Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood

February 14th, 2024

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The poet Terrance Underwood

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Dear Readers:

…..Terrance Underwood describes himself as a “comfort specialist,” a person who, in his words, “connects fashion and behavior; someone who wears slippers and soft clothing, open, oversized, and loose. And good food along with a variety of beverages would be, as suspected, a recommendation.”

…..Step inside any of his poems and you will be greeted with an immense sense of warmth, not unlike the coziness of a decades-old Terrycloth robe tied loosely around your body.  A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from his language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening  to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles.  There is room to breathe in his poetry, allowing readers easy access to his gift of communicating complexity in remarkable depth and ease, only employing essential words.

…..Within his poetry, the 74-year-old retired historian and engineer shares his perspective on our extraordinary world through his reverence for jazz musicians (the famous and the lesser-known alike) and their music, and for the nature that resides in the subtropical landscape surrounding his South Florida home.

…..When asked about where he finds inspiration for his poetry, Terrance told me:  “I would argue that because we are surrounded by poems it seems not only appropriate but imperative to have a view toward their discovery as the first step in their creation.  A meaningful view into my backyard from my office window stimulates this process. To see the wind flow or hear the leaves move or a mourning dove coo along with Kenny Drew is elemental evidence. Out there…is where poems are found.”

…..I have long wanted to share Terrance Underwood’s gifts as a poet on an expanded platform.  This collection (which Terrance selected) is a 33-poem “album” – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – that fulfills my desire to do so.

…..Make yourself comfortable…

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Joe Maita

Editor/Publisher

 

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Proceeding From Behind 

A collection of poems
grounded in the rhythmic
relating to the remarkable

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by Terrance Underwood

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(To distinguish from his poetry, Terrance’s personal narrative is italicized throughout the collection)

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“If jazz developed as the American music, then English can be considered the language behind, a terra firma where syllables make the notes, words the chords, and sentences the chord progressions.”

 

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Thoughts While Viewing A Black Olive

I am not familiar with too much of the Universe
…………………………………….form or function
……………………..though it appears in this part of it
……………..having fled elsewhere for the prospect of better days
substance & decorum are returned
……………………………………………….adversarial
…………………………embracing
once thought to be archaic impulse
tantrum disguised as discourse
disdain celebratory in its display
personal repugnance expressed as rightful harm
each lay foundation for a rewind Tinpot Jungle
Addressed on vinyl half a Century ago
from a Duke a Max & a Mingus
praising a Fleurette Africaine
among other counsel offerings
…………..their Parliamentary approach
……………………………………………….to public reason
……………..individual collective & thoughtful
………………….remains the archetype

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Keeping Mystery Simple

on an archived promenade
down a broad jazz boulevard
……………………..a passage
through intersecting side streets
passing by familiar denizens
expressing familiar standards
instrumental & vocal
to stumble over Curtis Fuller
filling “Lover Man”
after a fine bowed double bass
……………………..prelude
for some sonic slide easy
“bone” smooth tremolo

O how that lilting brass
……………………..hones in solid comfort!
refashioning ancient chestnut notes
into old growth groves & immutable forests

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Hersch Covers A Monk & Best Piece

at the start
through solid quietude
each key strike reveals
the genesis of this interpretation
known doors are opened
by the sound of these solitary notes
permitting other notes
from this extended family to enter
blend & share possibilities of this passage
no outsiders for this one
hear the solo Bemsha Swing

I have no idea
being unfamiliar
if anything like this is
still created from stories of Barbados

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Poet’s Dilemma

face up to a blank page
pen in hand
ready to get working
ready to put it down
consumed with an idea
when out of the background
a piece of music invades
let’s say it’s
Fred Hersch & Bill Frisell
……………………………….joined
“Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise”
sentenced words conquered
by suggestive notes
something that perhaps was
now no longer is
subdued by a strength of sound
the page deals with what emerges after

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Listen to the 1998 recording of pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Bill Frisell playing “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”  [Nonesuch]

 

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“I’ve never been reluctant to step out my door to engage with the unfamiliar. As far back as I can remember, an interest, a fascination with things outside; rivers, streams, fields, meadows, jungles, mountains, and the inhabitants and growth found in those places.”

