Never Forget” to the soulful righteousness of “Sunday Morning” to the raw raucous “Big Women” (which should become an instant blues hit) Wheatfall backed by an insynchrhythm section (of keys,bassanddrums) is an in the tradition of those big city sophisticated moaners yet nails the educated mannerisms of academia. A journey in blues, jazz, r&b andabove all a tasted of life in today’s America.
- Loften Emenari,WPHK 88.5 FM (Chicago)
Nice original tunes that are easy to listen to. Good variety of mood. I like the instrument combination.
- Charlie Perkinson,Jazz Music Director, WVTF Radio (Virginia)
Great musicianship mixed with entertaining lyrics/poems, sometimes humorous, sometimes deep and personal, always ear-catching."
-Charles Husson,Operations Director – Hawaii Public Radio
The late Jim Miller, a fine bassist, had recommended me for a spoken word project produced by saxophonist Noah Peterson, accompanying a poet named Emmett Wheatfall. When I arrived at the recording studio, the first track I was asked to play on had been recorded the day before; Emmett wanted me to overdub organ on it. When Iheadthe track, I was concerned: it was an extremely powerful, gospel-soaked piece, and I had brought my 34-lb Nord organ—not a Hammond B-3. But the track was finished in no time and Emmett was very pleased, later posting on Facebook, “The magic on this track is the MASTERFUL work of Louis Pain on the Hammond B-3 Organ.” I guess I fooled him! But seriously: The magic on this track is Emmett Wheatfall; the rest of us (Nathan Olsen, Carlton Jackson, & Jim Miller) just hopped aboard his “gospel train.”
-Louis Pain,(aka King Louie) Hammond B-3 Organist – Album: Them Poetry Blues (2013)
Email letter addressed to Noah Peterson of Peterson Entertainment LLC.
I am the publisher of Wine and Jazz magazine. For many years I have enjoyed poetry. Yourcompany sent me Emmett Wheatfall’s CD “When I Was Young” earlier this year. It is a very unique record that I like tremendously. Because ofthis,I featured this record in my just-released November(2010)issue of Wine and Jazz magazine as a pairing with a wine. If you would like a few copies of Wine and Jazz magazine, please advise where to send. I am not kidding when I say I tremendously like “When I Was Young.” I thought perhaps you would mail another CD to one of my writers who resides in the state of Washington, Baldwin “Smitty” Smith. Smitty wrote the cover interview of Esperanza Spalding in my November magazine. If so, please advise and I will email you his mailing address.Thank you,
- MikeNordskog,PublisherWineandJazz Magazine
Emmett Wheatfall has the unusual distinction of performing poetry at Jimmy Mak’s, a club known for bringing in top-notch jazz musicians – not poets. His appearance with this collection of musicians proves that the distinction may be irrelevant. He speaks with the phrasing similar to a saxophone player, savoring each note and syllable. His poetry exploresthe culturalthemes of separation and community relationships...
-Oregon Music News
Emmett Wheatfall, Jay Stapleton
[SPOKEN WORD] Portland's own Emmett Wheatfall has quite a voice—rich and deep, half-jiving and half-poetic, fatherly and stern—and that voice is the focus of his new discWhenIWas Young. Sometimes he's touching ("When I Was Young"), sometimes funny ("Dance With Me," where he goes South of the Border...geographically and, if Wheatfall's plotting works out, perhaps sexually) and sometimes street-smart (the entirely un-P.C. "I Know You Tough and All That"). It's unpretentious street poetry, sometimesacapellaand sometimes backed by Andre St. James and his trio. Tonight's CD release is a split with Jay Stapleton's group, which releases its funky organ-and-guitar-fueled debut, Upshot, tonight.CASEYJARMAN. 8 pm. Jimmy Mak's, 221 NW 10th Ave., 295-6542. $10. All ages. Map
- Willamette Week(Online Periodical wweek.com)
Hello,Ivories Fans. And especially hi to the newcomers--many first-time Ivories visitors, especially from Emmett Wheatfall's Poetry/Blues event, with the Noah PetersonQuartet. What a night! This guy Emmett, he couldn't wait to get to the stage to start the poem--but came from the far end of the bar, wandering amongst the tables, his voice resonating clearly to all corners of the room. Somewhere in between a speech and a song, but with rhyming. He brings with him a feeling of authentic life experience, a charisma reminiscent of something between Louis Armstrong and Martin Luther King Jr. And he didn't sing a note. But Noah's band provided the bluesy and funky background, never overpowering, but oh so potent! We're getting them back in the spring.
