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Ever since its first flowering in the 1920s, jazz has had a powerful influence on American poetry, and this scintillating anthology offers a treasury of poems as varied and vital as the music that inspired them.
From the Harlem Renaissance to the Beat Movement, from the poets of the New York School to the contemporary poetry scene, the jazz aesthetic has been a compelling literary force—one that Jazz Poems makes palpable. We hear it in the poems of Langston Hughes, e. e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara, and Gwendolyn Brooks, and in those of Yusef Komunyakaa, Charles Simic, Rita Dove, Ntozake Shange, Mark Doty, and C. D. Wright. Here are poems that pay tribute to jazz's great voices, and also poems that themselves throb with the vivid rhythm and energy of the jazz tradition, ranging in tone from mournful elegy to sheer celebration.
"Lenox Avenue: Midnight" by Langston Hughes
The rhythm of life
Is a jazz rhythm,
The gods are laughing at us.
The broken heart of love,
The weary, weary heart of pain,—
To the rumble of street cars,
To the swish of rain.
And the gods are laughing at us.