October 1, 2010

Jazz Poetry - "Copacetic Mingus"

Copacetic Mingus by Yusef Komunyakaa

“Mingus One, Two and Three.
Which is the image you want the world to see?”
- Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog

Heartstring. Blessed wood
& every moment the thing’s made of:
ball of fatback
licked by fingers of fire.
Hard love, it’s hard love.
Running big hands down
the upright’s wide hips,
rocking his moon-eyed mistress
with gold in her teeth.
Art & life bleed
into each other
as he works the bow.
But tonight we’re both a long ways
from the Mile High City,
1973. Here in New Orleans
years below sea level,
I listen to Pithecanthropus
Erectus: Up & down, under
& over, every which way -
thump, thump, dada - ah, yes.
Wood heavy with tenderness,
Mingus fingers the loom
gone on Segovia,
dogging the raw strings
unwaxed with rosin.
Hyperbolic bass line. Oh, no!
Hard love, it’s hard love.

From Neon Vernacular (Wesleyan, 1993)

Note: Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 and grew up in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War and, upon his return, began writing poetry while attending the University of Colorado. His published poems are known for their use of jazz rhythms combined with often startling imagery. Komunyakaa summed up his own view of making poetry this way: “Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It’s a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.” He currently teaches creative writing at New York University.

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