How important is music to your poetry?
Music, particularly jazz, is foundational for the poems I write. Which is not to say that The Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Hip Hop musics don’t also find ways to slip into my poems. I developed an intimate connection to African American music as a child listening to the Hard Bop and Soul music my parents played at parties they held at our home. My poetics are largely made up of an experiment to try to capture and contain the nuance of the African American worldview and arts of African American speech and music within a nice, tight poetic line. One of my primary concerns when writing poems is how do I make this funky. I mean to write poems that boogie. I do not limit the way a poem can boogie to its rhythm or sonority; I also consider how an idea or series/collage of images might excite the reader’s imagination to dance. Thus, I tend toward lyricism as opposed to narrative. When I work narratively, it’s the way a bluesman would with a flow of images, a myriad of inferences, and quite bit of disjunction.
With a new form I invented called ‘the unit” it is made clear how I sometimes even use music to construct the form and ethos of the poetics I am working in. “the unit” is a prose poem form I invented to explore the boundaries of language, syntax, form, and musicality in poetry. It was inspired by virtuoso pianist Cecil Taylor’s groundbreaking 1966 album, Unit Structures in so far as it desires to embody the feel of collective improvisation encountered in Free Jazz as a poetics. Even as a prose form, “the unit” approaches the lyric with the precision and abandon of an instrumentalist free improvising. The unit form attempts to imitate (or model) the musical conversation the instruments enjoy in Free Jazz as it is not bound by corresponding rhythms, same time signatures, conventional melody, or harmonics. What this produces in poetic terms is a collage of non-sequiturs, discordant images, and re or de-contextualized clichés.