“The Birth of Jazz” — a poem by Russell MacClaren

November 1st, 2013




Syncopated sounds
mingle in bayous,
roll with Mississippi currents,
splash in Lake Pontchartrain.
The haunting melody
sleeps in pine forests,
nestles in the cypress,
sways with willows,
stands with oaks.
Alternating tempos
swim on ‘gator tails,
wade delta inlets
on great blue heron legs,
slither with snakes,
splash among mullet.
Rhythm-free as a tarpon-
soars with eagles,
wails on the hurricane.

Centuries of Spanish and French
searched in vain
to capture the elusive music.
Biding its own time,
the song
would pound through lowlands
on throbbing native drums,
echo around cotton fields
from soulful Negro lungs,
hide in marsh channels
to sail with cutthroat pirates,
dance in one room houseboats
on lively Cajun fiddles.

Conjured in voodoo hearts,
forged in wrought iron,
caught by steel-eyed fishermen,
brought to Storyville brothels,
French Quarter bars
and Dixieland dance halls,
a new sound is born.
The land and its people
cry the blues,
create the miracle
of Jazz!


Read more poetry by Russell MacClaren

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13 comments on ““The Birth of Jazz” — a poem by Russell MacClaren”

  1. There’s more to this work than being ‘just a poem’. It is atmospheric, bringing to life the sounds and scents that created Jazz. Also brought vividly to life are the forests, the deltas, people and wildlife. One’s imagination can really ‘live’ this!

  2. Wait…did I just read this? Because my memory just recorded it as super cool,realistically animated music video.

  3. Beautiful poem. The author is an artist painting with words. I really enjoyed the snapshot of our rich heritage with Jazz. Well done!

  4. I hear spontaneous, tuneful phrasing in “The Birth of Jazz”. Congratulations on a “Movin’ and Shakin'” poem, Ray! – K. L. Burns

  5. Russell,

    I truly enjoyed your poem. Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

    You left no stone unturned–
    you took us through each step
    taken by All of Life in Louisiana
    to describe this sacred journey–
    Jazz finding her way to
    what would be her Home.



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