News about the poet Michael L. Newell

May 22nd, 2020

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…..The poet Michael L. Newell, whose work has often appeared in the pages of Jerry Jazz Musician, has informed me that his new book, Wandering, is now available.  Published by cyberwit.net, the book features selections of his poetry from the past fifty years.

…..Michael draws readers into his lyrical, vast world with a warm and sensitive use of language, time and space, where one finds gratification in his respect for beauty, nature, and the experience of being human (and humane).  He venerates music and consistently portrays its musicians and their universe with remarkable soul and depth.

…..What follows are a handful of Michael’s poems that demonstrate his talents.  For complete information about Wandering, click here.

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Then And Now

 

Many years past I sat against a wall,
stared across boulevards, rows of houses
and apartment buildings, toward distant hills

draped in a soft rain and a sun falling
toward evening, and wondered what awaited
down the decades before me; when and where

would I end up, what would I do and not do,
what places and people would come into
my life and change me and how and who;

and how would I change who and what lay before me;
I leaned against that wall on a college campus
and imagined dozens of scenarios, few of which

ever appeared even briefly, and none which
ever became significant; yet still on a day blurred
by a steady rain, I remember that late afternoon

where I envisioned with great feeling a life
that never happened, and in memory I find myself
back there looking ahead with the same excitement

that gripped me some fifty years ago, still imagining
dozens of life paths, even though the reality is
my life is simply putting one foot in front of the other,

and slowly moving along whatever path has presented
itself; grateful to have a path, and feet
that will still stumble ahead one step at a time,

and a mind that is amused by its encounters,
and a heart still capable of loving life’s oddities,
its surprises, its baffling contradictions; and willing

to continue being open to a world never understood,
but frequently capable of evoking wild surmise
and hope, yes, always that beautiful nugget, hope.

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(Reedsport, Oregon, September 2019)

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…………………………………………from Wandering: Selected Poems

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They All Inhabit The Night

all night I dreamed I was lost
at sea in an alley on a battlefield
in a junkyard in a waterfront dive

when suddenly I found a room
filled with music where fear
was eased where losses were mourned

where hope was discovered where
horns and voices and rippling piano
blessed all who listened as a rainstorm

washed streets and buildings as lightning
flashed and thunder roared and music
blended in perfect harmony and suddenly

I recognized those who filled my dream
oh Ella whose scat singing sweeps away
all pain ah Lady Day who absorbs all grief

in your broken voice while Lester’s sax
soothes your heartbreak damn my eyes
and ears Coleman’s raw power matches

Joe Williams’ unfettered exuberance
note for note and the mighty Miles Trane
Cannonball collaboration makes a dreamer

kind of blue and thoroughly blessed
while Dizzy and Bird reinvent
music’s possibilities and I sing along

in my dream with wild abandon
pure sound with no words needed
until I wake with song fading

from my head yet buried in my heart
heirlooms of music I will never lose
as long as their magic names resound

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……………Jerry Jazz Musician, June 28, 2019

 

 

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Get Down & Let Your Hair Fly Free.

breeze-blown leaves cavort down sidewalk and street

with the unimaginable and surprising grace of piano keys
that ripple under the fingers of Bud Powell as they cavort

gambol and swirl in implausible yet stirring and comforting
journeys into unanticipated and rewarding landscapes

all afternoon the neighborhood lays out a vision
of joy and freedom lilted by breeze leaf bush and tree

and a neighbor’s wind chimes careen and caper in accompaniment

 

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……………Jerry Jazz Musician, January 7, 2019

 

 

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Rainy Afternoon In Kigali (With The Blues)

 

The wind blew all afternoon,
blue my mood, moody the blues
on the box, bleak and blue when
Robert Johnson took over the airwaves;
the wind blew louder and then
Paul Butterfield’s mouth harp grew louder
and bluer than even my mood of desolation
which mirrored the sky darkening

outside my open window, rain
blowing in, thunder rumbling; then
Jerry Garcia re-inventing the guitar
blue and heartbreaking and new
and old and wild and timeless,
as are the hills of Kigali outside
drenched in downpour, lightning,
and drumming on roofs near and far;

ah blessed the weather, blessed
the blues, blessed all music of
passionate restraint which knows
the beat beat beat of hearts all through
a poverty stricken hard-working
city with a bloody history of death
seeking redemption day by day;
and the rain is raving, and so are

Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton
playing a wild jazzy New Orleans blues
mourning rejoicing dancing weeping–
it is all life life life, and so is the rain
reminding one and all from where
we came (that rocking cradle of Whitman’s).
When silence falls, I am at peace.
Soon the night, soon a welcoming silence.

