Poetry celebrating jazz and the holiday season

December 14th, 2018

 

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12 poets contribute 19 poems dedicated to the culture of jazz music, and to the holiday season…

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Collage by Steve Dalachinsky

 

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Where Were You?

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We climbed out from under

our desks. Kennedy barely​​ 
two years dead. At home​​ 

our bungalow was brand new​​ 

basement rec room entered the spirit​​ 
of the times​​ with television.

There I was alone with the TV​​ 

December 9, 1965 a school night

for the premiere of​​ Charlie Brown’s Christmas,

ten years old hearing my first jazz

in my pajamas not played by Lawrence Welk.

I was lifted up by tidings of great joy

&​​ Coca Cola. The cool jazz a happy

accident, a groove for the century

by Vince last name starts with a G

I never got it right until I got it on vinyl,

Guaraldi, and it’s spinning right now.​​ 

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  • Victor Enns

 

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Subtle Delights

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Breeze flowing through​​ eucalyptus, the murmur

of a stream over roots and rocks, the whisper

of night rain through an open window,

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rippling keys singing in response to deft touch

of Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson,

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all these bestow peace on those who listen.

 

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  • Michael L.​​ Newell

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Season’s Greetings​​ 

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It was the Roaring 20’s

the Jazz Age​​ 

Fate Marable

and Santa Claus were there

with the steel workers

the miners and brickies

from Lawrenceville

and East Liberty

and Braddock

to see the legendary Garfield man

Harry​​ Greb

pound for pound the greatest fighter

who ever lived

face Tommy Loughran

at Motor Square Garden

on Christmas day 1923

this was a gift

hung by a chimney with care

and Harry didn’t disappoint

he turned Mr. Loughran from Philadelphia

into Christmas​​ pudding

and chased him around the ring

our city can beat your city

the great brass section of the crowd roared​​ 

you could hear them up and down Baum Boulevard

as Loughran’s teeth

found the balcony

Pittsburgh is the toughest city in the world

the bookies crowed

all heroes now

while outside

the coke ovens and furnaces burned for miles in the dark

and the snow was busy punching

the Ohio River in the mouth

over and over​​ 

with no ref to stop the carnage

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  • John Stupp

 

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Listening to Angels

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The pain of​​ his

soul

welled up thick in his eyes

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piano keys drowned under his

fingers

while his feet lifted

then dropped

onto pedals

shiny and smooth.

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his face tilted to the throne of

heaven

as shoulders swayed

with the walk of

jazz

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speaking words angels​​ share

with him.

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  • Roger Singer

 

 

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At a Window

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Snow was falling, winding

sheets in Amman's dusk,

years spiraling past.

 

      Miles 'round midnight

      blew blue notes

      each cooler than the snow.

 

No cold, there was no cold like memory,

frozen on a windowsill, the liquid

of her voice embalmed.

 

      Notes cracked, ice

      ready for a thaw,

      the wind hinting at life's losses.

 

  Heaters rumbled bass notes,

  the shutters shivered in irregular rhythm,

  the horn held it all together, a winter psalm.

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(Amman, Jordan, December 1992)

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  • Michael L. Newell

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Reverie

 

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In the recesses of my mind’s pleasure

Unfolds a Christmas Eve –

            Slush on sidewalk, galoshes,

            Wet face, shopping complete.

Quiet​​ house, fireplace burning, 

………Deep old soft chair.

LP record on the Hi Fi

………Jazz Improvisors

………Christmas classics

 ………With strings.

Sounds sensual, relaxing,

Smooth as sipping this Bailey’s Irish Creme.

Thoughts of you

Soft, sweet, soon, tomorrow,

On​​ your one-day military furlough.

What more for a special holiday remembrance?

