Posts Tagged ‘National Poetry Month’

April: National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month

April 13, 2018

National poetry month

The April is a month of special celebrations. In addition to being National Poetry Month, April has been set aside as Jazz Appreciation Month, and so these celebrations come together in a personal way, as poet who is strongly influenced by all manner of music, but especially jazz.

As a distinctively American musical form, jazz expresses a wide range of emotions, from sheer joy and ecstasy to deepest sorrow and pain. Central to this musical expression is improvisation, a spontaneous interchange between soloists and ensemble, often with “call and response” and other characteristics that give jazz a uniquely American flavor.

With its origins in the South in the early part of the 20th Century, jazz developed most notably in New Orleans, which brought together a delectable medley of sounds, a kind of “Cajun, creole, gumbo”, a sumptuous blending of music from diverse cultural populations: Caribbean, Mexican, German, Italian, French, Native American, African and others. The music blended ragtime, marches, with a heavy dose of the blues, along with European light classical music and other musical forms.
Jazz Appreciation Month

I first began writing poetry in the late 1960s when I was drafted into the US Army, as a pharmacy instructor stationed at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. As I reflect upon the beginnings of my writing poetry, I recognize that some of the initial inspiration to write came from music. While I was in the Army, I attended a concert, featuring Ravi Shankar, the renowned sitarist from India. This was my first exposure to sitar music, and I sat enraptured as Mr. Shankar explained the structure of musical compositions called ragas, which involve a good amount of improvisation.

As I listened to the performance, I thought of the similarities between this variety of Indian music and jazz, and I thought, “This ain’t nothin’ but jazz. This is a show nuff jam session.” After the concert which proved to be a profoundly moving worship experience, I consciously determined to express the essence of my experience in a poem which I entitled “Sacred Jazz” which later became the title poem of the collection Sacred Jazz: Music, Mood and Mind.

Sacred Jazz: Ravi Shankar in Concert

come
remove your shoes
come
sit with me under the canopy

unwind
your mind
ascend
with incense
and with me
absorb the sounds
of sacred jazz

dig this Indic jam session
set of rare rapport
improvisation

evening raga

rag raga rag a song of India

Indo-oriole
Skitting skatting

riffing
taking off

Alap blues ala Shankar

Alap all blues

serene somber soul-subduing

Alap Jor Jala

sitar and tabla
constant encyclic tamboura

all dialogue transcending speech
in effort
to reach
the Divine

come
remove your shoes
come
sit with me under the canopy

As the month of April continues to unfold, we continue to celebrate poetry and appreciate jazz all year long. We conclude with a medley of Christian jazz instrumental music: I Love You Lord Today/There Is None Like You (Instrumental)

National Poetry Month: Let’s celebrate

April 21, 2017

National poetry month

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country come together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.

As a practicing poet who writes from a decidedly Christian perspective, I recognize a spiritual connection with poetry and would like to share comments from a radio broadcast “Poetry and Praise” which I hosted more than a dozen years ago:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous English Romantic poet, defined this literary art form as the “best words in their best order.” Poetry is an expression of the heart.  As Longfellow said, “Look into thine heart and write.”  Another poet said, “When you have something special you want to say, poetry helps you say it in a special way.” Certain qualities make this literary expression called poetry “special.” Poetry generally has rhythm or meter, sometimes in a specific recurring metrical pattern but not always, as with free verse.  Poetry can also have rhyme but then again, not always.  As the late Roger Miller once stated:

Roses are red, Violets are blue.

Some poems rhyme and some poems don’t.

Finally poetry has meaning or significance and a remarkable ability to evoke a mood or attitude, using figurative language to paint unforgettable mind pictures. The Roman poet Horace stated that “The purpose of literature is to instruct the mind and delight the spirit.” Robert Frost said, “Poetry begins in delight and ends with wisdom.”  Poetry causes you to think and to remember what you didn’t know you knew.

Most poetry is relatively short: a compact unit of lines that reach deep into the heart. Whether the words of the Psalmist who speaks, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . .”  or the line from the classic love sonnet from Shakespeare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” or the powerful imagery of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” or Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” or the closing lines of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost or lines from your favorite poem, poetry has remarkable power to touch the heart and soul in an unforgettable way, which we celebrate, especially during the month of April.

I encourage each of our readers to join me in the celebration of poetry throughout this month: write a poem, learn a new poem by heart—recite a poem and share it with a friend. Why not check out a book of poetry; make a new friend with a poet whose work you enjoy or someone whom you’ve heard about. Do something poetic that you’ve never done and celebrate God’s goodness in some way involving poetry.

As born-again believers, Christians are also said to be new creations in Christ, and we praise God for having given us all things richly to enjoy. Indeed, Ephesians 2:10 declares that “. . . we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  The word “workmanship” is translated from the Greek word poiema, which means masterpiece, a glorious creation, a centerpiece of attention, as the French would say, le piece de resistance, or showpiece. Of course, the Greek word poiema is transliterated into the English word poem, which in the minds of many people is always a “masterpiece” or glorious creation. So that the people of God represent the real poetry of life, for which we praise God.  Accordingly, we should not just wait until April to extol the beauty of poetry, but recognize and celebrate this cherished literary form every day. Make every day a

Good News Day

 This is the day the LORD has made;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

It’s a good news day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good news day

 

It’s a great day

I can’t wait day

lift your voice

let’s rejoice

Good God, a good news day

 

It’s a payday

goin my way day

no nay–all yea

what you say

Such a good news day

 

It’s a live it up day

overflowin cup day

It’s a bright and bubbly

doubly lovely

Show-nuff good news day

Take a look at and listen to this video promotion of National Poetry Month from Museum of the Bible, showing the use of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament: