jackie langetieg | jazz

2 06 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 322 | June 2, 2010


Jazz *

I don’t want to go to Chet Baker’s house

Let him come to me, lean his back against
the scene of ancient Chinese mountains in my living room
Let me serve him Metaxa brandy in a water glass

Don’t let the smoke leave the room—nothing should fly out
on the wings of notes coming from his horn, his voice, his hands
words left hanging on black clefs of minor chords

I’m loose on the sofa, robe slightly open hoping he’ll notice
baby grand ready for the touch of his fingers
like the counting of my ribs, each finger placed surely
on the steps of my spine

I feel his concentration on the music
I’m just a body temporarily in his way for tonight
The old serrated trees on the panel behind me sway
and fantasy fills my head. The music trails off and he joins me

We speak little, lie to each other, talk of insignificances
Soon dawn is opening the curtains of night and he drives off leaving
me lost in the smoky night music still at play in the room.

Editor’s Note: * First publication of this poem

About the Author: Jackie Langetieg, Verona, Wisconsin, is the author of three books of poetry and has been published in journals and anthologies, most recently in “Love Over 60: an anthology of women’s poems,” edited by R. Chapman and J. McCormick and published by Mayapple Press.

ron offen | mike kohler | bill jacobs | miller hanks | poetryjazz quartet

12 03 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 216 | March 11, 2008

POETRYJazz Quartet

Ron Offen (on horn) | Mike Kohler (Blues vocalist) | Bill Jacobs (on vibes) | Miller Hanks (on drums)



From scratchy 78s with Bird
announcing sloppy chops
could say as much as tight-ass
technicalities of Clifford Brown;

to long-played Kind of Blue
maintaining silences between the notes
could fill the ear as full
as the cascades of Dizzy’s slippery bop;

or ‘Valentine (my favorite work of heart)
flashing more new smiles
as you got lost to find
another shade of colors;

then Bitches Brew’s new voodoo
leaving everything behind
bedeviling the past with tracks
of new and new and new for miles;

until your only groove was out beyond,
the fuse on which you sparked
a wired electric vision — popping,
rocking with a new age horn;

now leaving us again at sixty-four
I hear the rasp of your bemused,
accusing voice put down, well shit!
it just ain’t hip to live too long.

*First appeared in The Mockingbird



Blues TimXes 2, to Ya by Mike Kohler

Never pass up a chance to listen to the blues.
Maybe it is not to your taste,
or there is no time, or the years
have numbed you to the point
all the songs in life are just background noise.
In the darkest hour of your night,
blues dances up the stairs, waits for you
to open the door.
It has a pint of whiskey, a pack of smokes,
and till sunrise to hear everything you have to say.
Even when you are up and life is good
and you can sleep at night
listen to a blues song.
Go quiet as an empty hallway
waiting for footsteps and a knock,
and know the blues will always be there.

I know it would be cool to admit
to smoking tea, swaying to Coltrane and
Mingus, spacing out,
drinking cheap white wine,
pretending its cool to rebel.
Like that time with Kerouac,
all those other beat catch phrases.
Not my bag.
Put some Cream in my tea,
a Spoonful, no more,
Momma needs a new dress,
I need new shoes,
and when I wake up I know
the Thrill Is Gone.
Jazz is after Midnight,
smoky and tired. Blues is
the walk home, eying shadows,
holding the pistol in your pocket.

[Thanks for the poems, Norb. Gimma a poem, gotta have a poem, i needa poem, oh wait, here’s one. Ya need a poem?]



Jazz Chicago / Bill Jacobs

Plugged Nickel

Hunched down, hunkered down
closed in on the horn, the valves like jewels, the fingers like spiders.
The tight smoky eyelids looking in their own direction
oblivious to whoever is listening.

Who cares. So what.

How can disdain sound so good?

Ode to Joe

The low ceiling all black with spots
highlighting the smoke falling down on the stirring crowd
waiting patiently for the music.

And out comes Joe as if announcing a prizefight speaking of
champions soon to set foot in his ring that he calls the Showcase.

The stunning drum set stands silently behind waiting impatiently
to explode.

