|In his deeply
innovative and beautifully human Ghost Notes, Ralph Burns
explores the vivid relation between American jazz and American
poetry. His book embodies the movement of jazz. In the
long title poem he plays wide open, without a mute, as
Red Allen advises. The result is inclusive and exhilarating,
a structure that keeps on opening and opening.
"I think a good poem," says Burns, "like
Charles Mingus's 'Chair in the Sky,' carries the possibility
of alighting anywhere. There is nothing it denies prior
to its first impulse, but as Dizzy Gillespie suggests,
one of its projects is to 'learn what not to play.' Zutty
Singleton played drums, and somebody showed up, then
more people, including selves he may have come to recognize
as a community, sometimes an argumentative one. That's
what I want to happen in this book."
It does. Ghost Notes delivers on all of its promises.
WITH A LAST LINE FROM DANTE
You don't know what lovin is the old man said
to his daughter, night air and windows down,
but she did. His head rolled along his shoulders
when thunder made her move her head
toward his at the old folks home when she visited
and they sat on the sofa in the waiting room
where the piano glistened like spit and urine.
His head kept dropping to his chest,
he kept getting up and sitting back down, then
up again to walk five steps, then down
to put out himself like a candle. The bracelet
on his ankle set off waves to bolt the doors
but never got that close. For then would the
be filled with good desire.
Copyright c 2001 by Oberlin College. May not
be reproduced without permission.