7.

It is often in its colorful and elaborate sexual imagery that the blues is most vividly poetic. There is a sauntering flamboyance to the language, a sudden image in one verse crowding into the next, its intended effect broadened with the tone of the voice or the rhythm of the guitar or piano. An exuberant, gusty delight in sexuality is expressed in an imagery which still has the vigor and freshness of its folk roots. Instead of the reticence or the leering innuendo of American popular song there is in the blues an open acceptance of the pleasure of sexual love. A singer may be more intensely emotional in a blues that bares his pain at separation or infidelity, but often in his erotic blues there will be a more brilliant virtuosity of language and style. There are many verses which have a directness and clarity of meaning,

Pull down your shade, mama, turn your
lamp down low.
Pull down your shade, mama, turn your
lamp down low.
Then give me a last kiss, just before we
go
.

but usually there is a more imaginative use of language.

Um - um, black snake crawling in my
room.
Um - um, black snake crawling in my
room.
Yes, some pretty mama better get this
black snake soon
.

Some of the more vivid expressions have even become part of the popular vocabulary, but American society usually thinks of sex with either fright or a nervous vulgarity. There is little open acceptance of eroticism. When a sexual expression passes from Negro to white there is usually considerable confusion over it. "Jazz" was one of

-80-

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The Poetry of the Blues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Introduction 5
  • 1 7
  • 2 11
  • 3 27
  • 4 35
  • 5 43
  • 6 67
  • 7 80
  • 8 98
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