Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jazz Poetry by Paul Freidinger

This image by Ann deLorge is available at Jazz Art Paintings

There are intimate connections that exist between jazz and poetry. I've written a little about this HERE. Sometimes the poet will use the music or its makers as the subject or in a fleeting image. Sometimes the rhythmic idioms of jazz are used structurally. Illinois poet Paul Friedinger brings his love of modern jazz into his work in all of these ways and more. He has given me kind permission to publish his work on this blog. Here are two pieces related (at the very least) by their invocation of Miles:

All Blues

In Antarctica, the ice is blue
due to extremes of light.
An entire continent composed
of light that bends through a prism
of cool to cold curled to pure burn
at one end of the world. Miles knew
about the poles and the need for seasons
to flip over, after having been fed up
in St. Louis as a teen in humid summers,
and hot for more than a decade—
until lifted aloft by Bird. In ’59
he released Kind of Blue with its own sizzle
of dry ice, blowing “Blue in Green”
and “So What,” the sober result of logic
tunneling through the ear to find that
mind was at the end of its tether.
If any of us listening then would have peered
around the corner, we should have intuited
Miles would let the world go
at the first sign of global warming.
He rocked across the electric stage the rest
of his career, more about a flashpoint
than any hint of new direction.
Last year, a chunk of ice the size of Texas
spliced from the Antarctic shelf and drifted
the Southern Ocean like a giant cloud
shifting into northern climes. Over time
Miles moved, too, with little love
and less notice. He grew thinner
and cantankerous. In his last days,
Miles’ eyes turned a curious shade
of turquoise against his grizzled skin.
His world had flipped in and broken off,
prepared to flood the land with the kind
of sea it deserved. An aqua-vision
of a planet, viewed from the moon,
retrospective light all blue again.

*italicized line is by H.G. Wells

Your Turn
In memory of Paul Chambers

The jazz is existential, angular
in the dimly lit clubs,
away from the snow,
the killer cold that creeps in.

In the city
Monk still matters.
Sonny still matters.
Trane still matters.

The city rusted and ruined,
in tatters.
The homeless huddled
on a corner under a street light,
sipping a half-pint of Ancient Age,
passing the bottle in a ritual
back and forth like a chalice
in the chaste breath of winter.

Inside the sax is a knife
that severs the heart
and finds the inside surfaced
with another inside
waiting for the blade.
We can slice forever
and never touch the core.

In the trumpet’s blue glare,
a cymbal crash is symbiotically
ice and ember.
Wind roars across Chicago
in December, the lake
a metaphor of deeper chambers.

The bassist plucks his way
up the ribs of space.
In memory, Miles nods
to him and mutters,

Your turn, Sucker.

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