Aldon Nielsen reads Lorenzo Thomas for Distāntia Reading Series


In a time of social distancing, virtual connection has become more important than ever. Off Topic Poetics, a non-profit Youtube channel, has taken full advantage of the moment by starting the Distāntia Reading Series. The online video project is described as “an experimentation with intimate social distancing through remote access to poetry.” The channel accepts recordings from poets reading their work in quarantine and posts them to a playlist titled “Distāntia.” The original work, coupled with a video of the poet reading, creates an intimate viewing experience that can help people who feel isolated from human interaction during COVID-19 distancing.


“Sprucing Spring up on Larkin Street,” a poem from The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomaswas recited by editor Aldon Lynn Nielsen and submitted to the project earlier this week. Lorenzo Thomas (1944−2005) was the youngest member of the Society of Umbra, predecessor of the Black Arts Movement. The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas is the first volume to encompass his entire writing life. His poetry synthesizes New York School and Black Arts aesthetics, heavily influenced by blues and jazz. In a career that spanned decades, Thomas constantly experimented with form and subject, while still writing poetry deeply rooted in the traditions of African American aesthetics. Whether drawing from his experiences during the war in Vietnam, exploring his life in the urban north and the southwest, or recalling his beloved ancestors, Thomas was a lyric innovator. His experimentation is perfect for our current moment of social improvisation in the face of the unknown, reminding us that we can always find new ways to navigate the world around us.

Subscribe to Off Topic Poetics on Youtube to stay updated on the Distāntia Reading Series, and check out The Collected Poems of Lorenzo Thomas to read more like “Sprucing Spring up on Larkin Street” to keep you company during social distancing.