 

…………………………………………..Kigali, Rwanda, January 4, 2013

 

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……………Jerry Jazz Musician, May 3, 2018

 

 

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Living The Blues

Her voice shredded, turned to gravel
by cigarettes and whiskey, she navigates
grocery aisles and checkout lines

as sotto voce she sings old songs
both jazz and country. People stare
in amazement as her ruined voice

elicits tears from listening bystanders.
In her living room she croons with records
of Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, and Patsy Cline.

If you ask her, she will tell you that she used
to sing in bars and an occasional night club,
but no one will hire her any more

because she got into too damned many fights
with customers, bartenders, and piano players.
Damn the booze she will mutter, but then

she’ll tell any listener that she loves whiskey
better than any man, any place, anything
except music. And she will launch into

an old blues tune from the thirties
and slow dance round the room, glass
in hand, oblivious to one and all.

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……………Jerry Jazz Musician, December 10, 2016

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.Down On The Riverfront

Playing bottleneck guitar, an octogenarian.
His arthritic fingers coax a life’s history,

ring changes of love and loss,
sketch joy’s birth in pain,

the rhythm an invitation
to close one’s eyes, to swing and sway,

to celebrate death in life, life in death,
to embrace all who join the dance.

Coins gleam in a late afternoon sun
as they drift into a battered felt hat.

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……………Jerry Jazz Musician, July 25, 2016

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Michael L. Newell was born in Florida in 1945.  In addition to living in thirteen states, he has lived in Japan, The Philippine Islands, Thailand, The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Egypt, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, and Rwanda.  He currently lives in a small town on the Florida coast.

Newell studied writing with Benjamin Saltman and Ann Stanford.  His poems have appeared in a number of periodicals including Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature; Bellowing Ark; College English; Current; English Journal; First Class; The Iconoclast; Issa’s Untidy Hut,Jerry Jazz Musician; Lilliput Review; Poetry Depth Quarterly; Rattle; Shemom, Ship of Fools; Tulane Review; and Verse-Virtual.

Some of his previous books include A Stranger to the Land; Seeking Shelter; A Long Time Traveling; Traveling without Compass or Map, Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge.

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5 comments on “News about the poet Michael L. Newell”

  1. Mike,
    As always you provide me with beautiful images, occasionally fond memories, and more often new experiences.
    Congrats my friend.

  2. Hi Michael:
    It’s good to see you have such a collection available. It is with great fondness I remember our evenings at Ben Saltman’s home when we sat together, you, myself, Ron Pronk, Jodi Johnson, and others, discussing our poems.

    In 2018 I published Benjamin Saltman’s “A Termite Memoir,” that I held onto for more than twenty years before asking Helen Saltman if I could publish the book using Amazon’s publishing platform. Jodi Johnson contributed. Her editing skills and fine eye when proofreading the book was much appreciated. The book chronicles Ben’s life from his childhood in Pittsburg, his two years at Sampson Hospital in a sick bed with tuberculosis, fighting for his life, his time at the University of Pittsburg, his travels to Chicago, New Orleans, and Denver, where he lived for four years, and his life in San Francisco, Auburn and Pacific Grove, California, where he taught English for several years at Emerson Experimental College, his matriculation to Claremont Graduate School, and his relationship with poet Bert Meyers. As you know, he went on to teach at California State University, Northridge, and retired to Berkeley, California, in 1992. In 1997, he sent me a copy of his memoir and asked me to read it. I didn’t know then I had the only completed copy of the memoir. I hope you have had a chance to read it.

    I have all of the books you sent me over the years, except this new collection. I will certainly pick up a copy of it. I have known about it for some time.

    I hope you are well and that you are still writing.

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