by Louise Robertson


You are not going to believe this, but when you look up Jazz Poetry the earliest names that come up are Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and e.e. cummings.

But who the f trusts Wikipedia anyway? Jazz Poetry, early on, was a part of the Harlem Renaissance, and it was Langston Hughes who is most associated with first incorporating the rhythms and repetition of blues and jazz in his poetry. Like the blues poem, a jazz poem isn’t about sticking to a rhyme or metered scheme. It’s about improvisation and getting the feeling of jazz right.

Then the Beats got a hold of it and, next thing you know, bongo drums, black turtle neck shirts, and berets become a cliche environment for poetry. (Jack Kerouac worked with a friend to have music — piano and bongos — performed with his poetry. And that’s where that came from.)

Beat poet Bob Kaufman is said to be the greatest jazz poet. So I’m going to put two of his here:

Round About Midnight by Bob Kaufman
Jazz radio on a midnight kick,
Round about Midnight.

Sitting on the bed,
With a jazz type chick
Round about Midnight,

Piano laughter, in my ears,
Round about Midnight.

Stirring up laughter, dying tears,
Round about Midnight.

Soft blue voices, muted grins,
Excited voices, Father’s sins,
Round about Midnight.

Come on baby, take off your clothes,
Round about Midnight.

O-Jazz-O by Bob Kaufman
Where the string
some point,
Was umbilical jazz,
Or perhaps,
In memory,
A long lost bloody cross,
Buried in some steel cavalry.
In what time
For whom do we bleed,
Lost notes, from some jazzman’s
Broken needle.
Musical tears from lost
Broken drumsticks, why?
Pitter patter, boom dropping
Bombs in the middle
Of my emotions
My father’s sound
My mother’s sound,
Is love,
Is life.

But the featured poet here, today, is Gill Scott-Heron. And if you’re performing poetry these days, and I know that you want to, you shouldn’t not know Gill Scott-Heron, even if it’s to inform you as a member of the audience.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

And now that the “education” part of this entry is over, I’m going to link to something else by Gill Scott-Heron, because, yeah, well, yeah:

Where Did the Night Go


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