An important composer and musician, Charles Mingus was also part of the civil rights movement. Raised by an aboriginal stepmother he was part Black, Chinese, and White. He claimed to be three people, and spent time in mental hospitals. He was married to one of his wives by Ginsberg, and collaborated with Langston Hughes. 12 of the poems are either directly about a moment in his life, a song, a performance, or are conversations between a fictional version of the author and Mingus. The rest consist of themes from his life: A search for home/identity, music, fighting for social justice/civil rights, protesting, and relationships.
"Swan moves through time, uses the language of broken English to emulate characters, takes us from Earth to Mars with such insight and empathy his voice becomes the voices of characters we know – are curious about, abhor – and leaves us with a greater understanding of the plight, strength and intimacy of strangers seen through the eyes of a gifted poet. Expect nothing ordinary in his work."