Jam Sessions

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


Inspired to experiment with a new style of poetry. Influenced entirely by music this time. The idea is to create a series of jam sessions. I thought of it during my commute to work yesterday morning as I listened to a live performance of the Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia.” I think this is a great idea.

Why I’m jazzed: music has such a vivifying effect on my imagination. The colors, textures, and movements. Music often conjures an eclectic and vibrant array of imagery, contributes indispensably to the richness of my inner world. Coupled with a surge of emotions. Moments of ecstasy and glimpses into a transcendent-type experience. My love of music, rock and roll, especially, already spills into poetry.  But its involvement in the process—the integral role music plays in the act of composition— for me, is even more profound. 

I study songs. Any song whose rhythms paint a mosaic, weave a tapestry on the back of my mind. Any artist whose work moves me to that vibrant, blissful, intensely colorful space. Must be studied. Listened to over and over again until I sense I have sufficiently captured the aesthetic of the music. Its rises and its falls. Paces, strokes. Hues and textures. The etchings on the canvas. My surrealist poetry of the Dalí type is always written to Pink Floyd. No exceptions. My play on a poet’s guitar solo in Seven Road written to Fleetwood Mac’s “I’m So Afraid.” Listened to a live performance of Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar solo at least a dozen times and free-wrote to the music in the hopes of capturing something of its essence, of translating the vibrance and intensity of my inner response into an art of its own. To my mind, the highest form of compliment and creative criticism one artist can offer another. A brand new poem, titled “Hat Trick” to be included in my forthcoming chapbook, Seven Road & Other Poems, inspired by The Allman Brothers Band. “Whipping Post.” After a period of intensive study. How I love that song.

So, now I’ve decided to write jam sessions like the Grateful Dead. (As a poet, who wouldn’t want to jam like the Grateful Dead anyway?) I don’t know how I’m going to do it exactly, but I imagine, in this case, not knowing is an advantage. I envision the outcome like a grand tapestry. A montage of colors and an eclectic melding of textures, images, and vibrations. But above all else, an improvisation, to be sure. And I’ve been studying.

What’s interesting to me: how our minds and spirits are moved to create this way. I am reminded of Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, the subject of another intensive self-study. The soul of a jazz poet spilled out in choruses. How some creative folks can interpret not only art, literature, and music, but also the full breadth of their sensory experience with such depth and lyrical impact. The remarkable untidiness of it. Of the melding of sounds, emotions, and images. The synaesthetic aspects of creativity that are often so lush and pleasurable. And that precede creative activity. This, I think, is an important distinction: creativity can produce feelings of ecstasy. The heightened mental energy, intense clarity and focus, absorption of a flow state. And the tremendous and unquantifiable innate satisfaction that follows. But ecstasy can also be a prelude to creative activity. Whether it’s induced by music, poetry, or immersion in visual works of art. Or any other experience that makes you feel as if you’ve been handed a little slice of heaven. For me, this is the state of mind in which poetry produces itself. And whatever comes of my attempts at producing jam sessions (I expect it will be great fun.), that experience will remain among the most aesthetically rewarding of my life. Let the band play on

And may all of my readers in the US have a happy and safe 4th of July!

5 thoughts on “Jam Sessions

  1. I relate to this post very much, although most of the time I don’t write while I listen to music. But a few times when I have done so, I have experienced my mind working in very spontaneous ways. A few times, as an experiment, I wrote while watching YouTube videos of visual artists at work, and I found myself in interesting states of mind. I am impressed by how dedicated you are to the work of allowing music that you hear to become part of your creative process in the moment. I do this with books I read that really seem to speak to me. I read the same sentences and paragraphs over and over and write down whatever images or words that come to mind that then seem to help me create whatever I do on the page. Thank you for helping me to think about this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And thank you for the thoughtful comment! There are times when I feel as if music compels me to create. But I suppose the same can be said of any other experience or work of art that moves me to what I consider “ecstatic” heights. I can relate very much to the practice of reading certain paragraphs over and over again and then free writing your thoughts. That is precisely what I did with my “Seven Road” guitar solo…and what I think I’d like to do with some of these jam sessions. But I am also intrigued by the idea of letting my mind go to the degree that I can, perhaps, improvise in a manner similar to a musician (and as a poet still maintain a certain rhythm, etc.). Also, I think it is interesting that you wrote while watching visual artists at work. That is something I’ve never tried, but I think it sounds like a wonderful experiment in creativity. Thank you again for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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