Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present

By Sascha Feinstein | Go to book overview

eye
can't go. can see. can be
a man. make a love
from centuries of unplumbed music
& a common metal tool
anyone can misuse. (33-34)

For a quarter of a century, more poets have responded to Coltrane's music than to that of any other jazz figure. Beyond politics, beyond race or gender, there exists a profound admiration for this musician, which is why so many of these poems plead with their readers to acknowledge the spirituality he sought to attain in works such as A Love Supreme. This plea takes many forms in the history of the Coltrane poem, from the conclusion of Sanchez's "a/coltrane/poem" -- "a love supreme. / for each / other / if we just / lissssssSSSTEN" (72) -- to the persistent rhythms in Michael Stillman's In Memoriam John Coltrane:

Listen to the coal
rolling, rolling through the cold
steady rain, wheel on
wheel, listen to the
turning of the wheels this night
black as coal dust, steel
on steel, listen to
these cars carry coal, listen
to the coal train roll.
( Feinstein and Komunyakaa, 207.)


NOTES
1
Some of these details were obtained from Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s ( 1990), edited by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer. Chapter 11, titled "The Sixteenth Street Church Bombing", also includes reflections by James Bevel, Diane Nash, Fred Shuttlesworth , Coretta Scott King, David Vann, and Burke Marshall; all are worth reading, and the book in general is a tremendous addition to Civil Rights literature.
2
Although recorded in the studio, the tune "Alabama" appears on the album Coltrane Live at Birdland (released in 1964).
3
In his liner notes to the LP collection John Coltrane, the poet Michael Harper explained that "the song ['Alabama'] was composed while John Coltrane was reading a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. eulogizing five [sic] black girls blown up in an Alabama church -- Birmingham, 1963 -- from the rhythms of King's eulogy Coltrane composed 'Alabama,' while on a train traveling from New York to Philadelphia." In Bill Cole's biography, John Coltrane ( 1976), he concurs that "the

-136-

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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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