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Jazz Poetry

Red Bird Dancing on Ivory, Jazzetry, Façade

poets music readings accompaniments

a form established in the 1950s in the USA involving the reading of poetry to jazz accompaniments. Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, and Kenneth Patchen were among the leading exponents of the idiom, which was established in San Francisco in 1957. The Black Mountain poets' emphasis on the importance of the vocal aspects of poetry and the increased interest in readings fostered by the Beat poets created the context in which jazz poetry emerged. In 1958 Christopher Logue and others adopted the mode in Britain; Logue regarded it as a possible means of reinvigorating poetry at a time when it was perceived by many to have lost any breadth of appeal to a popular audience. In 1959 he collaborated with the jazz musicians Tony Kinsey and Bill Le Sage to broadcast Red Bird Dancing on Ivory on BBC radio and to present Jazzetry at the Royal Court Theatre. The success of these ventures led to considerable interest in jazz poetry; Michael Horovitz, Bob Cobbing, Pete Brown (1940), and Roy Fisher were among those who performed their work widely with musical ensembles throughout the 1960s. Proponents of the genre viewed it as a revival of the traditional association of poetry and music. Notable among twentieth-century precedents for jazz poetry are Edith Sitwell's Façade, performed with William Walton's pastiches of popular dance music in 1923, and Langston Hughes's experimental readings of his verse, which had affinities with blues lyrics, to musical accompaniments in the late 1930s. Jazz poetry was influential in the development of further fusions of music and verse, including the frequent performances by the Liverpool poets with the guitarist Andy Roberts and the readings to rock or reggae accompaniments by numerous subsequent poets. See also Dub poetry.

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