February 18, 2003
To: The Associated Press
From: the Literary Renaissance
Life During Wartime: Poetry Amidst a World in Struggle:
American poets RON WHITEHEAD and FRANK MESSINA will embark on an artistic invasion of four European cities including Reykjavik, Edinburgh, Durham and Newcastle on a 2-week poetry tour that promises to ruffle even the stiffest of European feathers.
For almost 10 years, Messina and Whitehead have stood poles apart on political issues yet side by side in the mutual quest to deliver poetry to the world. At first glance, the lanky, bushy bearded Ron Whitehead and the brawny, city slicker Frank Messina appear as a mismatched duo from a David Lynch movie. Messina is the son of a Bronx-born Sicilian. Whitehead is the son of a Kentucky coal miner. As Whitehead brilliantly pens poetry about life’s struggles of the disparate south and bids triumphantly for world peace, Messina writes volatile poems ranging in content from dingy jazz haunts to his spirited yet heartwrenching 9/11 works, whose political sentiments have echoed both acclaim and criticism around the globe.
Both poets have fans and foes alike. Whitehead’s poems hang in the office of the Dalai Lama, are published on anti-war websites and appear on the lyric sheets of anti-establishment rock albums. Messina’s poems appear on the walls of the New York City Fire Department, have been recited at 9/11 tributes and have been engraved on the turrets of tanks in the deserts of Afghanistan. Both writers get their share of hate mail attacking Whitehead as an anti-American pacifist and Messina as a blind sighted patriot, traumatized by his hands-on volunteer efforts at a ground zero triage. But, the works of both poets explicitly celebrate the human condition for all its joy and sorrow and successfully tug hard on the heartstrings of an injured populace, whether caused by terror attack, poverty or social injustice.
Together, the two have clocked over a quarter-million travel miles, spanning a dozen countries in the name of poetry. Now, in a world consumed by imminent war, the two deliver their works to an increasingly Anti-American audience in an attempt to give uncensored and candid views directly into the heart of post-9/11 America. The tour schedule is as follows:
March 6, 7, 8 Reykjavik, Iceland: The tour kicks off in Reykjavik, Iceland at the New Art Museum at 7:00PM. Also appearing will be the Viking HillBilly Apocalypse Revue, Sarah Elizabeth, L.B.H. Krew, legendary Megas, Bragi ”lafsson, Pollock Brothers and Thordeez, and Inspector 99
March 11, Durham, England: after a BBC radio interview, a performance at The Fish Tank, North Road, Center City, 7:30PM
March 12, Newcastle, England: Culture Cafe, Newcastle Central Public Library, 12:30PM, book signing, readings with Frank Messina, Ron Whitehead and British poet Keith Armstrong.
March 13, Newcastle, England: Cumberland Arms, Byker Buildings, Byker, 7:30PM. Also appearing will be the New Safe Sextet, British poets Keith Armstrong, Michael Standen, Ian Horn and John Earl.
March 15, Edinburgh, Scotland: Cabaret Voltaire, 36-38 Blair St. via Royal Mile. 7PM Filmmaker Jack Shea hosts a multi-media event celebrating the life and works of Jack Kerouac. Featuring the works of Kerouac, Messina, Ron Whitehead and Angus Calder. Multi-media, films, poetic and musical explorations.
RON WHITEHEAD is a Poet, Writer, Editor, Publisher, Organizer, Scholar, and Teacher. His numerous books and CDs include Beaver Dam Rocking Chair Marathon (book), I Will Not Bow Down: Selected Poems 1990-1995 (book), The Declaration of Independence This Time: Selected Poems 1996-2000 (book), Tapping My Own Phone (CD), I Will Not Bow Down (CD). Ron and Iceland co-conspirator Michael Pollock put together The Viking Hillbilly Apocalypse Revue which includes some of Iceland’s and Kentucky’s leading musicians and poets. Ron has edited over 600 titles, published over 250, produced over 800 events, and given over 3,000 readings. Hunter S. Thompson has written “I have long admired Ron Whitehead. He is crazy as nine loons, and his poetry is a dazzling mix of folk wisdom and pure mathematics.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti has written “Ron Whitehead, out there in Kentucky, out there where the tall heroes used to grow, is sowing the dragon’s teeth of new heroics.” For more information on Ron Whitehead:
FRANK MESSINA is a veteran New York spoken word artist, poet and performer. Nominated for the 2003 Allen Ginsberg Book Award, his recently published book, Disorderly Conduct has been hailed “a very important work...deep in the American present” by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Alan Dugan. He’s a recipient of the Woolrich Poetry Fellowship of Columbia University and the 1993 Allen Ginberg Poetry Award. Tackling issues of racial solidarity, human rights and spiritual redemption through music and verse, his works have been widely published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Ground Zero: New Yorkers Respond, The 9/11 Peace Poetry Project, Playboy Magazine, Paterson Literary Review and Published in Heaven poster series. He’s recited his highly musical poems in ten different countries and appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden, the LollaPalooza Rock Concerts, Woodstock ’94, Crossing Border Festival, London International Poetry and Song Festival and various European venues. Frank has collaborated with David Amram, members of Phish, Sun Ra Arkestra, Max Creek, Sonic Youth and the Grateful Dead. Frank often performs with his “Spoke ‘n Roll” band, Spoken Motion, a sextet whose works are deeply rooted in jazz and experimental rock music. The official website is 
Old time mountain singer Sarah Elizabeth, and percussionist/didgeridoo artist Inspector 99 will accompany Ron Whitehead on the entire tour.
For media contact and interviews
Ron Whitehead media contact:
Frank Messina media contact: