Jack White Writes Poem about Detroit

From the Detroit Free Press:

Frustrated by a sense that his thoughts about Detroit have been misrepresented since his departure two years ago, White offered to the Free Press a poem that he hopes will express “my feelings about the city itself, and how strong I believe it to be,” as he says by way of introduction.

….

Citing the inspirational Detroit forces that have fueled creators from Albert Kahn to Iggy Pop, he sets the scene: “The following poem is the Detroit from my mind. The Detroit that is in my heart. The home that encapsulates and envelops those who are truly blessed with the experience of living within its boundaries.”

Poem after the jump

‘Courageous Dream’s Concern,’ by Jack White

I have driven slow,
three miles an hour or so,
through Highland Park, Heidelberg, and the
Cass Corridor.
I’ve hopped on the Michigan,
and transferred to the Woodward,
and heard the good word blaring from an
a.m. radio.
I love the worn-through tracks of trolley
trains breaking through their
concrete vaults,
As I ride the Fort Street or the Baker,
just making my way home.

I sneak through an iron gate, and fish
rock bass out of the strait,
watching the mail boat with
its tugboat gait,
hauling words I’ll never know.
The water letter carrier,
bringing prose to lonely sailors,
treading the big lakes with their trailers,
floats in blue green chopping waters,
above long-lost sunken failures,
awaiting exhumation iron whalers,
holding gold we’ll never know.

I’ve slid on Belle Isle,
and rowed inside of it for miles.
Seeing white deer running alongside
While I glide, in a canoe.
I’ve walked down Caniff holding a glass
Atlas root beer bottle in my hands
And I’ve entered closets of coney islands
early in the morning too.
I’ve taken malt from Stroh’s and Sanders,
felt the black powder of abandoned
embers,
And smelled the sawdust from wood cut
to rehabilitate the fallen edifice.
I’ve walked to the rhythm of mariachis,
down junctions and back alleys,
Breathing fresh-baked fumes of culture
nurtured of the Latin and the
Middle East.
I’ve fallen down on public ice,
and skated in my own delight,
and slid again on metal crutches
into trafficked avenues.

Three motors moved us forward,
Leaving smaller engines to wither,
the aluminum, and torpedo,
Monuments to unclaimed dreaming.
Foundry’s piston tempest captured,
Forward pushing workers raptured,
Frescoed families strife fractured,
Encased by factory’s glass ceiling.

Detroit, you hold what one’s been seeking,
Holding off the coward-armies weakling,
Always rising from the ashes
not returning to the earth.

I so love your heart that burns
That in your people’s body yearns
To perpetuate,
and permeate,
the lonely dream that does encapsulate,
Your spirit, that God insulates,
With courageous dream’s concern.

Author: laura

I run The Modern Age.org

44 thoughts on “Jack White Writes Poem about Detroit”

  1. holy toledo, he’s got a lot to say. good on him for at least trying to make his feelings clear… he usually doesn’t enter into debates about interpretations into his lyrics.

    but is he saying he loves Detroit as it is? because its still struggling? or is it not? (i’m from Oz so its not so clear here
    what native Detroits feel about their home).

    either way three cheers, he obviously cares.

  2. Detroit sounds like a tough city, I’m from Seattle and that city is green, rainy but beautiful. I guess he cares about Detroit.

  3. Detroit here has a great local rock music scene but it’s very much like crabs in a barrel. Many resent him for his success. Personally, I think he ranks up there with the MC5 and the Stooges in level of importance. I guess time will tell.

  4. This is a rough draft of the same poem Jack White didn’t want you to read:

    I remember back in the days
    Me and Meg was runnin’ Detroit like a maze
    back and forth, true ghetto lovin’
    till one day she got a bun in the oven

    While all the other Detroit bands was hatin’
    I was recordin at the crib and marinatin’
    Figured if bands like The Strokes could make it big
    I could write my rhymes that was just as sick

    I used to be cool, build chairs and shit
    But then Seven Nation Army became a hit
    Fuckin’ guidos was droolin’ mah jams at the World Cup
    And then the crash with Renee, I said that’s enough

    Since then I been playin’ with Brendan
    It’s cooler than hell, so this must be heaven
    And the new album makes me feel more alive
    Even though the only good track is Five On the Five.

  5. to those of you who are asking: detroit is a down-and-out town but it has a very, very tight music scene, as evidenced by the numerous acts to come out of an otherwise often hopeless city. i think it’s a hard place to really do justice– is it the crime-filled bitter and decrepit piece of shit you see on the news because of it’s suge-knight-esque mayor and his hooker-murdering wife? not at all. but it definitely hasn’t had a “good” year since the 1950s. that is to say: we’ve spent a looooong ass time degenerating with no revivals yet. there is definitely a sense of bitterness towards jack white due in part to his success, but i feel his leaving detroit and moving to nashville worked against him in terms of his reputation here in detroit.

    he hasn’t done much in the past 4 years to really assuage that very open diss of leaving the city, but it could have been forgiven because, as anyone who lives here knows, it’s definitely reasonable to want to leave. it’s a city that is economically depressed and dangerous; people getting robbed is a fact of life. unfortunately for him he will never be redeemed because a) the true reason behind his move is a little more dubious than he might claim (cough blanche cough cough) and b) after he moved he made many very harsh comments about detroit… i specifically remember him calling it “an iron maiden” of death or something along those lines in rolling stone just a few months ago.

    of course, his skipping detroit in the last white stripes tour was definitely another hard, hard blow, but, then again, just another one in a long line of disses.

    all that considered, i personally find it kind of ridiculous that he claims his comments about the “scene” should be taken for what they are versus commentary on the city itself. the two kind of go hand in hand and, frankly, after all the shit he has talked, i think it’s BS that he wants to take it all back now with a “i wasn’t talking about youuu guys i was talking about themmm.” whatever, asshole.

    i went to city fest this weekend (free festival in downtown detroit) and the general consensus from the kids was that the poem was kind of strange and pretentious and no one really felt apologetic towards him at all. in the content itself, it more or less just rattles off a bunch of detroit-y things, like strohs, but the form is too list-y and it’s a pretty mediocre piece, overall. i feel like if he was going to pull a stunt like this he should have made sure whatever he was putting out there was semi-genius versus being reminiscent of a middle-school poetry assignment.

    anyway, he’s done too much to alienate the locals to take it back now. i’m sure he’s at least somewhat sincere (a lot of his fam still lives here so he has to come back fairly often) but that doesn’t make up for the bullshit. oh, or trying to steal dan miller’s wife.

  6. that was very informative, thank you lalala. that gives me more of a realistic idea about detroit.

    so… if Jack wrote the poem to (not so successfully by the reading of the comments here) try to let others know about the blessed experience of living within the town… why did he skip it on the last white stripes tour?

    hmmm. i’m confused. ok so for a few reasons he doesn’t want to live there, fine. but surely he’d feel some kind of obligation to play there as it was the nursery for his initial successful band.

    i’m guessing we’re just not going to hear his side of the story clearly projected into a written article. a spoken interview maybe. but then possibly it doesn’t matter anymore. he just needs to stop poking the fire by continually entering into the debate about others interpretations into his past comments. and maybe he is an asshole? he’s a talented one and going to get away with it
    either way.

    btw – Dexter finally launched in Oz this week, thank god!

  7. Let me guess, could lalala be Jason’s good friend blablabla who posts in the Little Room?

  8. I was at City Fest. You walked around getting a general consensus about a poem? Obsess much?

  9. Loren, while it’s true Jack skipped Detroit during the last White Stripes tour, don’t forget that the last White Stripes tour was canceled due to Meg’s acute anxiety. The fact that he played a couple of nights in Detroit this year shows he holds no ill will towards his Detroit fans. In fact during the White Stripes’ 2005 tour (The same year he moved to Nashville) he played two nights and put on a hell of a show as any bootleggers will tell you. During that show he got all nostalgic about all the places they used to play in, and the schools he attended, and the old hangouts. The man really loves Detroit and the fact that he stayed for so long after The White Stripes made it big says something about his character. And can you honestly tell me Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence (who’s also a member of Blanche) all moved to Nashville because Jack had an affair, please, go spread your unfounded gossip somewhere else.