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Communing With A Reptile
…………………….a poem revisited

thread slender Anole feet
splayed & green
gripping the upper window glass
little lizard listens with me
to a knock thumping Hammond B3
its dewlap oscillates keeping time
its head bobbing up & down
mine side to side
digging
“Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”
until a bold glissando shook out an audible Oh Yeah!
returning this listening companion in a dart
……………back to Nature’s pursuits
& I to mine

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “Communing With A Reptile”

 

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Three That Tangled Number

……………….distant an Ibis trio
………..feather brilliant
nearly luminescent
……………….bathed in bright sunlight
………………………….standing out
against a backdrop of looming sapphire skies
……………….struttin’ their graze
…………………………………….undeterred
as they wander measured landscape
curved beaks seeking
probing for those filling notes
found in freshly cut green tropic lawns
perhaps a lasting image to accompany three others
Red Garland ..Paul Chambers.. Arthur Taylor
………………………….while they graze
……………….seek
………..probe
then go “Walkin’” with Kenny Burrell
…………………………………….undeterred
through their own measured ground

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Being Suspicious Of Arachnids

they are a recluse species
in particular these
usually olive drab & brown
yet today appearing
mostly a timid yellow
they sometimes
glimmer in direct sunlight
or in a favorable soft breeze
wavering on filament threads
disappearing to
gather with arachnid brethren
during times of furious inclemency
remaining wherever they go
sheltered, hidden
to wait for better atmosphere
to return to their tangled webwork
fulfilling disagreement’s purpose
to disagree & in so doing contend
able to use whatever they can cob
………………for their traps
disdaining as useless all they cannot
often aggrieved seldom repentant
the environment in which they thrive
has been described as
a Constitutional Republic

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At The Fairchild Butterfly Exhibit

once larvae is breached
from the inside what
emerges into form
clambering to the.light
inch by careful & necessary inch
shedding moisture
from its previous dark sequester
nothing can be done
to favor the species
no matter how many times
Paul Desmond’s Poor Butterfly
is played

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Keeping Up With The Crowd

fourteen maybe fifteen
……………………….ducklings
freshly beginning their travails
adorned in feather-yellow down
short-leg bop-it across
coarse lawn in close pursuit
of Mama’s plump waddle
like peeling Marimba notes backing
…………….a first trumpet lead

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Tropical Cool, Uneventful
………………………a here & thereafter

Albarino & a stemmed glass
a late temperate afternoon

insistent children chase
resistant ducks
across & through
stretching shadows
lengthy along
lakeshore banks
Egyptian geese appear
first one, another
& then a third
to peck & probe
the broad clipped lawn

further away & a bit unusual
a lone Ibis struts

above a visiting vulture
feathered wingtips
spread like digits
glides treetop close
searching for potential below

these feral neighbors
mingle undisturbed
by those out strolling
& those just lolling

no bleak midwinter this day
for deciduous poetry to revel in

faintly revealed instead
a Red Garland recording
“On A Clear Day
(You Can See Forever)”
& when my Time comes
I want to ask Red
about block chords & Texas
& if I’m lucky
perhaps Teddy Wilson
then discuss this moment
though it’s my guess
luck is not much different
there than here
………………but again
my guess
chance
along with blessedness is

……an earlier version was first published in  Jerry Jazz Musician, 2022

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A Voyeur’s Delight

could be the atmosphere
or the comfortable neighborhood
a pileated woodpecker returned
…………………………………..is seen
talons firmly attached
to a bare palm trunk sedately
as if seated at a preferred table
in a preferred Bistro
probing with a focused purpose
for palm heart as an appetizer
not needing a full plate
…………..just a morsel, a small portion
so noticeably handsome this bird
despite persistent raindrops
draining from distinct feathers

I turn my head away
with a desire to listen to Bill
play “Alice in Wonderland”

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “A Voyeur’s Delight”

 

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The role of Men may be to provide
but Women furnish what it takes to do so

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Listen to the 1999 recording of Cassandra Wilson singing “Right Here, Right Now” [Universal Music Group]

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Hazel and Billie
………..A Photograph, 1957
……………..by Roy de Carava

Hazel benched
at a grand piano
looking up to Billie
as if nobbing on a riff
parallel lives in more ways
than this nearness of them suggests
adorned fashionably party neat
both had suffered burning defeat
leaving unseen inner disfigurement
fueled & fired from
over-blessed accelerant Authorities
mistaking indignation for the Public Good
each possessed a style
suited for the widespread appeal
of long venue lines
on some beautiful Earth
longer than sensation can ever further
Just not this one as it turned out

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An Image Of Dolores del Rio
The Fugitive, 1947

an ancient rebozo
shields the appearance
of radiant sorrow
tears drift
precious down a cheek
forsaken diamonds
of celluloid light
a birthright
for lament
presented

 

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Rarely Seen On The Farm

staged but
embraced upright freely
tall Bass walkin’ a
brushed Cymbal beauty
along in escort sashay
(tch tchtch tchhh)
a downbeat later
they are approached & joined by
a porkpie Saxman flashing
a suggestive woodwind smile
to tempt a stately pliant Songstress
“Well come on then!”
at that moment tickled ivory intervenes
primed now & integrated for
a vigorous dose of “Jelly Jelly”
Harmonic Melodic Swinging
that sweet layered trifecta confection

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Hedwig Stardom
……a poem noir

transformed by the well known
…………& the not-so
Hedwig Keisler
on her way to
becoming a Lamarr
took things apart
reconstructing them
………………………interested
in their inner workings
their methodology
in their operation
in finding the music in
music boxes
…………the time in clocks
fascinated by small machines
&… Her Ideas…

Of the people she met enroute
…………………………………some lavish
…………………….some cruel
some a noxious blend
most unaware of her status as inventor
Skeptics
…………………….filled a room
when they heard
she owned technology Patents as a Keisler
…………………….though by then
the transformation was complete
she had now become a Lamarr
an entire garden of beauty
“the most beautiful woman in the world!”
& this is when the deconstruction begins
unpaid unrecognized for patent usage
as much was Classified
…………a siren temptress disappears
……………………………………alongside the inventor
thoughtless confusion
…………illegalities
…………………….& personal hardships follow
ending in surgical maintenance
& willing seclusion
……………………………………all this
an undeserved outcome for enticing
…………………….a matinee Boyer
& an oblivious audience
…………once upon a time
at the Casbah

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Without A Song
A Black & White Melodrama

……….A crane shot pans up
………………………then down
a street of ranch style dwellings
botanically embroidered clipped & tidy
cocktails in the afternoon
decanter poured or neat
cosmetically iced
& highball stirred

Men wander the patios of this landscape
broad shoulder awkward wearing
patterned cardigans over turtlenecks
……….their spouses tucked demonstrative blouses
belted stovepipe skirts
flats or pumps depending

Block long cars chrome detailed
polished to their continental kits
crouch in ample driveways awaiting
the first opportunity to roll out
& display their pretense & sincerity
in some upholstered Lounge downtown
where blousy hopefuls congregate
seeking youthful companions
for clarity & reassurance
full teeth & William Holden
but yet again have to settle for
the tedious bravado of
cigar fragrant Homburg types
& a hasty rendezvous in a
badly wallpapered suite
at the Hotel Rugged

There, light refracted past
angled Persian blinds
converts plain geometry
into an algebra of duplicitous intent
insinuations accusations & recriminations
………………………………………………pile & heap
an AM rendition of Sonny Rollins
out of a square Philco glooms the background
forgetting the factor for diminished return
until the unsuspected .38 special appears
aiming to engage & just like that
………………………..closure

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Out Of The Past

a joint’s name is unimportant
the experience is not
………………It was
Jazz as it happened
at a creation moment
as it could be found
through a separate side entrance
back of the front room dining
at the Chinese, 20th St
& Thomas Road
Prince Shell & Francine Reed
piano chanteuse renditions
standard & current from the day
no bar & barring none
table service only
…………………………..snug
……………………………………..cozy
a place where patrons
could “dig it” & gel
………………couples embrace or
duck out to the parking between sets
to savor a flavor in the smoky night
of a still dusty Phoenix
in the middle of the last Century
a sort of Old West

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “Out Of The Past”

 

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A Woman Played By
Bette Davis Delivers A Letter

Dressed smartly for evening cocktails
Eyelids concrete stiff
Stepping off a plantation porch
Down stairs
One heel thud
Then
One gunshot
Another
Kept up
In succession
Until a trigger clicks
A pistol thuds to the ground
In percussive syncopation
With a dismal radio orchestral
Backing the result of such activity
Determined as it is
Adamant eyes remain saucer large
Death by love
Of love .possessed
A disabused love
The message of rejection received

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“Jazz creates effective visualizations, images of water and sky, earth and stars speaking across time and atmosphere to my place in that language. Especially when it Swings!”

