Tag Archives: jazz

Levine’s Bud Powell and Matthews’ Bud Powell

For this month’s Music post, a look at two poems about jazz musician Bud Powell, William Matthews’ “Bud Powell, Paris, 1959” and Philip Levine’s “On 52nd Street“.

There are poems about the sound of the music, and there are poems about the musicians, and there are poems about the experience of music. It’s probably true that all music genres have a special hero worship to their culture, but it seems like jazz in particular has HEROES. (Rock music I guess more has rock GODS.) Both Matthews’ and Levine’s poems are about their jazz hero Bud Powell in less-than-stellar form. Continue reading

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Reading across Komunyakaa’s “Changes; or…”

Changes; or, Reveries at a Window Overlooking a Country Road, with Two Women Talking Blues in the Kitchen” is a two-columned jazz poem by Yusef Komunyakaa (from the New Poems section of 1994’s Neon Vernacular) that, like a great piece of jazz music, I get something more out of with every reading.

On the left side of the page, Mary and Eva Mae, friends from childhood, are “talking B-flat blues” in the kitchen, catching up on the (cheating) men and (loose) women they used to know. Meanwhile on the right, Mary’s grandson, “just dragged in / From God only knows where,” and “Nice as a new piece / of silk,”  is thinking about jazz, all kinds of jazz from Philly Joe Jones to Billie Holiday to Charles Mingus to John Coltrane, and memory, and black culture, and the way thoughts move between them. The poems starts with an “A-one, two, three” of men’s names, “Joe, Gus, Sham . . . ” putting us in music territory from the start. Continue reading

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On the Anthology

There are just a ton of poetry anthologies out there in the world (over fifty on my own bookshelf alone). I’ve been thinking about anthologies of late, no doubt due directly to the recent controversy about Rita Dove’s choices (and omissions) for The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry and to American Alphabets (David Walker’s wonderful new anthology out of Oberlin College Press, offering robust selections from 25 poets) which I was given for Christmas.

Without taking sides on the Penguin issue, since I have not yet read the anthology itself but only read articles about it online, I wonder if part of the problem is less Dove’s choices and more just the title — if it were An Anthology of 20th Century instead of The (and it can’t be The without Plath and Ginsberg — those two omissions due to permissions issues and budget limitations) would there be so much vitriol? If it were just Dove’s choices for An anthology, I suspect the discussion about it would be more fun.

Well, probably not, Continue reading

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