June Jazz: Dance


Duke Ellington’s career looks grim. The money isn’t coming in, and his band members are on the way out. Once an astonishing figure in the jazz world, Old Duke is now reduced to booking gigs at obscure ice shows. Because he needs cash.

Enter a promoter for the Newport Jazz Festival. He takes a risk on Ellington, who composes a special piece of music for the occasion, knowing this might be his last chance.

But the restless crowd heads for the parking lot, in 1956, even before his band finishes its final number.

Desperate, Ellington takes a risk on stage and changes his set list, at the last moment, asking his musicians to drum up “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, an old tune from 20 years ago.

Elaine Anderson feels the key change. Down in her spine. She jumps out of her box seat, dancing — crimping and curling her small frame — as if she’s dodging fiery brass flames. Crowd members abandon their reserved seats to gather around this heady platinum blonde in the black evening gown. Everyone loses it.

Including Ellington, who orders his tenor saxophonist to stay with his solo, no matter what. Don’t worry about the time, he tells him, though the festival promoter fears a riot and motions to Ellington to wind things down. But New Duke wouldn’t do it. In the end, his band plays through the chorus nearly 30 times and then obeys a roused and feverish crowd through four more blazing encores.

As artists, if we’re going to keep the crowd moving, then sometimes we need to slip on something new, like a little risk, even if it fits like a see-through gown, at first, stretching our vulnerability. As we surrender to our public performances, we’re more likely to give birth to new dances.

Looking back over his life, Duke Ellington said, “I was born at Newport in 1956.” But Duke wasn’t the only one. An entire audience was delivered during that historic performance. Jazz is what happens — to all of us — when somebody jumps out of her box.

And just dances.

Let’s Play June Jazz!

All month long we’re swinging with poetry at Tweetspeak. We call it June Jazz. We write found poems and share them on Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs, though we always link back to here. Last week we wrote to the tune of “O Solitude! If I Must With Thee Dwell” by Mr. John Keats.

With Newport and risky dances on my mind, a few of your poems from this past week really jived with me.

Grace Marcella Brodhurst-Davis writes,


To him, it seemed he had to stumble from
The shy observatory he stood upon
To seek that secret soul’s pleasure
To be everyone’s idolized treasure

He opted for the liquid measure
Tasted highest bliss in his endeavor
Down murky halls he slithered anew
After drinking the witch’s bold brew

Atop the smoky, jumbled heap he drew
Crowds of kindred spirits to woo
‘Mongst age-old musical souls he crooned
The musky notes of a jazzy blues tune

Connie Cornwell Chipman offered an impromptu dance during a key change in the comment box. She writes,


It’s gonna be a good show
let it not be
among the jumbled heap.

Give me daddy-O
until that happy morning.

Here’s how June Jazz works …

If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to Every Day Poems.


1. On Mondays, the Every Day Poem in your inbox becomes a chord progression. Find your own tone. Build an idea around a single poem line. Just let yourself go and write a found poem, baby.

2. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #junejazz hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

3. Or leave your found poem here in the comment box.


We’ll read your tweets and share some of your weekly play each week. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the playful poet to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Here’s today’s Every Day Poem. Now go jazz it up.

Photo by Alex Dram. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Matthew Kreider.


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $2.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In May we’re exploring the theme Trees.

Red #9


  1. says

    like honking
    rattles me;
    much. Noisy

    ruckus flung
    on saxophone

    Floats like
    fire; feathers
    smoldered tip to

    Pierced eardrums
    vibrate. Eyebrows
    furrow, squint into
    I shy
    away and run

    as ash scuttles

    stay stoic
    Hillbilly songs
    chip concrete into
    of fiddle shale

    Yes! I dance with
    kin –

    or maybe mother.
    Oh, brother,
    my sister’s reeling
    the African
    bouncing off
    the ceiling

    We land
    soaked clean

    dresses cling skin. Tight
    stomps smother
    guitar strumming
    hovers –

    I don’t
    care. No matter
    no wonder

    I’m crazy

    wild over

  2. says

    *Beverly Kenney was a jazz singer who rose to prominence in the late 1950s…critics felt there was finally a voice to rival Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald…Kenney committed suicide in 1960, she was 28.

