Friday, July 29, 2016

New Poems and Images by Alex Conrad

Shadows of Our Selves
This evening I'd like to post some words and images that my former student Alex Conrad has sent me.  Both are well worth pondering on a Friday evening.  Alex's images are the first two, the ones with captions.  The other three come from Google Images.

Dans le Noir
By Alex Conrad

Why is it so many are free
Only in the darkness of night?

Broken, scattered, scathingly scarred
Seeping sadness slowly suddenly stops
Upon one image.
Anybody can be anybody under the guise of nighttime.

A man can be the knight he always wanted to be…
A woman can be the princess she thinks she needs to be…
A boy can dream of a time where he gets what he wants…
A girl can spin in circles until her sadness melts away…

But the ugly, the decrepit, the evils
Also come out to play
Dans le noir de nuit…

They clutch at heartstrings,
Playing the music only they know
How to play and we know we sing.

Under the cover of night,
Witches can be beautiful…
Manipulators can be loving…
The spiteful can be caring…
The soul-less can be soul-ful…

You have never known pure adrenaline
Until you have stared at the underbelly of Satan.
He maniacally masters many men
Making monstrous masks rambling through the days.

Life is never black and white.
La vie n’est pas rien le noir ou le blanc.
There will always be a gray area.
It is within that area that many monsters roam.

Don't Trust What You Don't See

The Darkness Within

By Alex Conrad

Itching to be let free.
Scratching at just below the surface.
Screaming to be heard.
There is darkness within all of us.
But some are more likely to allow it to consume them.

Bullets sprayed into the night
Without any rhyme or reason,
Ending innocent lives supposedly guilty of treason
This isn’t even the end of the plight.

They tell us that protection is what we need
Protection from others is how they preface it,
But we really need it from ourselves.
Fear can be consuming.
Fear can be assuming.
Fear can be hateful.
Fear can be unfounded.

Black, white, olive, copper,
All different in skin,
But similar within.
We all have dreams.

Why is it others’ jobs to tell them
Their dreams cannot be reached?
Ending a life with a bullet, bomb, or knife
Apparently is how we dole out the sentences.

We do the job of the Fates
Because there is darkness within all of us.


Never Trust the Whispering Weeping Willow

By Alex Conrad

Everyone has secrets
We all have fa├žades we are terrified people will see through
But the whispering weeping willow knows everything we hide.
From our darkest depths of our lies
From the flakiness of the epidermis
To the roots of our sinister sins seeping slowly into fruition.

From rain-soaked windows,
We stare upon the wonders she does.
We believe she's there to protect us
But she's really just listening to the screaming of our soul.

Word spreads like the wind
Even the smallest of creatures know that which we fear.
But above all, death.

Why do you think her branches wipe the dirt away from the ground?
She's just preparing our burial grounds.
She knows she'll always win.
Wickedly twisted she waves holistically
watching us wither away.

She will always win.

Bradbury’s Ghost Meets Orwell’s
By Alex Conrad

Blue screens are all the craze.
Books get figuratively burned by Kindle Fire.
It's odd to see someone walking down the street,
Especially with the fear of the Hound,
Lurking around every corner on every different form.

Big Brother smiles down
Upon the madness that has happened within this Animal Farm.
It seems like 1984 is not just another number.
The literal hanging of innocents,
Stepping to the side to avoid figurative rain-washed puddles.
But as I sit here sipping my milk-filled cup of tea,
I wonder how is it that two men from different lives,
Different walks of life,
Had a predisposed knack of writing warnings.

Look in the window at poor Montag’s
Holding onto dear Clarisse’s.
The poor work-horses of the rebellion,
Worked to death by a dream of a few.

See the Chief Beatty’s of the world
Destroy knowledge for the sake of their image.

If all goes to hell in a handbasket,
Let me go as the old woman seen as a nut did,
Surrounded by the sanctity of literary freedoms.


Now it's time for some music.  Toshiko Ayikoshi is another jazz musician born in the 1920s.  Formerly she led a big band that performed every Monday night at Birdland, and she has also performed as a pianist.  She is currently based in New York City.  Let's start with her "Memory":

"Kogun" features her big band and Japanese instruments:

This performance of "Autumn Sea" is fairly recent (2014):

"The Village" is a solo piece:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Summer of Miles Davis

This summer could very well be the Summer of Miles Davis...not just at The Song Is...  This year is the ninetieth anniversary of Miles' birth.  Some of you may have seen Don Cheadle's movie about him as well.    Tonight I'd like to post Bill Cushing's tribute to this giant of jazz.  It was previously published in Stories of Music, Vol. 1.

 “Music isn’t about standing still and being safe.”
— Miles Davis (1926 - 1991)


two weeks after you died
a quarter-million thronged
by the St. Johns River
to hear the music you had spawned
hoping to see you
even in death
you never looked back
they were all there
            Hannibal                      Bird                
            Chick                           Jo-Jo   
            Red                             Jaco
            Bean                            Dizzy
            my favorite      Freddie Freeloader     

were a beacon
            a flagship for messages
                        of the heart

back to the crowd       unbowed
that proud dance-walk
announced by muted horn
that spoke
and broke
through all the bull
and told us about a place


ahead of everyone else
you spent a lifetime
            thinking for yourself
            speaking to every generation
playing it all:
            jazz                  blues
            funk                 rock
categories took
a backseat
to creativity
            and rhythm


            and feeling

I remember fourth grade
picking up a horn
then laying it down
rock and roll was my world
what did I know

seven years later I heard

it was in the Garden
where you brought me back
to music

I walked all the way home


from that train station
my head pounding with sounds
frantic-fast as the subway
I spent the night on
            those African rhythms
            you used decades
            before anyone else
            even thought to
filling my head
letting me know
I’d have it all down cold
if I could walk
as cool as the notes you heard
            coming from


you had that thing
            that style
that spark that was
a blue flame
            off a gas stove
igniting everything                  everywhere
touching the genetic
in all


Let's listen to some of Miles' music as well, starting with "Freddie Freeloader."

I'll include his "All Blues":

Here is a live version of "On Green Dolphin Street":

"Bags' Groove" also features Sonny Rollins and Milt Jackson:

Let's skip a few years to Bitches Brew.

Here is "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down":

I'll finish with a live version of his "Time After Time":

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Welcome to Tad Richards and Nancy Ostrovsky

Tonight I have an entry that truly combines words and images.  Poet and blogger Tad Richards provides the words, and artist Nancy Ostrovsky gives us the images.  I hope that you will enjoy tonight's entry.  Imagine that you are in an outdoor art gallery in Upstate New York!  Or at the Five Spot.

I will quote Tad's introduction to these poems:

"These are from a self-published collaboration with artist Nancy Ostrovsky, poems and drawings, many of them related to jazz. "With Miles" was originally published in Cortland Review. "In a Dream, She Sees Lester Young Standing Naked" is from a sequence of poems about a young woman, the daughter of a jazz musician, who has just left her husband and is trying to make sense of her life." 


I was just fifteen when Charlie Parker died
My older brother took me aside
And said, Kid, it's a bad day
It's a sad day
Well, I didn't know why and I had to be told
Hey, but I grew up
And I learned my stuff
And I learned enough
And I'm not so old

When I was a kid just starting to move
I filled my soul with that rhythm and blues
And I listened to the Clovers
And the Coasters
And I couldn't get enough of that rock and roll
I was growing up
And the beat was mine
And it still sounds fine
And I'm not so old

Then one night I turned on the radio
Looking for some of that rock and roll
And I heard some bebop
Brought me to a full stop
Didn't know what it was but it moved my soul
I was almost grown
And they said it was Miles
I still dig his style
And I'm not so old

I saw Monk dance around the Five Spot floor
And a cat from Texas made the Five Spot roar
His sax was plastic
His sound fantastic
And I went back again to hear Ornette blow
I was all grown up
And he made jazz free
Still sounds good to me
And I'm not so old

Once they said that jazz had passed away
But I go down to hear the young cats play
They play in the tradition
They've got a mission
They play sweet and strong and free and bold
Well, I may be grown
But the cats blow on
And the music's young
And I'm not so old


In a dream, she sees Lester Young standing naked
at the door to her kitchen.
He is as women are to men
in the dream, an invitation, not as men
are to women, intrusion. His body is
soft, and she wonders where
that hard part is inside him, the tunnel of breath
that turned Lady Be Good or Lester Leaps In.

