Thank you Joe Maita for publishing “Don’t Ask this of Me” and “Passage Dreaming” in the Winter 2021 collection of jazz poems. These two pieces are in the company of some exceptional writing. Jazz aficionados will want to check out the Jerry Jazz Musicianwebsite for jazz photography, interviews, poetry and more.
DON’T ASK THIS OF ME
Coltrane stains the air with dusky shadows quivering across the bay like words lost between tenor- haunted notes.
The waning moon sheds a string of luminescent pearls across dark water each wavelet a silken shiver.
Burnished shiraz lingers on lips bay-water laps ankles voices hum with pining under the sax’s spell.
Thoughts unravel seeking deep within cascading notes their flight? their poetry?
A fish breaches its rupture creating circles ever-widening dives into hidden depths.
Rain cleanses city veils sky softens colour sound.
Musical strains lift praise through grey dawn.
Piano and tenor sax slip into harp and flute vibrate with creation chaos light as a feather falling through time
notes collect and break apart
travel like a seeker’s heart along a helix of blue
spiral cascade slip through clouds like rain.
“DON’T ASK THIS OF ME” is a tribute to John Coltrane (1926-1967): jazz saxophonist and composer; renowned for experimental music and for introducing a movement toward spiritual transcendence in jazz.
“PASSAGE DREAMING” was inspired by the music of Alice Coltrane, also known as Turiyasangitananda.
“What they say is / change / can bring you here.” (“Beyond the Dream Hatch”)
Fellow poet, friend, and blogger, Gwynn Scheltema, has recently written a piece about chapbooks — what they are and why we might consider publishing one. Here’s a short excerpt from Gwynn’s Writescape blog (with permission; thank you Gwynn):
Why publish a chapbook?
For the unpublished poet, it’s a chance to get publishing creds.
The process will prepare you for putting together a full collection.
A chapbook is a “safe” way to publish, because the work is not lost. You can publish it again in your collection.
You can take risks with a chapbook – give a chance to a new publisher, publish it yourself, create an artpiece.
A chapbook can keep you in the public eye in the time between publishing full poetry collections.
You need a home for perfectly good orphan poems that didn’t make it into a collection.
This started me thinking about chapbooks slipped between full collections on my poetry shelves and to Red Alders in an Island Dream.
RED ALDERS IN AN ISLAND DREAM
… is an example of a 7-inch square, hand-stitched chapbook by Christopher Howell (Trask House Books, Portland, 1980). It was given to me recently by a friend who gifted it from his library. Howell has now published 11 books of poetry and won three Pushcart prizes among other awards.
This little treasure has been read many times. Just because it is small — home to only seven poems (one is in four parts, which sort of makes it eleven poems) — does not decrease its value. Actually, I like Red Alders in an Island Dream better than many full collections on my shelves. Don’t approach chapbooks in a condescending way. Sometimes the best things come in small packages.
The collection ends with the four-part poem “In Grey Water: The Day,” and these are the last four lines of “IV,” the final lines in Red Alders in an Island Dream:
Membranous and steady, like wind moving in the darkening neighborhoods, we seek the far shore. And window light breaks from us like the sound of oars.
Thank you, Sarah Law, for accepting my “Haibun: Of Hunger & Fire” for publication in Amethyst Review.
HAIBUN: OF HUNGER & FIRE
A chorus of chick-a-dee-dee-dee greets late winter dawn and spring-hungry us, who clutch mugs of hot coffee against the chill. A flock of chickadees cluster in the barberry bush now doused with snow, their black caps barely visible within the weave of pencil-thin branches. But their bobbing dark heads give them away among last summer’s shrivelled red berries and a few clinging leaves. In groups of five or six, they wing to the feeder and back again, a circus lilting through air, sunflower seeds clasped in their toes. Blue jays, nesting in the evergreens across the way, also wake hungry. They screech a slurring jaay, jaay – whether to intimidate or pre-emptive to mob – I don’t know. The tiny chickadees keep a distance from the raucous bully-blues. You stoke the fire; sparks rise; woodsmoke scents the air.
A “haibun” is a Japanese literary term that we can trace back to the poet Matsuo Basho (17th century). Essentially, it is a paragraph-long prose narrative followed by a 17-syllable “haiku.” Haibuns tend to focus on landscape scenes and anecdotes. Style-wise, a haibun is imagistic and captures a moment in time.
I hope that you enjoy this one and that you will leave a comment and share.
What to look for when reading and what to aim for when writing:
This is the briefest of summaries, mere definitions of key elements in poems. It might be a good exercise to play with each one and then try combining them as your skill develops.
Details: naming; seeing, hearing – all the senses; every word working and, conversely, subtlety: a balance of specific and mystery / known and unknowable / sayable and unsayable. Is the monarch butterfly pinned to a board or does it fly free?
Engagement: poet’s presence, not only intellectually (ideas/abstractions/metaphors), but physical presence/immediacy; an invitation to readers to enter the poem, to be stirred, to connect.
Intimacy: the voice of the poet comes through; expressive words, perspective, insight – the surface narrative/lyric, but something written between the lines that speaks in the poet’s voice but that also touches me unearthing something that connects us (something beyond personal/universal/ah ha moment).
Movement: outward and inward.
Portal: the word, phrase, or stanza that shifts the poem from the surface theme into the deeper, more subtle one, the poem written between the lines.
Sound and rhythm: music; echoes in the language.
Twist: surprise, but also coherence, and subtlety: room for the unknown/unknowable.
Question: I want insight, but not a definitive answer (not overly generalized; respect for the individual); I want to be left with something to think about beyond the poet’s skill with structure and words, rhythm and other “tools” in the writer’s toolbox.
Wow factor: awe moment; not just by poet’s craft/skill/talent, but by the mind and heart of the poet.
Every poem does not have all of these things, but they are what I look for when reading and what I aim for when writing.
You may also be interested in reading How to Write a Good Poem? 6 Writing Tips. The blog looks at the advice of Jane Hirshfield, Robyn Sarah and Tony Hoagland. For more tips scroll through the category “Writing Tips & Workshops.”
Please share your thoughts and share this post. Thanks, Kathryn
Notice her concentration /
how she stands on stilty legs /
Thank you, Sarah Law, editor of Amethyst Review, for selecting Honey Light for publication (August 8, 2020).
When you wake in honey light
linger where river meets the curve
of a bay round as a waxing moon
where the pearl-feathered heron
glides with outstretched wings
alights in weedy shallows
to become just another shadowed reed
perfectly still in solitude.
Notice her concentration
how she stands on stilty legs
in harmony with time and place
like the pause between piano notes
the space that makes the music
…..the downward pause of Billie Holiday
…..Cohen’s gap that lets the light come in
stands alert and dreamy at water’s edge.
Do not rush through the honey light
but flow in the effortless action
and inaction of night becoming day
of the moon’s light giving way to the sun
and the sun’s rising and sinking
into the ebb and flow of the sea
step into the shallows
stand in wu wei.….a heron-woman.
Please “like,” share and send your thoughts on the poem. Thanks.