Black Poetry Writing Month: Write a Poem Inspired by Music

Battle Report

One thousand saxophones infiltrate the city.
Each with a man inside,
Hidden in ordinary cases,
Labeled FRAGILE.

A fleet of trumpets drops their hooks,
Inside at the outside.

Ten waves of trombones approach the city
Under blue cover
Of late autumn’s neo-classical clouds.

Five hundred bassmen, all string feet tall,
Beating it back to the bass.

One hundred drummers, each a stick in each hand,
The delicate rumble of pianos, moving in.

The secret agent, an innocent bystander,
Drops a note in the wail box.

Five generals, gathered in the gallery,
Blowing plans.

At last, the secret code is flashed:
Now is the time, now is the time.

Attack: The sound of jazz.

The city falls.

—Bob Kaufman, from Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness (1965)

 

Jazz music is all about improvisation. A band that consists of maybe a saxophonist, a trumpet and trombone player, a bassist, a drummer, a pianist, and lastly, a singer could have an original musical arrangement—either written or learned by ear and memorized—but once it’s time for each musician to perform his or her two minute solo, everything changes. Each performer spins their own little twist to the melody, showing off their musical talents. From the drummer to the saxophonist. Even the singer may do a little bebop. There may even be a call-and-response exchange between the singer and other musicians, a competition of who’s improvisation is the best, until finally they all come back together to close the number, and the audience erupts in applause. Bob Kaufman’s “Battle Report” serves as a metaphor to that element of jazz.

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For today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem inspired by a genre of music. It could be jazz, hip hop, country, whatever music you prefer. Incorporate the characteristics of that music genre into your writing—the sound, the rhythm, the style. Make us feel the music in your words.

—Nortina

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