 

 

 

 

  • Lawrence J. Klumas

 

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One Christmas

 

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my mom's friend, elise

came over and she brought everyone  gifts

and no one thought about daddy

not being around​​ anymore

my brothers and i,  played and rode

our bicycles,  with her kids

and we forgot blacks and whites

weren't supposed to get along

and mama and elise cooked christmas dinner

the way only single moms  could

and visions of empty rooms and closets

where​​ daddy once was, dissappeared

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and the world will one day

live up to dr. king's dream

and left and right will only

become directions

and me and friends will celebrate

the holidays

like i did when i was a kid

naive and happy, and there will be

peace on​​ earth


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  • Erren Kelly

 

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John Lee Hooker

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cooks some "Blues for Christmas."

They mourn life's vicissitudes, yet

listeners tap feet, swing, sway,

slow rock shoulders, hips, and legs;

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as the guitar charts a course through life,

the drummer​​ lays out a beat that even

an old man can follow; the sax wails 

a tale of heartbreak to make listeners know 

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they are not alone, while the piano 

slips in comments that make a listener 

smile and nod his head.  Brother Hooker's voice 

is worn, torn, essential to discovery of joy.

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  • Michael L. Newell

 

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Blues for Kenny

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No one at Ford

worked harder and was appreciated less

than Kenny

but he didn’t care

he was high

most of the time

Merry Christmas

he used to say

that’s what kept him going

that​​ and listening to Coltrane

if it wasn’t for the union

he’d have been fired

that’s what everyone said

if that was the case

then UAW Local 1250​​ 

was a good thing

because I liked Kenny

behind the safety goggles

he was a man​​ 

with his priorities

in the right place

the 60’s was no time

to be sober or straight

Kenny picked up his habit

in the army

he was in military intelligence

for a while in Saigon

at the beginning

so he knew from the get go

how fucked everything was

it was like surviving a hurricane

if that​​ doesn’t deserve a joint

once in while

he told me

I don’t know what does

or at least a fishing trip

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  • John Stupp

 

 

 

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Christmas At the Dying Mall​​ 

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Three grey penguins lean at the entrance​​ 

Ten years old, faded, tired.

Is it a saving grace? Or​​ melancholia? Velvet, mellow, floating through the air, Nat King Cole is roasting chestnuts by an open fire

I stroll in front of a once-Macy’s to note a X-mas house complete with elves: cameras in hand, and St. Nick with stained beard in a moth-eaten suit.​​ Five children are waiting in line, three crying and two picking their noses. Their parents nearby are on-line ordering Christmas from Amazon

Ella skips along with Frosty the Snowman to add melody to the packing and taping of boxes. Kitchen wares are heading to wherever slow-cookers and grills go when kitchen stores are kitchened out.

Around a bend to where jewelers once jeweled. From empty store fronts, easy Dean takes it all in stride. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” he croons.

Cold air seeping forth from dark spaces. Bolts and chains across hollow store fronts. Tacky carpets. Echoes sprouting naught but yesterdays. Only irreplaceable jazz do we recognize.

Jingle the bells, Duke. Swing us back through the years to drumbeats. Bleating trumpets. Throbbing saxes. Pianos pulling all together. All signaling to each other. Unite us with Silver Bells, with mangers, sleds, pine cones, a white Christmas, and tinsel … and what are you doing New Year’s Eve?

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  • Susandale

 

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Rapture

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In Pittsburgh

Christmas is tough

coal miners

steelworkers

everyone knows it

buses aren’t warm

streets aren’t plowed

snow and ice comes​​ 

like crime and potholes

like death and taxes

then Spring​​ 

which is about the same​​ 

so

the flowers and trees​​ 

have retired to Florida​​ 

before anyone could stop them

to the land of beautiful men and beautiful women

I’m pretty sure

their skin is the color of bacon

because they want it to be

they run back and forth on the beach

like us

our computers grinding back and forth​​ 

like tugs on the​​ Ohio

that’s the difference then

that

and we’re listening to Earl Hines

and Stanley Turrentine in this heaven

 

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  • John Stupp

 

 

 

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The woman in the red hat

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I looked for her  as I walked

To the train

The woman with the red hat

Chesnut hair hiding​​ under it

Like a torch

She walked like she had a purpose

In life

She looked like she should

Be singing Christmas carols

Her face was Christmas:

Childlike and girly

Her smile a silent night

Holding blessings

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Maybe next time I see

Her

I’ll give her this​​ poem

I’ll tell her

You’re never too busy

To stop and watch the

Snowflakes  fall

 

Even something as simple as

A snowflake has a

Destiny

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“For Rae”

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  • Erren Kelly

 

 

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Unwrapped

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Angels flutter in the heads of

his fingers; voices in the​​ strings wrap

the air with the beat of him.

He is constant in jazz.

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The wine of his youth reddens the blood

of years spilled in clubs, shed onto crowds

and dusted over cities who love his name.

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He absorbs the eyes fixed into the soul of

his speaking. ​​ An ocean of faces wave with

a tide of approval.

 

He reaches into, pulling out a gift;

the greater part of him unwrapped.

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  • Roger Singer

 

 

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Trane Is My Favorite Thing

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I am a Cali-Girl, no woolen mittens

Never ate schnitzel with noodles​​ 

No snowflakes on my nose, or

felt them on my eyelashes

 

A tenor sax played by Trane, digging​​ 

the vibe of his Christmas fling

giving doorbells and sleigh bells​​ 

a groovy zing, Trane, my favorite thing

 

Greensleeves, What Child is This, Elvin Jones

on the​​ drums, Garrison on bass, McCoy Tyner’s

fingers on the keys, Christmas carols I could​​ 

not believe, making Trane, my favorite thing

 

​​ Joyful Jazz, a Yuletide razz-ma-tazz

Not when the dog bites

or the bee stings

Trane is my favorite thing  ​​​​ 

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  • Aurora Lewis

 

 

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Greensleeves Again

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One lives and dies
in a Christmas year
yet everything remains
unchanged


Greensleeves again
beauty calls to me


Nothing sticks to the slick
surface of the present
water coursing
arrives with every
departure


Greensleeves​​ again
beauty never old


Coltrane to Miles
couldn’t find a place to stop
so he burned like a star
Miles took down his horn
raised his shades


Greensleeves again
beauty ravishes


The Big Blue Marble
irrefutable proof
of what goes
comes around
again


Greensleeves again
beauty renews


Life is improvisation
that keeps its secret
as long as we dance
to its tune


Greensleeves again
beauty is home

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  • Mark Kerstetter

 

 

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3 wise men​​ 

(the joe morris trio at the cornelia street café – 12/1/18)

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1.​​ 

there is motor move-

mentlarge star in sky/field

it can be extra-terrestrial of struc-

ture……a roller of sorts come down

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ ​​  ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ to be arrival the way plates carry them-

selves in shifts ​​ a reason to be merry (elf)

a gift – shifting ​​ /​​ plausible pauses ​​ / probable

de ​​ ray l mence / sled ride

 ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ the structure  ​​​​ a comprehensible stress

 

the stress of comprehension ​​ / ​​ precipice unending

​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ hair stood on end ​​ / ​​ his whitened beard

a fraction of what is​​ mirrored ​​ / ​​ so willed yet

 ​​ ​​​​ ​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ free wise men off on a journey to usher in​​ 

the new born YEAR.

