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Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Jonathan David Jackson

I'd like to talk first about your marvelous poem, "Frankie Gets Lucky." The first and most important marvel is its ease of delivery, or shall I say, its *phrasing*. It's four sections are at once snapshots--with vivid senses of physical movement, scene-setting, and wry observation--and highly emotional commentary about the presence that a person leaves once she or he is gone. That the commentary, and the snapshots move via indirection and employ a free verse in which I never once questioned the sense behind every line break and choice of diction; that the commentary keeps shifting to new scenes; that the commentary moves through multiple discourses of the vernacular, the erudite, the blues--all of these movements signify a speaker in the throes of cinematic remembering, of the in-the-moment discovery of one's sense of Frankie rather than the editorializing about Frankie. The marvel is that the rhapsody of the poem is reigned in by the economy of the free verse and the precision in diction. This is important as there are less than successful jazz and blues poems that so idolize their subjects--especially John Coltrane--that 1. one never senses the in-the-moment path of the speaker's subjectivity or 2. one senses that path as spilling over indulgently into romanticism. The verbal/situational/dramatic irony of the last section, especially the last four lines ending with Frankie's "words" and his blues, puts the act of remembering into the honored subject's mouth and then displaces the potential romanticism of the memory by upsetting the use that we may find from the memory of our most beloved friends/artists: Did the speaker do Frankie any good? Does the poem do Frankie any good in its remembering? I think so.

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