Week 4: Sept 17:
There is a cruel contradiction implicit in the art form itself. For true jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group. Each true jazz moment (as distinct from the uninspired commercial performance) springs from a contest in which each artist challenges all the rest, each solo flight, or improvisation, represents (like the successive canvases of a painter) a definition of his identity: an individual, as member of the collectivity and as link in the chain of tradition. Thus, because jazz finds its very life in an endless improvisation upon traditional material, the jazzman must lose his identity even as he finds it. -- Ralph Ellison
Poems Handed Out in Class: ALL
Read all of these:
Nathaniel Mackey: Two excerpts from Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing: parts of "The Changing Same: Black Music in the Poetry of Amiri Baraka " and all of "Other: From Noun to Verb."
Nathaniel Mackey: Interview with Edward Foster, from Tallisman.
Poetry Center (EPC) <http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc>
And then read as many selections as you can from these:
EPC: Chris Funkhouser, review of Mackey, including School of Udhra
Two anthologies of Jazz poetry/prose on the course bibliography.
The power of the word to evoke time the power of the word to make change the power of the word to uproot to make whole to sever the power to be heard long long long after silence. - Wanda Coleman
is that time has a precise center. Like tightroping on a moving pulley
clothesline, you're always trying to keep up midway between the poles.
It really gets that sharply physical. As a drummer you're holding time's
cutting edge in your righthand (ride cymbol), a simultaneity of holding
and shaping. You occupy the center of the sonic sphere, the world, and
ride it and bear it, inviolable (why heroin is Bop's perfect chemical).
And everything that happens there happens once and at once. Once and Ounce,
Groove and Chord, Wave and Parcticle: the Complemenatarity of Bop. Touch
is essential. Can you touch time?... Time is a substance if you hear
you can get on and ride.
meaning to, I learned something which years late crossed over to the makng
of poems: the joy and exhileration of taking chances, leaping into phrases
without knowing how they were going to end. I learned to trust the movements
of sounds and spaces far beneath and beyond the charts.
Finally: fearlessness--you know, even if you know nothing of music, that he [Albert Ayler] was taking chances every breath, every minute--which the artist must always do to attain the coherence of voice, the timbre 'charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree'. -- Victoria McCabe
of jazz in my poetry is natural. Like most Black people--espesiacally those
of us who were born in the south--I grew up in an atmosphere that was permeated
with music: blues, gospel, and jazz. I was conceived in the Great Song
of the Universe. And before I was born, I boogied in my mother's belly
while she sang her songs in the country churches and clubs in northern
Miss. So jazz is not an abstraction to me, it is a physicality...We speak
rhythms, ask anyone who stutters. Our speech pattens,--the intonations,
inflection, nuances--are to a large degree determined by the music of our
lives. We talk jazz and walk jazz...And when I die I hope Coltane is played
at my funeral.
Further back, when I was an aspiring bassist instead of an aspiring poet, I knew another aspiring bassist named Jay; well, years later, he turns out to be poet Jay Wright!...By dint of history, neccesity, I've whittled my own reeds and got my own chops together. Sort of, I suppose, blowing shakuhachi versaphone. -- Lawson Fusao Inada
Blues and jazz and the American language [are] part of America. And I'm sorry that everybody feels more comfortable when they go to England. and I mean that very seriously. I mean, I think we can learn a great deal from Wordsworth and Coleridge but they're all Englishmen, you know, coming out of this tradition that's a thousand years old...But the American language and the American idiom is entierely different and it has components in it that don't exist...in England... Jazz music is so indigenous to American culture that even if you have a predilection not to like it you have to really be informed about it if you want to be informed about American culture. -- Michael S. Harper
In the early 60s, there were two synchronous movements in poetic technique: one was the intellectual reaching symbolized for me by Jackson Mac Low...the other was the sensual reaching symbolized by the Beats...I was then and still am interested in syncopation, dissonance and assonance, and the correspondence of words to the body which produces them...John Cage opened me to realizing the "music" inherent in all sound--I'm now aware that everything in physics/nature has tonality and specific response and rhythm in its auditory quality...It seems to me that jazz music has pervaded most good poetry and prose in this country since the first world war. -- Carol Bergé
Is a jazz poem one that uses some of the structual elements of jazz, that is, call-response, repetition & variation of theme, improvisation within form, etc., or is it one that sounds good when read right with jazz accompaniment...? I decided to send you what I have, in the past, felt inspired to perform with jazz because the poem answers to jazz the way a child answers to its mother. So these are the poems that jazz begat. Words got to fooling around with jazz, folding it into the soft curves that made them feel right--or sometimes jazz seduced words to cary them higher and deeper than they could ever go on their own--and these poems were born. But I don't know what they are or which world they properly belong to, which is why I like to read with musicians: to keep the family together. But you can't dance to them, and most of them look awfully tedious or flat on the page, so I'm afraid most of them will have to go on being the little bastard misfits they are. --James Nolan
Two things come to my mind whenever I am confronted with the word jazz: black experience and a method for articulating the parameters of that everchanging experience musically... Thus jazz for me implies improvisation, the ability to negotiate a chaotic mode into some cohereent and maageavle pattern through articulation...I accept james Baldwin's observation that it is only through his music that the Black man has been able to tell his story, and I further accept the function black art, ;petry in particular, had in the African cultures which my ancestors were snatched from. --Sterling D. Plumpp
In my opinion, Black Literary artists (especially) have suffered under the illusion of an inferiority complex--as if music--JAZZ--was superior and had therefore sole claim to legitimate Black expression. True or false? Some of us who worshipped forgot that we all are children of the same God. -- Calvin Forbes
Once having come to jazz, like language, there is no leaving. There is only the trying to decide against being turned into the called and bespoken, there is only the constant trying to decide to stay alive. -- John Taggart