The artist, writer and poet Russell duPont created the art appearing on this post specifically for this collection of poetry. His efforts are so very appreciated.
Please click here to visit his website.
…..For several years, Jerry Jazz Musician has encouraged poets to submit jazz poems of any length, and those accepted are often published in extensive anthologies – the most recent being the Fall/Winter 2022/2023 collection.
…..While the publication of such collections will continue, I felt it was time to shake things up and try something new, but struggled with what that would be until I came across this quote by Sylvia Plath:
“Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space; you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.”
…..This idea of a poet “burn[ing] away all the peripherals” led me to imagine a simplification – or shortening – of the form itself, and decided that a collection devoted to short-form jazz poetry could provide welcome inspiration for the poets, and be compelling to the reader. Consequently, in September I invited poets to submit jazz poems of no longer than seven lines. Their embrace of this idea is found in the collection that follows.
…..As always, thanks to the poets and readers, and I hope you enjoy…
Readers may notice that some poems appear to be longer than seven lines, but this is due to the limitations of digital formatting. Line length may also vary depending on the device you use to read the collection. If you view the collection on a cell phone, for example, turn the device horizontally so more space is enabled and the poet’s intent for the poem can be most accurately consumed.
At the conclusion of the poems, biographies of the artist and poets contributing to this collection are listed in alphabetical order.
Poems appear under the poet’s name.
“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
“Be brief, be buoyant, and be brilliant.”
-Brander Matthews (writer and literary critic)
A selection of jazz recordings are available to listen to throughout the collection.
Listen to the 1959 recording of Ornette Coleman playing “Mind and Time,” from the album Tomorrow Is The Question!, with Don Cherry (trumpet); Percy Heath (bass); and Shelly Manne (drums). [Universal Music Group]
To dream in jazz
is to become jazz.
Close your eyes and listen—
go to where jazz becomes life.
When your eyes reopen,
you’ll become jazz—
your words will sing the blues.
The Blues Haiku
every time it rains
the blues are born even when
the sun is shining
ladies sing the blues
stranded notes travel down cheeks
rain comforts sorrow
the blues seek solace
we pick up our horns play tunes
to sooth rain-washed eyes
The Fountain gushed
…………..a flood of incantations
from his ebony wand
lost in his world
…………..to excite your soul.
His pupils danced through the night
…………..as the band instigated him
with licks from the modal map,
…………..crazy faced and wild stare,
inducing his rim-shot rhythms
…………..to shake the walls.
The aristocrat with his proud,
arrested your mind
…………..as he and his ensemble
stole your soul,
…………..with the excitement
…………..and emotion of elegant jazz.
Creating sounds so smooth,
…………..golden hues from his golden horn
only the angels could duplicate,
…………..carried so high, it might be heaven
his fingers moving with elegance,
…………..ballroom dancing on the keys.
It was impossible not to listen,
…………..its intensity, the spell it cast
from the stage, spiraling outward
…………..to wrap the audience with warmth,
…………..both mesmerizing and magical.
Piano keys begin the tease,
stand up bass is plucked to please,
alto sax exhales a sigh,
but then that trumpet starts to cry.
The saxophonist inserts a solo
into the sinews of “Your Lady”
while moving from sigh to scream.
The notes were within him—
incubating, turning, straining—
and he now breathes them
All That Jazz
People lined up along Seventh
Waiting for the doors to open
At the Village Vanguard
“Who’s on tonight?”
“Della!” “Chet!” “Ornette!”
Disguise your excitement.
They all crooned it,
the essential ballad-
Baker, Ella, Johnny Hartman
Miles on horn, Frankie Boy
Louis on horn and vocals-
They all crooned it.
Try to contain
in a haiku
sharing with their hosts
Epiphytes and Jazz
both eminent each
sound and rhythm
rises slow out
an open window
in time to a
cool for Miami
Lester Brings It
reed toned breath
to valve the language
………..sending something solid
An Application of Strayhorn’s Theorem
A petal pulled away discreet
upsetting symmetry in this hour
this rose to some now incomplete
remains still a lovesome flower
Monk’s moods then
prepared by others
seasoned & served
a Thelonious way to play
Driving to work— Listening to
Eubie Blake’s ‘Memories of You’—
While Forsythia that I pass each day
Lose yellow blossoms
And slowly turn green.
