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:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Dream of Empathy

I prefer to use The Song Is... to promote other poets' work, but this evening I'd like to post a lovely review that Michael Oliver (one of the judges for the spring/summer contests) just sent me.

I Dream of Empathy

Marianne Szlyk's slender volume of poems, I Dream of Empathy, with its delicate sounds and intimate touches, reaches the reader at her loneliest; and we wonder: across what abyss these feelings must travel?

The volume's more than two dozen poems resonate with music and art, with memory and deep yearning: a yearning for human contact, human touch, human knowledge.

By far its most emotionally powerful sequence is Ms. Szlyk's "Scene from the Blue Room." In this three poem montage, we first discover Mrs. Feeney, the matriarch, sitting in blue, yet embraced by "her tan and orange plaid chair," which ironically no longer matches "the white that the walls used to be." It's that detachment that matters most, that disharmony that leaves the reader imaging empathy in a world no longer welcome to such sentimental journeys.

In the trilogy's second poem, we enter the space of Mrs. Feeney's granddaughter, Olivia, and the void at the center of that space could not be more filled with possibilities. Olivia's chorus, a thrice repeated "I miss..." rolls like thunder in the background, a remembrance of a life vivacious, until finally Olivia stands with bitten lip and her "blood in the lip gloss." It is with those uncanny details that Ms. Szlyk woos her reader, not to empathy, but to its dream.

That's when Mary Rose Feeney enters, "arms akimbo" ready to curse the hospice workers only "if ladies cursed." Her world is that of surfaces, the details, but not so intimate to stir an empathetic response. As her cell phone vibrates, and the walls turn from blue to a more cheery color, she sells her memories to the highest bidder.

And that's where "I Dream of Empathy" resides: a world where once sacred simplicity grows increasing more difficult to see and appreciate; but more importantly, a world from which we grow increasingly estranged.

"If you bloom you need the sun, not the ice." Yet, in these words sun at best is a brilliant reflection off a mirrored wall and at worst a ghost whose light barely flickers; in these words, the bloom seeks its essence in imaginings, in recollections, and in brief semblances of truth.

Ms. Szlyk's "I Dream of Empathy" will take you to that place of solitude, where yearning to embrace the other shines brightest.

-- R. Michael Oliver

If you would like to buy a copy of the book, here is the Amazon site:

The book is also available on Createspace:

I'll begin the music with "Crepuscle with Nellie" since one of of the poems in the chapbook is "Crepuscle with Callie":

Stanley Turrentine and the Three Sounds perform "Blue Hour" here.  It's a little after Mrs. Feeney's time.

This is more Mrs. Feeney's cup of tea:

I'll include Gary Bartz's version of "But Not for Me" from his Red and Orange Poems:

Let's finish with a little Dorothy Ashby:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A.J. Huffman's "I Am High" and "In the Shadow of Song"

This picture predates Ella Fitzgerald's Memorex commercials by quite a few years, but I thought I'd post it with A.J. Huffman's new poems.  Plus, Ray Brown is in the picture somewhere, and I've been listening to a lot of YouTube videos where he accompanies the featured musician.  Finally, Ella (and Dizzy Gillespie who is in the picture) are among the jazz musicians born in the 1910s, the subject of one of my fall contests:

On to A.J.'s poems!

I Am High

note, hit.  On pitch,
in perfect key.  I
dominate.  The rest
of the song/of the performance
disappears, becomes my
shadow.  I, alone,
resonate, sounding.
Listen cautiously, I can shatter

In the Shadow of Song

I am treble
                   clef, locked in sound-
proof basement.  My reflection drips
        faceless death of upper registers.
My right hand is numb; my left is bleeding.
I am not sure which is supposed to
symbolize my empathy with instrumental
gods.  A brassy shade of bitter
belligerence is my legacy.  Wingless, I am
no angel.  My heart is strung,
hangs like a harp.

A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing) are now available from their respective publishers.   She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming: Degeneration from Pink Girl Ink, and A Bizarre Burning of Bees from Transcendent Zero Press.  She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2200 poems in various national and international journals, includingLabletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. 

