Sunday, October 07, 2018

"What Is Jazz?"

The poem below was printed in a local newspaper in 1966. As the name of the poet would mean nothing to anyone who didn't know her personally I choose to keep it private.
What Is Jazz

jazz is America's song
it's freedom
it's bebop and blues
it's bourbon street and harlem
jazz has a pulse
not a beat
(jazz is a live beast
not a metronome)
it skids and slides
it laughs and sobs
jazz can talk
it talks about yesterday and tomorrow
but mostly about today
about right now
about steamy cellars, hot coffee
and that guy sitting next to you
his troubles
his blues
and that girl he loves
jazz is young
it's always the new thing
it's always out
it wanders
it's tough; it's gutsy
jazz is brave
it does what it feels
not what's right
not what's good
jazz is people who are out
people who walk the streets
it doesn't hide
lice on rats
cold-water flats
jazz gets in
it's real
it's dirty
but jazz never lies to you
it tells you when it hates
it tells you when things are rotten
then it throws back its head
and laughs
it says
man, don't let things get you down
relax baby
enjoy yourself
like this, man
then it bops off
and lets off with a good earthy roar
and ya smile and say
hi bud can I buy you a beer?
what is jazz?
jazz is life, fella
jazz is life.


Michael Leddy said...

“It tells you when things are rotten / then it throws back its head / and laughs”: clearly, this writer understands the way blues works.

Poetry in a local newspaper — is it from a literary contest for young people? Just a hunch. Whatever the source, I like it.

Chris said...

Thanks, Michael. It's not from a contest, but yes, she was in her teens.