 

2.​​ 

it is snowing somewhere in snowville

the reindeer are getting cold​​ 

one has a nose as red as the cheeks of​​ 

an old drunk

they are preparing for their journey

to a warmer land where a small group of

survivors light candles to their god as they hold off​​ 

the enemy ​​ the lights will miraculously last 8 nights

as they​​ burn into the eyes of the oppressors

8 nights

just ​​ long enough for the reindeer-pulled sled to arrive

the sky clears ​​ / candles & one bright star show the way

the 3 wise men approach ​​ / remove their crowns  ​​​​ 

​​ they bear gifts in the form of glorious music  ​​ ​​​​ 

a music some call JAZZ

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the air is filled with candlelight &​​ 

resistance  ​​​​ the​​ 3 gravitate toward the​​ 

CENTER – suddenly there is an explosion​​ 

of sound  ​​​​ &​​ again the universe is reborn

 ​​ ​​ ​​​​ again the victims are victorious

​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ the virtuous & vicious alike are saved

 ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ the madmen ​​ scenesters & the healers healed

 

& the blues become a rejoicing​​ 

 ​​​​ …… ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ & the finite​​ becomes religion

 ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ & religion becomes music

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​  ​​​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ & MUSIC becomes our SALVATION.

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  • Steven Dalachinsky​​ 

 

(nyc 12/1 &​​ 2/ 2018)

 

 

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Chasing Moonlight

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The highway stretches away

under my winter tires

I’m chasing moonlight​​ 
to anywhere but here​​ 
it’s coming fast God Bless the Child

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I’m running to the light

130 kilometres an hour

not fast enough

to escape​​ the night.

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  • Victor Enns

 

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Christmas Shopping: The Busker

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The spitting rain of late December morning.

He settles to his pitch,

hacks and phlegms before scratching

an opening chord.

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They pass by, smug families,

a few impassive singles.

He​​ is singing McTell today,

The Streets of sixties London.

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Michelle comes past, damped down for now

by another night’s abuse,

but Streets of London brings a memory

(a quick and unexpected chime,

like a knock on the lid of a buried treasure).

The school assemblies where they sang that song,

Miss Jenkin’s special class assemblies,

those coigns of mutual worth.

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Passing an hour later, Richard is impressed.

He’s thirteen, has his first guitar at home,

admires this guy’s fingerwork,

has him up there with​​ footballers.

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And then the busker sings the boat songs,

Skye and Mingulay, Scottish of course, not Irish,

but Bridie (exiled after Londonderry

and the bomb attack) is caught by an echo

(maybe the catarrhal catch in the busker’s voice),

by memories of smoky ceilidhs,

the folk singers, the kitchen ranges,

the homestead, the heartland.

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  • Robert Nisbet    

 

(first published in Red River Review #58, February 2016)

 

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A Canadian Christmas


 

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The lake frozen over,
Kids playing shinny until it's too​​ dark to see the puck,
A snowbank piled up against the side of the house,
Raccoons sleeping on the woodpile,
Inside, Oscar Peterson on the stereo,
The kitchen busy and warm,
Family together at last,
Arguments started, won, lost, and forgotten,
Silly hats at​​ the table,
Peace and Jazz to all.
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 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ -Freddington

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John Stupp’s third poetry collection Pawleys Island was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. His manuscript Summer Job won the 2017 Cathy Smith Bowers Poetry Prize and will be published in 2018 by Main Street Rag. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1975-1985 he worked professionally as a mediocre jazz guitarist.

 

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Freddington works as a shipper/receiver in Toronto, Canada, and has been a lifelong jazz fan ever since he was “corrupted” as a teenager by Charles Mingus’ “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.”

 

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Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture.org has been on the internet. Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure is on the internet now. 

 

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Roger Singer is a prolific and accomplished contributing poet who we have proudly published for many years.  Singer has had almost 800 poems published in magazines, periodicals and online journals — 400 of which are jazz poems — and has recently self-published a Kindle edition of his book of jazz poetry called Poetic Jazz.

“Jazz poetry flows out with such ease,” Singer writes on his blog. “The people and places, the alleys and sawdust jazz clubs. The stories that bring jazz alive with horns and voices, from sadness and grief to highs at midnight and love gone wrong. The jazz is within us all. Find your poem and feel the music.”

