Guest Commentary by Joel Dias-Porter, Poet
Celebrating Black History Month
The Idea of Improvisation at Newport in ’61
Bangles on bronzed arms and daisies on dresses,
Lipstick that lingers and long sassy tresses,
Phone calls on Fridays and jingles that sing,
Lightning that hints at what evening might bring.
Raindrops like fingers drum
On the windshield of the car,
Roses lovely up an empty seat
And await your smile, white as
On an elderly chin. Curious as
Kittens, they anticipate your
Bright eyes, mint
Copper pennies, two
Kettles of complexity
And what could be
Warm as your hands? Not knitted
Woolen scarves, or those red
Mittens you lost last winter. Long
Brown legs, where are you?
Paper bag brown, twin slender
Packages of satin. Are you
Tied up on the phone or caught
Up in a meeting
With a client like
String knotted into fishnet?
These questions vex,
Are six white roses sufficient?
A light drizzle, a
Few wayward splashes
Of memory caress my hand,
My fingers think of your
Favorite spot to be touched, imagine
Things they’ll soon coax you to say.
Cranberry candles and cognac in crystal,
Flannel pajamas and tongue tips that tickle,
Sweet tea from tumblers in cool soothing swigs,
Feed me dark chocolate with raisins and figs.
This poem is based on the famous song from the musical ‘The Sound of Music’, if you read the first word of each line in the middle section going down, you can see that the poem is an improvisation based on the lyrics of the song. John Coltrane was the second artist to record the song and it was a big hit and changed the course of jazz history by, among other things, making the soprano sax an instrument that jazz musicians would take seriously. The italicized parts are an improv of the song’s chorus as well. Coltrane first played the song live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1961. The month of February contains both Valentine’s Day and celebrates Black History Month; this poem combines a little of both.
Love and Light for your Tuesday.
Joel Dias-Porter (aka DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a former professional DJ. From 1994- 1999 he competed in the National Poetry Slam, and was the 1998 and 99 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in; Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Red Brick Review, Asheville Review,Beltway Quarterly and the anthologies Gathering Ground, Love Poetry Out Loud, Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Short Fuse, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Spoken Word Revolution, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn. In 1995, He received the Furious Flower “Emerging Poet Award.” Performances include the Today Show, the documentary SlamNation, on BET, and in the feature film Slam. A Cave Canem fellow and the father of a young son, he has a CD of jazz and poetry entitled ‘LibationSong’. Joel’s poems can be further explored at http://www.renegadesblog.blogspot.com
Photo credit goes to Taylor Mali.