Men Maa Aim Ra

Men Maa Aim Ra (pronounced Men Ma-aw A-ing Raw) was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. His name means: "One who is awaken by the light of reason and faithfully, steadfastly implements Divine Law at the crossroads." Men Maa Aim Ra's writing attempts to fill a void with a spirit and a message that are firmly supported by the strength of the universal consciousness. To this end, Men Maa Aim Ra has committed himself to using his faculty of receptivity to translate, transform, and transmit new ideas through the medium of poetry and the spoken word. Men Maa Aim Ra is about the mission of reprogramming the spirit. He understands that the masses are subconsciously given systematic programs to accept, adopt, and live out. These programs contain ideas that are designed to perpetuate the condition of self-enslavement. Men Maa Aim Ra strives to install a new program that will initiate freedom.

Men Maa Aim Ra's poems have been recorded on CD and reviewed in various publications. His poetry has been featured in When Words Became Flesh: An Anthology of New Generation Poetry, published by Mwaza Publications. Men Maa Aim Ra has won numerous poetry competitions including Maryland's largest literary festival--Artscape 2000 and 2002 poetry slam, AFRAM  2000, and The Great Blacks in Wax 2001 and 2004 Black History Month poetry slam. He was also a member of the 2002 Poetology Slam Team. Men Maa Aim Ra has appeared on C-SPAN television, XM Radio, and has read his poems in schools, in prisons, and at various poetry venues and bookstores throughout the United States and Africa.

Paut Neteru: Company of the Gods was published in the fall of 2003.  Men Maa Aim Ra's first full volume of poetry, the work is an unflinching exploration of the extent to which contemporary arts, media and entertainment are moving humanity forward in its development or in fact moving the recipients of these messages into psychological bondage.  In his foreword to Paut Neteru: Company of the Gods, renowned author Dr. Molefi Kete Asante wrote of Men Maa Aim Ra, “…he is a brave and courageous warrior-poet, a lover-warrior embracing his people and their desires, ambitions, and wishes in the caresses of tantalizing language that speaks the power of ancient ones.  We are in the presence of a great poet when we open this book.” Men Maa Aim Ra is currently working on his second collection of poetry and a children's book. 

Book Review

Paut Neteru: Company of the Gods, Men Maa Aim Ra, Kam Saia Publishing, Baltimore, MD, $10.95 paper. Reviewed by Barbara M. Simon

This first book is an ambitious collection, taking as its subject the offering of “purposeful themes through artistic medium.”  Largely, the poet is successful as he directs the reader through a series of stages beginning with Auset or meditation and ending with Ausar or indwelling intelligence.  In each section of the book, certain poems are standouts.

In Auset, trance, “Remorse,” which laments the problems facing too many in our society, has particularly strong lines, especially the ending which closes out the section on a hopeful note: “if all goes well/tomorrow I'll/laugh.”

Naturally opening into Sebek or laughter, that poem is reinforced by the playfulness of language (although the message is serious) in “Guinea Pig,” and the double entendre of “populate/pop u late” in “Semen Antics (Semantics).”  Both poems reveal the poet as a sharp observer of his culture.

By far the strongest poem in the book opens Het-Heru, music/poetry.  “Genesis: Part II” is a tour de force through the history of some of African-American’s major musicians. The poem is structured so that each section imitates the musicality of the musician to which it refers. Thus Billie Holliday's deeply sad life is recounted in a couplet using her own language: “and the lady warned the people/not to partake of strange fruit.”   In this poem, the poet makes effective use of repetition and ends wisely in a reference to gospel music with an “amen.” 