  10. 40 years of hell for the Motor City. I’m a lot older than Jack White. I remember the Detroit of JL Hudsons, the penny arcade, the newsreel movie theater, The Stooges, The Village of Love, and the Stone Burlesk. When Lafayette Coney Island, the Fox Theatre, and the Eastern Market are gone, then I’ll know that the city is completely dead.

  11. Get behind me Satan 666.Jack White sold his soul to the devil.Everybody knows that.Now he’s got to pay!Pay up byooootch!

  12. I have driven slow,
    (how slow?)
    three miles an hour or so,
    (dramatic)
    through Highland Park, Heidelberg, and the
    Cass Corridor. (what for? hookers?)
    I’ve hopped on the Michigan,
    and transferred to the Woodward,
    and heard the good word blaring from an
    a.m. radio. (religious much? he thinks he’s doing god’s work)
    I love the worn-through tracks of trolley
    trains breaking through their
    concrete vaults, (yah, they should fix the streets. oops the mayor stole all the money)
    As I ride the Fort Street or the Baker,
    just making my way home.
    (just a hard working man trying to get home and crack open a cold bottle of strohs)

    I sneak through an iron gate, and fish
    rock bass out of the strait,
    (fish murderer! gate sneaker!)
    watching the mail boat with
    its tugboat gait,
    hauling words I’ll never know.
    (deep. words like “fuck this boat” and “my ass itches”)
    The water letter carrier,
    bringing prose to lonely sailors, (Jack loves sailors)
    treading the big lakes with their trailers,
    floats in blue green chopping waters,
    above long-lost sunken failures
    (like the acting career, ouch!),
    awaiting exhumation iron whalers,
    holding gold we’ll never know.
    (oh Hemingway, how do you do it?)

    I’ve slid on Belle Isle,
    and rowed inside of it for miles.
    (picture jack White rowing a boat)
    Seeing white deer running alongside
    While I glide, in a canoe.
    (Jack White glides in canoes? what a fruit)
    I’ve walked down Caniff holding a glass
    Atlas root beer bottle in my hands
    And I’ve entered closets of coney islands
    early in the morning too.
    (walk me out in the morning dew, screw, blue, shrew, scooby doo!)
    I’ve taken malt from Stroh’s and Sanders,
    felt the black powder of abandoned
    embers, (line inspired by blade runner. btw did you pay for that malt?)
    And smelled the sawdust from wood cut
    to rehabilitate the fallen edifice.
    (enter Jack’s thesaurus, me need smart word for big building?)
    I’ve walked to the rhythm of mariachis,
    (his inspiration for the bullfighter get up, short lived)
    down junctions and back alleys,
    Breathing fresh-baked fumes of culture
    (you’re just smelling your upper lip)
    nurtured of the Latin and the
    Middle East.(choose sides pal. you don’t like amerika then get the fuck out)

    I’ve fallen down on public ice,
    (now Jack hates ice and punches it in the face)
    and skated in my own delight,
    (owns his own skates. rarely experiences delight)
    and slid again on metal crutches
    into trafficked avenues.
    (what are you talking about?)

    Three motors moved us forward,
    (here we go with the number three again)
    Leaving smaller engines to wither,
    the aluminum, and torpedo,
    (damn those torpedoes)

    (now it’s time for a little scat, please remain seated)
    Monuments to unclaimed dreaming.
    Foundry’s piston tempest captured,
    Forward pushing workers raptured,
    Frescoed families strife fractured,
    Encased by factory’s glass ceiling.
    (that completes the scat portion of the poem, we now join or regularly scheduled program already in progress)

    Detroit, you hold what one’s been seeking,
    (definitely not the “ones” who live in Detroit)
    Holding off the coward-armies weakling,
    (cold mountain flashback)
    Always rising from the ashes
    not returning to the earth.
    (wish you’d return to earth)

    I so love your heart that burns
    That in your people’s body yearns
    To perpetuate,
    and permeate,
    the lonely dream that does encapsulate,
    Your spirit, that God insulates,
    With courageous dream’s concern.
    (I like the last part. he should have gone with a haiku.)

  13. He has mixed feelings about his hometown, big whoop. There are lots of people who owe Detroiters an apology, and American citizens in general, an apology but Jack White isn’t one of them.

  14. re: mitchell

    it’s a well-known fact, not “unfounded gossip.” as to your latter contention, brendan benson left detroit because he got mugged a bunch of times. keeler is from ohio and little jack is from tennessee and has moved around quite a bit already, so when BB and JW both left they followed suit because, let’s face it, it’s with him they bring in the $$$ and who really wants to live in detroit, anyway?

    that is to say, your statement that “And can you honestly tell me Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence (who’s also a member of Blanche) all moved to Nashville because Jack had an affair” is a rather pathetic straw man argument.

    now, what’s jack white’s excuse for leaving? don’t we all know.

  15. brendan said got mugged once, not a bunch of times. patrick keeler and “little” jack lawrence are both from ohio, not tennessee. they moved to nashville because it’s a happenin place for a musician, it’s nicer than their previous rust belt residences, and they could afford to leave once the racs started touring. there are million reasons to leave detroit. if jack white was going to leave over an affair or broken friendships, he would have left a lot sooner. he left when his wife was expecting their first child.

  16. lawrence is from kentucky and keeler is from indiana (originally).

    why is it that every topic on this blog eventually winds its way around to tracee miller?

  17. lawrence is from kentucky and keeler is from indiana (originally).

    why is it that every topic on this blog eventually winds its way around to tracee miller?

  18. Wow. If there’s a blog entry this year that people have over-analyzed to death…

    …it’s this one.

  19. if those posts represent the “locals”, the “locals” are reason #57 to leave detroit.

  20. “Be true to your school?” Grow up.

    You can’t go home again. It’s just the sad truth.

  21. nice one Eugene.

    thanks Mitchell for the reminder. i did forget that they cancelled for that reason, but i wasn’t aware they went back there later on.

    so there are lots of opinions about the poem, and wether they’re accurate or not, Jack made the attempt to get it out there. but as we can tell from his musical genius his mind does work a bit differently to the norm so maybe we missed the point? maybe it wasn’t an apology… more of an insight for those of us who wanted try to understand where he was coming from.

    i’d like to hear him talk about it in context, with no editorial observations about it – just let it be. because really, its not really a huge deal is it? he was there, he stayed for a bit, then he left. some mistakes may have been made but thats what living is. and hopefully learning from them.

    if Australians got a bit antsy every time someone left here for another home – usually overseas – generally its a career inspired move because, alas, their hometown just no longer
    fulfills their needs. which is fine. he’s not slagging the place off as a general “haw sh*t they’re all f*cked” kind of way so i think i’m OK to let it go. and wait for tws to make it over here at some point. fingers crossed.

  22. its true that the comments and the article itself from that detour mag are a totally accurate description of the kind of
    cynical hatred detroiters have for jack and any of his projects.
    look at the way they talk about him, would you want to hang
    out at a bar with those people? that’s not supportive. you
    can’t expect him to just get trampled over and over again by
    those people in the scene, and the local press and just keep
    creating positive things. look at his lyrics to effect and cause,
    the cynics are blaming him for what they did to him. i was there
    when they left, and the town was totally anti white. someone (probably stollsteimer himself) wrote up top that
    people at city fest dislike his poem? big surprise. people
    in detroit hated get behind me satan too, and that was in
    2005. why can’t this man say that the scene treated him
    nasty? why is he not allowed to that?
    he made a positive step with this poem, and it’s truly sad
    that all those cynics can’t appreciate it. i don’t get what
    he has to apologize for. if anything detroit should apologize
    to him. btw, do you think madonna ever went fishing on the detroit river?

