Friday, June 30, 2017

Welcome to Douglas Malan and a tribute to Geri Allen

Recently I held a contest for poems and prose about not driving.  Tonight I'd like to post Douglas Malan's poem about aggressive driving, a subject we know all too well these days.  This poem is set in November, but it is still very timely!

Hateful Waterbug Hurtling Beyond
In somber mist tickling a cool November morning,
I cruise serenely past charcoal trees bleeding out
the last ounces of autumn colors
and dip my brain into the spaces of a Coltrane album
to feel, and not plan.

Meditation comes in unexpected spurts
along the open road. 
Thoughts spray and disperse like droplets disturbed by
the smooth violence of high-speed radial engineering.
The morning is mine – quiet and malleable.

Until herky-jerky swerving
glossy black smear of an SUV
in my rearview mirror
derails the glorious disconnected groove and
puts me on alert—tense, defensive, vigilant.
Hands flying off the wheel, electrified and irritated,
damning glares shot from eyes hot with despise,
burning through the scowl,
the driver of the luxury nameplate presses incessantly
through a vehicular slalom.
No regard for break-neck ramifications.
No concern for the peril of impatience.

This person
probably refuses to park near commoners’ cars
at risk of too much ‘regular’ rubbing off
on European-designed superiority,
yet never hesitates to drive 70 miles per hour
five feet from my bumper;
whipping out to the passing lane,
slapping me in the face
with a well-positioned bumper sticker that advises:
“Human dignity is reverence for self and all others.”

-- Douglas Malan

Recently the pianist Geri Allen died, so I am going to post some of her music as a tribute to her.  

Her "I'm All Smiles" with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian is a bit ironic, but let's start here:

"Wanna Be Startin' Something"  is probably more appropriate:

I like the title "In The Year of the Dragon":

Let's finish with her "Feed the Fire" from 1994:

Felino A. Soriano also wrote a poem inspired by her music during the women in music contest:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Michael Lee Johnson Returns This Summer

In the summer, I am able to post more frequently, so tonight I'm publishing Michael Lee Johnson's poems.  You may know him from his poetry groups on Facebook where he mentors and nurtures an amazing array of authors.  Enjoy Michael's poems this evening!

Everything Red for the Queen
By  Michael Lee Johnson
(Ekphrastic Poetry, Photo Above)

Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Matador hat with barnacles,
witch white hair to the shoulders,
tickling the breast.
In her eyes are the blood shot
of many vampires;
in her heart the daggers
of many soldiers.
Five inky fingers
cross her throat
like an ill-fitted necklace.
Her dress is like heart charms,
scales of fish dripping
blood toward her toes.
Withy, twists around her throat.
Anglers of the court toss hooks
toward her cherry red lips,
capture the moment
of the haze of purple
surrounding her head.
Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Death changes colors from red to blue.

Here is a video of Michael reading this poem:

Mount Pleasant Cemetery (V2)
(Toronto, Ontario Canada)
By Michael Lee Johnson

Gravediggers uprooting caskets
with sharp, steel shovels-
each slicing step downward
through nerve-rooted earth
cooper pennies jingle in change
pouches dangling by their sides.

They chat casually of Jesus,
His painless resurrection
from the sealed tomb,
money-changers being chased
away from God’s holy temple.

To listen to Michael read this poem, go to this link:

The March of the Emperor Penguins
By Michael Lee Johnson

Emperor Penguins never set feet on land,
straight up their feet on ice, tuxedo's with short feathers
overlapped, waterproofed, inner down layers insulated with air.
Heads bobble fat fannies waddle, the march to the homeland begins.
70 miles the clan walks and slides away from the sea and back to the sea.
70 miles into the darkest, driest and coldest continent, Antarctica cradles up the South Pole.
High step, searching for partners for one year, away from predators, the mating party begins.
Mutual sex they turn check format a goal, breed their young, months of illness, hurt, struggles, isolation, separation face in the winter the great white ghost of death.
Starvation is a 2-way trip the male is the mother 120 days, mother goes for food-
at one point tough they all must go back to the ocean and sea.
Emperor Penguins they dance and huddle.
Back they go to the ice, to the flow, and sea 50/50, millions of years ago.