She gets up and walks to the kitchen, but he's
not there. Thirsty, she runs the tap, and while
the water cools, she watches it splash
on the round of a spoon, spongy and brittle,
as it would be, passed through that tunnel in
her, in Lester, diffracted, never shaped.



Trane would start a solo
an hour later
   be playing
Miles said
     why so long
Trane said
     that was how long it took

Herbie told Miles
     I don’t know what to play no more
Miles said
     don’t play nothing

Herbie sat with
     hands in
       his lap
whole number
   up for
back to the lap

Miles said
     that sound was a bitch

Mtume wanted Miles
     like a martial arts master
     who splits an apple
     on a guy’s throat
     without touching the throat

to play a whole concert
just below the
threshold of sound

Don’t knock free
what it finds


She said jazz
is how life should be
flexible rhythm but
you count it off
beyond that

melody left behind
now it’s your call
you know where
the roots are you don’t

know where it’s taking you
she herself was
Chet Baker
Gerry Mulligan
touching where you didn’t

know you tingled
or she was
Thelonious Monk
threading her way along
narrow pathways

with broad steps
on either side are
Arizona cactus
long spined blooming

Tad also blogs about Prestige's jazz recordings at this site:

Now I'll put on some music, starting with Charlie Parker, of course.  Here is his "Ornithology":

Monk recorded an entire album at the Five Spot, but here is a link to his "Five Spot Blues":

I haven't posted that much Lester Young, so I'll play a few of his songs.  Here he and Billie Holiday perform "All of Me."  The stills are from the recent movie The Artist.

Not sure when this version of "Lester Leaps In" was recorded:

Lester Young plays with Coleman Hawkins among others:

I'll finish with "There'll Never Be Another You" where Young plays with Oscar Peterson:

and with a version of Miles Davis' "So What":

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Welcome to Joseph Milford!

This afternoon I'd like to publish Joseph Milford's selections from his epic Tattered Scrolls and Postulates, the first volume of which is composed of 100 ten-lined prose poems.  He is currently working on the second volume of this epic.  As he explained to me: "[b]asically, I intend to use it as a vessel for narrative and experimentation for many years while I write other projects and prose. It is based upon a man, initially, who was going through a divorce but was suddenly, or possibly, abducted by some alien force and returned to his reality with visions and a an all-encompassing knowledge of Southern folklore, history, science, alchemy, spirituality, philosophy, astronomy, and so on. The book deals with the tensions of knowledge and power and knowledge and helplessness in an attempt to pursue ultimate wisdom through internal and external exploration."  Below are three of Joseph's prose poems.


Photograph of Melora Creager by Simon Law


i found a cello of you in a cave and played as hard as i could and died and then you anteloped.
you made pottery when the empire burned. you burned fiddles under the cairn for the kiln.
i was swallowed whole by a whale-wasp. i asked if it was a god or goddess. it fucking laughed.
i had so many paths attached to me--like i was a broken sewing machine clogged with thread.
she walks by with a strategic strand of her hair dyed like a DNA braggard. she evolves upfront.
i killed all of my heroes. we were all Odysseus. listening to the same old gorgeous roaring oars.
no machines allowed. no humans.  no seltzers. we coiled into new furs. we ignored all the stars.
being torn sideways is nicer than being torn wideways. they recover violence. a great pear grows.
most of us quit hoping. we ate value meals. a pegasus flew from a super-sized meal and ate gods.
you pickle things. we all do. put the vagina in a jar with salt. a way of aborting fruits for men. eat.



how many times will a judge snort his Scotch while a young hot woman knows his weak wife?
overheard a student say she could "suck a quarter out of a traffic meter"; walked back to office.
in the belly of the elephant was the birdcage in the cage was the fear of raptors and rodents.
a mite crawling along the spine of a feather would taste cat's blood later on whiskers of a dog.
SUV hemoglobin pumping assholes into urban organs cellphone calls in ballet around skylines.
mode on node off to annotate otherwise certification for the Promethean holograph mech-tech.
rain-splattered gazebo in parking lot students negotiate pot tempting K-9's and camera mounts.
falling through flipcharts into pixels down through molecules and bubbles the guts of crystals.
I had majic orca eyeball for oracle but dropped it in fryvat it sizzled prophecies in terrible rasps.
a green-spotted horned slug covered in slime glistening crawled over the opaque slug of lead. 