  23. He probably left because he didn’t want his kid growing up in Detroit, and because he’s closer to The Raconteurs.

  24. I like how the writer uses the elements of Water, Earth, Air and Fire in his poem, very clever!

  25. jason stollsteimer is up there under the name la la la, talking about jack and dan millers wife or whatever, but word round the campfire in detroit is that stollsteimer tried to mess around with marcie bolen back in the day, but she let it go because the band was getting successful. don’t kill the messenger. also shouldn’t jason be putting his energy into paying off the 70 grand he owes the govt. in back taxes? instead of posting on blogs trying to tarnish other people’s names?

    http://forums.detnews.com/redesign/blogs/taxingdetroitblog/index.cfm?blogid=19

    people go to jail for this stuff jason. pay your taxes homie!

  26. Where’s the Detroit knowitalls and “karma” police that dog Jack? I don’t believe in karma, so I’ll just chalk it up to more Stoolsteamer stupidity.

  27. “lala” seems to be the typical representation of the resentment that comes out of any scene when someone makes it big. Jack moving was typical and predictable-it’s rare that any celebrity stay in their hometown, though he gave it a fair chance. If anyone alienated someone, it was the crowd that surrounded him, who for so long supported his eccentricities and got handpicked for choice support slots around the country, Europe, etc. without so much as a “thank you” (again, typical detroit mentality), and didn’t call any of it out till now.
    There was talk that Detroit would be the next Seattle, every band poised to create a production line of music for this revived back-to-basics approach. Thing is, it didn’t happen, there was not even a Next Big Thing(too bad Jason Stoollayer, even you can’t save it). The record companies sniffed around for sure, but there wasn’t enough to even sell for scrap. All that came of it was Small-time deals with lackluster support, the old scene now withers away and still can’t grasp what happened, and regurgitates itself, like now. you could say that the only real “next Big Thing” that ever came out of Detoilet was actually the Raconteurs.(Keeler and Lawerence were adopted Detroiters, remember, until now of course).

    I can only hope this is the last thing he ever has to say about this place.

  28. lalala
    couldn’t be stolstiemer
    He was in ireland during city fest?

    Also why would anyone assume it was him?

    PS nice poem

  29. i really like his poem, and i think it was written with well-meaning intentions.

    about the tracee miller thing, i think it’s pretty obvious that it happened. let’s lay it all out (apologies if this has been discussed to death)… she’s completely his type and he had probably had feelings for her for years. and she always seemed to flirt with him quite a bit. in early ’05, he had just broken up w/ renee z at the same time dan & tracee were having marital problems… they had a drunken one-night stand. blanche temporarily broke up, but then got back together, dan & tracee stayed together… maybe she had made promises to jack and he got hurt… who knows? he ended up writing ‘the nurse’ about her. blanche wrote ‘last year’s leaves’ and ‘no matter where you go’ about him. he wrote ‘effect & cause’ in retaliation to that… such drama. (he has said that ‘effect & cause’ is about a woman he was in love with a few years ago, someone nobody knows about… which begs the question… the line about the baby and her pregnant ma? wasn’t there some cancelled blanche shows due to some mysterious medical issue with tracee shortly after all this went down?) ok, so that’s total speculation, as i suppose it all is really. but anyway, c’mon… something happened there.

    i adore jack, but i know he’s not completely innocent. he does seem like a pretty decent guy though. just a guy who’s made some mistakes.

  30. and posting your speculating version of what allegedly happened achieves what?

    a career in tabloid journalism awaits you, that, or lawn maintenance.

  31. so if jack and tracee were in love, would that have been a mistake? since when is being in love a mistake to be guilty
    about? just because one of the people is married doesn’t mean
    it can’t be the right thing. most people get divorced anyways
    because they aren’t with the right person.

  32. To all of you! Do you guys realize that you hurt the people where you writing about! Maybe not all of the people reading this stuff but some of them do that. How would you feel if you see your own name in the internet and read the stupid rumors.

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