“Mingus On Freedom” — a poem by Michael L. Newell

August 30th, 2020



Painting of Charles Mingus by James Brewer

painting of Charles Mingus by James Brewer




Mingus On Freedom

1963 and Mingus and his mighty band
of musicians play and sing “Freedom,”
as marchers for freedom fill streets
throughout the South, as thousands of men,
women, and children turn freedom marches
into a type of prayer meant to reinvent
a nation, and Mingus turns the marches
into melody, lyric, rhythm, wild, exuberant,

unfettered, a new kind of prayer, song, hymn,
jazz that lifted the soul, made feet dance,
turned bodies into musical instruments of prayer,
commitment, joyous battle for the truth
of American life made manifest, the betrayals
of centuries healed, mutated into possibility,
hope, joining together of those who had
stood apart, and the mighty sounds of Mingus

and those who played with him grew from words
uttered and actions taken by Martin Luther King,
John Lewis, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X, each
in his or her own way contributing to an uplifting
of America, all this and more captured in music
and words by the wild genius of Mingus and those who
followed him into musical avenues of enlightenment
that celebrated change and rang in a new world.







Michael L. Newell lives in Florida. He has two recent books of poetry available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble: Wandering, and Each Step a Discovery, both books published by Cyberwit.net Press.


Listen to the 1963 recording of “Freedom,” by Charles Mingus




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3 comments on ““Mingus On Freedom” — a poem by Michael L. Newell”

  1. Hi Michael: A really great heartfelt poem, very well done, for our time. One of your best jazz
    poems. There was a great sense of urgency in the lines, “the wild genius of Mingus and those
    who followed him into musical avenues of enlightenment.” While I was thinking of “urgency”
    Joni Mitchell came to mind with, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns,” and especially “Hejira.”
    I mean, “how cool was it, that Joni and Mingus” linked up later in life, toward the last
    ending of music for Mingus’s life, to work on music together. Peace for them. Peace for us.

  2. Hi Poetry Fans: Just thought of a couple more things about Michael L. Newell. “You All,”
    as they say, should get “Wandering.” This is a great book, of poems for over fifty years.
    Another book he has out is, “Each Step A Discovery: A Collection Of Miniatures.” This was
    a book that was especially interesting to me, as I think a poem starts from some single image.
    How Michael has presented and captured the images in this book, is really something. AY

  3. Michael, this is such a timely and poignant evocation of everything that is erupting around us, all refracted (through your poetical magic) through Mingus’s unique and special lens. Your poem also reminds us that this battle has been fought before, that it continues and that, sadly, some important (though not sufficient) hard-won gains have been lost in recent years. Please keep writing this kind of poetry. The world desperately needs not only this poetry, but all the insight and hopefulness that it occasions.

    P.W. Bridgman

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