Let's listen to some Ella then.

Here she sings "How High the Moon":

I also wanted to include her version of "Cottontail":

Here she sings "Flyin' Home" with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker backing her.

I didn't know that there was a version of "Night in Tunisia" with lyrics:

We'll finish with her "Don't Get Around Much Anymore":

Below is a picture of Ella from 1940.  Carl Van Vechten was the photographer.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bea Garth and Fats Waller

Let's take a break this Monday evening -- and dance with Bea Garth and Fats Waller!

Always Too Big
(after Fats Waller’s “Your Feets Too Big”)

My “feets too big”
definitely way too big
as my body sways
in lively exuberance
to Fats Waller’s
irreverent rhythms
my long toes waving and tapping
thinking of him and Harlem, Harlem blues
a horn picks up the beat
from his impossible piano rhythms
while Fats’ deep belly trills, serenades
his whole  body at play
my feet smiling: always too big
remembering how I had
to get bigger shoes
thinking I’d grow taller
but  never did
and I imagine myself
transported careening, my feet dancing
the sun shining on my bright yellow dress and red hat;
Fats jumps up and takes my hand,
twirls me around, looks me up and down,
tells me I might be beautiful, otherwise,
and shakes his head
with a broad grin and wink,
while declaring my “feets are definitely too big,”
he “can’t use” me “cause my feets too big”
he points to my oversized feet
singing from his big belly: “tra la la ah!”
and all I can do is smile
since I am “ruined” cause my “feets too big”
my grin almost as broad as Fats
on this sunny day
my yellow dress and red hat shining
my feet happy since they are “useless”
being way “too big”
as Fats explains
the “Only Reason” no one wants me
is “Just” cause my “feets too big”
so I shake my head and wave my fingers
in a knowing point
smiling at Fats wink and rotund belly
my feet buoyant
as I dance down
the street.

Bio: Bea Garth is known for her narrative poetry as well as for her unique visual art. Early on Bea was influenced by her grandfather and great aunt’s love of poetry  plus exposure to ancient art and myths due to her parents’ early occupation as ethnologists/archaeologists. She has been an extemporaneous poetry and arts organizer and editor off and on for many years in the San Jose, California area and previously in Eugene, Oregon. Currently she is president of Quicksilver Artists, a San Jose art and poetry group. She is  often found painting and writing in her studio with  her cat Keiko or renovating houses as a property manager. Her manuscript of poetry and line drawings called Eating the Peach  will be published by Blue Bone Books by early next year. She has previously had poems and artwork published in a variety of small press magazines including The Song Is, Synchronized Chaos, Lake City Poets, Poetry USA, Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts, Caesura, Fresh Hot Bread,  Alchemy, Poetic Space, Denali, Coyote’s Dance, The Other Paper, Writing For Our Lives,  Sheffield Phoenix Press (cover for Where The Wild Ox Roam) and the poetry anthologies Elegant Stew, Women’s Dreams/Women’s Visions and Song of Los Gatos. You can find examples of Bea's artwork and poetry at 

Of course, we'll start the music with Fats Waller's "Your Feet's Too Big": 

Louis Jordan (and Bing Crosby) chime in with "Your Socks Don't Match":

Here's more Fats Waller..."Ain't Misbehavin'":

This is a recording of a radio broadcast (Fats Waller in 1938):

I'll finish with Cab Calloway's version of "Jumpin' Jive."  The Nicholas Brothers will also appear in this video:


Monday, October 5, 2015

Waleje in Love by Malcolm Rodney

This evening I would like to post an example of a new form of poetry, the waleje, a form invented by Nigerian-American poet Malcolm Rodney (also known as Prince Adewale Oreshade or Abdul Kabir Abu Irfan).  