 

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Robert Nisbet is a poet from Wales who taught creative writing for many years in Trinity College, Carmarthen, where he also acted as professor to exchange students from the Central College of Iowa. He has over 300 poems published in Britain and the USA, including San Pedro River Review, Common Ground Review and Constellations.

 

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Michael L. Newell is a retired English/Theatre teacher who has spent one-third of his life abroad.  He now lives on the Oregon coast.  In addition to the recent publication of his new book, Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge, he has recently had poems published in Verse-Virtual and Current.

 

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Lawrence J. Klumas has written poetry since 1958, and continued writing for his engineering profession — but, most recently re-immersed himself into poetry and writing with a passion.  He has been published in Que sais-je, on-line at Jerry Jazz Musician, Diocesan Messenger. He contributes a poem weekly to the Fallbrook, CA Episcopal Church newsletter. He has a chapbook submitted for San Diego Book Awards.

He is a retired USAF officer, an engineer, a Viet Nam veteran, and a past Assoc VP Occidental College (Facilities).  He has a BS In Business Administration (with a minor in Literature) from Eastern Nazarene College, and both a BS and MS in Industrial Engineering from Arizona State University.

 

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Erren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart nominated poet from Boston whose work has appeared in 300 publications (print and online), including Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine, Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, and Poetry Salzburg.

 

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Victor Enns reads and writes poetry and fiction. Afghanistan Confessions, poems in the voice of Canadian soldiers, was published in 2014, boy in 2012. Lucky Man (2005) was nominated for the McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year award. His poems have appeared in Canadian publications and including Rattle (print) and Shot Glass Journal (online) in the U.S. 

 

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Mark Kerstetter makes his home in St. Petersburg, Florida where he is restoring an old house out of wood salvaged from demolition sites. A two-time award winner for drawing and painting at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, his current focus is on creative writing. A winner of the Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award and a Pushcart nominee for poetry, Mark is the former poetry editor of the online arts magazine Escape Into Life and the author of The Mockingbird Sings blog. His chapbook of poems, “One Step: prayers and curses” was published in 2017 by Atomic Theory Micro Press.

 

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Aurora M. Lewis is a retiree.  In her 50’s she received a Certificate in Creative Writing-General Studies, with honors from UCLA.  Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by The Literary Hatchet, Gemini Magazine, Persimmon Tree, Jerry Jazz Musician, and The Blue Nib, to name only a few.   

 

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Steven Dalachinsky is a New York downtown poet. He is active in the poetry, music, art, and free jazz scene. Dalachinsky’s main influences are the Beats, William Blake, The Odyssey, obsession, socio-political angst, human disappointment, music (especially Jazz), and visual art with leanings toward abstraction. Dalachinsky’s books include “A Superintendent’s Eyes” (Hozomeen Press 2000), his PEN Award Winning book The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes From A Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006 (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006), a compendium of poetry written while watching saxophonist Charles Gayle perform throughout New York City in that time period, and “Logos and Language”, co-authored with pianist Matthew Shipp (RogueArt 2008) and Reaching Into The Unknown, a collaboration with French photographer Jacques Bisceglia (RogueArt 2009).

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3 comments on “Poetry celebrating jazz and the holiday season”

  1. I’m enjoying all of this very much and so far I’ve particularly liked the compact poems by Roger Singer and Michael Newell, the deceptive casualness of John Stupp’s pieces and Aurora Lewis’s amusingly touching Trane poem.

  2. This bouquet of poems creates a vibrant poetic world enriching the holiday season in unexpected ways. It is a pleasure to find my work in the company of so many accomplished writers. Cheers to one and all.

  3. So many evocative poems. Thanks for the Christmas presents. I especially liked Mr. Enns
    poem for referencing Vince Guaraldi. His Cast Your Fate to the Wind is one of my all time faves. Also Mr. Stupp’s poem referencing Harry Greb. My father actually saw Greb fight. He told me after the fight he saw Mr. Greb with a young lady on each arm.
    Best wishes to one and all for a merry and a happy holiday season

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