Photo by MrTinDC


collapsing corrugations and jumping from vaporizing peaks they disentegrate into pulverizilles.
i had enough grease in my hair to get out of the ligatures and crawl to the canoe to tail you.
i once sprayed some lizards at my uncle's house in Florida with bugspray to watch them die.
dropped from high altitudes into deep waters to be spit from geysers and ride on the zephyrs.
interested as he was in secret pentagrams and circles he was easily and discreetly disposed of.
secret doors were under his tongue where languages lurked like virgins upon sacred grounds.
wild boar are not to be tampered with for death lurks here in Arcadia and the babe has a fever.
waiting for you is leaf in the drying cement during your parents' divorce it changes everything.
we wallow in this material instead of creating places for heavenly wallowings. of sleaze i sing.
a fearless core. we just want to be core. we are more like zucchini blossoms. we become fruitious. 


Joseph Milford is an English Professor in Georgia and his first collection of poems, CRACKED ALTIMETER, was published by BlazeVox in 2010. He is also the editor of Rasputin: A Poetry Thread and the co-founder of BACKLASH PRESS. He has published 100's of poems in a myriad of journals and hosted The Joe Milford Poetry Show, a radio podcast, where he archived over 300 interviews, between 2006-and 2013, of Canadian and American poets.


My husband is in the front room, working and playing Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come, so I'll post a couple of selections from that CD.

First is "Focus on Sanity":

This is "Peace":

I have to play some Rasputina as well.

This is "The Olde HeadBoard" complete with cellos:

Here is "1816, The Year Without a Summer":

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Congratulations to 2015/6 Best of the Net Nominees!

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of nominating six poems and two prose pieces for the 2015/6 Best of the Net Anthology.  It was a real challenge to select them since I've received so many good poems and prose pieces this year.

Here they are!

Of the six poems, the first is the Scottish poet John McDonald's "Jazz Streets (for Miles)" published on August 13, 2015.  This has been a good year for John at The Song Is... as his  winter haiku won Thelma's Prize for Winter 2015/6 and "MONK (Thelonious that is...)" took first place in the contest of poems inspired by jazz musicians born in the 1900s and 1910s.

Next came Lynne S. Viti's "I Can't Get No" (published on August 19, 2015), a rich poem about the relationship between a young man and woman.  Unsurprisingly, this poem and John McDonald's "Jazz Streets" tied for first place in the Summer Music contest in 2015.

Mary Jo Balistreri's "Layered in Winter" (published on February 9, 2016) was the third poem nominated.    Her winter poem set at Washington Park in Milwaukee complements Lynne's summer poem nicely as both develop the themes of youth and music.  Last year Mary Jo also received a Best of Net nomination for her "Star Light, Star Bright."

Sergio A. Ortiz received a fifth Best of Net nomination for "Requiem for Mercedes Sosa" (published May 15, 2016).

Felino A. Soriano's "Of this Momentum Song (forty-two)", a poem written especially for The Song Is... and its contest honoring jazz musicians born in the 1920s, earned a Best of Net nomination:    This tribute to Miles Davis was published on May 28, 2016.  Felino also received a Best of Net nomination last year for "Underneath," a tribute to the contemporary pianist and composer Vijay Iyer.

Holly Holt's wonderful "betrayed by summer," inspired by Nina Simone's music, completes the list of nominees.  This poem appeared on June 9, 2016.  Holly has done so much for poets and poetry as co-editor of Walking is Still Honest and as a very active member of the Southern Collective Experience that it's great to see her win recognition for her own writing.

 I also nominated two prose pieces, both of them haibun.  The first is Angelee Deodhar's "Unchained," a response to the then-recent tragedy in Paris.    It was published on November 15, 2015.  The second is her collaboration with Illinois writer Raveesh Varma, "Capriccio."  This wonderful piece appeared on Christmas Day!  Given Angelee's devotion to the haibun (and to collaborative writing), it is especially appropriate that she received these nominations as well as her Pushcart nomination for "Grandparents Day."

I would also like to hand out some honorable mentions to the following writers: Donal Mahoney for "In the Mood"; Will Mayo for several pieces, especially "The Call of the Crow" and "The Hermit"; Claudine Nash for "Clean Up"; Malcolm Rodney for "Waleje in Love"; and DC-area poet John MacDonald for "Those Parties We Talk Shit About Monk." 

