Wow what a treat to visit with fellow poets and painters at the Pollock-Krasner House in Springs, LI, to share a reading for Jackson Pollock. No threat of rain or summer heat could slow us down or keep us from sharing our Jackson Pollock related inspiration.
For me it
was especially gratifying to ‘connect the bop‘ -- ie, relate the
swirling circular and hugely energetic Pollock canvases to Whitman, to
Charlie Parker and the KC vortex, to the bop prosodists of the 50s, and
to my own work.
The KC vortex which produced bebop jazz. of
course, but also Thomas Hart Benton, indisputably Pollock’s mentor and
whose abstract ideas about rhythm on the canvas transcend the WPA
figurative aspects of his work in a manner that profoundly inform his
Musically stated, there’s the structural thing --
improvising off and around and beyond and back to the core statement.
Being able to jump into the conversation (musical or visual) from
anywhere on the scale. Using your woodshed skills to blast out an
extended and irrepressible improvisation which seems beyond
deliberation, inspired, almost autonomic -- but at its core, is deeply
schooled. Camouflaging the subject, circling around it and going
tangentially away from and back to it with sculpted micro-flourishes,
teasing it out of perceptual existence and back in again. A rhythmic and
tonal explosion that never loses its deep reference to the form. And
finding the resolution, the landing point. Getting it back there.
It’s the essential HOW of bop, whether its Parker, Pollock or the prosodic flights of Kerouac, O'Hara and the rest.
Then there's the WHY (as jazz musician Tony Scott, born Tony Sciacca in NJ testified, 'I studied the how AND the why' of bop).
range of emotional statements that can be sustained is wide. Bending
the voice of the man, through the plaintive protestations and sly
subversions of blues and jazz musicians finding solace, kicks,
competition and comradery in the midst of Jim Crow America. The frenzied
search for articulation of Pollock. The vernacular longings and raw
industrial energies and arguments of Thomas Hart Benton.
rebelliousness of the Beats and the aesthetic nuancing of the New York
School poets. Their playfulness too, and the joyousness and
transcendental celebration of our own Walt.
That's right, Whitman
-- who in 1879 visited the grass prairie of Kansas, confluence of
cattlemen, homesteaders, and declared that a pure new and original
American voice would emerge from it.
Whitman didn't mention the
big muddy river rolling down from the north, or the irrepressible blues
& jazz current that would sweep upstream from New Orleans and the
Mississippi Delta. He couldn't know that there would be
cross-country trains carrying car after car of popping bi-coastal swing
musicians, cats overnighting in what amounted to a free-for-all
laboratory at 18th and Vine; a place to stretch their wings in time and
space, to experiment with their music, to transform it into something
Whitman didn't know it would be bop. But Whitman got it
right. All those elements thrown into the hot crucible of America’s
midsection added dimension and gave moment to an emergent American voice
Whitman predicted would come.
Okay, a lot of it came to a head here in
the Big Apple -- jazz clubs, juke joints, painters studios and writers'
pads. And further on out, to Jackson Pollock's bucolic retreat in
Springs, a shingled house beside the sheltered salt marshes of
But the roots go way deeper than that, deep into midwestern soil.
to Tim Sullivan, Ros Brenner and Helen Harrison for organizing the poetry reading at Pollock-Krasner House, and
to fellow poets Lucas Hunt, Michelle Whittaker, Max Wheat and Claire
Schulman for adding their voices in)