Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley


Poetry From Paradise Valley

Pecan Grove Press has released an anthology of poems, a sampling of works published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its first decade, from the original 1999-2000 volume to the 2009-2010 volume.

Poetry from Paradise Valley includes a stellar roster of 50 poets. Among the contributors are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a winner of the Griffin International Prize, two Pulitzer Prize winners, two National Book Award winners, two National Book Critics Circle winners, six finalists for the National Book Award, four finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and a few dozen recipients of other honors, such as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Readers are encouraged to visit the Poetry from Paradise Valley page at the publisher's web site, where ordering information about the book can be found.

Best Books of Indiana 2011: Finalist. Judges' Citation: "Poetry from Paradise Valley is an excellent anthology that features world-class poetry, including the work of many artists from the Midwest, such as Jared Carter, Annie Finch, David Baker, and Allison Joseph. It’s an eclectic and always interesting collection where poems on similar themes flow into each other. It showcases the highest caliber of U. S. poetry."
—Indiana Center for the Book, Indiana State Library

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thelonious Monk and Yusef Komunyakaa

Thelonious Monk was born on this date (October 10) in 1917. In the early 1940s, Thelonious Monk presented himself on the jazz scene at clubs, like Hinton’s Playhouse in Harlem, where innovative sounds could be heard. Monk provided guidance for a number of those seeking a revolutionary direction for jazz through Bebop. Nevertheless, to most listeners at the time, Monk’s experimental style of playing piano proved odd and his technique appeared quirky, if not awkward. Critics considered Monk’s compositions confusing and his manner of playing hardly artistic. Monk’s music relied upon repeated patterns of notes offered with a rare sense of rhythmic originality. In the accompanying clip, Monk plays his classic composition, “Epistrophy,” which resembles the literary term of “epistrophe” referring to a repetition of words in clauses or sentences and could be defined as a melody repeated in varying intensity or pitch to build momentum and musical traction.

Monk’s music wasn’t immediately accepted easily by everyone who came across it. For years, Monk was dismissed by some listeners even as his influence grew among those musicians who were receiving widespread praise. As Grover Sales notes in his book, Jazz: America’s Classical Music: “Of all the Bebop pioneers, Thelonious Monk was the last to enjoy the recognition given Christian, Parker, Gillespie, and Bud Powell, all of them deeply influenced by this strange figure who created a unique body of music that struck many as outside the mainstream of Bebop in the mid-1940s.” In response, Monk once commented: “I say play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants—you play what you want and let the public pick up what you are doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”

Due to his scheduling habit of infrequent playing dates and then a six year absence from nightclubs, banned from the music scene due to an arrest for drugs, Monk had to restart his career in the 1950s, and his distinct style finally found receptive audiences and critics. As Ted Gioia writes in his History of Jazz: “Much of Monk’s genius lay precisely in this ability to juxtapose the simple and complex, a skill that also showed in many other ways: in his telling sense of silence and of space; his alternating use of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ chords; his manner of incorporating wry humor into the often self-serious atmosphere of modern jazz.”

Thelonious Monk’s idiosyncratic and even eccentric personality drew attention but also created a sense of distance between himself and his audience. Indeed, by the time Monk reached the later years of his career, he isolated himself somewhat. In 1972, after a European tour, Monk retreated into silence, rarely speaking and refraining from playing the piano, when he moved into the home of a friend, Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter (who had cared for Charlie Parker at the time of his death in 1955), where Monk remained for a decade until his death in 1982.

Few poets approach the subject and style of jazz as frequently and as accurately as Yusef Komunyakaa, and his elegiac look at Thelonious Monk seems most appropriate today:


Damn the snow.
Its senseless beauty
pours a hard light
through the hemlock.
Thelonious is dead. Winter
drifts in the hourglass;
notes pour from the brain cup.
Damn the alley cat
wailing a muted dirge
off Lenox Ave.
Thelonious is dead.
Tonight’s a lazy rhapsody of shadows
swaying to blue vertigo
& metaphysical funk.
Black trees in the wind.
Crepuscule with Nelly
plays inside the bowed head.
“Dig the Man Ray of piano!”
O Satisfaction,
hot fingers blur
on those white rib keys.
Coming on the Hudson.
Monk’s Dream.
The ghost of bebop
from 52nd Street,
footprints in the snow.
Damn February.
Let’s go to Minton’s
& play “modern malice”
till daybreak. Lord,
there’s Thelonious
wearing that old funky hat
pulled down over his eyes.

— Yusef Komunyakaa

“Elegy for Thelonious” originally appeared in Komunyakaa’s collection, Copacetic (Wesleyan University Press, 1984), and was reprinted in Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001).

1 comment:

Lovelyn said...

Great music and excellent post. Thanks.