Now I'm ready for the music!  Let's start with something by Miles Davis.  I'm not sure which pieces I've posted here before, so I'm going to put up two pieces.  I've been writing a lot about the 1990s, so I am going to start with "Human Nature":  On the other hand, this "Milestones" is very early as Miles is playing with Charlie Parker among others:

I can imagine skating to Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are":

Let's switch things up with Mercedes Sosa's "Gracias a la Vida":

I have to include Nina Simone's "Blackbird":

I'll finish with two cuts from Prasanna's Electric Ganesha Land, one of my husband's favorite CDs.  The first is "Sri Jimi":  The second is "Bowling for Peace":

Best of luck to our nominees!  I am looking forward to the next year of poetry and prose.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Welcome to Gabriel Eziorobo

I am posting a little earlier since today's poet, Gabriel Eziorobo, is based in Nigeria and watching for this entry.  I hope that you will enjoy these poems.

My heart ceases to function
so my brain stops to think
so i wonder,wonder
where will i be?

The beauty of the earth is fading
so the birds sing,ah!ah!ah!
So i wonder, wonder
what does the song mean?

The drummers drum
so the dancers dance
to the rhythm of the drum
so i wonder, wonder
what is the rhythm of the drum?


I have gone
i have gone
beyond the earth surface
no man has reached,
the life has been so boring
for me to live,
the people are hypocrites   
they are not worthy

to be trusted,
they have done something to me
i will not forget,
why will i be born,
and suffer from it?
Why won't I be angry with life,
if i turn left
i see danger in it
and if i turn right
i see chameleon in it
this has been a threat to me,
why would I be happy with nature?
I am tired of the world    
i am tired of the people
they have done something to me
i will not forget,
i have no heart
to forgive them
for what they have done to me,
i have gone
i have gone
beyond the earth’s surface 
no man has reached.


Things have happened
things will happen
the world will scream
vanity has come
to stay with us,
those who are afraid
will pack and never return,
hopelessness will be their friend,
because nothing will come
so easy for you and me to live,
the life will be vanity
and if the life we live
is vanity,
let it continue,
for the world is impatient
to let things to be,
man can't see the beauty
without looking back,
liars are afraid to lie,
the birds that fly at night
are no-where to be found,
they are afraid to be caught
and if the life we live
is vanity,
let it continue
for the world
has been infected
with vain glory
all the days of its life
and if the life we live
is vanity,
let it continue
for the world
is full of blood
and if the life we live
is vanity,
let it continue.


Gabriel has also written some poems for the jazz contest.

Copyright 2014 -- Ed Schelb


It is almost day
''it  is  almost blue''
the sun
to rise,
and let the people rejoice
and let the birds sing,
it is almost day
''it is almost blue''
the   sun
to rise,
and let the little boy say,
it is almost noon,
it is almost night,
the vampire of shadow
to rise,
because the sun,
is an enemy,
to him,
and the night
is a redeemer,
to his flesh,
this is the night,
the busy night,
the vampire of shadow
rises to see the world.


Oh beautiful morning sun,
shinny and sunny
to everyone eyes
that wake up
to see it.

Oh beautiful train
the beauty that continues
from generation to generation,
i love your smile
the smile that keeps me,
smiling from generation to generation.

Oh beautiful ''blue train''
the train i want to
enter when i am travelling,
i love the train
the blue train
that takes me
to my destination.


What will i say to  jazz?
What can i do for  jazz?
Someone has to tell me,
because i have been waiting
for this day to come
to meet with the jazz
to make him happy,
and now is here,
what will i say to   jazz?
What can i do for   jazz?
The jazz of my life
the jazz of all music.

Gabriel Eziorobo is from Nigeria.  He is  twenty years and lives with his family:  five
children, two boys and three girls with his mum and dad.  He wants to study
international-relations at the university. He loves writing poems because
it allows him to put his imagination into writing,and he is looking
forward to seeing his poems among others.  

Let's add some music, starting with Chet Baker's "Almost Blue":

Here is a video of Baker when he was young:

John Coltrane plays "Blue Train":

Coltrane's "Africa" is from his Africa/Brass Sessions:

I'm adding his "India" with Eric Dolphy as well:

Now for something a little different.  This is Gary Bartz' "Music is My Sanctuary":

I'll finish with his "By Myself":