Detroit Amsterdam Junction by James Semark

James Semark and John Sinclair Book Beat

James Semark and John Sinclair on a bench in front of Book Beat, 2009

by James Semark

Back in the old days, like, 50 years ago, they called it Detroit / New York junction, but now the playing field has widened a bit. For the last fifty years, artists coming out of the Detroit school have been “fattening frogs for snakes” (to use Brother John’s terminology) — i.e., highly creative and genius-type individuals fattening the pocketbooks of corporate producers only to see themselves and their art devoured in the mass media play for mediocrity. So, for the last fifty or so years, artists, poets, musicians etc. have been making it happen on the east and west coasts only to see their work beaten down, over & over again.

Then came the Artists Workshop, which, for a minute, was an island of creative plentitude and a springboard for all sorts of people and movements. Brother John has yet to tell you about all that in his own words, in his own essay — and he has marvelous essays on this website.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the stakes for survival of humanity have gone up. What we’re seeing is a long, slow burn-out of the Industrial Age civilization, its greedmongers and warmongers. This is so perfectly epitomized in the behaviors of the stupid Bush administration, playing war games, decimating everybody’s consciousness, hanging on to every last shred of the old way. In an ironic twist, at the re-election of Bush, at the horrible re-emergence of the smug dictator, we in Detroit celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Detroit Artists Workshop, a counter-culture that advocates a lifestyle totally at the opposite end of the spectrum of the Bush-heads and their military-industrial megalomania.

We celebrated at a time when this city is in economic ruin, with miles and miles of decay and blight in evidence wherever the eye turns — one has no doubt that this must be the final outcome of the industrial complex, the idiotic CEOs who run it and their bread-games-and-circuses vision for the rest of society. In this sense, the collapse of American pseudo-civilization is no different from the collapse of others — there are many historical precedents…

Meanwhile, Brother John makes his way over to Amsterdam (I call him “Ambassador of Konsciousness”). I see by the written material he’s posted here that Holland has all the evidences of the new world order that is springing up — in the arts communities he writes about — the festivals — the networking and openness of people to new possibilities. I just want to add that the people John is writing about are humanity’s most valuable asset — the people John is interviewing on his radio show — these individuals are something beyond ordinary folks in the streets –I call them the “Peopul” — the peopul are something way beyond ordinary souls — the peopul KNOW WHO THEY ARE — they are the vanguard of the new populace — a populace turned into “peopulace” —
eh? Can you see yourself living in joyous harmony with the peopulace? These are reality-experiencing folks living outside the pseudo-world of the pseudo-civilization. They are living the practice of outside as Jack Spicer once put it. And thanks to John’s journal, Mr. Blues Scholar, making every prime minister of pants stand up and do a dance, that we in Detroit now have a connection with the peopul thriving in Holland.

Detroit and Amsterdam have much more synergy than with the boneheads in D.C. — wouldn’t you agree? What we in Detroit propose, to all the folks in the ‘Dam who read this, or wherever, to jump on over and update our message board at — and give us your thoughts — as we give you ours — this is the beginning of a real junction between Amsterdam and Detroit! Stay tuned — to life, energy and art!
James Semark, 31, December, 2004
Jazz Music Dramatist & Cultural Activist
1551 Beaufield St.
Ferndale, MI 48220 (USA)

The editorial above was found on a disk in the estate of James Semark. It’s unknown if this was published on the old DAW site that James set up in 2004. With many works by Semark lost after his death, the preservation of his writing has been an important ongoing project of the DAW.