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Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present by Sascha Feinstein

Feinstein, coeditor, with Yusef Komunyakaa, of two jazz poetry anthologies, The Jazz Poetry Anthology and The Second Set, clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this genre. The current work is an attempt to provide a historical overview and critical analysis of jazz poetry, from its origins in the 1920s, when it was the subject matter of white poets such as Vachel Lindsay and reflected a racist viewpoint, to the present scene and the work of poets like: Al Young, the aforementioned Komunyakaa, Hayden Carruth and William Matthews. As Feinstein writes, “the history of jazz poetry comprises an enormous range of poems…and this book tries to embrace the startling variety of verse: portraits of jazz musicians and descriptions of jazz eras; meditations from the jazz club; poems written expressly for performance with live jazz; quiet reflections on the music and passionate political statements; poems that have been written in an improvisatory approach and poems that have been formally structured; poems that illuminate cultural and societal issues; abstract meditations and pellucid memories; elegies, tributes, celebrations.” Throughout, Feinstein sprinkles his text with numerous examples of jazz poetry, providing penetrating criticism and revealing a fine ear, for verse and jazz alike. A definitive work.

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