Miles Davis, the celebrated, iconic trumpeter, once said, “I always listen to what I can leave out.” What moves poetry, like jazz, is what is not said, just as much as what is. Transitions, movement, imagery, moods, and the arc of a story are all created by the hidden tensions and silences in a poem, the rhythm they take within line breaks and cadences within the lines themselves. Rhythm and sound move poetry into a sonic and ethereal landscape that makes the lines breathe and images stick in our brains. We will listen to jazz to help us craft poems, studying how jazz musicians like Sun Ra, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and others have used sound, silence, breath and rhythm to create a soundscape. This study of sound and silence will help us pay attention to a poem, and push us to write poems both with jazz and in jazz.
Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Editions, 2016) and Xenos (Agape Editions, 2017). She is also the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Some of her work appears or is forthcoming in the Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, Similar Peaks, Paris-American, BORT Quarterly and Tinderbox, among other places. She earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College and in 2011 received the American Society of Poets Prize. She is the founder of Yes, Poetry and a managing editor for Luna Luna and CCM. She lives in Sunset Park.