Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present

By Sascha Feinstein | Go to book overview

NOTES
1
This book does not address the influence of jazz music on the poetry of Eliot simply because the connection seems general at best, but several publications have attempted to prove otherwise, including David Chinitz essay "T. S. Eliot and the Cultural Divide" and Robert Gaspar's dissertation "Everyone and I Stopped Breathing" (38-43).
2
I have limited my discussion to poems that address jazz music directly (positively and negatively), but other writers seemed indifferent towards the subject. For example, in 1929 Charles Henri Ford edited Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms, but most of the poems had little or nothing to do with African-American music. As Steven Tracy explains, "The nine issues of Blues contained only two poems that referred explicitly to blues music: Herman Spector's 'These Are Those Back-Again, Once-Before, Home-Again Blues,' the title a play on the occasionally lengthy and humorous titles of vaudeville blues songs, and William Closson Emory's 'Theme for a Blues Song,' about an urban prostitute who is mocked by the concrete around her" (265, n. 183). But even these two poems seem extremely removed from the form or spirit of the music.
3
The Punch publication appeared on December 10, 1924, and is uncredited; however, the index to the July-December volumes lists Percy Haselden as the author. The Literary Digest, misinterpreting a line wrap for a line break, reprinted the poem in three stanzas instead of two; it also assumed, because there was no credit on the original page, that no credit was ever given. As a result, several sources, including Alan P. Merriam A Bibliography of Jazz ( 1954), refer to this poem as an anonymous publication.
4
Contemporary Poetry of America, a book panned by the critics from the twenties and long since forgotten, presents a chapter on Vachel Lindsay titled "Vachel Lindsay: Jazz and the Poet," yet Wood never explores that parallel with any depth. Wood probably shared Lindsay's admiration for Negro spirituals (he edited a pocket-sized anthology titled Negro Songs in 1924), but even though he celebrated Lindsay's use of rhythm, he spent most of the essay criticizing the weaknesses in the poet's work, particularly his use of trite rhymes and unimaginative syntax. When he cites the actual texts, his points ring true.
5
During this time, Cummings submitted an essay titled "The New Art," in which he addressed a number of the avant-garde arts, including music, although in this area Cummings only mentioned classical composers ( Stravinsky, Debussy, Satie, Schönberg) and made no references to jazz music.
6
The reference to "I Want a Doll" certainly suggests the name of a particular dance number, but no such song seems to have existed at that time. Cummings was, perhaps, inventing a name that would approximate the names of other jazz tunes; or, possibly, he was quoting from memory and misquoted a title such as "I Want a Girl," which was quite a popular song at the time.
7
Robert Gaspar's explication of this poem avoids the double negative at the poem's close and offers an interpretation opposite to my own: "The fact that these are 'unnoise men,' in Cummings's linguistic world, is a compliment, suggesting that jazz musicians create the very opposite of noise, i.e. music of high order" (55).
8
Cummings created a similar union in "Gert," the third section of his poem

-36-

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Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Jazz Poetry: an Introduction 1
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • 2 - The Sin in Syncopation 15
  • Notes 36
  • References 38
  • 3 - Weary Blues, Harlem Galleries, and Southern Roads 41
  • Notes 57
  • References 59
  • 4 - From Obscurity to Fad: Jazz and Poetry in Performance 61
  • Notes 81
  • References 85
  • 5 - Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker and the Enraptured Poets of the Fifties 89
  • Notes 110
  • References 113
  • 6 - The John Coltrane Poem 115
  • Notes 136
  • References 140
  • 7 - Goodbye Porkpie Hat: Farewells and Remembrances 143
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • 8 - An Enormous Yes: Contemporary Jazz Poetry 163
  • Notes 180
  • References 181
  • Index 183
  • About the Author *
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