The will embodied in Heru is revealed in two shorter poems, each detailing the manner in which African-Americans survived the domination of the white man and his machines.  Similarly, Heru-Khuti centers on the warrior spirit African-Americans brought to the battle.  The poem that most resonated with me was “Media Attack.”  Structured as much like a rant as a poem, this poem lifts itself up to address all of the problems of American culture or non-culture with sections such as “media's collective control/people's conglomerate consciousness/with diluted headlines that lie to heads.”  Those lines, symbolic of the poet's understanding of all that's wrong with corporate America, allow him to take on capitalism, the hypocrisy spawned by 9/11 and the situation in the Middle-East. This is a grim section, but one that needs to be gotten through before the poet opens into Maat or truth where he ends by asking (in “Revelations from the Fourth Division”) “which way to continue/on the spiritual journey.” 

Seker and Tehuti, spiritual power and wisdom, round out the poet's quest as he notes “black power is not just for black people/it is for anyone who is willing to die” (“Black Whole”) and finally coming to the state of oneness “Hu is you/who/who/who/the owl.”

The poet has done a fine job of recounting his spiritual journey.  For the most part, his language is direct and significant, if a little light on imagery.  His poems are idea heavy and young.  That is not a criticism.  Writing about wisdom is much different than having lived to wisdom.  Since Men Maa Aim Ra is obviously very intelligent, let's hope that his next book comes out very quickly and speaks of his experience.

By the way, a final word on the book, the cover art is beautiful and is worth the price just for its appearance.

Barbara Simon is President of the Maryland State Poetry and Literature Society.

Bibliography

Title: Paut Neteru: Company of the Gods

Author: Men Maa Aim Ra

Publisher: Kam Saia Publishing

ISBN: 0-9656636-6-3

Price: $10.95

 

Genesis: Part II

 

and god

looked upon the world she had created

and saw it was lifeless

and god saw the people standing around

and the people were still

and the people made not a sound

 

so god said

let there be horns of plenty

 

and satchmo was born 

            and satchmo smiled upon the people

            and served them a creole supper

            seasoned with his new orleans flavor 

 

and dizzy was born

            and dizzy twirled the motionless people

            around and around and around

with his be-bop sounds 

 

and bird was born 

            and bird swooped down upon the people

            and carried them away on his be-bop wings 

 

and miles was born

            and for miles

            and for  miles

            the people walked

to hear his magical swings 

 

and trane was born 

            and trane transported the people

            on his winding trane-tracks

            across borders to a meditative state

            and the people felt the trane's vibration

om   om   om   

            and the people became one

 

and god said

let there be ebony and ivory 

 

and jelly roll was born 

            and jelly served the people

            southern style blues

            spread upon soft hot buttery rolls

            for breakfast

 

and monk was born

            but the people couldn't understand

            what monk was saying

            so the monk taught the people

            how to speak his language

            in double time and triple time

            and the people kept pace

            and the people understood

 

and sun ra was born

            and sun ra revealed to the people

            88 different ways to travel

to the planets

            and the stars

            and the people used those keys

            and journeyed to the sun

            and were filled with his ra/diating tonalities

and god said

let there be thunder and lightning

 

and blakey was born

            and blakey beat away the clouds

            with swift movements of his hands

            and the people felt the warmth

            of his sunny rhythms

 

and mingus was born

            and mingus threaded the sky

            with his intricate vines

            which the people used to climb

out of their despair

 

and god said

let there be songbirds

 

and lady day was born

            and the lady warned the people

            not to partake of strange fruit

 

and sarah was born

            and the divine one

            sassy/d across the land

            and captivated the people

            with her harmony and style

 

and nina was born

            and nina used the creative sounds

            given to her by god

            turned herself into herself

            and became four women

            and the people learned

            to honor and respect their mothers

 

and god said

let's jam

 

and the band played

(the people tapped their feet)

and the band played

(the people snapped their fingers)

and the band played

(the people bopped their heads)

and the band played

(the people trembled with joy)

and the band played

 

and the people were still

no more

 

and the band played on

            and god looked upon fertile ground

            and heard the life giving sounds

            of her creations

            and she danced in the heavens

 

and the band played on

            and jazz became a godly thing

 

and the band played on

            forever and ever

and the people said     amen