Jazz & literature

Jack Kerouac Vesuvio's bar San Francisco

Jack Kerouac Vesuvio’s Bar San Francisco

This blog is about improvised music but it is also about musicians, poets and the arts that embrace Jazz.  I intend to add posts from time to time about, Jazz literature, Jazz Photography, Poetry and film.

Jazz, prose and poetry have been overtly interlinked since ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac.   Kerouac was so taken with the rhythms of Bebop that he adjusted many of his writings and poems to the frenetic and accented beats of 1940’s Jazz (which he saw as the raw beat of the streets).  You can hear this when Jack recites his own prose. Another Beat Poet Alan Ginsburg wrote this in his ‘Footnote to Howl’;

Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace…..”

A favourite poet of mine is Bob Kaufman (another San Franciscan): see below.

A poem that uses Jazz as a theme can be about a tune or perhaps give the merest hint of a tune (or a musician’s life). It can be blunt or as funny as hell. Modern American Poet, Laureate Billy Collins wrote ‘ I chop some parsley while listening to Art Blakey’s Version of Three Blind Mice’ – From ‘Taking Off Emily Dickens Clothes’. My good friend Iain Sharp wrote a terrific poem called ‘Chet Bakers teeth‘ – published in a collection titled – ‘The Singing Harp’. Both highly recommended for their humour and the profoundly sly insights which lurk beneath the words.  I have an anthology of my own verse due out shortly and a new page added for that purpose will soon be posted on this blog site.

Jazz is an artform and interlinked with the sister disciples. It is a poem, a painting, a sculpture and an essay. It is a novel and an embodiment of the human condition. Behind a pretty tune, there is humour, quick-fire quotes and pain, as slippery notes that fall off the edge of reason, until landing on their feet again.

John Fenton   – JazzLocal32.com. and  johnfentonpoetry.com

#You may quote freely from this blog, but please acknowledge the source and respect my intellectual property

Member of J JA  (Jazz Journalists Association)


Posted for all lovers of Bob Kaufman – 9th September 2013

Walking Parker Home

Sweet beats of Jazz impaled on slivers of wind / Kansas black morning/ First Horn Eyes/ Historical sound pictures on New Birdwings / People shouts/ Boy alto dreams/ Tomorrows / Gold bellied pipe of stops and future Blues Times / Lurking Hawkins/ shadows of Lester/realisation / Bronze fingers-brain extensions seeking trapped sounds / Ghetto thoughts/bandstand courage/solo flight / Nerve-wracked suspicions of newer songs and doubts / New York altar city/black tears/secret disciples Hammer horn pounding soul marks on unswerving gates / Culture gods/mob sounds/ visions of spikes /Panic excursions to tribal Jazz wombs and transfusions / Heroin nights of birth/and soaring/over boppy new ground / Smothered rage covering pyramids of notes spontaneously exploding /Cool revelations/shrill hopes/beauty speared on greedy ears Birdland /nights on bop mountains, windy saxophone revolutions /Daydreams of junk/and melting walls and circling vultures/ Money cancer/remembered pain/terror flights/ Death and indestructible existence / In that Jazz corner of life /wrapped in a mist of sound / His legacy, our Jazz tinted dawn / wailing his triumphs of oddly forgotten dreams / inviting the nerveless to feel once more / The fierce dying of humans consumed / In raging fires of love

Bob Kaufman (beat poet) From ‘Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness’

Note: There is a new page of my own poetry in this blog titled ‘John Fenton poetry’  

13 thoughts on “Jazz & literature

    • I have a lot more Jazz Poets to put up but doing that is hard with blogs due to the pre formatting. I might photograph the poems and then post up more pages. That is the easiest workaround. There are a few poetry referencing posts in the main page as well. The poem on Bennie Goodman, (kindly dedicated to me) by the poet Iain Sharp in particular. Thanks – John Fenton JazzLocal32.com

      • Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aiiprsng writers? Im planning to start my own website soon but Im a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that Im totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

  1. Good to discover this blog, John. I’ll add it to my blogroll and make sure I drop in to catch your posts. Regards, Roger Mitchell

  2. Hi John
    I don’t have your email but want to invite you to the following

    MICHEL BENEBIG WORKSHOP and house concert

    74 Shortland St, Auckland CBD

    Thursday 17th Nov at 12-2 PM in Room 306 (the drum room)

    He will be giving an informal house concert/ BBQ at Roger and Caros place This Friday 18th (sadly though, Caro will be overseas)
    20 Leonard road Mt wellington Auckland
    3-6ish pm
    This is open to cjc members and jazz students too ( and dedicated listeners)
    Come along – bring your own food (BBQ will be running) and drink and a $5 or $10 donation for the band


    Roger Manins
    New Zealand

  3. NIce material here!
    Now you’ve done it. You put me in mind to go dig up my overlong poetic experiment “Blues for Bird”, probably almost ten years old, and drag it over to my blog. I’m also working on a novel about a jazz trumpter in the late 50s who has a romance with one of the few female Beat Generation poets. Might want to trade more ideas & stories with you sometime, but for now, here’s a little blog entry on the novel project.

    Use the search function for other jazz-related posts, or poetry… a handful of which owe a debt to the odd rhythms & themes of classic jazz.

    • Jazz and poetry have been used together extensively. In the 50’s San Francisco based pianists like Andre Previn (yes that one – Mia Farrow etc) worked with poets often. In Word Jazz both can improvise or not. Hear Mike Nock tracks with Jazz + Poetry (and Meehan).

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