“Strata (in Cecil Taylor’s notes to Unit Structures, 1966)” – a poem by Sean Howard

May 10th, 2023

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art from Cecil Taylor's album "Unit Structures"

Art from Cecil Taylor’s 1966 album Unit Structures [Universal Music Group]

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Strata (in Cecil Taylor’s notes to Unit Structures, 1966)

Silences: rhythms. Spirit
moving, yes, but never just
content to form. (Gestures,

scent.) Intuition, nothing
tells me, harmony in-
herent to light.

*

The classic feverdream of Order:
from on high, the Judge’s blood-
less daggers. Spirestone (stale

robes), rocket science. So
high time for the
depths…

*

Anacrusis, I can’t un-
stress enough… Eerie
elisions. Our Tune: so

long, Earth forced to
march… Just proving
equal to the Task?

*

Old structures (people frieze):
chords, the organ builds the
church. Again, the silent roots

of rhythm. The piano’s prepared
horizons? New structures,
gossamer.

*

Western, notes taking over… De-
schooled registers. (Pupils stuck in
the mirror.) The Academy’s cast

stone. (Seeing in tongues!) So
the hands heard: children out
growing the swing.

*

Jazz: last moments, what
others? Prose cirrhosis (the
rum mirage) versus poetry’s

gesture, the right hand of
Billie… Smoke, cinna-
mon silence.

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Sean Howard is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Unrecovered: 9/11 Poems  (Gaspereau Press, Canada, 2021). Sean’s poetry has been widely published in Canada, the US, UK, and elsewhere, and featured in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2017). Sean is adjunct professor of political science at Cape Breton University, and writes a monthly ‘War & Peace’ column for the Cape Breton Spectator.

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Listen to “Enter Evening” from Unit Structures, with Cecil Taylor (piano); Eddie Gale Stevens (trumpet); Ken McIntyre (various reeds); Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone); Henry Grimes (double bass); Alan Silva (double bass); Andrew Cyrille (drums). [Universal Music Group]

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