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Testimony, A Tribute to Charlie Parker
With New and Selected Jazz Poems
Yusef Komunyakaa; Sandy Evans, contrib.; Christopher Williams, contrib.; Miriam Zolin, contrib.; Sascha Feinstein, fwd.

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2013 • 156 pp. 7 illus. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Jazz

$30.00 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7429-9

$23.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7413-8

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Includes audio supplement

Comprising of 14 sonnet-like stanzas, Komunyakaa’s narrative poem Testimony celebrates the life and legacy of jazz legend Charlie Parker. … This present book reprints the title poem along with a... [continued in Reviews below]”—B. Wallenstein, Choice

A collaborative tribute of words and music reflecting the tension and beauty of jazz, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation audio recording with music by Sandy Evans

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa is well known for his jazz poetry, and this book is the first to bring together the verve and vitality of his oeuvre. The centerpiece of this volume is the libretto “Testimony.” Paying homage to Charlie Parker, “Testimony” was commissioned for a radio drama with original music by eminent Australian composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans. Remarkably rich and evocative, encompassing a wide range of musical energy and performers, this moving affirmation of Parker’s genius became a milestone in contemporary radio theater. Twenty-eight additional poems spanning the breadth of Komunyakaa’s career are included, including two never previously published. Accompanying the poems are interviews and essays featuring Komunyakaa, Evans, radio producer Christopher Williams, jazz critic Miriam Zolin, jazz writer and editor Sascha Feinstein, and musical director, Paul Grabowsky. Sascha Feinstein writes the foreword. The print edition includes two CDs with the entire Australian Broadcast Company recording of Testimony, ebook contains imbedded audio. Check for the online reader’s companion at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Comprising of 14 sonnet-like stanzas, Komunyakaa’s narrative poem Testimony celebrates the life and legacy of jazz legend Charlie Parker. … This present book reprints the title poem along with a healthy sampling of about 50 of this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet’s other jazz poems. In a foreword, Sascha Feinstein—poet, editor, and close associate of Komunyakaa—provides a history of the Testimony project. Recommended (for) upper-division undergraduates and above.”
B. Wallenstein, Choice

Testimony… describes jazz as a country, a way of life, a sexuality, a spirituality.”
Joseph Hoover, S.J., America Magazine

“Testimony’ is one of the most successful jazz poems ever written, both lush and poignant, like the best of Parker’s solos.”—Stephen Cramer, author of Tongue & Groove

“Charlie Parker’s life is well known to jazz fans, but Komunyakaa’s setting of these details is surprising and engaging, combining facts and symbolism, and his descriptive language is colorful and evocative.”—Art Lange, coeditor of Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose

“Testimony’ is a compelling tribute. . . . It is remarkably free of kitsch and cliché and has some wonderful details. The interview with Feinstein, and Feinstein’s other essay, help to explicate some of the details in the poem for readers less familiar with Bird lore.”—Jonathan Mayhew, author of Apocryphal Lorca: Translation, Parody, Kitsch

From the Book:


He hopped boxcars to Chitown
late fall, just a few steps
ahead of the hawk. After
sleepwalking to the 65 Club,
he begged Goon for a chance
to sit in with a borrowed sax.
He’d paid his dues for years
blowing ravenous after-hours
'til secrets filled with blues
rooted in Mississippi mud;
he confessed to Budd Johnson
that as a boy playing stickball,
sometimes he’d spy in a window
as they rehearsed back in K. C.

It was Goon who took him home,
gave him clothes & a clarinet.
Maybe that’s when he first
played laughter & crying
at the same time. Nights
sucked the day’s marrow
'til the hibernating moon grew
fat with lies & chords. Weeks
later, with the horn hocked,
he was on a slow Greyhound
headed for the Big Apple,
& “Honeysuckle Rose”
blossomed into body language,
driven by a sunset on the Hudson.

—from “Testimony”

YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA is a professor and senior distinguished poet in the graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University. He is the author of twenty books of poetry.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Thu, 6 Sep 2018 11:20:29 -0500