    Men, women, and girl singers –
    of the three kinds of humans
    you were the last. You loved jazz
    and the smoky little rooms
    where the tunes got played. They
    took note of your crusade, your
    scat without scatting, your
    vibrato-less gee-whizzy Fifties cool,
    plus this pluperfect female shape
    even George Shearing could see.
    But they kept listening because
    of your uninhibited phrasing,
    your mad human offerings
    of punctuation: semicolons where
    men could breathe, commas to
    put women at ease, parentheses
    that gave girl singers courage.

    That you always sang haunted
    was widely-felt, but the ghosts were
    only known by a few. Born to
    be blue was always more than
    a song. Then rock-n-roll invaded
    our land and the loud was too
    much, so you made yourself silent,
    an esoteric casualty of war.
    There will never be another you
    is always more than a song.

  3. says


    Leaving home strips the money tree
    of its husks, lays bare notions of plenty
    revealing unquenchable thirst.

    First, there’s the thrill of accomplishment,
    the illusion of a self-sustaining organism,
    and then the odds that young buds

    will flower beneath the sweltering rays
    of summer heat, that the earth’s moisture
    will sustain the herbage, nourish the tree.

    Finally, the reality that dicing nature
    whirls the wheel while roots struggle
    to compete for footing beneath the turf.

  4. says

    Matthew – I love the connection of poetry to jazz. I think another really strong connection between the two is the sense of collaboration and group creating that happens on stage when jazz musicians give and take and play music WITH each other. I think we writers can learn a lot! I’ll have to see what poems I can find!

  5. Tracy Seffers says


    (Red in the Bud)

    This is our time, declare the small quiet ones.

    When those known for grand gestures clutch about themselves
    their demure greens, their
    virginal white wraps, their
    thickest robes of clouded blooms
    to veil late-winter nakedness,

    we stand and declare our lines in fire,
    line them out clearly so that you might
    sing them too. Trace each knot and broken place—
    see last summer’s heat run along the limb,
    woven like silk, branches draped with the desire
    of winter’s long-pent waiting.

    This is our time. We know that soon enough,
    we again take our place in the understory,
    unseen, unmarked in the green season.

    This brief moment when we sing our story,
    brightflame licking along the bones:

    it is all we are, all we have to tell. A poet her words.

    A singer his song.

  6. says

    Matthew… I feel I am there as I read this piece, wishing I had been even though I normally don’t seek out jazz – but this – this is the kind of music that seeks US out. Thank you for the dance.

  7. says

    Silver Secrets

    My computer allows me
    to peer into an osprey nest
    high above birches
    in an Estonian forest.

    Celebrating life, I remember
    death. I see only my mother,
    cold and lifeless at three a.m.,
    in a hospital room across town.

    The irony of time haunts
    my enjoyment of the intimacy
    of nature—a mother tending
    her hatchlings–oblivious

    to the miles that separate
    watcher and watched, and I
    wonder if she sees them, too.
    How she loved driving

    by the osprey nest high
    above the road, straining
    to see the bird she’d only seen
    in pictures in her worn book.

    Transported from Missouri
    to Minnesota, she still marveled
    that she had traveled, had
    summered out of state.

    And now, I can see what
    she would have loved to have seen.
    The unfairness of time’s advance
    causes me to look away, deny my gaze.

  8. says

    So glad to see the enthusiasm for jazz here! It’s such an intriguing language.

    John – I was happy to see you drop by here in the comments! I’ve been following your poems, always enjoy them.

    Charity – and it’s always good to see you, friend! :)

  9. says


    That bridge was a New York watershed
    for Crane, an image both private
    and public that determined his legacy.

    Watersheds are like that. They stem
    from images so ordinary, so likely
    to be dismissed by others,

    so random in the scheme things.
    Until the pen pulls them out
    of the riffraff of sights and sounds,

    the bell jar that separates their sample
    for closer examination, the probe
    of penciled dissection and brooding.

  10. Connie Cornwell Chipman says

    Word taken from American Beech Trees

    Festive Forest at Twilight

    Paper lanterns hang
    suspended, from fanned
    out branches,
    casting their glow
    on the forest lawn
    at twilight.
    While jazz members were smokin
    people were bobbin and weavin…
    losing their inhibitions and saying
    “Don’t let the music die.”

  11. says


    Early March seemed almost mine
    when I was twelve. All the world
    revolved around my world
    like the globe on its axis spinning
    to my fingered motion.

    Emerging from childhood, marking
    the years by St. Pat’s day,
    I half-believed myself
    to be Irish, half-believed
    the day was wholly mine.

    When March came, I began to sense
    in the winds an inclination
    for decided metamorphosis,
    larva to chrysalis, mitosis
    to strongly patterned wings.

    The day of my birth, the birth month,
    has the stain of narcissus echoing
    in its streams, on the hillsides
    the cone-shaped blooms emerge,
    petals from poisonous bulbs.

  12. says


    They do not sleep;
    they hide silvery secrets
    under thick, worn skin

    A whisper emerges
    from shadows, Americans
    standing in rows of granite–

    their quivering souls, still;
    the spirit of the outstretched
    hand shakes in all seasons…

    I feel the grip of hope and place
    my hand to my heart , salute
    the courageous, the lanterns

    on the way. They do not sleep,
    these everleaves, these heroes
    stark and tall, like the tree.

  13. says


    The pine trees have been on a lark,
    a near-drunken orgy
    of dropping their needles.

    Swaying to the changing chords,
    a riff their roots absorb
    from the land itself,

    they’ve become a festive forest
    of greens and browns. They celebrate
    the changing seasons, happily mixing

    resins of their own concoction.
    Their multimodal whorls
    and fertile candles improvising

    on the harmonies of life and death
    that they intuit from the humans
    that dance under their boughs.

  14. says

    In winter’s twilight
    spring-lit forsythia march,
    shining like lanterns.

    March in cold season:
    forest stripped, trees’ trunks black,
    snow almost festive.

    Ice-cold New York night
    slowly secrets winter’s trees
    in snow like paper.

  15. Connie Cornwell Chipman says

    Mountains wearing snow caps
    like sleep bonnets
    in twilights bedchamber,
    slumber under evenings glow…
    as the man in the moon
    holds his lantern o’er the
    quiet summits.
    Casting silhouettes on mountains sides,
    as if natures blanket…from
    tall pines, that are gently swaying to the sound
    of soft jazz being played in the foothills.

  16. says


    Slowly he drives, irritating
    those whose reflexes are quicker,
    those who want desperately
    to get wherever they are going.

    Most things are slower now.
    Deliberation replaces desperation
    He reaches things just beyond his grasp,
    knocking over what’s nearer at hand.

    Reaching lengthens cramped
    arthritic joints, brings its own purpose
    to the table. Senility sits to the left
    of dementia–domino tiles click–

    as they shed the extra coats
    they’ve worn as winter turns
    to summer and they lose
    the board on which they play.

  17. says

    The Hunt

    Lanterns almost white
    against the blackness of the night,
    carbide hissing, igniting
    the burn of youthful desire.
    Boys like miners thread
    their way through the dense
    undergrowth, listening
    to the distant bay of hounds.

    Raccoons scurry from tree
    to tree, testing the dense foliage.
    Climbing high, they hear danger
    in canine cries, and their hearts
    beat against the sudden stillness
    of the night. The forest sniffs
    acetylene burning and knows
    its vulnerability as boots

    crackle across the leaf-laid pattern
    of the flooring. The imminence
    of death drips against the earth’s
    elements, and life trembles
    as the dogs move in to tree
    their prey. A rifle cracks and the thump
    of furred life descends in the false light
    of reflected lamps and panting boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *