April 20, 2011International Jazz Day: declared by UNESCO, at the suggestion of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, who chaired the first event in 2012, co-sponsored by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Yusef Komunyakaa (1947 – ) is a African American poet who was born as James William Brown, in Bogalusa Louisiana, the eldest of five children. He served one tour of duty in South Vietnam during the war, and worked for the military paper Southern Cross, leaving the service in 1966. He earned an M.A. in writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine, in 1980. He was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Neon Vernacular. Komunyakaa is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

To read Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Blue Dementia” click:

NOTE: Eli “Lucky” Thompson was an American jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist. Marion Brown was a jazz alto saxophonist and ethnomusicologist.

Blue Dementia

by Yusef Komunyakaa

In the days when a man
would hold a swarm of words
inside his belly, nestled
against his spleen, singing.

In the days of night riders
when life tongued a reed
till blues & sorrow song
called out of the deep night:
Another man done gone.
Another man done gone.

In the days when one could lose oneself
all up inside love that way,
& then moan on the bone
till the gods cried out in someone’s sleep.

already I’ve seen three dark-skinned men
discussing the weather with demons
& angels, gazing up at the clouds
& squinting down into iron grates
along the fast streets of luminous encounters.

I double-check my reflection in plate glass
& wonder, Am I passing another
Lucky Thompson or Marion Brown
cornered by a blue dementia,
another dark-skinned man
who woke up dreaming one morning
& then walked out of himself
dreaming? Did this one dare
to step on a crack in the sidewalk,
to turn a midnight corner & never come back
whole, or did he try to stare down a look
that shoved a blade into his heart?
I mean, I also know something
about night riders & catgut. Yeah,
honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.

Blue Dementia from The Chameleon Couch © 2011 by Yusef Komunyakaa, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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