Jazz History in 1920

Topics: Beat Generation, Poetry, African American Pages: 8 (1466 words) Published: April 30, 2007
Jazz Poetry in the 1920's

Jazz Poetry can be defined as poetry that demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feeling of

improvisation. During the 1920's many poets began to experiment with the conventional forms of

writing with rhythm which led to the invention of Jazz Poetry. Poetry and Jazz seemed to both

evolve into each other which led to the merge that became known as "Jazz Poetry". Jazz poetry has

been an unorthodox style of writing since it was invented in the 1920's. The reason it has been

considered out of the mainstream is that it was invented by African American artists in the 1920's

when segregation had not ended long ago. There were still Jim Crowe laws in effect when this

evolution was occurring. There was also a Renaissance occurring with this evolution called the

Harlem Renaissance. This time in American History could be described as "HOT NIGHTS and cool

jazz.... steamy sidewalks and fancy dressers... songs of the soul and songs of the body...the lilt of

gentle laughter and the penetrating wail of the blues..." Harlem was the home of many African

American poets and musicians which was the perfect breeding grounds for creating jazz poetry.

Harlem is a community in New York that lies in the northern half of the boroughs of Manhattan.

Some of the earliest poets simply referred to jazz in their poetry. Although these earliest poets were

coined as jazz poets there were not "True Jazz Poets". The poets who only referred to jazz in their

poems were called Jazz-Related Poets. Jazz poets would have to create a rhythm and imitates jazz in

its words and delivery. There were many different artists that had huge impacts on jazz poetry

including one of the most famous; Louis Armstrong. It was said that Armstrong is the best Jazz

musician to ever had lived. Louis Armstrong influenced many jazz poets such as Mina Loy, and

Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes is considered the founder of the Jazz Poetry genre since no

artist before him could merge jazz and poetry together as he did. Hughes was born on February 1,

1902 in Joplin Missouri. He began writing poetry in the eighth grade and was elected the class poet.

He was encouraged by his father to pursue a more practical career and attended college for a short

amount of time but continued to write poetry. Luckily for the artistic community he decided to drop

out of his program of study and pursue a writing career. His first poem published was also one of his

most famous and still is today and was entitled "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Many of his writings

appeared in the NAACP magazines and other publications. One of Hughes favorite past-times

became listening to blues, and jazz while writing his poetry. This had a profound influence on his

writings and it was easily seen as in such cases as he wrote the poem "The Weary Blues". He moved

to Harlem in 1924, during the Harlem Renaissance. During this time he became very popular and

his works all flourished. In 1925 he decided to move to Washington D.C. and there he spent even

more time in jazz and blues clubs. He was quoted as saying "I tried to write the poems like the songs

they sang on seventh street.... these songs had the pulse beat of the people who keep on going" He

died on May 22, 1967 of cancer. His home in Harlem was given landmark status by the New York

Preservation Committee. Here is one of his jazz poems:
Negro Dancers
Langston Hughes
Me an' ma baby's
Got two mo' ways,
Two mo' ways to do de Charleston
Da, da,
Da, da, da
Two mo' ways to do de Charleston
Soft light on the tables,
Music gay,
Brown-skin steppers
In a cabaret.
White folks, laugh
White folks, pray
Me an' ma baby's
Got two mo' ways,
Two mo' ways to do de
Charleston 1926

Jazz Poetry embodied what society was like in the time that it was written.
Jazz Poetry also prospered from...
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