Tales from The Road I

Conversations with Poet Trudy Morse

Trudy Morse is one fascinating character. She has lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland many years. Malcolm S. Morse, her late husband was an eminent scientist who worked on dynamic thermo-physical measurements in space at the National Bureau of Standards.

Trudy is known for her political activist work in the Washington D.C. area, she caused on Civil Rights, Vietnam War, and other peace movements. Trudy traveled all around the world. Since Mr. Morse death, Trudy embraced a career of poet on the road performing and working with Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra Arkestra, Kidd Jordan, Eddy Gale, George Russell, Anthony Braxton, Joe Maneri, Pozzi Escot, Pauline Oliveiros, Iluminati Big Band, Don Cherry Ensemble, Borys Raskin Trio, India Cooke, Marshall Allen, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Dave Burrell amo....

She has been the recipient of many important awards such as: Who's who 1970 American Women 1972 American Women among World Notables 1974 World Women 1975 Among Southern Women 1980 Social Reg. Prominent American Women 1981 World Peace through Law

At almost 93 years old Trudy is an inspiration to many people out there in the world. Her poetry is engaging. It’s divided in eight fabulous books. Talking to Trudy is something special, a trip, a travel to another space. Her energy and happy state of heart and mind are contagious. She is one of only a tiny handful of “Super Grammy” who fully deserve the epithet and for whom no other term will do.

Trudy is well known for her dancing abilities. In fact Trudy can dance to anything. When questioned about music/dancing Trudy explains: “I consider myself an active square dancer, I belonged to clubs, and even have done some exhibitions. Sadly, my husband never could do any dancing, and so I dropped all that and took Malcolm to “Beginners Dancing”. Upon one year, we must find club who wants to invite him. We were never invited, but I always found an evening we could spare from six children, and have a night out, and was happy to be with him dancing. I admired him for being so awkward but so eager to please me. Therefore, I never danced with him.... but always open dancing. Each not being held, and couples apart, all over on the dance floor, each dancing to music beat as dancer heard it!!! I have something to share with you: while in London, a young man with a sharp British accent come to me and said: “Pardon me, ma’am, said, I was watching you dancing with your husband. You seemed to be having lot of fun. I wished my dad took mom out!!"...

Trudy laugh here and continuous : “ Finally, Malcolm and I danced many times in public, and I can just see him: we form partner of two, look at each other, drop hands, then walk around in any way, just trying to keep rhythm. I had the best of time, solo dancing, making up own steps, and Malcolm…he was so pleased to please his wife!!! Hah… By the way, all four children (two from Malcolm, two from another husband) were great dancers, with excellent skills, and did demonstration dancing!!! . I add more: my daughter Sarah is the most outstanding dancer. She married David, another "Malcolm" but they just danced partner to partner, without any square dancing calls!!! . You see, if you don’t understand, you may either dance with or without a partner...or with your husband and if you are both good dancers.... then you dance holding each other very tight! Malcolm was a good husband in lots of ways, took me traveling all over the world, including China and many far off places! I never miss dancing when I can do the best thing, travel all over the world! …By the way…I’m proud of my son Michael who joined square dance club with dancers from University of Maryland.”…

She makes me laugh…despite oh so many tours around the world and the work she has done with jazz legends Trudy has now little interest in Jazz per se. She develops ..: “See? Right now…at my almost 93 I still listen to classic music. Jazz …my memory still short but got out all the time! I am an ardent believer in Music. It’s a therapy. I have classical music on TV almost 24 hours a day. I go out for a good movie, concert or I’m “Kolel” (its’ my religious group). Recently our leader Rabbi David had a dance at our 28 acre sanctuary, because I love dancing, and despite of age, I was able to join in a group circle. It’s very safe because I have one person on the left and another on the right. It’s ample for me to keep up the dancing!! I tell you what: in another holiday at nearby our synagogue I was able to climb stairs to the platform. I took mine in hand and sang a little prayer. Somebody helped me down the stairs into. The rabbi’s wife helped me to get to the synagogue and somebody took me home. It was a great evening as spectator. I was in the front row”.

Trudy has this special joyful sight over the world, over you, over everything. Simply watch to her eyes and all get bright. She has that kind of enlighten power….I picture her with Cecil, Su Ra, Marshall, Cage…she will watch you straight on the eyes, like a five years old kid saying: “Dearest, art is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to be an ardent gardener. Most recently, I made an “installation", word used in Art. I want to talk about my greatest and latest Installation as I call them, but not like an artist who works with paper and crayon colors. My installations are made within my gardens. Let’s talk about one, for instance: two trees: 12inch diameter trunks: were removed to enable the extraordinary view seen from the kitchen… almost breathtaking once the two trees were removed. The trees were hiding this spectacular view from inside my house; I eagerly seek its presence each day, many times a day, while indoors at housekeeping job! It’s quite deep when you seat and see the view".

No doubt, Grammy Gila got the faraway looking on her eyes. It’s always filled with beauty and admiration for the simple things of life. When you seat with Trudy to admire a sunset you are blissed.
She watches the sky, she watches you, the rabbits on her garden and laugh …then she keeps talking: “I had a wonderful life on the road. I travelled with Cecil Taylor all around the world, I had no salary, but I had the opportunity to participate in his many concerts all over Europe. I cannot even remember how it started? Probably at New England Conservatory? Cecil was graduated from NEC. His family were “Upper Class Negros’’, very smart and beautifully groomed. I got involved thru my friend, Pozzi Escot. Once befriended, I probably sat in on her classes….I remember.... I knew her from the Hilde von Bingen Society. I went with her to so many meetings, and I helped to organize an International Hilde von Binge Society meeting. You see, she too was "composer" of sacred music. I believe her great composition was also performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. I was very involved in this; I was notifying people of this great happening”.

When I questioned Trudy about Sun Ra she recalls:” “Oh Ruby diamond, I’m not even sure of my answer. To be honest, I don’t think I ever recorded with Sun Ra. All memory of what he looked like is gone. But…I seem to remember that I loved his poetry. And he invited me to perform a Sun Ra Piece with the Arkestra. He allowed me about 5 minutes with Marshall Allen who played the sax. I may have wanted to do only five minutes, so must have had a watch in the beginning. Years after I remember that I never needed the watch, because I would have prepared ONLY five minutes! As bad as my memory is, I once asked Sun Ra, why five minutes with Marshall Allen, nobody else but Marshall! And …his answer also…I never forgotten: See?, Marshall Allen was graduated from a famous school in Paris (La Sorbonne) and Sun Ra wanted everybody to know he was classically trained. I had travelled with Sun Ra on various occasions; I was one of the first to be invited down to their home town. I can recall that the band was worried about me, and/or Sun Ra asked for me. I remember I was only one to enter through the emergency room where Sun Ra was kept during the final years. I think he asked me and I read him one of his poems about dying. He would not let go of my hand, and finally the nurse came in, wondering why I had stayed so long in the intensive care. I do remember asking if I could read his poem about ease of letting go terrible hold to stay on earth! I did read it to him but he still would not let me leave him alone in the intensive care room. Soon after the nurse came in and escorted me out of intensive care, then he passed on. The orchestra band came back to NYC where they participated in special program honoring Sun Ra in his favorite night club and I read his own poem about “difficulty of leaving this world we live in”….

I cannot help but ask about the panoply of artists Trudy met…She confess: ” For me it was a suit of honor. Only Cecil seemed very uneasy with people that he didn’t know. Anxious…he didn’t want to see them. That’s my interpretation of why people had so much trouble with him: Cecil didn’t know how to handle strangers who really wanted to complement him.”

She recalls : “My years on the road with Cecil were very special. I never got a single penny, I never asked for a salary or for any meals. I always paid with my credit card before somebody got up and tried to collect from all the hangers on, who got a certain high to brag they had a meal with Cecil Taylor. I’m recalling…Cecil usually sat alone, I’m not sure I stayed with him. He always wanted to be away from those so called “admirers” whom he felt they just wanted to boast about being treated by Cecil Taylor! I just detached myself and handled things in the same way I handled when I saw him on November 10th 2010 at the French Embassy in DC. I remembered I went over, I tapped his shoulder and left. It was enough for me. As long as he knew I was there”…

I’m surprised that music is not involved on her poetry/writing process. She explains: “In the so called golden days, people asked me to read Cecil’s poetry; there were not music involved unless when I read Sun Ra poetry… it was a band, such as Sun Ra Arkestra itself.”

Poetry is Trudy. Poetry was the reason she got involved with all those great musicians. Poetry is what she wants to leave as legacy. She muses: “I have written eight little books. All have a similar formula but different color for the covering page so may be it does lend itself to a package of poems. Those are small booklets to read on plane, railroad station, its something you can read while waiting. I’m thinking right now that may be schools can offer poetry to their students. May be Shakespeare is too classic? Then give them modern poetry! Why not? Each booklet will be accompanied with description of an elderly lady of almost 93 years old talking about her experiences growing old but happy and contented. I wonder if my poetry is simply enough for children to understand? “….

I have suggested to Trudy to illustrate his poetry. Any suggestion you give to her is matter of ignition, she always has a joker on her hand…: “I have a grandchild who is graduating as artist. She’s already hired by Google. I think she’s brilliant. May be it’s a good idea … each page with little sketches. She has just left for Rhode Island School of Design; she’s also an editor of school paper. Yes let’s see …hum sketches for each poem. Best idea!” …

And she goes straight to the phone to call her daughter to find out how to reach her granddaughter. I’m amazed seeing so much energy, optimism and force. I read her poetry now and again and then I try to see how each one goes with a certain kind of music. I played all the music I adore – Cecil, Trane, Dylan, Bird, The Stones, Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Hendrix…Its extraordinary how music modifies the feeling of what you read. Trudy knows no stylistic bounds. Every poem is worth. That’s the moment I began to be fascinated by Trudy’s poetry. By her sense of direction and melodic logic – but it’s also groovy like wild. I have been looking for this since many years ago…

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