In the Vanguard


One of the high points of taking part as both witness and participant at Soul In Buffalo. A Curriculum of the Soul, was the music provided by pianist Kevin Doyle, as I presented an experiential learning moment, .Playing With the Gods, An Experiential Learning Moment in the Curriculum in the Soul, as the last event of the conference. (“A three-day free conference, will celebrate and explore Charles Olson’s legacy and extension through A Curriculum of the Soul, a series of poetic essays published as fascicles edited by Albert Glover and John C. (Jack) Clarke.”

Kevin essayed classic after classic on his portable acoustic keyboard. He very likely didn’t know several things about me. First, I’m a completely devoted jazzbo for almost 40 years, and, I’ve never done squareONE experiential learning to a jazz soundtrack. There’s a large section of my mostly private thinking about adult experiential learning which, in different ways, refers to improvisation in music, and, obviously, this in turn is anchored to my experience of jazz.

Another highlight happened when a group of us went to Casa-Di Pizza on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo on Friday night. Poet, scholar. musician Charles Palau regaled our end of the table with stories of his living the jazzbo’s life in the seventies in NYC. I remain in awe, and come close to experiencing envy–an emotion I otherwise am not configured to feel–to hear about nights spent at the feet of the masters. Those lucky persons always know how fortunate he or she was, yet, because I spent my formative jazzbo years in Vermont rather than in the jazz clubs of New York, I always find the recounting of more direct experience moving.

(It occurs to I might in a future post explain how lucky I was to land in Vermont–where I figured out another approach to jazz.)

Most incredibly, there is a final, third connection to the jazz atmosphere of the Olsonian karass. The first time I heard lived jazz was in my parent’s living room sometime in the sixties. The player was Jack Clarke, himself a student of Charles Olson, a poet, and as I learned in November, an artist for whom jazz was a touchstone. I didn’t realize I had this connection until a week before the conference when I asked my mother if the “Jack Clarke” who played at parties at my childhood house, was the same John Clarke who was a professor of American literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and, a poet, and, crucially, one of Olson’s deepest students; although, initiate might be the superior term.

My mother couldn’t pin down the chronology, but it may be that Clarke was in Cleveland at Western Reserve University at the same time my mother was there, teaching English.

This strange, almost circular, connection would have more profound ramifications were I more familiar with the fascinating milieu of Olson, The Black Mountain School, and, its consequential counter-the-consensus culture turn. A turn made as the influence of Olson, Creeley, Glover, Clarke, and others, rippled through a series of east coast generations, ending up soulfully centered in Buffalo.

I had a thorough, transformative engagement with counter-culture elements, roughly during its third generation, that comes to roll on the tracks of this revealed circular connection. For, it did happen that jazz sonics entered my environment with Jack Clarke, and then, something like forty years later, the hippie-cum-hipster comes to taste a bit of the Olsonian soul.

As for John Clarke, I’d like to point you in the direction of a description by poet Steve Ellis, of the thrust of Clarke’s explorations.

It blooms off of this stem:

His poetics begins with an opulent persistence of materials in mission. He takes these out of their “natural” context, believing that they belong in propositions and that a nonpropositional storehouse of poetry has no real claim on poetic materials.

He considers poetry not as a “criticism” of life, but as one of life’s alternatives. He’s not involved with the ethics and accuracy implied in diagramming such an alternative so much as he is drawn towards a recognition of those periods in which he is committedly living and using it — by which poetry comes to an effectiveness which is neither commercial, classic nor aesthetic. (continued)

…something like this approaches the devotion to jazz-making. (Charles Mingus: “In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I’m changing all the time.”)

source: JFK’s Head Blown Out from a Cosmic Inflationary Spiral: Stephen Ellis on Poetry, Jack Clarke, Palestine, Position-Taking, the End of the World, and Cyberpoetry –

(The Jack in jackmagazine is Keruoac. However, the beat is universal.

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