-Jim Templeton,Ivories Jazz Lounge and RestaurantPortland, Oregon
I Loved You Once, Emmett Wheatfall
In all honesty, I'm not usually a fan of poetry read to jazz. It either comes off as hackneyed beat poetry or New Age-y treacle. But this disc by Portland poet Wheatfall has captured my attention. His deep voice is expressive and powerful, and his delivery is just plain cool. Using pianist Ramsey Embick as a backdrop for his phrasing, Wheatfallrecitesin styles ranging from walking swing ("The Wild Woods") to gospel-ish preaching ("I Understand You") to Latin ballads. All the while, his earnest delivery keeps things interesting and his words engaging. Embick is a perfect choice, due to his versatility and expert playing. Saxophonist Noah Peterson provides the backing on a couple of tunes, adding an urban honk to Wheatfall's punchy poetry. The one that goes nearly over the sappy line is "I Loved You Once," with both Embick and Peterson playing soft and pretty behind a love poem. Luckily, Wheatfall's words are smart enough to keep metaphors above the basal love meanings. I wish they had included the poetry in the sparse liner notes, but for fans of poetry and jazz, this is one of the better combos I've heard.
2011, Peterson Entertainment, 18 minutes
-Jazz Society of Oregon,(Kyle O'Brien)
Emmett Wheatfall's"I Too Am a Slave" is a poem crafted from the depths of despair, from the discovery that he shared a last name with an ancestor's slave-master... and yet within that despair are sown the seeds of redemption. An emotional tour-de-force that evokes Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, that marks - to my mind - the emergence of a new, unique and authentic voice.
- Samuel Peralta,An Award WinningCanadian Poet
May 17, 2011
An Open Letter from BaseRoots Theatre Company
Hey Emmett, ...My Soul Grown Deep celebrates the breathingheart withinthese poems. We want to open them up, play, delve, re-envision and put them back together again. We rejoice that these poems reveal specific aspects of humanity in order to communicate and commiserate with all humanity.By the way, Emmett, we're closing with "Change".Ladies and Gentlemen, My Soul Grown Deep.See you there.
- Bobby Bermea, Artistic DirectorBaseRoots Theatre Company
As a teacher, I read and teach English poetry and appreciate it but my favorite poetry mirrors my experiences.Lastly,I really like Emmett Wheatfall’s poetry. When one thinks of his or favorite poets, it is natural to reflect upon persons whom one discovers in textbooks; but I am drawn to Wheatfall’s work. Of the modern-day poets, heis amongmy favorite and I model some of my poetry after his work. I want to capture the essence of a moment inword. Wheatfall is a master at making themundaneloving and unforgettable. He is also a tireless student of poetry. It is because of him that I want to devote moretime towriting in poetic form.
- Michelle Hudson, Team Poetry Interview February 14, 2011
Book Reviews for "We Think We Know"
Emmett Wheatfall’s philosophical curiosity reflects the openness of a true seeker. Unquestionably rooted in the tangible, his poems invite us to consider the meaning hidden in everyday objects and occurrences. His sense of wonder encourages us to take another look at the world around us, to wander further into the mystery. The natural world becomes the stage upon which this universal drama plays out. With Emmett’s guidance, we may rediscover our place amongthe “butterfly and marigold.” Though the path can seem beset by “death and dying and sorrow,” with hope, the poet’s humble reminders will show us the way home.
- Christopher Luna, Poet, author, and editor
I enjoy reading your poetry.I like yourintrospective nature.I like that you employ a variety of styles, not always the same thing.I like that you're (apparently) unafraid to try a different approach.I appreciate your voice, bothfigurativelyand literally.Your viewpoints show me another side of the world, one strange yet familiar.You tackle tough, sometimes uncomfortable topics, seeking to get to the truth of the matter - or at leastyourtruth of it.I admire your righteous passions as well as the examinations of your more self-indulgent inclinations.I can easily imagine you working on your poems, rearranging words, striking out one word for the sake of a better one.You see the beauty around you as well as the beauty of words, and they meld together richly in your verse.I like to think that we are much the same, you and I, but that we are also quite different.We love life, despiteit'smany flaws.And that's just how I am, Emmett.When I find something I like, I stick with it.:)
-Eric Alder,A Poetry Fan
Thank you so much for your beautiful poetry, Sat. night. It was amazing being behind you at the soundboard and seeing the faces of all those people in the room as they responded to your words. Was a moving experience. One that will be on the minds of many folks for many moons to come…You made the night extra meaningful.With gratitude,
- Chance Wooley,Relay for LifeAmerican Cancer Society
emmettWheatfall’stalent brings out a perfect combination of anger,tearsandjoy. His poetry stirs up every emotion and encourages us to dig deep into our own thoughts and ideas about love,lifeandhumanity.
- Becky Due, Author
“I write to appease the creative hunger raging in my soul.”–emmettwheatfall
"A poem written by me must stand on its own merit. If not, let it fall and I will erect another one until it stands, then another, and another..."–emmettwheatfall
“It's way too late in life for me to master the mastery of the great poets who precede me; therefore, I mustunmask my own.”–emmettwheatfall