I’ve been stumped and sidetracked with my current WIP, and when that happens I turn to other projects. Musicians sometimes take breaks and do “side projects” and I love the idea that there are side men, musicians who spend their time in the margins and not part of the main text, as it were.
A recent trip to New Orleans reawakened some thoughts I’ve been simmering for years about jazz and, like a bad musical television show, it seems to have me breaking out it poetry. I began reading the collection Jazz Poems edited by Kevin Young and could hear the music behind every reference… because what drove poets to write about jazz were the sort of songs and people that defined the canon.
As with much popular culture, there’s a drop-off in our collective knowledge that begins in the middle of the last century and hits a rapid decline toward the end of it. Depending on your generation, the most current jazz standard you know when you hear it is either Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown or Chuck Mangione’s Feels So Good. Or if you’re really young you don’t even know that the Charlie Brown music is jazz.
So I’ve been thinking about new jazz, recent jazz, and how no one writes poetry about it (at least not that I’ve seen) and took that as a challenge. This is my first attempt.
le mauvais plus
a swan drawn
through the eye of a needle
into the sinew of a bass line
the song is a frame outside which soundscapes are painted
drunken robot precise
tinkling cymbal gear clatter
broken signatures, ligatures, sonic fragmentation, artisanal shrapnel
hulking minnesota piano
hewing chords of winter
blocky castles of mood and temper
if there is a method to madness, there is also madness to method
There is formatting to the lines WordPress can’t seem to handle. Alas.
Despite its pretentiousness, i went with the French translation of the band’s name – The Bad Plus – because their name always sounded to me like a bad English translation of a French movie title. Aside from that, I tried to stay as close as I could to what the music inspired me to write.
It’s Poetry Friday around the world. Head on over to Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup for the round-up.