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).

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

  1. I’ve seen this before, and it’s good. I think it was used for the notes to a live recording of Sonny on Impulse! that was later withdrawn. but the best thing I’ve ever read on Sonny was a poem by a fellow student at Reed College many years ago called ‘Sonny Rollins Has Met These Monsters’ or something like that, which I don’t think has been published widely.

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