Up Jump the Boogie: Review

Up Jump The Boogie
John Murillo

Cypher Books

Review by Adisa Vera Beatty

Poet John Murillo’s first collection, Up Jump the Boogie is bold and lyrical. The poems are elegies of liberation celebrating how we got by instead of lamenting death, hard times, or street life. With steady hands Murillo alternately testifies, pays homage, and immortalizes lives we know and don’t know. From his opening poem, “Ode To The Crossfader,” a tender spellbinding incantation and eulogy to a father, memory, and the bloodline, Murillo promises to rock the reader. These poems always remain intimate; tight shots that pull us in like “Trouble Man” where the poet overhears Marvin Gaye while driving. Much like a scent that stirs memory, that song triggers the restless and weighty presence of a deceased father and a son who is now also a man.

You were the boy who became
That man, without meaning
To, and know now: A man’s
Life is never measured
In beats, but beat-downs,
Not line breaks, just breaks.
You hear Marvin fade down
The avenue and it caresses you
Like a brick: Your father,
Marvin, and men like the,
Have already moaned every
Book you will ever write.
This you know, baby. This
You know.

George Clinton once said, “funk not only moves it can remove” if that is true then poetry must heal, and John Murillo’s poetry heals. Again and again Murillo bears witness in poems like “1989,” “Enter the Dragon,” “Dream Fragment With a Shot Clock” and “Whistles In It,” and in doing so sets free and gives grace to a community that lives so vividly inside him. But if there is one poem that can break hearts, cast spells, and ‘fly away home’ it is “Renegades of Funk.” Pulling on ancestral memory, dance and graffiti as praise, Murillo offers resistance and libation for the living and the dead.

The walls are sprayed in gospel: This is for
The ones who never made the magazines.
Between breakbeats and bad breaks, broken homes
And flat broke, caught but never crushed. The stars
We knew we were, who recognized the shine
Despite the shade. We renegade in rhyme,
In dance, on trains and walls. We renegade
In lecture halls, the yes, yes y’alls in suits,
Construction boots, and aprons. Out of work
Or nine to five, still renegade. Those laid
To rest, forgotten renegades, in dirt
Too soon with Kuriaki, Pun, and Pac—
I sing your names in praise, remember why
When we were twelve, we taught ourselves to fly.

With an insistent thread of music, street lore and strength, Murillo’s poems evoke a sensuous nostalgia and necessary history. It is clear from John Murillo’s first collection that his voice is one we need and will certainly here from again. Up Jump the Boogie is a hypnotic, moving and passionate collection dusted with some bittersweetness but still triumphant.

Literary Freedom Project • 557 Grand Concourse PMB 143 • Bronx NY 10451