April, when both Jazz Appreciation Month and National Poetry Month are observed, is always a special time at Bright Skylark Literary Productions. This year it is doubly special because in addition to featuring several re-posts of classic articles and essays about poetry and jazz on this site, we have also teamed up with our Charter for Compassion partners to present the timely new 4-part series: Poetic Traditions of Compassion and Creative Maladjustment.
The celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month actually got underway with Jarreau Jazz-riff Earth-tunes for the Angel of Compassion, the poem and essay published in tribute to the late great Al Jarreau after his passing earlier this year. Jarreau in recent years had been among the headliners for the annual International Jazz Day concert and one of the premier talents of the modern jazz era. You can check out part 1 of the tribute by clicking here and part 2, which includes the poem, by clicking this Postered Poetics artwork:
A Confluence of Compassionate Sensibilities
In addition to commemorating NPM 2017, the series showcased on the Charter for Compassion website does two important things:
1) It explores the conceptual relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for a creative-maladjustment approach to civil disobedience and author Karen Armstrong’s recommended strategy for living a compassion-empowered life.
2) It utilizes as lens through which to examine poetic traditions of compassion, short biographical profiles of the Sufi genius Jalal al-Din Rumi, the great Pulitzer Prize-winning Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Renaissance poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and the Prague, Czech Republic-born author of Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke.
You can begin enjoying the series by clicking either of the following graphics:
Author-Poet Aberjhani is currently completing a book of nonfiction narratives addressing race relations, histories of erasure, the cultural arts, and practices of slavery in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, USA.
The edits on my current book in progress were close to complete when Hurricane Matthew came to town and rearranged my priorities. President-Elect Donald Trump, at the time still a presidential candidate, contributed his fair share of distractions as well but that’s another blog for another time.
Along with its unexpected destructiveness in my hometown, Hurricane Matthew also delivered a few gifts. One of the most important of those gifts for me was the rediscovery of research materials in the form of notebooks from the 1990s long thought lost in the shuffle of previous relocations. The material turned up while storing and salvaging valuable to keep them safe from the hurricane.
The discovery of the notebooks themselves became part of my account––now included in the previously-noted book-in-progress–– of surviving Matthew. One of those notebooks contains an unvarnished story of the birth of ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love. Because of the death of Luther E. Vann, my co-creator on the project, earlier this year, the notebook was a startling find.
Discussing the Possibility
Had he lived, Luther would have turned 79 on December 2, 2016, so it seems appropriate that notebooks and early recorded recitals of poems from ELEMENTAL should have started popping up at this time. The excerpt below is taken from notes dated September 11, 1992, more than a year after I first met the painter and sculptor.
At this point, I had been experimenting with writing poems based on his art but this was our first time discussing the possibility of working on a book together. Also during this period, comparing our developing friendship to the meeting between Jalal al-Din Rumi and Shams Tabrizi helped me visualize the possibility of working with an artist who had been practicing his craft much longer than I had been plying mine.
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.