Waleje in Love


i understand it
when you said
you didn't see
the green light i sent

i really do, honey
i really do.


you see
it takes light
from the north star
four hundred and thirty years
to get to us. so the north star that
we see is literally over four centuries old;


so you see
i understand,
i really do.

and i can't
fault your


honey pie,
quantum physics also taught me
that the light you just saw

that one you are very sure of
was three hundredth of a second old
at the time you saw it;


yes, i know this
for light travels at
one hundred and eighty six
thousand miles per second.

so that your present is your past
and the past was never your present;


just be calm,
and listen to my voice,
perhaps, this will get to you.

i know sound travels faster in iron
than it does through the air.
i know!

but i can't speak in irons.


so all i will be saying
might be lost in the wind.

but you see,
i showed you the green light
and the light is my witness;

i hope you heard me!
i hope you will hear me!!


at three hundred and forty three
meters per second; i doubt it!

your presents have become the past
your present was never the present

your present was your past
and your past is history

gone with the wind...


you beautiful imperfection!

how then am i
to communicate
my love to you?

this love that
makes me exist in the present
and you, in my future!


your eyes have failed me
your ears have failed me
no offense to your feelings
but they do not know of me!

murmurs in my dream?
soliloquies in the dark?

mirrors in my eyes!


if by any chance
you saw the green light;
i believe in miracles too.

i implore
that you heed its call

let its light
guide your feet



don't worry about
where we will
elope to.

i have got it
all figured out

i really do!



you remember
what einstein
said about


yeah, when he said
that the closer an object
moves at the speed of light
the slower time moves for that object.

that theory is true,
and i believe it,
every bit of it.


and that's why i
have sent my
light to you

let's leave
this world
with all its


let's leave
this world
with all of
its fears,
and greed.

let's leave, love!


i do not call you
to death, my love.

no, i do not!

i call you
to light,
life and


let's leave this world
for just two light years

we will be back
a hundred years later

when all the souls
that hate on us
are far gone


you see, honey!

a light year
is equivalent
to fifty years.

and two light years
is a hundred
gregorian years.


we will travel
at the speed of light
for two years.

two years of bliss
two years of peace
two years of progress;
enlightening two years!


the faster we go
the more our mass
shall increase

and the more our mass
increases, the more energy
we will need to propel our
being further into space.


i know this, love
but i am certain!

that the energy
of love within
us shall defy
gravity beyond
light's imagination.


i am certain!

that the infinite
energy of love
within us shall
defy any knot
that comes our
light way.


and when we return
we shall tell the world
about how science saved
love from the eyes of hate.

we shall tell
of how science
saved the art of love.


we shall tell
of how the arts
gave science all
the infinite energy
it needs to defy
theories of relativity
and quantum physics.


and when we return, love!

we shall tell
of the art of science
the science of art
the signs in the heart
and the heart in the signs;
the milky way!



when we return into
this swirling teacup,

i shall hold you within me
and you shall sweeten my soul
with your raw wholeness;
how life is just a cup of tea!


when we return
if we return
if we ever leave
if you ever see
the green light
if you ever hear

the sound of love...

For more information about the waleje,  as you can see, it is made up of a series of seven-line stanzas.  The series can be as long as it needs to be.  More information is online.

I think I'll start with some Stevie Wonder...his "Love's In Need of Love Today" and "Saturn":

I want to switch gears a little with Warren Wolf's "Sunrise":

Recently my husband and I saw Bela Fleck and Chick Corea in concert, so I'll finish off with a couple of their songs.  First is "Senorita":

Here is a little bit of their "Waltz for Abby":  

Abby is Fleck's wife, the banjo player Abigail Washburn.  I'll close with some of her music:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chopin in Manchester

Looking for another poem, I found the original poem that Anna Maria Mickiewicz sent me...."Chopin in Manchester."

Chopin in Manchester

He did not like the smog
He did not like the damp English weather
Or overcrowded Manchester
Standing by the lake in Prestwich
I can feel his longing
Far away from home
Music is dripping like rain from his thin rapid fingers
In the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall
His statue is silent in Manchester
A frail figure
Longing for music or for the homeland?

Anna Maria Mickiewicz

Here is Arthur Rubenstein's version of Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, fitting listening for this very rainy evening:

I'll finish with Valentina Igoshina's version of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu: