Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Big Smoke: "Hurt Business"

 [The Big Smoke reading group]

"Hurt Business", also the title of this first section of poems in the volume, features Adrian Matejka's construction of Jack Johnson's earliest brawls. We also receive an account of Johnson's earliest motivation for fighting.

In the poem, Johnson is beginning to establish himself as a larger than life hero in the making. He recalls, "Thirteen & I was already strong/ enough to toss a cotton bale out/ of the way like it was a bad idea/ & I could jump five feet backward/ from flat feet." A bale of cotton weighs about 500lbs.

Johnson clearly possessed physical strength. But based on Matejka’s presentation of the boxer in this particular poem, what alerts you to the idea that Johnson was strong minded as well?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II

18 comments:

Joshua Bowens said...

Johnson possesses strong minded attributes because of the way he talks about the beatings he received. On top of the beating he mentions how " Those lunchtime brawls taught me to mix it up outside the gentleman's rules-quick." This shows strength not only physically to take a beating but mentally to learn from the beatings and conquer your opponent.

Jelani Brown said...

The initial thing that Matejka included in this poem that alerted me to Johnson's strong mind was that he would always follow the rules within the professional types of fights, but he treated the random brawl as a survival fight because he knew there would be no stopping until one is finished.
-Jelani B

Rubin Logan said...

Learning from his beatings and other fights is a strong minded attribute Johnson has. He was strong minded enough to abide by the rules inside no matter how much he did not want to, but when he was outside of the ring he did what he had to do to survive.
-Rubin L.

Elijah Person said...

In the passage Johnson show physical and mental strength by showing his abilities and how he reacts to silk mar situations in different environments. He also speaks of an encouraging grandmother who would like to raise a man and not a boy. In a way the passage is the authors way of giving thanks to the parental figures for making our race's children into men by pressuring them to do what is right, even if it means learning to fight at a young age.

John Kriha said...

Johnson, in this poem, learns a very important lesson from the experience with his grandmother. The lesson being that in fighting, no matter who your opponent is either your delivering the whooping or receiving it.
As he grew stronger the lesson was reflected by comparing outside brawls to organized fighting. With organized fighting, Johnson is going to do whatever it takes to deliver the whooping within the rules. However when it comes to the outside brawls he realizes that its not so much about delivering the whooping but fighting for survival.

Nicholas Rawls said...

What alerted me to the idea that Johnson was strong-minded was in part his own because he had enough sense to understand any given situation that he was.
In the ring, as he says, he will always abide by the rules , but when it comes to the dock fights, he knew that he had to break the gentlemen's rules because it was not about winning, it was about survival. It was not about just quickly falling back to what was known, but about adapting to the current situation. Any "normal" man might have either panicked, tried to fight by the rule book, or cower. - Nicholas R.

Barry Ford said...

In "Fisticuffs", Johnson is shown to have a strong mind. Matejka says, " I don't rabbit-punch a man's manhood like Mexican Pete or gouge an eye like Klondike. This means that Johnson is a guy who fights by the rules and his mind has been unaffected by others doing negative things around him.

jingolder said...

The source of Johnson's strong-minded personality is shown within the first few stanza's when Grandma Gilmore challenges him to "whip" Willie Morris, even though Willie Morris is larger and stronger. This shows that Johnson's strong-minded behavior was not only instilled at an early age, but was passed on from the earlier generations.

MyVampire15 said...

After reading a "Hurt Business," it feels as if it is being told from a white mans POV. In the beginning, he says,"It's always better to whip than be whipped." He goes on to say that the boys at the dock taught him a few things when it came to fighting outside of the ring.This means that he is a boxer and that he should not fight fair when he fights outside of the ring.

Phillip Goens said...

PJ

You can tell that Johnson was a very strong minded because when he was growing up at the age of 13 he knew he had to grow up. The way he viewed the fights as survival is a brave and courage things to do. He was physically able to do a lot of strong things, but the way he thought out things was very strong mentally.

Curtis Brown said...

The big take away from the reading was the way that Johnson use to follow the rules of the regular scheduled fights, but when it came down ton the random fights he fought them like he was fighting for his life. This gives me the idea that he was not only physically strong but mentally strong as well.

Xavier Morrison- Wallace said...

From a young age, Johnson knew that he had to fight to defend himself of he would end up on the floor in a very poor condition. From this experience, we know as readers that he is strong minded because he doesn't give up and let things happen or get taken advantage of. Later in life, Jack Johnson has learned from past experiences that to survive in the streets, fighting dirty was an acceptable option. Even though one should never fight dirty, Jack's mind evolved and adapted to a situation to solve a problem.

Jordan Hardman said...

You can tell that Johnson was strong minded because of his way of thinking. He knew that he would have to fight for money professionally and make a living while also fight for his life to survive. Johnson also knew that on the streets fighting caused for all rules to be thrown out the window. He was able to assess each situation he was in and act accordingly.

Trion Taylor said...

You can tell that he is strong minded because he knew that there could be no rules if he wanted to survive in the streets and he was willing to do whatever it took to survive. But he also knew he couldn't bring those habits to the ring and expect to make a decent living. He could have adopted a very angry mindset within the ring and just let loose but he chooses to abide by the rules.

Gerrell Lewis said...

I really appreciate this poem because Johnson has so much pride and dedication even though he so young. The excerpt starts off with this character named Willie Morris striking Johnson in the jaw for no reason. I assume he was a grown male who fought on the docks. Also, another thing that caught my eye was that Johnson exhibited strong physical attributes such strength and the ability to jump. He even admits that his hands aren't that good at the time but that doesn't stop him. The last sentence quotes, "Those dock fights were more about survival than winning!" When he mentions survival, it can be interpreted that he just wanted to show his opponent that he wasn't afraid of a fight.
-Gerrell Lewis

J.D. Staples said...

Reading this poem reminded me of bullies from childhood. I knew I wasn't the biggest or strongest but I knew that I had to protect myself and put up a fight just as Johnson did. And another thing that I would take fro this poem is to never let others get the best of you even if you have to hit below the belt in order to survive this fight we call life.

Javier said...

Reading this poem reminded me of bullies from childhood. I knew I wasn't the biggest or strongest but I knew that I had to protect myself and put up a fight just as Johnson did. And another thing that I would take fro this poem is to never let others get the best of you even if you have to hit below the belt in order to survive this fight we call life.

Sky Johnson said...

The first thing that made me see how Johnson was strong minded was when he fought Willie Morris. He said Willie was much bigger than him but he "took the fight straight to the bigger boy". To me, getting into a fist fight with someone who is much bigger than you without thinking twice about it takes a very strong mind. The next thing that shows Johnson's strong mindset is when he talked about fighting at the dock. Matejka does this by saying, "those men gave me the type of beatings that made me want to go back tot he schoolhouse". Even though Johnson continuously gets beat in his fights at the dock he keeps getting up and fighting again and that also shows a strong mind.