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«Dear John, Dear Coltrane»

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John ColtraneI morgen blir det 80 år siden John Coltrane ble født. Etter Charlie Parker er det Coltrane, og så er det ingen andre, og så er det Miles - i det store bildet. Og bak der, blant skygger og popler, sees Satchmo, Lady Day og Duke.

Tiden han levde i, måten han levde på, en tidlig død, spiller selvfølgelig inn, når «Coltrane poems» har blitt en egen genre blant afro-amerikanske litterater og intellektuelle. Men musikken, mann - mest av alt den.

- Sometimes I wish I could walk up to my music for the first time, as if I had never heard it before. Being so inescapably a part of it, I’ll never know what the listener gets, what the listener feels, and that’s too bad, sa Coltrane. Slik kjenner man det også som lytter, selvfølgelig gjør man det.

Den første gode forelskelsen, oppdagelsen av Sandemose, Södergran, Neruda. Å få gjenoppleve første gang man ble slått til jorden av denne urkraften - acknowledgement of genius; resolution, pursuance, psalm. A love supreme, a love supreme. Men vær advart: John Coltrane er ikke for alle. Man må ha visse livserfaringer, og en viss mentalitet, tror jeg.

Fem plater med på en øde øy for resten av livet? «A Love Supreme» og «Meditations» er selvskrevne. Og «Giant Steps» og «Soultrane» - og hvordan skulle man klare seg uten fem versjoner av «My Favorite Thing», og «Naima» og «I want to talk about you» og -?

Sam HoseDen store poeten Michael S. Harper skrev allerede i 1966 diktet "Dear John, Dear Coltrane", like før Trane døde. Det ble publisert i den prisbelønte diktsamlingen med samme navn i 1970.

- When I first wrote it, I thought to myself, are you writing this man's death warrant? The poem begins with Coltrane himself singing. The first three words in the poem are the fingers and toes of Sam Hose, who was lynched and dismembered.

Sam Hose is a very important person. A guy once asked me if I were making an allusion to Sam Hose at the beginning of Dear John. I said, yes, I was. He said I was the only person who ever put that in its proper context.

Michael S. Harper leser diktet «Dear John, Dear Coltrane»:

Dear John, Dear Coltrane

a love supreme, a love supreme
a love supreme, a love supreme
Sex fingers toes
in the marketplace
near your father's church
in Hamlet, North Carolina--
witness to this love
in this calm fallow
of these minds;
there is no substitute for pain:
genitals gone or going,
seed burned out,
you tuck the roots in the earth,

turn back, and move
by river through the swamps,
singing: a love supreme, a love supreme;
what does it all mean?
Loss, so great each black
woman expects your failure
in mute change, the seed gone.
You plod up into the electric city--
your song now crystal and
the blues. You pick up the horn
with some will and blow
into the freezing night:
a love supreme, a love supreme--

Dawn comes and you cook
up the thick sin 'tween
impotence and death, fuel
the tenor sax cannibal
heart, genitals and sweat
that makes you clean--
a love supreme, a love supreme--

Why you so black?
cause I am
why you so funky?
cause I am
why you so black?
cause I am
why you sweet?
cause I am
why you so black?
cause I am
a love supreme, a love supreme:

So sick you couldn't play Naima,
so flat we ached
for song you'd concealed
with your own blood,
your diseased liver gave
out its purity,
the inflated heart
pumps out, the tenor kiss,
tenor love:
a love supreme, a love supreme--
a love supreme, a love supreme--  

Tre andre Coltrane-dikt av Harper

John ColtraneDet første, «A Narrative in the Life and Times of John Coltrane, Played by Himself», starter i Hamlet, North Carolina, der han ble født, og streifer innom hendelser på veien til New York, og tiden i Philadelphia.

