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Black Pearls
Improvisations on a Lost Year
Sascha Feinstein

Eastern Washington University
2008 • 176 pp. 6 x 9 1/4"
Essays / Jazz

$23.95 Hardcover, 978-1-59766-047-1

A collection of essays by Sascha Feinstein.

Sascha Feinstein grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the only child of parents who were both artists. While he was still in high school, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and died less than a year later. It was during the trying period of his mother's illness that he became consumed by jazz, both as an emotional salvation and as a necessary form of escape. Later, during his college years, he discovered the crossovers between jazz and poetry, and a life's love was forged.

Feinstein's passion for the creative arts and his fragmented memories of the heartbreaking loss of his mother entwined to become the book Black Pearls. In the spirit of jazz improvisation, these gentle, evocative essays are governed by theme and variation more than by strict chronology, each essay repositioning riffs and choruses of personal experience within the broader cultural landscapes of literature, painting, and music. Although the project began as an exploration into the archeological nature of lost memory, it matured into a far more expansive understanding of personal identity.

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Reviews / Endorsements

"Sascha Feinstein's Black Pearls is a quiet marvel, an elegy of sorts for his Swedish mother, for jazz greats Charlie Parker, Mingus, Monk, Coltrane, and many others, for his seventeen-year-old self, and for New York City of the late 1970s. With the associative power of a poet, the syncopations of a musician, and a tactile prose that harkens back to his visual artist parents, Feinstein creates a tapestry worth lingering over, savoring and returning to for its many moving comforts. To paraphrase Feinstein, to reframe this lost world reframes us."—Robin Hemley, director, Nonfiction Writing Program, University of Iowa

"It probably goes without saying that those who share Sascha Feinstein's love of jazz and literature will feast on these exquisitely composed 'improvisations' with the keenest pleasure, as though they were written just for us. But they weren't: Feinstein's mastery of the personal essay, in which recollection and critical acuity are inseparable, recall Hazlitt at his narrative best. The alluring modesty of his sensibility is that of a good and generous man who, in elucidating his own insights, sharpens ours as well."—Gary Giddins, author of Natural Selection and Visions of Jazz

SASCHA FEINSTEIN is a poet, essayist, and editor. In addition to works of poetry—his collection Misterioso won the inaugural Hayden Carruth Award—he is the author of Ask Me Now: Conversations on Jazz & Literature and of Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present. He is also the coeditor, with Yusef Komunyakaa, of The Jazz Poetry Anthology and its companion volume, The Second Set, and the founding editor of Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature. He holds an MFA in poetry and a PhD in American literature.

In September 2008, Feinstein was named Pennsylvania's Artist of the Year as part of the annual Governor's Awards for the Arts. He teaches at Lycoming College, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and in the MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. An accomplished saxophonist, he also hosts a weekly radio show, "Jazz Standards," on WVIA.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:15:34 -0500