Gary Copeland Lilley’s collection, THE BUSHMAN’S MEDICINE SHOW, is a southern gothic testament delivered by an archetypical denizen of the modern south, a sort of Everyman from the Carolina low-country traversing the territories of family, the spirits, society, culture, and identity, while refusing to be eradicated. If there is some type of stigmata, a mark, some identifier of people who have transcended southern stigmas, then the personas, certainly the Bushman, surely wear such a mark. There is the sweltering of American southern heat and humidity in these poems: the dualities within nature and existence, that hard sacred and secular ride that Lilley seems very familiar with. The voice, the music of regional language, the character speech, is an essential element, the proper vehicle that drives these poems down the streets, the dirt roads, and through the piney woods. Riding with Bushman, lean forward in your seat, turn the music on.
“World, meet the Bushman, hoodoo artist of backcountry mythopoeisis at the edges of greatness and the Great Dismal Swamp. This “politely unseen” conjurer out of Pentecostal piney woods, this descendent of “pious white-dress-wearing / sisters of the low ground” will strum you his low-key luminosity within these blues-infused lines. Through shore leaves and holding cells, mean-street malingerers and post-Katrina lamentations, defiance of Jim Crow and prayers for peace at the crossroads—love, trouble, and transcendence—the Bushman signifies, sanctifies, and calls forth blessings from the ancestor spirits with his tutelary “guitar that brought him home.” Reading these poems, you will enter into their exalted lowdown, and feel your soul infused with their break-bone pathos and celebration.”
About the Author
Gary Copeland Lilley
Gary Copeland Lilley is originally from Sandy Cross, North Carolina, and was a longtime resident of Washington, D.C., where he was a founding member of the Black Rooster Collective. He received the D.C. Commission on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry in 1996 and again in 2000, and he earned a MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College in 2002. Gary Copeland Lilley is the author of four poetry collections: Alpha Zulu (Ausable Press, 2008), Black Poem (Hollyridge Press, 2005), The Reprehensibles (Fractal Edge Press, 2004), and The Subsequent Blues (Four Way Books, 2004).
Standing on the Corner When Being Cool Went Blind
You’ve been slipping into darkness, whoa-whoa-whoa,
And pretty soon you’re gonna pay.
Yeah baby, I’m the Bushman, everybody know me, a talking drum, I am the oral tradition, the griot of the cigarette. No bullshit. Ain’t nothing but the truth, everything I tell you is airtight and waterproof. I can hoodoo and close view this neighborhood’s future from the vantage of my stoop. Get down like I’m proud. I like mud-cloth so let that be my sanctified robe. Preach asked me what my religion was and I told him I channeled John Coltrane and became a devout musician. I always been a child of god, if you don’t believe me just ask my blessed beloved mom. But tell me why do god’s children have to experience every test? And exactly how much of a blessing comes with a financial offering? Well, consider the fact that all of our damned deeds need to be sermonized and somewhere deep in that sin darkness there’s always a crack of light. It ain’t for sale but nothing in this world is half-priced, and if what you end up with does not satisfy nobody’s giving you that money back. Can you see me in that light, with the children of god, those blues people with the haints riding them hard. Please do tell all the other infidels that I believe the choruses falling out the mouths of the raggedy people that I’m around are the actual utterances of saints.
—Gary Copeland Lilley