Paul Blackburn, “Listening to Sonny Rollins at The Five Spot”: When Jazz Poetry Works

No one should be surprised to learn that an attempt to parallel the rhythms, inventions, and effects of jazz has fueled a raft of poetry over the years. Just as great jazz is difficult, so is great jazz poetry. Here’s a stellar one that, to my eye and ear, is a spectacular success. It’s called “Listening to Sonny Rollins at The Five Spot,” and it’s written by Paul Blackburn:

THERE WILL be many other nights like
be standing here with someone, some
there will be other songs
a-nother fall, another ­ spring, but
there will never be a-noth, noth

         Other lips that I may kiss, 
but they won’t thrill me like 
            thrill me like 
                          like yours 
used to 
     dream a million dreams 
but how can they come 
when there

           never be 
a-noth ­ 

Just for fun, play this clip of Rollins playing–what else?–“There Will Never Be Another You.” The venue isn’t The Five Spot, and Rollins is incapable, I think, of duplicating an improvisation,  but I think it might go a long way towards proving Blackburn’s triumph in the above poem.

Note: The song “There Will Never Be Another You” was written in 1942 by Harry Warren (music) and Mack Gordon (lyrics) for the Sonja Henie musical Iceland. I believe I am right in saying that jazz musicians have put the song to more lasting use (try Chet Baker’s, too).

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