Poem introduction

Several poets, in different ways, have attempted to combine jazz and poetry. As a jazz musician myself - I'm a clarinettist - I relish the conversation set up by improvisation, and what one music critic has described as the "sound of surprise". I feel that I know exactly what the pianist Earl Hines meant when he said that every time he played a familiar number he tried to find a new pattern of chord changes or a different route towards the resolution of the melody. 'When you see me smiling, you know I'm lost,' is what he once told an interviewer, and that for me just about says it all: the challenge, the risk, the stimulus of options. Or, to adapt a remark that E. M. Forster made about writing, "how do I know where I'm going, until I hear what I play?"



for John Lucas

Hammer those spatulate
ringed fingers, run

the vertiginous keyboard's
length, a thumbnail

gliss, then chase
the accident, the chancy

modulation, grin
at each gain revealed

by loss, throw back
that massive head, become

pure joy, the love-struck
face of it, a kid again

to pump your pedal car
along its track of sound

while all the others step aside
to send you round the block,

then home in triumph
to the here, the now,

the leap to your applause
in bulk made nimble by the light

of music, in the shimmy
of your outsize suit,

and mercy, mercy
where did you get those shoes?

from For the Moment (Peterloo Poets, 2000), copyright © John Mole 2000, used by permission of the author and the publisher


John Mole

John Mole Reading from his Poems

1The War

2Lottery Draft

3Coming Home




7The Walking Bell

8The Birthday

9The Wolf-Mask

10Alice and Alice

11Ghost Story

12The Pelican


14The Balancing Man

15Song of the Hat-Raising Doll

16Variation on an Old Rhyme

17Dream Girl

18When Tommy Cooper Died on Stage

19Answer Phone



22Across the Lawn

23The Loss

24The Cherry Tree

25La Jeunesse


27That Afternoon

28This Moment

29The Waterfall

30Inheriting the Album


32A Different Ending

33Not Too Late