Here is Michael's video of this poem:

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 29 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.  Author's website  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN: 978-0-595-46091-5, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.  He also has over 118 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015:   Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL, nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015 & Best of the Net 2016.  Visit his Facebook Poetry Group and join   He is also the editor/publisher of anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze:  A second poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses, Editor Michael Lee Johnson, is available here:

I'd like to post some music with a Canadian collection.  I've posted Herbie Hancock's Joni Letters before, but here is Tina Turner singing "Edith and the Kingpin":

Joni Mitchell herself sings on these two videos:

Herbie Hancock also performed with Leonard Cohen on "The Jungle Line":


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Stories of Music, Vol. 2

Every so often I publish reviews and essays.  Tonight I would like to post Bill Cushing's essay on Stories of Music, Volume 2, a project that is very near and dear to his heart.

REVIEW: STORIES OF MUSIC, vol. 2 edited by Holly Tripp
Price: $29 (plus shipping)
ISBN: 978-0-9969327-4-5

If one is known by the company he keeps, I have been honored to hang out with some first-rate company once more in the second volume of Holly Tripp’s Stories of Music anthology. Unexpectedly but unavoidably delayed until after the new year, she sacrificed timing for quality and has once more produced a book that merits both attentive and leisurely exploration. Like last time, contributors are from all points of the compass.
Of course many are from the United States, but some of the other countries represented here include Bangladesh, China, England, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, and Russia. This time out, Tripp divides the book into thematic categories, including Origins, Exploration, and Transcendence. In this way, she is able to group contributors’ work thematically.
After snagging several national and state awards for volume 1, one had to wonder how Tripp could match that opening act. One notion that struck me while delving into the work is that this time the volume offers work within three media—reading, hearing, and watching. In “Heaven,” Bar Scott relates in an essay how she was inspired to write her poem of that name, a work that began as a musical exercise of improvisation and then evolved into lyrics that incorporate traditional images and phrases in new and original ways.
Still, she doesn’t stop there. By going online, we get to hear her perform the piece to her musical accompaniment while watching the talents of dancer and choreographer Lydia Rakov on a video segment that is beautifully produced and assembled by Jeremy Bronson.
Of course, while we all may love music in our own way, not all of us have musical expertise in its practice. Two standouts noting the insecurities of navigating the musical sphere are seen in Lucy Gabriel’s poem recalling her confusion while encountering sheet music and seeing little else but “Crushed Beetles and Spider’s Crawl;” meanwhile Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios’s “Piano at Five” revisits the personal terror of “peering into the dark interior” of a teacher’s enclave with her sheet music “clutched to my gingham flat-chested dress.” She concludes that it all “ends without endings” as she realizes the sounds she produces are “never quite keeping harmony.”
The photographs, again, are interesting to observe as well as beautiful to delve into, showing many parts of the globe while presenting the unifying power of music.
The section marked “Against All Odds” honors just that and contains two standout pieces. The first is an essay by Richard Bauman honoring Paul Wittgenstein, a promising pianist who lost his right arm to a World War I battlefield injury but went on to inspire a slew of new pieces accommodating that loss, culminating in Maurice Ravel’s now famous Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.
Another, more contemporary reckoning of that theme comes from Philip See’s autobiographical “Lost and Found.” A musician diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, he drew inspiration from his own father, a victim of cerebral palsy who overcame the contractures to play piano. Now See works with others, using neuroplasticity to elicit the curative powers of musical performance. He sums up his views in one of the greatest quotes on the power of music ever given, surmising how “music transcends physical limits—whether one plays instruments or listens to them, the brain responds.”
Perhaps if there is a volume 3 in the future, Holly will consider that statement as its cornerstone.

You might also be interested in Volume 1, which is also intriguing for lovers of words and music.  This volume truly takes one all over the world from Lithuania to Uruguay and beyond!

Bill also provided to a link to the video of "Heaven" featuring Bar Scott's words and Lydia Rakov's movement:

He also sent me a link to his reading of "Music Isn't About Standing Still and Being Safe," a prizewinning poem included in Vol. 1:

I'm going to add a link to both parts of Wittgenstein's performance of Maurice Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand:

Danilo Perez is not among the musicians celebrated in Words and Music...that I remember or know, but my husband and I went to see him perform at the Blue Note.  So I will finish with some selections from Perez's recent album Children of Light, selections we heard at the club.

The first is the title cut:

Next is "Overjoyed," a version of a song by Stevie Wonder:

This song is "Looking for the Light":

I'll finish with "Light Echo/Dolores":


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ali Znaidi Returns

Let's take a break from the 1940s and turn to today.  A while back the Tunisian poet Ali Znaidi sent me some poems, and I'd like to post them this evening.

Capitalist Beauty
I wonder why beauty is only edited by Capitalist media.
Are they the only beholders of this concept?
Why do they only see females as cheap skinny dolls?
Why do they vilify such words as ‘overweight’,
‘extra pounds’, & the like?
Why do women have to abide by fashion rules
& corporeal standardized forms to qualify as feminine?
Why do they have to be dolls in bric-a-brac shops?
Why do they have to be only glittering objects?—A handful
of tamed dolls displayed on the shelves of Capitalist supermarkets.
And those who differ?—I mean those without a pixelated body
of bones: Nothing awaits them but secluded lanes
and termite-infested attics.
They have no right to explore the highway.
They have no right to be on the road.
Even the margins vomit them out.
First published in #NastyWomenEverywhere 

Sappho or the Woman of Eternal Light
Ask her what is the word for ‘light’?
Ask her what is the token of light?
Ask her about her ruby lips?
Ask her about her pouts?
—Or those circular waves
against the corporate crows.
—Those fiery waves burning
any plumage enriched with signs of death.
Alone in her celestial light,
waiting for the moon,
Sappho was stitching something
sheltered by the wings of the dove…
—A luminous thing aimed at darkness
.…Sappho was stitching something on her lips,
a healing version of a tune
recycled into rhythms and  
continuous cadences
against the creepy macabre ghosts,
against the agents of darkness.

The above painting of Sappho is by the English painter John William Godward.  He ended up committing suicide in 1922, and his note is said to have the following statement:  "the world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso."

A Historiography of Fire
Because of what red means,
the language of fire is but
the cadence of rhythms
secreted on the coral of her lips.
The embers on her lips become
other than the expected plenitude
of presence; sparks encouraging
association with the invented
oral architecture.
Behind the arches
is a historiography of fire;
an invented tune clinging to the rose;
an evidence of presence
and an undiscovered form
of a generative grammar;
aesthetic patterns
fading into articulated
shades of red.

Ali Znaidi (b. 1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. His work has appeared in various magazines and journals worldwide. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems(Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014), and Mathemaku x5 (Spacecraft Press, 2015). He has also authored a book of fiction, Green Cemetery (Moment Publications, 2014), which is, in fact, the first Tunisian flash fiction collection originally written and published in the English language. Some of his poems have been translated into German, Greek, Turkish, and Italian.
Talking about his poems and his use of the English language, Annie Avery, editor of Heard Magazine said,
“Tunisian poet Ali Znaidi’s poems rise up like flowers from the challenges he has faced as a writer. Now in full bloom, his work has been published numerous times with a new chapbook forthcoming. His craft is skillful and inventive and I sense a philosopher peeking out from behind his words. He writes in English as if it was his mother tongue, but the mystical voice of his ancestral gift cannot be hidden.”
For more, visit

I had thought about finishing off with music by Danilo Perez, a pianist whom my husband and I saw recently, but I think that a selection of music by female jazz musicians might be better.

I don't know if I've posted much by Anat Cohen, but here is a lively piece that features her on clarinet:

I'll add "Murmurando," which she plays with Trio Brasiliero:

On "Blues for Warren," saxophonist Tia Fuller is directing the Berklee Rainbow Band:  Fuller plays as well.

 Here she performs "Descend to Barbados" with her trio:

I'll finish with Cindy Blackman Santana's "Pro Tem":


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bryn Fortey Enters the 1940's Contest

Recently the New Yorker published an appreciation of progressive rock, and this summer/fall one of the contests will honor musicians born in the 1940s, so tonight is a good evening to post Bryn Fortey's tribute to Bill Bruford.  Bruford was not only a drummer for Yes, King Crimson, and other bands but also a jazz musician, leading the band Earthworks and playing with Al Di Meola, Michiel Borstrap, Kazumi Watanabe, and others.

(Born: May 17, 1949)

For Bill Bruford
A drummer whose musical interests
Would fill a book
It began and ended with jazz

The BBC2 programme JAZZ625
Was his introduction
Playing brushes on LP covers
While he listened and watched
And the jazz group EARTHWORKS
Was his last major enterprise
Prior to his retirement from performing

In between came the pomp and excesses
In various line-ups and reunions
Also touring with GENESIS
And more side projects
Than you could throw a cocked hat at

An early interest in electronic drumming
Was put on hold while he waited
For the technology to catch up
With what he wanted from them  
But he had reverted to acoustic by the end

In retirement he has continued
To run his records labels
And studied music at university

Musically restless
Bill Bruford was always willing to go
Wherever his inventive nature took him

Bryn Fortey

Bryn also draws our attention to the Ganelan Trio, a group of Russian jazz musicians.


Born out of the unique circumstances
Of pre-Gorbachev Russia
Three classically trained musicians
Who combined in a part-free/part-composed music
Under the influence of such as
Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane

Pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin (born 1944)
Saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin and
Percussionist Vladimir Tarasov (both 1947)

Between them they composed and taught
Directed a conservatory orchestra
Played in a symphony orchestra
And blended all their Russian roots and training
With the jazz they heard on
Voice of America radio broadcasts
And expensively imported records

The Trio played European festivals
And toured both America and Britain
Making people aware of Russian interpretations
Of improvisational free-music.

Bryn Fortey 

By Source, Fair use,

At one point, Bill Bruford was with a group called Gong:

Here he is with Earthworks, playing "Triplicity":

This is his "Up North," also with Earthworks:

"Melanchoe" is with Kazumi Watanabe and Jeff Berlin:

Here is a live recording of the Ganelin Trio from 1976:

This live performance of "Priority" is from 2005:


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Catfish McDaris Starts off the 1940s Contest

By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

A while back Catfish McDaris sent me a Dylan poem that was previously published in the late Camel Saloon (do you remember that venue?).  I trust that you will enjoy it, and I hope that it will inspire you to write something for the 1940s contest--or one of the other contests this summer/fall.

Bob Dylan Is Dead Or Rage Into The Night Mr. Jones
by Catfish McDaris

I grew up in N.M. in
a small town noted
for musicians &
snooker hustlers

My best amigo was
a Dylan fanatic, he
studied his words, 
guitar, & harmonica

Forget The Beatles,
Jimi, or The Doors
it was Minnesota
Zimmie 24/7

Wanting to put moves 
on his beautiful
concrete blonde sister
after long pursuit we
consummated our infatuation

Their father came calling
& said I'd infested his
baby with fleas & ruined her

Deciding it might be time
to seek my fortune elsewhere
I took my hot sauce recipe
for Louisiana champagne east

Outside of Tucumcari I picked
up this dude that hummed 
Ballad of a Thin Man for 3
states, when I got to Highway 61

He stepped in front of
a west bound semi full
of pigs, there wasn't 
much left of him 

I'm not sure if he was
Jewish or if going that 
way was kosher, but at
least I hope he's knocking

on heaven's door.

Let's see if I can find some covers of Dylan.  

Let's start with "Ballad of a Thin Man" covered by Elliott Smith back in 1998:

In 1987, Dylan toured with the Dead, and then in 1988, the Dead covered some of his songs.  Here is their version of "Ballad of a Thin Man":

They also did "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again":

Here is their "Queen Jane Approximately":

 I'll finish with the Scottish band Anton and the Colts' version of "Highway 61":


For more information about the current contests, see the entry below: