Sunday, October 26, 2008

Miles Davis, me, the poetry of hardwood, and pea gravel

This past Sunday, I felt a poetry storm start to brew. It is the time of year when verses waft and rise; the words are steam floating; they evaporate on memory's breeze. So it's best to pay attention; it's best to write often, so the elusive words can be captured.

Miles Davis, the great jazz composer, disclosed a secret to the art of his jazz making: he would sit transfixed in a gymnasium during a basketball contest, perhaps during a New York Knicks game, close his eyes, and listen to the syncopated rhythm of rubber soled shoes as they squeaked and yowled on the hardwood. The marriage of synthetic soles, the certitude of wood, and the collision of leather with flesh and pine evoked a rift on the trumpet, he would convert the observations, auditory and visual to composition. Horns shriek and yawn; rhymes and crazy metres all borne from the aesthetic of basketball-amazing.

Last Sunday, as I left a baby shower, I marched on a thick carpet of a pea gravel; vowels and consonants showered my consciousness.....when my feet crunched into the gravel, my brain's filing cabinet sifted through years of data- there is a song of the pea gravel from the driveway of the home where I grew up. I could hear the thousands of steps I'd taken across the pepper brown path; running to get the newspaper on a foggy morning; the comforting crunch of the rocks under the weight of an automobile as it pulled in the drive. I was immediately thrust into the past, a song might not yet have formed, but the inspiration has arrived. My feet, their heaviness, and the pea gravel are the sneaker shod feet of Madison Square Garden and the roundball that woke Davis' soul.

Who knows what may come of the sound of pea gravel? Are there sounds that evoke poems and speeches in you? I would love to hear about them.

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