A Narrative in the Life and Times of John Coltrane,
Played by Himself

Michael S. Harper leser diktet:

I don't remember train whistles,
or corroding trestles of ice
seeping from the hangband,
vaulting northward in shining triplets,
but the feel of the reed on my tongue
haunts me even now, my incisors
pulled so the pain wouldn't lurk
on "Cousin Mary;"

In High Point I stared
at the bus which took us to band
practice on Memorial Day;
I could hardly make out, in the mud,
placemarks, separations of skin
sketched in plates above the rear bumper.

Mama asked, "what's the difference
'tween North and South Carolina,"
a capella notes on our church choir
doping me into arpeggios,
into sheets of sound labeling me
into dissonance.

I never liked the photo taken with
Bird, Miles without sunglasses,
me in profile almost out of exposure;
these were my images of movement;
when I hear the sacred songs,
auras of my mother at the stove,
I play the blues:

what good does it do to complain:
one night I was playing with Bostic,
Blocking out, coming alive only to melodies
when I could play my parts:
And then, on a train to Philly,
I sang "Naima" locking the doors
without exit no matter what song
I sang; with remonstrations on the ceiling
of that same room I practiced in
on my back when too tired to stand,
I broke loose from these crystalline habits
I thought would bring me to that sound.

 Driving the Big Chrysler Across the Country of My Birth 

Michael S. Harper leser diktet:

I would wait for the tunnels
to glide into overdrive,
the shanked curves glittering with
truck tires, the last four bars
of Clifford's solo on "`Round Midnight"
somehow embossed on my memo stand.

Coming up the hill from Harrisburg,
I heard Elvin's magical voice
on the tines of a bus going to Lexington;
McCoy my spiritual anchor--
his tonics bristling in solemn
gyrations of the left hand.

At a bus terminal waiting to be taken
to the cemetery, I thought of Lester
Young's Chinese face on a Christmas card
mailed to my house in Queens: Prez!
I saw him cry in joy as the recordings
Bird memorized in Missouri breaks
floated on Bessie's floodless hill:
Backwater Blues; I could never play
such sweetness again: Lady said Prez
was the closest she ever got to real
escort, him worrying who was behind
him in arcades memorizing his tunes.

Driving into this Wyoming sunset,
rehearsing my perfect foursome,
ordering our lives on off-days,
it's reported that I'd gone out like Bird
recovering at Camarillo,
in an offstage concert in L.A.
I never hear playbacks of that chorus
of plaints, Dolphy's love-filled echoings,
perhaps my mother's hands
calling me to breakfast, the Heath
Brothers, in triplicate, asking me to stand
in; when Miles smacked me for being smacked
out on "Woodn't You," I thought how many
tunes I'd forgotten on my suspension
of the pentatonic scale; my solos
shortened, when I joined Monk he drilled
black keys into the registers of pain, joy
rekindled in McCoy's solo of "The Promise."

What does Detroit have to give my music
as elk-miles distance into shoal-lights,
dashes at sunrise over Oakland:
Elvin from Pontiac, McCoy from Philly,
Chambers from Detroit waltzing his bass.
I can never write a bar of this music
in this life chanting toward paradise
in this sunship from Motown.


Brother John 

coltraneBlack man:
I'm a black man;
I'm black; I am
A black man; black
I'm a black man;
I'm a black man;
I'm a man; black
I am
I am Bird
baddest night dreamer
on sax in the ornithology-world
I can fly--higher, high, higher

Miles, blue haze,
Miles high, another bird,
more Miles, mute,
Mute Miles, clean,
bug-eyed, unspeakable,
Miles, sweet Mute,
sweat Miles, black Miles;
I'm a black man;
I'm black; I am;
I'm a black man--

Trane, Coltrane; John coltrane;
it's tranetime; chase the Trane;
it's a slow dance;
it's the Trane
in Alabama; acknowledgment,
a love supreme,
it's black Trane; black;
I'm a black man; I'm black--
I am, I'm a black man -

Brother John, Brother John
plays no instrument;
he's a black man; black;
he's a black man; he is
Brother John; Brother John--

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