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Listen to the 1967 recording of Herbie Mann playing “Norwegian Wood” [Rhino Atlantic]

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Small Iliad

Grown on slopes cut by rivulets flowing into pristine fjords
it was the wood itself the merging of Spruce & Scots Pine
when polished to a natural finish
that created so much veneration
fiber dense from the Nordic chill
the resulting texture of its fabled grain
permitted shapes formed in any manner
roundly or with corners edges or curves no matter
the desire to obtain proper bits never diminished over time
perhaps this impression spawned Herbie Mann
to flute sail the Mediterranean seeking just such a relic
one remaining from the Norse marauders of a bygone Age
& he found a fine example at this Great Human Sea’s Eastern shore
a slice of “Norwegian Wood” whirling among The Wailing Dervishes
their outfit contributing to the Fall of the British Empire

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When Two Gods Appear Playful

Thunder rumbles this current atmosphere
……………………………………roll & crack
percussive as testament from an Art Blakey solo
…………………opening skies in the beginning
for the rain notes that follows
…………………soft mallet offerings
kind of like a Milt Jackson Epistle to the Uptights
a vibraphonic silk cascade groove cool respite
………………………….from the rigors of Salvation
………………………(so unlike Paul to the Romans)
……………merging mist with sunlight warmth
………………………….if not acceptance

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Lasting Fuel

Recorded as being one of the Last Blue Devils
Jay McShann was overheard barreling
into a rendition of “My Chile”
while I read from the preface to Doctor Brodie’s Report
where the author states his preference
for the Platonic idea of the Muse over that of Poe

With this thought in mind
a pensive glance out a second story window
is interrupted by a solitary gray squirrel scramble
across the branches of a nearby Black Olive
laced with large leaf Pothos
& resurrection fern
What else need be said regarding a convergence like this?

Jay, the author & the squirrel have moved on
the song & the Black Olive remain
while the privilege all provided persists

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Regret On Harry’s Passing

Every time he Jumps the Line
I so want to heed that Belafonte request
………………….his call for aid
for all that “Somebody help me” suggests
but circumstance has made me unavailable
& now there is no more
………………….now available
& all that remains to such ambition
………………………….is a recording

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Jimmy Rowles
Rolling His Own Piano

usually under-regarded
perhaps from the under-listened
an underlying understatement
but not unintended
……………….as played
uninhibited
undermining other pursuits
underneath any underground
……………………………………understand
……………….the music is what is underscored

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “Jimmy Rowles Rolling His Own Piano”

 

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Listen to the 1978 recording of pianist Jimmy Rowles and bassist Red Mitchell playing “The Persian” [BMG]

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“What inspires my own creativity? Moments of impact. Anything from a feather’s drift to a distinctly impetuous image.”

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Out The Back
……….Phalaenopsis Sway

hosted by wooden detritus hanging
below a struggling basket of
………………“Coconut” orchids
(Maxillaira Tenuifolia)
fragrant mysteries unfurl
clusters of red
………..speckled on yellow
………………..along stems
……………..that skid the breeze
wild without support
other than their own gravitas
moving to the tunes of a Ray Brown
……………..barley malt mixer
along with Oscar & Herb
& some other Friends

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Afternoon Reverie

by a double bass through a piano
by a Holland through a Barron
an Oracle speaks
to a pleasure formed
mindful
& she is in my arms while
butterflies slip lightly
between subtle raindrops so
enticing has this day dream become
mindful
& she will never leave my embrace
………………………….here or there
another reason I am partial to butterflies
& Oracles

