Two poems for Ella Fitzgerald

January 29th, 2020

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photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Ella Fitzgerald, November, 1946

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An Anecdote That Is Likely True

A man I knew, probably a brother of mine,
once played trumpet in a marine band that had a gig
on the old Glen Campbell show.  The band
finished its dress rehearsal, packed up instruments,
and headed for the exit and for dinner prior

to the upcoming show.  The trumpeter noticed,
as he was packing up, a quiet black woman
sitting in a corner, withdrawn deep into herself.
As the trumpeter reached the exit, he heard
a singer, a woman, unleash a voice of feral beauty,

elegantly controlled, filled with blues and jazz, wild
and funky, slipping and sliding up and down notes,
caressing and blessing the music she was sharing with
an indifferent world on its way to dinner.  The hairs
on the back of the trumpeter’s neck stood straight up.

The man noticed that the entire crew had ceased
its work and were staring at the singer.  The man
looked round, and hot, damn, the quiet woman
who was lighting up the studio was Ella Fitzgerald,
who even in a warmup for an upcoming show,

and without any audience other than departing
marine musicians and a television tech crew,
was lighting a musical fire of extraordinary dimension.
When I heard this story the first time, I realized
great singers are not capable of bestowing song casually,

not even on a world that is engrossed in the quotidian
affairs of everyday life.  A true singer always unleashes all
the heart has to offer, and so she did.  The trumpeter stood
with his mouth open until the song finished, and found
himself wanting more, more, please, please, more.

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by Michael L. Newell

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The Four Seasons Of Ella

even in winter,  she is a fire blazing, her eyes are
like the the clearest lake or the best dream or
like an opal, where night finds its song
a snowbird flies away, as snow gives way to
roses, she is alive,  like spring, like cummings
her soul takes flight to whimsy, she is a poem
not in motion, but standing still; she is jazz, even silent
a melody lingers, she is a summer breeze, she is like a tree
she demands your attention and your fidelity, like a muse
she comes, but is never called, she is fragile as a leaf
and her love lingers, long after the fall

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by Erren Kelly

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Michael L. Newell is a retired teacher who now lives in Florida

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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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Ella, c. 1965

 

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8 comments on “Two poems for Ella Fitzgerald”

  1. Erren Kelly’s poem is a lovely tribute to the greatness of Ella Fitzgerald’s artistry, and its language is a burst of the purest lyricism. Fine, fine work!

  2. Michael, you’ve artfully picked the details to take us there to hear her. Another good poem! More, more, please more.

  3. Erren, you’ve skillfully taken us through the seasons with her. (I had to read it over again, to see how you made it flow.) Beautiful!

  4. Erren and Michael, these are very nice poems with great lines. I love “like spring, like cummings” – awesome! And “blessing the music…with an indifferent world…” – beautiful! These are fine offerings to a goddess.

  5. Michael. Another fine poem. Liked the “slipping and sliding up and down notes, caressing
    and blessing the music she was sharing.” Go Ella!

  6. Erren! Enjoyed the poem a lot. I too liked “like spring, like cummings.” It reminded me of the
    freshness of Ella, and how cummings could also bring that out in his poetry.

  7. Two such lyrical tributes to a wonderful performer, Erren’s sweet
    and full (and some stunning images -,the snowbird, the muse) and Michael’s starting from its slow, everyday narrative base to open out into such richness. Thank you both, very much.

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