Beloved trumpet… Daahoud the brother
of David battling every Goliath, gently, with glorious
bursts of notes, a muezzin chant calling us home
early morning, finishing the gig, greeting the dawn
saying Sandu… farewell to friends and life
because no seat belt safety exists for you and Richie
no Joy Spring evermore though all we hear we welcome.
spare space of dawn stirring sparse
coffee) jazz spoonfuls at a time
slowly emptying cups
trading four over four over…
Letters From Home
Ancient letters, postmarked from the past, from the twenties and thirties,
on brittle shellac, about love in vain and my baby’s boarding the next train.
Knife blades on guitar strings sliding toward Babylon, toward now.
From the devil’s dusty crossroads at midnight to freeways snarling in morning rain.
From greasy fish fry rent parties by rickety tracks
to purple plush concert halls come salutations for the young
from beyond weed covered graves.
I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
We never got to meet and now it’s too late.
You’re dead, annoying the hell out of Pops,
Duke, Bird but mainly that heavenly choir
of spirits, celestial beings, all singing acapalla.
It’s winter time, and I’m staring out of a frosted window
as Charlie Parker’s “Summertime” comes on the radio,
his sax, a kite on the wind of so many violins.
Cream skies melt like clouds into a spoon of cold coffee.
The saxophone cries out—so many blackbirds taking flight!
And I’ve been delivered to that endless afternoon
beyond cold turkey w/out stress or untimely death.
Listen to the 1958 recording of Miles Davis playing “Summertime,” from the album Porgy and Bess [Columbia/Legacy]
a simple haiku
is not enough to describe
the sweet taste of Jazz.
the cool sarcasm
of a Miles’ trumpet solo,
that’s what Jazz is, Man
a front row table
our honeymoon with Ella
we both get Misty
“Yardbird,” Jazz genius
blows sounds, flowing, melodic;
be-bop and the blues.
The Jazz Baroness
lives in Monk’s Pannonica
with love, ‘round midnight.
Mary K. O’Melveny
Burning Billie’s Candles At Both Ends
sweet heady hints of hope
mingled with tears
Someday My Prince Will Come
Vibrato cut away
Human voices whisper moan
rasp ..sigh ..croon…. like angels
Live at Village West with Ron Carter and Jim Hall
packed ..room ..hushed ..crowds ..golden.. sound
Monk ..Sonny.. Gershwins ..Kern ..Milt
Modern day alchemy
Cool School (for Chet Baker)
I can croon like a pied butcherbird
I can play ..trumpet.. flugelhorn
blues.. valentines.. riffs ..revelations
don’t ask me to explain myself
to reveal anything ..to go straight
don’t judge me ….just listen
Aurora M. Lewis
Take Me There
Going back to find a Cool Cat
See, I like them like that, Fedora
cocked ace deuce, trousers tapered
and wing tips buffed to all be damned
He’d order me a Blue Moon cocktail
as we dug the jazz tones and the scenes
at Club Alabam
She rocks an axe and a bass
An Endangered Species
courtesy of Wayne as she
scats and sings, Jazz Ain’t
Nothing But Soul, she
proclaims, Spalding is
Sipping on a glass of red wine
the sweet kind, as I lean back in
my chair, eyes closed, feeling
composed, digging the vibes
of Herbie and Miles, drifting
off, Round About Midnight
With my Watermelon Men
Michael L. Newell
Wild world of free jazz too often termed autoschediastic,
yet genius of Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Mingus, Don Cherry,
mature Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders was both
astonishingly innovative and governed by deep musical insight
and daring of porpoises in uninhibited flight, exploration
rock climbers could appreciate, and spiritual in ways
the most austere monk in a desert cave might recognize.
