From the Archive: Jazz and the Blues in Poetry


by Robert Pinsky

Originally published in New Ohio Review Issue #7

This is the golden trophy. The true addiction.
Steel springs, pearl facings, fibers and leathers, all
Mounted on the body tarnished from neck to bell.

The master, a Legend, a “righteous addict,” pauses
While walking past a bar, to listen, says: Listen—
Listen what that cat in there is doing. Some figure,

Some hook, breathy honk, sharp nine or weird
Rhythm this one hack journeyman hornman had going.
Listen, says the Dante of bop, to what he’s working.

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by Eleanor Kedney

When it was clear my brother
wouldn’t kick his drug addiction
and return to all the things he was great at—
baseball, tennis, downhill skiing—
he still played the harmonica.

Once, at a summer wedding, in the lull
between the toasts and dessert
he took the band’s mic,
tossed his curly hair to one side,
and put the blues harp deep in his mouth—
puckered lips, blocked tongue,
the bending sound like a train
going through a tunnel.

My mother stood and clapped.
That’s Peter, she kept
That’s Peter.

                                   His eyes closed
to everyone in the room.
“Not Fade Away” took all his breath
to play.

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