The Nina Thing.

So, Lately, I have been studying and discussing the New Thing. Not the next big thing, just The New Thing. The title refers to a new movement in American poetry. There is a long, LONG article about it here but I’ll crudely paraphrase. “The New Thing” is a movement going back to the roots and ideal of the imagist poets, the most celebrated being William Carlos Williams and his poem ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ which reads:

– The Red Wheelbarrow.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

That’s it.  His mantra was ‘no ideas but in things’; to do away with all the over-emotional torrid navel gazing arsewipe that poets are famed for (myself included) and just chat as specifically as possible about objects. I like stuff like this because I like images. (But whereas the imagist would stop there and expect you to guess what the image might mean, I pull it apart and tell you what it means to me, which isn’t always a good thing, anyways, moving on). A poet I like who was partly inspired by the imagists is a dude called William Waring Cuney who wrote this:

– No Images.

She does not know
her beauty,
She thinks her brown skin
has no glory.
If she could dance
under palm trees
and see her image in the river
she would know.
But there are no palm trees
on the street,
and dishwater gives back no images.

But the reason I like it is not because of the poem alone, I mean, its aiiight… but it does not have enough of things I look for in poetry, it has musicality, yes, but no odd juxtaposition of images which together create something unexpected or wondrous. It hints at a story but does not tell much. I am not swallowed into the world of the poem. I like its romanticism because I am a soppy git and the idea of a palm-tree-in-a-city appeals to the hippie in me, but… I want more! What I like about this poem is what Nina Simone did with it. Listen:

And there you have it, the power of the lone voice. Ladies and gentlemen, there is jazz in all of us. To read a poem out loud is to truly bring it to life, and Nina did not just raise this from a dead flattened tree on a shelf, she fleshed it out, gave it wings, a soul and taught it to cry. Now and again jazz and poetry meet on stage, but the results are often perplexing: one fights the other to save its life and vice versa simultaneously. Its a thing to slit one’s wrists to. I say this knowing we are called Poe-Jazzi, but, and here’s the rub, we do it well.

ps, a good poetry / jazz combo is this here poem by Nii Parkes, scroll down to the bottom and read By yourself Boy.



About Charlotte Morgan Nwokenna

Editor and Public Relations Officer
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