“LESTER YOUNG” — a poem by Ted Joans

June 30th, 2014


By Ted Joans

Sometimes he was cool like an eternal
          blue flame burning in the old Kansas
          City nunnery
Sometimes he was happy ’til he’d think
          about his birth place and its blood
          stained clay hills and crow-filled trees
Most times he was blowin’ on the wonderful
          tenor sax of his, preachin’ in very cool
          tones, shouting only to remind you of
          a certain point in his blue messages
He was our president as well as the minister
          of soul stirring Jazz, he knew what he
          blew, and he did what a prez should do,
          wail, wail, wail. There were many of
          them to follow him and most of them were
          fair — but they never spoke so eloquently
          in so a far out funky air.
Our prez done died, he know’d this would come
          but death has only booked him, alongside
          Bird, Art Tatum, and other heavenly wailers.
Angels of Jazz — they don’t die — they live
they live — in hipsters like you and I


Ted Joans (1928-2003) was a poet, artist, and trumpet player. His artistic work was heavily influenced by jazz rhythms. A former roommate of Charlie Parker’s, Ted coined the phrase “Bird Lives!” upon Parker’s death.

Born on a riverboat in Cairo, Illinois, as a young man Ted moved to New York, where he became associated with the Bohemian scene in Greenwich Village. It was there that he rented himself out for parties, advertising this service as “Rent a Beatnik.”

He met, and maintained close friendships with, a number of Beat Generation figures, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Ted published many collections of poetry. The last two included Teducation: Selected Poems by Ted Joans, published by Coffeehouse Press in 1999. Ekstasis Editions published Our Thang,  a collaboration with Laura Corsiglia, which featured Laura’s drawings alongside Ted’s poems.

– Biography from tedjoans.com

Read our interview with Lester Young biographer Douglas Daniels

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In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.


In this edition of Reminiscing in Tempo,, Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Piazza, Gary Giddins, Randy Brecker, Michael Cuscuna, Terry Teachout and many others answer the question, “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940’s?”


Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, author of the new book "Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 - 1946"


Eight poets — John Stupp, Aurora Lewis, Michael L. Newell, Robert Nisbet, Alan Yount, Roger Singer, dan smith and Joan Donovan — write about the era of World War II

The Joys of Jazz

Award winning radio producer and host Bob Hecht shares his love of jazz through his podcasts on his site “The Joys of Jazz.” In this edition, he tells two stories; the history of the virtual anthem of World War II, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the friendship and musical rapport of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Short Fiction

Hannah Draper of Ottawa, Ontario is the winner of the 49th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award. Her story is titled "Will You Play For Me?"

Coming Soon

Three prominent scholars in a conversation about the lives of Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes (pictured)

Contributing writers

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