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?"

Fats

Fats

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

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6Simpleton

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7The Walking Bell

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18When Tommy Cooper Died on Stage

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19Answer Phone

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28This Moment

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