An Enormous Yes: Contemporary Jazz Poetry
For me, jazz works primarily as a kind of discovery, as a way for me to discover that emotional mystery behind things. It helps me get to a place I thought I had forgotten.
-- Yusef Komunyakaa
My father, who used to bicycle thirty miles one way to court my mother, had this record [ Coleman Hawkins' Body and Soul] among his dustneedled 78s. He'd already worn out several copies before I learned to love it from memory, never knowing until much later what a cause it had stirred.
-- Al Young
To say that recent American poetry has not been as revolutionary as poetry from previous decades is not, in itself, a revolutionary statement, nor is it a condemnation. "The mainstream of American poetry," writes Jonathan Holden about contemporary verse, "has continued to be, whether narrative or meditative, in a Realistic mode that is essentially egalitarian, university-based, middle-class, and written in free verse that has, by and large, vastly improved since the sixties" ( Myers and Wojahn, 273). Holden supports James Breslin stand in From Modern to Contemporary: American Poetry, 1945-1965, and Breslin well-known metaphors regarding poetry in the eighties bear repeating because they also pertain to contemporary jazz and jazz poetry:
If American poetry in the middle fifties resembled a peaceful public park on a pleasant summer Sunday afternoon, and if by the early sixties it had been transformed into a war zone, the air heavy with manifestos, then by the early 1980s the