Sardine Bar

Not five feet away a line of golden tubes fence off Lionel as he wails with
mallets surrounding us in waves of sounds
in the confines of the smallest club in town.

Sleek, sexy, chromium accents set off the pale gray walls
containing the brilliant colors pouring forth from the
tenorman’s horn as he takes the tune to the next level.



by Miller Hanks


August 17, 1999—the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’, KIND OF BLUE.
Bill Evans & Wynton Kelly on piano; Cannon Ball Adderly. on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Paul Chambers, bass & James Cobb on drums…

Evans wrote the liner notes on the old vinyl album comparing Miles’ artistry to that of Japanese sumi painters who practice a lifetime the discipline of getting it down right in a single stroke.

Before the recording session forty years ago, Miles made a few sketches concerning what he wanted them to play.
And each man went his own way
Without exception, said Evans, every piece in the album was recorded in one take.

“So What” “Freddie Freeloader” “Blue in Green “ “Flamenco Sketches” “All Blues”

Nobody knows where the time went.
It was all over.
It’s still here.

KIND OF BLUE is the best selling jazz album in the world and still sells 5,000 copies a week. No one can quite explain its popularity.

Except it is something close to perfect…
the beautiful imperfection of jazz.

Be in the dark,
Hear the blue prayer

Broken Wing

Chet tells it in
his auto bio graphy:
(The Lost Memoir)

Tells it as he lived it
once, early on, playing trumpet
in the 6th Army Band…
It’s all about flying
Finding the music
With both feet on the ground.

Tells about that time in the army band,
his second hitch, when the foot soldier musician
had played just about enough grounded omp pa pa
and sought a discharge
like some of his other mad-hatter friends in the band
who had feigned a way to freedom..

“Right about that time two
flute players had managed to get out,” says Chet. “One guy
put himself in a trance & was carried out,
no stretcher,
stiff as a board by two army corpsmen
who jabbed a pin into the bottom of his foot
to no avail.”

The other guy told the band leader:
“There’s a little man inside my flute.
and he’s playing all the wrong notes.”

Both flute players went free, discharged.
While Chet admitted smoking grass,
chimed to shrinks about lack of privacy on the toilet ,
took tests where he always chose
the most feminine answer,
till he couldn’t claim less than life anymore and
went AWOL—a third of the band following suit.
only to turn himself in in time, come clean,
spend three weeks in the stockade and be given a
general discharge,
deemed “unadaptable to Army life”

And so returned and sentenced himself to a life of jazz instead

joining Stan Getz’s band for awhile…
then finally footloose and free…
freeing himself in his own sound:

Chet Baker & Strings, l954
Chet Baker Sings, l954
Alone Together, l955
Reunion, l957
It Could Happen to You, 1958
Chet Is Back l962
Cool Burnin’; l965
Into My Life, l966
Blood, Chet and Tears, l970
You Can’t Go Home Again, l977
Broken Wing, l979

Forever hooked and flying higher (“as though he had wings”)
till Amsterdam,1988,
flying through a second story hotel window
3 in the morning…
fallen notes
broken wing

unto the earth’s return
without a sound…
save what he left up there
in the night sky
down here for us


john harvey | chet baker

7 03 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 213 | March 7, 2008

MORE of Everything….including another poem by John Harvey—this one on jazz great, Chet Baker

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…that readers/writers please visit the archives of Poetry Dispatch (www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com to revisit recent postings and dwell in all the wonder of illustrations/art (and additional info) Monsieur K. has added to the following:


Chet Baker by John Harvey

looks out from his hotel room
across the Amstel to the girl
cycling by the canal who lifts
her hand and waves and when
she smiles he is back in times
when every Hollywood producer
wanted to turn his life
into the bitter-sweet story
where he falls badly, but only
in love with Pier Angeli,
Carol Lynley, Natalie Wood;
that day he strolled into the studio,
fall of fifty-two, and played
those perfect lines across
the chords of My Funny Valentine –
and now when he looks up from
his window and her passing smile
into the blue of a perfect sky
he knows this is one of those
rare days when he can truly fly.



cov_bluer.jpegfrom BLUER THAN THIS Smith/Doorstop Books, England, 1998


Born Storytellers & Sensuous Language
Jane Holland

John Harvey, in his latest collection, Bluer Than This, (also) relies on narrative for many of his poems, but stylistically he is on another planet. The tone is sensuous and assured, but somehow always vulnerable, jerking you back from the story to the person behind it, in a way that ultimately reminds you of a world outside the poem without robbing the poem of its integrity: ‘His shirt so white that to turn and look / at it would be to be blinded by the moon’ (‘Couples’). I have an on-going line-break argument with Harvey—here, I would have preferred ‘at it’ on the previous line—but again, this is a question of risk-taking and how bold choices force an examination of language and its patterns onto the reader, which can only be good. It’s not simply about variety for its own sake. It’s about finding the right ‘sound’ for the poem, rather than being fatally pedestrian and so failing to see how a poem can take off if given enough space to do so. Harvey is unafraid of making radically different choices from line to line:

Though dead,
my father is still dying,
oh, slowly, sure and slow as the long fall of rain

Harvey plays with form in a delightful way, never satisfied with the way he’s successfully ‘made’ a poem before, but always looking for new ways of ‘making’ them. I’m using the word ‘make’ deliberately, of course. Too much emphasis is currently put on the poet as ‘writer’ rather than ‘maker’. Harvey takes his work more seriously and does not simply let the words flow in the name of inspiration. The result is a collection which positively drips with unexpected shapes; the shape a poem makes on the page forming part of the whole experience of reading it. Harvey moves quite comfortably from prose poetry to free verse to the suggestion of a subtle rhyme scheme without once appearing to strain after form. A mildly laconic American influence suits Harvey perfectly. There are none of the wild gestures of youth in a line like this from ‘Blue Settee’, with its leanings towards the metaphysical: ‘This kiss starts high at the nape of the neck / and makes a new map of the world’. With Bluer Than This, John Harvey has contributed something admirable, and soothingly readable, to the chaotic and ever-shifting map of the poetry world.



The editor at Slow Dancer is John Harvey, who is himself a fine poet. His second collection, Bluer Than This, (Smith/Doorstep Books), contains pieces about jazz, (Chet Baker, Lester Young), painting (Edward Hopper, Howard Hodgkin), and love; there is a tenderness here that many British poets do not risk, a keen eye for the details of family life, for the signs and gestures we live by, and for the moments of insight and realisation we keep to ourselves:

and when your eyes widen and, uncertain
whether or not to kiss me,
you hold out, instead, your hand,
I will slip into it those remedies I have long carried:
the knowledge that, nurtured, passion flowers
in the darkest place

(‘The U.S. Botanical Gardens, Washington D.C.’)


What is perhaps most striking in Bluer Than This is Harvey’s extraordinary empathy. His insights into the minds and hearts of others, whether they be family and friends, or figures from the world of painting or music, are consistently sharp and clear, yet this poet is always aware of the limits, and the possible limits, of our knowledge: as much as he wants to understand and penetrate the mystery of the other, he never forgets that it is this very mystery that makes all communication miraculous. Bluer Than This is published by Smith/Doorstop Books.

ANDY BROWN reviews BLUER THAN THIS ,Orbis, Winter 1998


In an excellent collection of poems strongly influenced by contemporary jazz and painting, John Harvey presents his tenderly understated poems exploring intimate and family relationships. The jazz is covered by poems on Thelonious Monk— ending with the poignant “C minor, F 7th, B flat / nothing can be bluer than this.”— Charlie Parker and others, with a short poem about Chet Baker who “…knows this is one of those / rare days when he can truly fly.” The painting poems deal with Bonnard, Vuillard, Edward Hopper, Corot and Howard Hodgkin. In an astute comment lan McMillan has noted that Harvey’s work has a ‘genuinely transatlantic feel.’ McMillan is right: the jazz, the art, the thrilling conversational tenderness of poems like “Seven Year Ache” on Frank O’Hara:

…O’Hara at fifty,
knocked over by an errant jeep on the beach; his mother
frail from hospital and drying out,
tumbling yellow roses into his grave. Such waste!
Each day that’s lived is lived in hope and in regret.
We die each day and not from love but lack of it…

Such great moments resurface throughout this book and its stories of love known and love lost build up to make this a deeply moving collection. Whether Harvey gets us there in a poem about young Americans wrecked on drink, then dead in a car wreck; or “the duality of grief and joy, relief / and guilt ·” of the couples in the poems about Hopper paintings, Harvey does it inimitably. As he notes in “North Coast”: “What is never shared, cannot be lost.” The fact that Harvey seems to have shared so much in his life and poems only intensifies the impact of the losses. That he achieves this in a poetry that is neither wistful nor sentimental, rather tender and epiphanic, singles him out as a uniquely readable poet of great integrity.

JIM BURNS reviews BLUER THAN THIS ,Ambit No 156, Spring 1999


There’s an engaging rolling feeling to the best of John Harvey’s poems, as if each one had started with an idea, memory, or observation, and then gathered momentum and expanded as it moved down the page:

Now the rain is falling
and the petals that have already fallen
pink and white, float up around us as we walk,
your smile suggesting how close you are to forgetting
the lover who so recently left you,
and so we continue, ducking into a corner pub
and there, facing you, I catch myself drawn to you
and I can tell we are both wondering
about this dwindling distance between us,
how perilously a kiss would close that space.

The autobiographical content is typical, as is the directness, and the everyday language. The poems sound like someone talking, which is to their credit, and the voice that comes through is consistent. A somewhat melancholy tone is often apparent as relationships come to an end, the poet looks back on lost loves, and sadness nudges at the narrative. Harvey’s interest in jazz reflects this tendency, with poems about musicians like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Chet Baker, who all declined as the years passed and died in sad circumstances. In one poem, “Blue Monk”, he neatly blends a jazz performance with memories of an old flame in a way that highlights the last line — “nothing can be bluer than this”.

Harvey does write about other things besides jazz and love affairs, and there are good reflections on childhood, family life, visits to America, and art. Corot, Edward Hopper, Vuillard, and Howard Hodgkin, all get a look in. And what comes through at all times is the sheer readability of the poems. I freely admit to sharing Harvey’s liking for jazz, films, and American poetry, but it isn’t just this that makes me admire his work. The poems just pull you in and carry you along with their relaxed but effective approach. They are like good stories:

Once, we stayed here, out of season,
arcades and the Magpie Café closed,
clouds massed like bulkheads in the northern sky
and around the municipal bandstand
only the melismatic cry of gulls.
Close by our feet, winter lay coiled like rope.
At night hope hung across the water like a child.
What is never shared cannot be lost.

It’s like the opening of a good film and it makes me want to know what comes next.

Paul Donnelly reviews BLUER THAN THIS , Tears in The Fence, Summer 1999


Intimacy is one word I often associate with the poetry of John Harvey. The reader is invited to witness love with its attendant failures and successes, family and friends, both dead and living and the commonplace details that make a life. I’m not sure where fact and fiction blur at times. I’m not sure it matters either.
Look at ‘Slow’ with its twin dedication to Lee Harwood and Paul Evans.The poem gently connects the strands of their lives with Harvey’s and the presence of another, unnamed, character, a lost lover maybe.These meetings and memories, reconstructions of the past, merge with a present and compare scales of loss. Small, intimate glimpses that also show life continuing, as it must. This is also evident in ‘By The Numbers,’ a kind of diary of a day’s events with digressions and remembrances:

Art Pepper’s keening saxophone —
Leicester it was I saw him, eighty one or two…

He brings together music, food, writers he loves, family and friends:

How many friends
are living, how many have died.

Ray Carver rubs shoulders with Jimmy Stewart and the ‘girls I was in love with’. It’s a poem which celebrates in the face of mortality and vows to keep going because there are things to do. It isn’t just the past and present that matters but tomorrow and

all the days that come after —
infinite and uncountable.

I like the way the poem discloses a life and its links with so many others, the details that mesh so seamlessly and the openness — a word often used about Lee Harwood — that pulls you in. Of course, you can’t read John Harvey without coming across some of his preoccupations with music and painting. He celebrates Roland Kirk, Chet Baker and Charlie Parker, not for the first time. These, or versions of the poems, have featured in previous collections and on the cassette with jazz quartet Second Nature, Ghosts Of A Chance. Here he is also revisiting Lester Young in ‘Sometimes I’m Happy,’ a sort of synopsis of parts of his life and death. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know Young. It’s a sometimes tender and Iyrical portrait shot through with the harshness of his life. The presentation of his brilliant, flawed character is moving and honest. Paintings are present in the shape of Edward Hopper and Howard Hodgkin, both very different artists. Harvey makes use of the suggestive narrative possibilities of Hopper and responds to the light and intense colour of Hodgkin’s ‘After Corot.’ Both offer different aspects of the poet’s style and are equally compelling. I started off with intimacy as a keyword in Harvey’s work and I’d suggest that you read ‘Safeway,’ a poem that could make shopping worth it. In case you haven’t guessed I like this collection. There is more to it than I’ve mentioned. See for yourself.

BLUER THAN THIS is available in bookshops in both the UK and US. It is distributed in the UK by Signature Book Representation Ltd, (2 Little Peter St, Knott Mill, Manchester, tel 0161 834 8767/fax 0161 834 8656) and in the USA by Du Four Editions (PO Box 7, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, 19425 – 0007, tel (00 1) 610 458 5005, fax (001) 610 458 7103).


John Harvey with Second Nature, Derby Jazz Festival 2007. Photo: Garry Corbett

John Harvey was born in London in 1938 and, after living in Nottingham for a good number of years, has now returned to north London to live. After studying at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, and at Hatfield Polytechnic, he took his Masters Degree in American Studies at the University of Nottingham, where he taught Film and Literature as a part-time lecturer between 1980 and 1986.

After teaching English and Drama in secondary schools for twelve years, stopping in 1975, Harvey has lived primarily by his writing. For years he was a regular tutor on residential writing courses run by the Arvon Foundation, and in 1995 he was on the teaching faculty of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fiction Workshop in Northern California. He has recently decided to do no further teaching, either in workshop or formal situations, but does continue to enjoy giving readings and talking about his work.

Initially a writer of paperbackfiction – both for adults and teenagers – John Harvey has over 90 published books to his credit. Now principally known as a writer of crime fiction, principally the Charlie Resnick novels, he continues to work on scripts for television and radio, where he has specialised in adapting the work of himself and others – his radio dramatisation of Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair” gained the Silver award in the radio drama section of the 1999 Sony Radio Awards, he has also adapted novels or short stories by Arnold Bennett, A.S. Byatt, Richard Ford, Bobbie Ann Mason and Jayne Anne Phillips.

As a poet, his work has appeared in a large number of magazines and pamphlets, and “Ghosts of a Chance”, a selected poems, was published by Smith Doorstop Press (Huddersfield, England) in 1992. In 1995, he made a recording of the same title, reading his poems with the accompaniment of the Second Nature jazz group, one of two bands with which he performs whenever he gets the chance. A new collection, “Bluer Than This”, was published by Smith Doorstop in Autumn 1998 and reprinted in Autumn1999.

He ran Slow Dancer Press from 1977 to 1999, editing Slow Dancer magazine until 1993, and continuing since then to publish the work of both new poets and established writers such as Lee Harwood, Libby Houston and Barry MacSweeney. He was the first to publish a collection of Sharon Olds’ work in England,and, in 1998, follow edthis up by publishing Lucille Clifton for the first time in Britain in1998. From 1998, Slow Dancer Press published fiction as well as poetry, concentrating on crime fiction, short stories and writing concerned with jazz and blues.

He has two grown-up children, twins, Tom & Leanne Harvey, born to a marriage which ended in divorce in the mid-seventies; in 1998, 10th August to be precise, a third child, Molly Ernestine Boiling, was born in London, where he and Molly’s mother, Sarah, were then living. After living in Cornwall for a year from the summer of 2003, John, Sarah & Molly moved to Nottingham in 2004.