DRUM on your drums, batter on your banjoes, sob on the long cool winding saxophones. Go to it, O jazzmen.

Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go hushahusha-hush with the slippery sand-paper.

— Carl Sandburg from Jazz Fantasia

Poetry slams are the grandchildren of jazz poetry. There is a long tradition of poetry with jazz, about jazz, by jazz musicians and honoring jazz musicians going back to the 1920’s. The idea of using rhythms inspired by music evolved along with jazz. You can hear it in the recordings of Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong among others. Today’s new generation’s fascination with the spoken word combined with music owes much to the jazz age. Here are a few poems from that time. Put aside your assumptions and just feel the words.

— Georgianna Krieger

Song for Billie Holiday

What can purge my heart
Of the song
And the sadness?
What can purge my heart
But the song
Of the sadness?
What can purge my heart
Of the sadness
Of the song?

Do not speak of sorrow
With dust in her hair,
Or bits of dust in eyes
A chance wind blows there.
The sorrow that I speak of
Is dusted with despair.

Voice of muted trumpet,
Cold brass in warm air.
Bitter television blurred
By sound that shimmers–
Where?

— Langston Hughes

Jazz Chick

Music from her breast, vibrating
Soundseared into burnished velvet.
Silent hips deceiving fools.
Rivulets of trickling ecstacy
From the alabaster pools of Jazz
Where music cools hot souls.
Eyes more articulately silent
Than Medusa’s thousand tongues.
A bridge of eyes, consenting smiles
reveal her presence singing
Of cool remembrance, happy balls
Wrapped in swinging
Jazz
Her music…
Jazz.

— Bob Kaufman

He dug what she said:
bright jellies, smooth marmalade
spread on warm brown bread.

“Jazz” from drowsy lips
orchids lift to honeybees
floating on long sips.

“Jazz”: quick fingerpops
pancake on a griddle-top
of memories. Stop.

“Jazz”: mysterious
as nutmeg, missing fingers,
gold, Less serious.

“Jazz”: cool bannister.
Don’t need no stair. Ways to climb
when the sax is there.

— James A. Emanuel

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