Eyes Like Mingus -- a jazz poetry anthology

Jazz poetry is not always about musicians. Sometimes the syntax/ flow has a syncopation to it that reminds one of jazz, especially if one is thinking of Be-Bop or just Bop.

When I first started learning about jazz, I started with the 20s and worked my way up to the gates of Bop - city where I stalled out. Not only couldnít I get Bop; I couldnít find the "head" & forget about tapping your foot to the beat! I was young, so very, very young.

20 years later, I finally got it. It took me awhile, but a few years back, it all fell into place. Bop, , is a transcendant experience: sound and movement, chaos and serenity, and most of all, space. So to, these poems flow to a unique rhythm.

About the dedication. Steve Fowler, a "musicianís musician" (so says Mark Weber), composer, a performer of experimental jazz with Vinny Golia (Nine Winds Records), fighter of ALS (killer of Charles Mingus & Lou Gehrig). He & I became friends in 1998. This book is dedicated to him and to all who continue to buck the odds.

RD Armstrong (editor & poet)

Three Poems From the Book

Eyes 	Like Mingus    (For Steve Fowler)

Eyes 	like flint
	like flecks of coal
	like shiny bits of starless sky
	trapped in the ruins of a slag heap

Eyes	like molten steel
	sullen and angry
	piercing -- a bullet finding its mark
	like a jaguar
	passionate and alive
	yet hating the trap
	pacing behind the bars
	bars like a skeleton
	trapped inside the mind 

Eyes	like Mingus
	like notes caught in the net 
	like the grid of notation
	like Mingus
	in shamanic Mexico
	trapped in a chair
	no strength to grip
	no fingers to coax notes with
	no feet to stand up and count with
	no time -- no signature

Eyes	like concrete -- shattering
	like glass -- splintering
	like the wrecking ballís slap 
	like voltage -- unregulated
	like a passion laid bare
	to the galleryís scrutiny
	like the madmanís frothing nightmare
	like the inexplicable accuracy of random fate
	like a shot to the belly
	like Coltraneís "Favorite Things"
	like your fingers -- stilled

Eyes 	like an empty glass
	staring bug-eyed into space
	upturned and dispassionate
	like a dream -- lost in the stars
Eyes 	like Mingus
	silent but never

by RD Armstrong


the old black hawk booked the
best jazz musicians of its day
Getz, Mulligan, Diz
to name just a few
I went there but twice
once with the poet
Jack Micheline
once with a young
Latin girl
to see Miles Davis
blow his horn
forced to sit in the 
teenage section
because she was only
sipping on a coke
smoke curling around
the room in long lingering
lazy circles
sweet sax
smooth slow gin
my hand on warm thigh
feeling high
feeling cool
be-bop rhtythms
dancing inside my soul

by AD Winans

bud powell on verve   
(for bob austin)

i always had trouble with the fast guys --
charlie parker, coleman hawkins, bud powell --
i guess i was a young romantic in search of
the lyrical, rhapsodic, and climatic -- stan
kenton, gerald wilson, coltrane, ahmad jamal --
the brooding miles who really slowed things
down and took them overseas.  but now the 
liner notes instruct my ear in the "romantic
agony" of improvisation at a breakneck pace:
the challenge of it, living on the brink of
failure, the incomparable concentration on
coordination of brain, heart, and fingers,
context of the rhythm section, historical
gestalt, the journey taking him from classically
trained child of a musician through the smoke
and drugs of urban blues clubs to the left-bank
caves where his piano would personify le-jazz-hot.
as with heart crane, it was artistry within a
crumbling tower, the crystal peal of aching bells.
i havenít spent my obligatory april in paris yet, but
i have known the bareness of december in the
gardens there.  as caillebotte perceived, it
sometimes rains on sundays on parisian 
boulevards.  time has a way of getting out of 4/4 
joint, and sometimes it is best that we just take it 
somewhere; sometimes itís the last control we 
ever exercise.  sometimes the stars are only in our
eyes, and sometimes we no longer have the lungs
to contemplate ascending the steep stairway to 
the end of night.  eventually even bud powell has 
to slow things down and meditate, grown elegaic: 
cíest la vie; it was just one of those things; it never
even entered my mind.

it never entered his mind.
it never entered ours.

and then it does.
and sometimes not so tenderly.

by Gerald Locklin

Other LRB Links

The Little Red Book series: books #2 -- 6
The House of Lummox: "A Journey Up The Coast" RD Armstrong aka: Raindog

Raindog / RD Armstrong
LUMMOX Productions c/o PO Box 5301
San Pedro, CA 90733-5301
United States