Miles At Work
Miles Davis convinced less is more
creates deeper feeling with fewer notes
than trumpet players thought conceivable
etches raw delicacy in fabric of air bends
time space fills them with sparse profundity
In An Evening Mist
A raft of ducks, a bundle of bairns, and I
perform an evening dance around a creek,
as Douglas fir trees solo all through
the gloaming in the wind’s arms
with a voice like a song softly sung
by Ben Webster’s sax. I am wet with joy,
and my companions are free, free, free.
Alone At Last
old dude creates lyrics
for sax and trumpet whispers
playing in his head
alone in auditorium
late concert flows on memory’s breeze
his feet beat polyrhythms to wind outside
all life he realizes is music seeking a home
Beauty of Endings
sunset sprays horizon with burst
of color brilliant and striking
as a Clark Terry solo soaring up and up
until its silvery virtuosic sheets
of sound reach stunning silence
Dew on the woken fruit,
those early Jazzers
true harvesters of improvised
blue rhythms and yearning hearts.
Those listening days
did they know you’d
survive those fast tempos,
hearing the wondrous
Listen to the 1947 recording of Charlie Parker playing “Embraceable You,” with Miles Davis (trumpet); Duke Jordan (piano); Tommy Potter (bass); and Max Roach (drums). [Universal Music Group]
The twirler, the plinker-plunker
be minor, be diminished,
be neither of those things,
the waking, the daily glories,
the human scales
and ache-y arrows to heart, to ear,
I dream of Monkishness supreme
Bird call this morning is alto-sax heir of
that Bird, jabs and run-ons and then a melodic line
flits in again;
outside, the sun: dog on a leash,
finches galore stab at seeds,
what else is there?
A conga player collides with “Pork-Pie
Hat,” the woman vibist fists two mallets,
follows bandmates into a driving, propulsive sound—
her stance languid, lanky, her long arms made moreso
as she stares into the music, now a Cuban bounce
thick like picadillo with piano and drums one on top of the other,
her mallets fly above like lightning bugs in the night.
I dreamt I met
John Coltrane: lunch-
break of a Conference,
Life of a Legacy. Due
to ‘speak’ that after-
noon, catch a flight
The Death of Charlie Parker
…………….(August 29, 1920—March 12, 1955)
Charlie “Bird” Parker would be 100
Today, but instead he died at the age
Of 34, described by the doctors
In the hospital where he was taken
As an elderly Black man, as if he
Were a mere mortal like the rest of us.
The debutante moon drifts across the November night
The slim branches making cymbals of the wind
Like the pianissimo portion of Weather Report’s Birdland.
A sixteenth kindling of the new month
Her sliver like a stiletto heel, calf tapping
Movement, so subtle, only you feel it.
There’s little to say when a coda is
cut off while playing through traffic
In the mess of beeps where love fades
Into the Red Clay where you have to
Innovative your way out of
what was becoming a melody past,
like a record with scratches.
Must have been the 11th time I played
This Masquerade cruising down the
Catoctin Mountains in Frederick County
not appreciating the loneliness
but feeling the hot scat sun on my arms
and the excitement of this new Benson
sound driving me 1000 miles to Baltimore.
Molly Larson Cook
Three Short Poems For Lady Day
In the beginning was the song,
and the song was Billie.
The sweet moan, the catch in her throat,
the sound of sixty-dollar Scotch straight up
and no ice.
Billie put a spin on “I Cover the Waterfront”
that makes you want to head for the nearest dock,
even in a place
where there’s damned little water,
let alone a waterfront to cover.
Billie was born under the sign of Aries
with a Neptune keynote.
Fire and water. Sizzle. Everything she sang had sizzle.
Sweet tunes, sad tunes, the heat was in them
scorching the soft and sorrowful edges of her sound.
Seven Lines (In Which To Persuade)
What to say in seven lines,
No tricks, concise, succinct and pithy;
Stronger by its brevity.
Sounds not dressed up to the nines;
Fresh and new, pretty too,
This cool and silky jazz of mine.
To tell you jazz is doing fine!
like Charlie Parker
sloping fingertips give way
flying time has come
dips french fries in mayonnaise
Dutchman’s name is Toots
if you can
ride Blue Trane
you’ll get ideas
to fit their music notions
derived from spirit, soul
together as band mates
fleeting music moments
endure as supported soloing
until this measured time
reaches clocked completion
……….An Intimate Look at Three Jazz Greats, Pannonica de Koenignwarter
……….In honor of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter
She was a queen; all shades, all hues, all blues; the sea, the sky, and jazz.
Her Bentley a starship for blue/black light swirling drumbeats on hearts,
syncopated horns dancing tap on black and white keys.
all them jazz cats had dreams, more than music. They lived with other mortals
grounded on earth. Dream catcher opened her hands, caught their holy grails.
Monk at the Cat House
……….To have a crazy friend like you. Three Wishes
Monk didn’t live in a monastery, that place never revealed. Lost his cabaret card in a down south fracas, but not his way, salvaged in ’57. Found life again with a quartet gathered on another planet, sent their tunes down from the moon, where he longed to live in real time.
The Cat House, a sanctuary for fine spirits, a final resting place. Music and grief his for-ever friends. Monk a refugee of thin light, sat in the coming fullness, found his forever way as the stars turned into a map. A master of space and time, he soared.
……….To be white, Three Wishes
Tongue in cheek Miles, always cheeky, observant to a fault. He meant it. No cracker
policeman knocking him into a door, no jail cell for existing. Though he lived the good life; came from means, mother father love. Renowned. A genius. An innovator.
Blew the sweetest horn since Clifford took that last ride on a rain slicked highway. More than once Mile’s notes fell on my skin, awash with life, longing; smoke filled clubs. His gravel voice cracking. A friend told me Miles said he heard music in the dial tone.
Though now that he wanders the outer world playing “So What”, it’s just here-say.
……….To Be the Monkey’s Paw*. Three Wishes
He drummed with all the greats, Miles, Garland, Holiday, to name a few. His eyes
the color of dark magic. His voice the sound of a door opening to unfamiliar things.
His walk full of spark and joy dancing in silences between the notes.
The Monkey’s Paw, the real giver of wishes. Tempting fate, a fakir’s spell echoed his beating drum. Repercussions all around. His eyes, the color of dark magic, blind to tragedies on the horizon, his life’s end manacled by illness. Give up your sadness;
he’s with the others now in the outer world, still dancing, untroubled.
*A gift given by a fakir (ascetic) who cast a spell on a mummified monkey paw giving three wishes.
Sketches of Spain
Water color blue on white paper; ships slip through my fingers holding the paint brush. Miles, Coltrane, Evans fill the room; each jazz riff falls to the floor, colors the sea with images waiting to sail. The cat’s tail twitches back and forth; he chirps a tune in tandem.
Small brown birds sit on a tree outside, heads cocked, listening to Sketches, to my memories, playing on the stereo. There’s a cat here as well, time traveling from a girl’s room in the suburbs seeing the vast world open its hands.
Listen to the 1971 recording of Thelonious Monk playing “Crepuscule With Nellie”
Jerrice J. Baptiste
Love Is A Thing So They Say
Heart at ache.
Your song in flight reaching beyond
my dim lit room. Each breath saturates air.
I heard the sorrowful red hummingbird at dusk.
It too flew in sky again that love should be there.
You, me, and bird, no purpose of tears.
For whatever each night may bloom.
Soukous yeah! Soukous!
She sings for her audience.
How come I don’t have a full house tonight?
Her question unanswered. She repeats it.
Mountains they won’t move. No, they won’t.
I sing just to know that I’m alive!
Rhythm, piano, no jive.
Please, Don’ t Let Me Be Misunderstood
afraid of being tasted then discarded
after breaking vows.
She turns her face to her lord,
asking forgiveness of sins
under her skin.
Finding light in angels’ wings.
Boots Like the ’50s
My patent leather winter boots
(In black, naturally)
Remind me of Bill Evans’s
Piano in the ‘50s…
Don’t know why, exactly –
Maybe it’s their smooth and
Shiny, oh-so-tasteful look!
