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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.

Available only as an ebook.

Wesleyan Poetry Series

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

$19.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7493-0

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Does not include any audio supplement

A collaborative tribute of words and music reflecting the tension and beauty of jazz

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. Check for the online reader’s companion at (This edition does not include any audio.)

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“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.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:17:03 -0500