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Love & Rain

Carmen lives within me
in our touch
in our poetry
in the leaves of our own Tropics
in our bromeliads
……………….blue tangoes mostly
our “shrimp” plants yellow & red
& white “moth” phalaenopsis
in the pages of our books
some with pictures
in a chile poblano kitchen
of warming tortillas
saxophone jazz & piano cocktails

in modest deference
to a sun lazy afternoon
on a street housed among kind neighbors
& when long rain does fall
hard ground softens
despite prior thunder

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Dining Fine At Ike’s

An appetite’s fulfillment
prompted me to seek
……………& to partake
And served on my plate
from Quebec
……………a filet of Heavy Soul
Tenor sautéed & butter simmered
……..to a deep brown
……………with an option
For some blended Freddie Roach
……..not exactly a side dish
………………………..but a vital organ
An addition of rich increase
……………to the rhythmic pleasure
………………………..of the meal

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Gardening With Sims

today Zoot
coat buttoned

saxed Emily
in my house

flowers in hand
tenor fragrant

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It’s Too Right, Still

After preambling some harmony
………………..with Art’s trumpet
a brass cool Curtis Fuller
slides “bone” into melody
for “It’s Too Late Now”
tongue in smooth cheek
those polished notes played
cross barriers to elevate
………………..& reveal
halting what was before
becoming what is only
refuting such a title claim
denying such a declaration
while contending it’s never
too late for this sound

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “It’s Too Right, Still”

 

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Listen to the 1957 recording of trombonist Curtis Fuller playing “It’s Too Late Now” [Universal Music Group]

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In A Calm Place
…………from Don Byas & Pierre Michelot

played Byas smooth
Pierre’s cream notes
mark a rich carpet creep
a quiet lurch then a quiet leap
to a soft sofa landing
in a curl assured
for careful lapping
across short Tabby fur
motored mellow
an idyllic purr
thus perceived
this image will endure
“Jackie My Little Cat”

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An Ancient Pairing

to begin their Persian enchantment
woven carpets & loosely draped silks
are not necessary furnishings
only a few vibrations from Red Mitchell’s
distinctly tuned bass to create an ambiance
for Jimmy Rowles to join with his ivory elegance
& the sounds that follow these two
tumble deftly as a peaceful stream
enhancing any landscape imagined

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Another Given Day With Johnny Mercer

latching on the affirmative
out a broad second floor window
you can see a grass green lawn
interrupted by sun blue water
& stark white Ibis grouping at the ramada
as they probe & poke they grace that blue in green
……………………….eliminating the negative

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The Nevilles Drive By
……..In A Playlist

That Creole Woman
Under the yellow moon
……………………….standing
Apron draped
At a front gate
Slung open by invitation
Where a child is born
Red Mitchell & Hank Jones bear witness
Known, the child is, by friends & family
……………………….as My Chile
Napping to Mehldau’s Golden Slumbers
& with a Ry slide guitar smile comes a bop drop
“I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine”

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Listen to Terrance Underwood read “The Nevilles Drive By In A Playlist”

 

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Listen to the 1979 recording of Ry Cooder performing “I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine” [Warner Brothers]

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.“Novels are usually about life’s stories in one way or another. A lengthy assemblage of paragraphs. Poetry can in a few lines regard life’s immediacy. At least I hope my efforts do.”

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Terrance Underwood is a retired Gas Turbine Package Engineer whose career offered opportunities to work all over the world. A devoted jazz enthusiast, his first memory operating a mechanical devise was a 4-speed spindle drop record changer for his father’s collection of 78s.

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Click here to read In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories

Click here to read The Sunday Poem

Click here to read “A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Winter, 2024 Edition”

Click here to read “The Old Casino,” J.B. Marlow’s winning story in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

Click here for information about how to submit your poetry or short fiction

Click here to subscribe to the (free) Jerry Jazz Musician quarterly newsletter

Click here to help support the ongoing publication of Jerry Jazz Musician, and to keep it ad and commercial-free (thank you!)

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One comments on “Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood”

  1. “Poetry can in a few lines regard life’s immediacy…”

    Absolutely true.
    And that’s what these poems do….beautifully.

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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.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

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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 #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

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Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...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…

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

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.

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