Preservation Hall, New Orleans, 1964
…..(for Sweet Emma Barrett)
red-capped springy curls
………….jingle bells jangling
innuendos sung with a
………….toothy grin & agile fingers
pounding those keys
First Apartment, A New Album, 1968
…..(for Louis Armstrong)
trumpet notes melt
………….to a trickle
………….a wonderful world
Bombay Bicycle Club, Milwaukee, 1974
…..(for Buddy Montgomery)
The old jazz standards
With that echo down the hall sound
Takes me back to before I was born
Remembering times I never had
But know all the same
Jazz is the soundtrack of night
The nocturnal music
Where midnight is midday
The atmosphere shadowed by shades of blue
Backlit with smoke traversing the air
Providing atmosphere in perpetual twilight
From typical 4/4
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Time and the River
Paris watching river traffic. Throughout my life I have found place and direction, stolen time slowed down, my very self culled, stoic, mercifully lost, to time and the river. the first movement of Spartacus, peeled petal and petal from the feather tongue and the kissing lips of Yusef Lateef.
Crepuscule with Nellie
The sun sinks. The moon rises. The porch is peaceful but for a muse-like
Mozzie, jarring, buzzing; or perhaps, just jazzing, keeping Monk from rest.
Nellie’s unperturbed. It’s just Monk who can’t unwind.
Up and down he treads, as though vamping on piano,
Chasing this mozzie through the keys
Until, moving in sixths, he hits the groove.
Though still hesitant, it helps him reach, some sort of, temporary … resolution.
My hack pages
In my room, stoked on Parker and Monk, I’m reborn.
A ’sixties white boy, friends fuelled by Rolling Stones.
On the road with Kerouac and Cassady, I’m way cooler,
Digging – not the drippy hippies – but the hipper hipsters.
No air guitars for me. I finger Cherokee prestidigitatiously
On my unseen horn. The Jook Joint rocks to my rim shots
Till dawn … till, that is, Mum calls me down for tea.
Johnny Dodds enters the stratosphere. I’m with him,
High over Perdido Street, savouring his blues.
Then Louis proclaims his West End anthem.
I feel the charge: it rises from spine to hair,
Like Bessie, sent to that ’lectric chair.
But with Bird, the world realigns,
Tunes are upended, melodies reassigned.
Straight Ahead Jazz
Waiting for Straight Ahead Jazz to start
On the community radio station
To spark the juices
When the trumpet hits
the first few notes:
Warp speed trumpet notes
Accelerated breathless breaths
………….M o v I n g
Faster than a speeding bullet:
a few random snowflakes
…….float to the hard earth
not predicted I believe
Miles chases after Voo Doo
John Kendall Hawkins
5 Jazz Poems
from Mahler to Coltrane to hip hop
blues, there’s a soul in man that sings
(you don’t find that in a machine that thinks
it thinks), the birth of bebop
through Wagner’s circus rings —
music is working out our kinks.
Music, is, working out, Leon Spinks.
in the heart of mighty whitey Perth
I watched Miles up on the screen trumpet
Birth of the Cool
snug in deckchairs, wine by the side
smorgasbord of taster’s blues
the only dark known here is night
among the albino first nationals
Jarrett in Istanbul went off in some tangent
leaning in, intense and ticklesome
sipping Efes Pils, sitting beside a Yorkshire lad,
I drifted into Belonging, The Wind Up
and remembered a friend from the conservatory
in Boston, who’d tuned his Steinway at the Hall
we got hammered, Top of the Hub, rotating floor
Mose Allison said it right
Everybody crying mercy
don’t know the meaning of the word
only life-form, in the middle of space
and we treat each other like turd
monsters telling us to keep our thoughts down
the world is trying to sleep
years ago in Boston outside an all-night jazz
happening at the Community Church
we stepped out for air and to smoke a bone
abstract notions still swirling in my ears
I high-dissociated, while my friend got robbed
by a Black man with a knife who liked his camera
the Pharoah Sanders riff gave me chills
I thought I heard
Miles Davis say
‘Let white folk
Take the Blues
We sure had ‘em
Click here to read the fall/winter 2022/23 collection of jazz poetry
Click here to read the summer 2022 poetry collection
Click here to read the spring 2022 collection of jazz poetry
Click here for information about how to submit your poetry
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