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Discography‘s Jazz Poems

Jazz and poetry go together like eggs, milk and alcohol—we’re talkin’ eggnog, pal—so it’s no surprise that poets have been inspired by the rhythms and melodies of the music. Sean Singer is the latest bard to put jazz and blues into words, and his new book, Discography, is his entry into the music-poetry pantheon.

Discography is the 96th volume in the esteemed Yale Series of Younger Poets books, which has turned out first publications by such celebrated scribes as Adrienne Rich and Robert Hass. That means Singer’s got juice with this pub, and he also has the praise of poets W.S. Merwin (who wrote Discography‘s intro) and Carol Frost (whose husband, poet Robert Frost, is a jazz drummer).

Singer doesn’t just celebrate jazz’s smoky, black & white and long-gone past in Discography. Yes, there are John Coltrane and Billie Holiday poems, but there are also paeans to current-day players like drummer Susie Ibarra and pianist Keith Jarrett, the latter inspiring this verse from “Inside the Keith Jarrett Trio”:

The bronze smoke in the trio.

Already incense, license to make homespun song.

Already sealed at night, humming under the salt

He hums the echolocation of a whale.

Hey, you say whale; we say hoarse cow. It’s all good. Like this eggnog.

Discography is published by Yale University Press. For more info, check out yalebooks.com.

Originally Published