Friday, October 30, 2015

After Midterms...Martin Willitts, Jr. and Bryn Fortey's been a while.  Now that I've finished my midterms, and before I dive into some proposals for the final project, I'd like to post some long overdue poems.  First are Martin Willitts, Jr.'s poems in his Helga series after Andrew Wyeth's own series of paintings and drawings.

Andrew Wyeth painting, 1979
How long do they take to make them?
Hand over delicate hand, twisting them into shape.
It must take all day or more, such raveling;
do you unbraid them, ever?
What is that like? Is it like I imagine it would be?
I am envious of your husband if he undoes them.
He must take his time unwrapping them
like they were Christmas presents.
He must enjoy untangling your hair as it speaks to him.
The air must be holding its breath.
If only I could have the pleasure.
I would untie them like knots on a nightgown.
If there is a God, then he must have created braids,
and rested several days
admiring their luster, their primitive sexuality,
and gasped, it’s good.

Martin Willitts, Jr.

Letting Her Hair Down
            Andrew Wyeth painting, 1972
She has let down her hair
and foxes take the best hens.
She brushes the blond hair out,
and waterfalls are envious.
Loose strands stick in the paintbrush bristles
and men vote in Congress for the end of war.
She strokes her hair one hundred times
like she was told long ago when she was little
and never knew why.
She puts down the hair brush
and stares at the movement of light on her skin
as the upper half-moons of her breasts
rise over the horizon.

Martin Willitts, Jr.

Bryn Fortey now returns us to jazz, specifically the music of the fall/winter contests: musicians born in the 1900s and 1910s and Latin jazz.

(Louis Armstrong: (1901 – 1971)

High register playing that could slice your soul
Notes cascading like sunlight spearing crystal

Louis Armstrong: genius

His gravel-like voice
Used as an extension of his instrumental approach
The man who invented scat when he forgot the words

Dippermouth  -  Satchelmouth  -  Satchmo
The jazzman extraordinary and trumpeter supreme
Who bypassed the ensemble and created the solo


One Saturday evening in May, 1956, my mother
shook hands and exchanged a few words with
Louis Armstrong while I was stranded on the
other side of the Empress Hall, London. Later, on
the Paddington to South Wales milk train, she was
like a schoolgirl, claiming she would never wash
that hand again.


Louis Armstrong
The King
First genius of jazz

Bryn Fortey

First published in CANINE TEETH, a now defunct British small press magazine.

(Ben Webster: 1909  -  1973)

A century
And more
Of clocks
                                        Of tenors
Ring out
Stately tower
                                        Velvet tone
                                        Most poetic
                                        Of soloists

Big Ben, the clock:     (1856  -  ……)
(Big) Ben Webster:     (1909  -  1973)

Bryn Fortey

First appeared in POETRY MONTHLY, a now defunct British small press magazine.     

KENNY GRAHAM (1924 – 1997)

If you want to talk about tenors
The ones who helped shape modern jazz
Here in the UK
Few think of Kenny Graham anymore


Born Kenneth Skingle
(No wonder he changed his name)
Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists
Merged African and Cuban rhythms
With bebop harmonies

An artistic success
But a commercial failure
The band lasted only two years
As a fulltime outfit
Though they would reassemble
For recording and one-off gigs

Kenny Graham himself
Worked with all the top bands
Writing and arranging when
Ill-health curtailed his playing

A lot he did would be worth
A re-examination today
Work with the Ted Heath Orchestra
And a band of ex-Ellington sidemen
But I especially remember
The Latin/Bop mashups
Of his Afro-Cubists

Overlooked by many
But not by me

Bryn Fortey   

And now for the music....

We'll start with some early Louis Armstrong:
"Wild Man Blues" is even earlier:
If you'd prefer later Louis, here is his performance of "Hello Dolly" live:

I've been playing a lot of Ben Webster lately, so here are a few of his songs.
In fact, this performance was in London:
Here he plays "My One and Only" with Art Tatum:
This performance of "Sunday" is with Oscar Peterson:

I'll finish with some Kenny Graham.
I just happened to find his version of "Sunday":
This version of "Mambo Jump" is from a 78:
We'll finish with his version of "Rockin' in Rhythm" with the Afro-Cubans:

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