Poetry by Michael L. Newell

November 3rd, 2015

 

 

 

 

EARLY MILES
Early Miles was all vowel,
a blue, black, ebony sweep,
the sound of life lived deeply
as a diver can dive into
bottomless water.

Bottomless the water
a diver can dive into,
the sound of life lived deeply,
a blue, black, ebony sweep,
early Miles was all vowel.

The sound of life lived deeply,
a blue, black, ebony sweep
a diver can dive into,
early Miles was all vowel,
bottomless the water.

A blue, black, ebony sweep,
early Miles was all vowel,
bottomless the water —
the sound of life lived deeply
a diver can dive into.

A diver can dive into
a blue, black, ebony sweep:
bottomless water, early Miles
was all vowel, the sound
of life lived deeply.

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)

MIDNIGHT LISTENING TO DEXTER GORDON

the pain contained within those
seemingly effortless sounds
lifts us from our couches
to applaud years
after the event

the tone arches stretches slinks struts
leaps to fence tops and deftly prances
the length of a city block

moonlight flashes off a switchblade
and a world freezes awaiting
the spurt and stain of red

honey slides slowly
golden and thick
from a horn we slide
deeper into seats
to rediscover love

when silence is starkly
once again upon us
we don’t move hoping
to hear even the faintest
of echoes lingering

eventually we remember
to breathe

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)

 

SOPHISTICATED LADY AT MONTREUX
(Dexter Gordon with the Junior Mance Trio)

Dexter Gordon’s sax spills sound
the epitome of urbane sophistication,
as if he had a glass of wine in hand, chatting
with the most beautiful of women, his voice

smooth as the finest honey while
Junior Mance and his group provide
a steady foundation for this conversation
between musicians, audience,

and some ideal room filled with wine,
roses, candelabras creating a world
of muted luring light, and dancers feather light
on their feet floating through long nights;

the sax falls silent for a time, and Mance’s
piano comments approvingly while adding
a few thoughts on the conversation thus far,
and the bass and drums steadily keep

the conversation rooted; the sax reenters
with a long sweep of sound (reminiscent
of blood red theatre curtains opening)
revealing a heart alive and in love and

so very certain of beauty and hope and need,
and slowly winds to a finish suggestive
of a waterfall tumbling into a safe pool,
rejoined by piano, drum, and bass

in a majestic flourish of beauty,
hope, majesty, and a promise and
demonstration that an ideal world
can exist, even if only for a brief time.

 

JAZZMAN

Breath across
reeds, rasps:

note evolving
into notes, a chain —

viral, geometric,
spiraling into constellations.

Open bedroom
windows — SEE! HEAR!

Hope’s hues
drape the living,

spread honey
to the hips.

First published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997)

 

HARRY AT THE PARK

Today the trees
in constant motion, you’ve
seen the same thing
at cocktail parties, in restaurants,
on the beach, bodies
moving to the breath
of the world, do wop,
classical, and jazz;

and all afternoon, I hung
around the park
listening to the clear
running water of eucalyptus
in full swing and sway,
imagining a tenor sax in
the hands of say, Coleman Hawkins,
jamming with the wind and leaves.

SPEECHLESS

There are no
words which flow
with the riprap cutback
snapping pop and roar of bebop
stutter stomping through a blue-black
red-hot bluesy night filled with steamy
sax and pungent plunging trumpet
c’mon baby dive deep into the
sound moan wail and muted
sigh such sigh(t)s and
sounds make a world
spin upside down

FIRST SNOWSTORM OF THE YEAR

 

A feathery
buffeting

all day it swarmed
until our thoughts

were gusts of white
icy shavings

each flake an event
sculpted on air

jazzy mobiles
freeform and

cool as a Miles
Davis solo.

 

 

ART BLAKEY

Drive that engine, all eight
cylinders, ripping down the open
road faster than can be
clocked, hurricane in our faces,
thunder from the wheels, open
throated, full voiced whole body
engaged mind unleashed to soar
all night long on rims
which can’t be broke, spokes
flashing ever faster towards dawn…

 

 

 

LISTENING TO SAYONARA BLUES

ripple them keys with the right hand Mr. Silver
while the left drones a steady beat beneath

it’s near the end of the tune and the piano has taken over
and is musing about life about parting about loss

the drummer taps out exclamation points
the bass walks a straight line with a bounce and a hop

here come the horns singing about hope of life
round the corner just down the block next door

they know about pain wedded to joy
loss blended with a dram of the world’s beauty

say goodbye to drudgery say goodbye to the ordinary
slip and slide side to side and say hello to the world

a new kind of sayonara a new kind of parting
where the future’s promise dances alongside

 

 

 

THEM BLUES CAN COOK YOU ANY TIME ANYWHERE
(for Michael “Big Daddy” Citrino)

 

toss them random feet round the stage
feel their rage for life sweet swirling life
arms flailing hips honey coated

bees in the knees stuttering a rhythm
shoulders rambling front and back
jacked up on the drug of music

head slowly bops its own pace
no race with the rest of the body
to each limb its own time and space

the band is crackling hot
cooking was never so spicy before
this barbecue will ignite into flame

at any moment the fire marshal will arrive
to close the joint jump and jam as long
as the place stays open says I says she

ride the tiger ride it all night long
I hear a voice in crescendo wailing in free
harmony with the trumpet blast off is near fly baby fly

 

_____

newell

Michael L. Newell was a long time expatriate teacher (over twenty years) who has recently retired to coastal Oregon after living in thirteen other countries on five continents. He has also lived in thirteen of the United States. His work has been published in, among other places, Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, Bellowing Ark, Culture Counter, Ship of Fools, Lilliput Review, and Rattle. He has had a number of books and chapbooks published. Among them are Traveling without Compass or Map (Bellowing Ark Press), A Long Time Traveling, Seeking Shelter, and Collision Course (all from Four Sep Press).

 

Share this:

5 comments on “Poetry by Michael L. Newell”

  1. Nice one, Michael. I like the laid back feeling of that first one. The contrast of crowds in stanza one and solitude in stanza 2 suggests the diversity of jazz –

  2. Nice one, Michael. I like the laid back feeling of that first one. The contrast of crowds in stanza one and solitude in stanza 2 suggests the diversity of jazz –

  3. Pretty incredible to craft such a rhythmic feast of syllables into a visual form all the while like a drum has driven the whole thing home.

  4. Pretty incredible to craft such a rhythmic feast of syllables into a visual form all the while like a drum has driven the whole thing home.

  5. at any moment the fire marshal will arrive
    to close the joint jump and jam as long
    as the place stays open says I says she…
    There have indeed been moments like that in playing music with others, even occasionally puffing along with a CD. I am honored that one of these small moments made enough of an impression to have me in such ranks as I see in your poetry! What grace has given!

    Michael (Fat Mike) Citrino

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo via Pickpic
“Footprints to Infinity” by Michael Amitin

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Black History

The Harlem Globetrotters/photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters...In this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

Black History

photo of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston...In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet

Black History

Eubie Blake
A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake...In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

Feature

Jamie Branch's 2023 album "Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))"
On the Turntable— The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings...A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023 - including the late trumpeter Jamie Branch's Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Poetry

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Playlist

“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

Poetry

[Columbia Legacy]
“On Becoming A Jazz Fanatic In The Early 1970’s” – 20 linked short poems by Daniel Brown

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Feature

George Shearing/Associated Booking Corporation/James Kriegsmann, New York, via Wikimedia Commons
True Jazz Stories: “An Evening With George,” by Terry Sanville...The writer tells his story of playing guitar with a symphony orchestra, backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Short Fiction

Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/via Picryl.com
“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

Poetry

The poet Connie Johnson in 1981
In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick...The author writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Poetry

art by Russell duPont
Three jazz poets…three jazz poems...Takes on love and loss, and memories of Lady Day, Prez, Ella, Louis, Dolphy and others…

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick...Chosen from Ella’s entire repertoire, Ms. Tick’s intriguing playlist (with brief commentary) is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #170

photo of Dexter Gordon by Brian McMillen
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole and Dexter Gordon (pictured), was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists, and was the only player to turn down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway...In this interview, Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII...announcing the six Jerry Jazz Musician-published writers nominated for the prestigious literary award

Poetry

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

Photography

photo of Mal Waldron by Giovanni Piesco
Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

Interview

Leffler, Warren K/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin...

Community

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Short Fiction

photo by Thomas Leuthard/Wikimedia Commons
“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong...This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tale of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

Short Fiction

painting of Gaetano Donizetti by Francesco Coghetti/via Wikimedia Commons
“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze...A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950’s Quartets...Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.

Short Fiction

pixabay.com via Picryl.com
“The Silent Type,” a short story by Tom Funk...The story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, is inspired by the classic Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue” which speculates about what might have been the back story to the song.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Art

Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive