Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Why poetry is like jazz

Until recently, I've had a hard time writing free poetry. Without any kind of rhyme or metre to hold it together, I wasn't sure what made it poetry instead of something else. I certainly didn't get it well enough to write it. Reading Tracy Ryan's excellent poetry has helped, but perhaps the biggest thing was being able to connect it to the way I play jazz.

I'm a pretty good guitarist (and harmonica player, and mandolin player, and bassist, and...) but for years I had difficulty with wrong notes. I just couldn't use them well. It turned out the problem was that I didn't understand how to use 'normal' notes well enough to delve into the murky waters of chromaticism. I also didn't understand that using the odd wrong note doesn't mean I've got to suddenly play randomly. By using little bits of outside playing in normal phrases, I was able to make it work.

In the same way, instead of jumping right off the deep end of free poetry, I've just dipped my toe in it, producing a few things that aren't quite metrical, but still have their own quiet rhythm. I'm told that's closer to the sort of thing that TS Elliot did than to more out-there free poems. I hope so. I'd like a good excuse to write poems about cats.

Since I haven't written much in my fencing blog in the last month or two, I'm going to take this moment to congratulate Hull University's club members, several of whom did quite well in the Nottingham open. Our president in particular managed to make the last 32. I didn't go, because the sabre was the day after, and because I didn't feel up to doing an individual competition without a few other club members around to keep me sane. Since I'm fairly confident after making the last 16 of the Yorkshire Sabre, I must get hold of our sabre guys and find out if anyone feels like doing the British Open this year.

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