1909 — 1956
The legends and the anecdotes
are only half of it;
Charlie Parker early on,
night-club kitchen, washing plates
just to hear the sound
then saying as saxophonist
‘I wish I could play like
Tatum’s right hand’;
the story too when Heifetz brought
Sergei Rachmaninoff to listen,
the pianist and composer saying,
‘My God, it’s hot in here’;
then Heifetz, with a grin:
‘Only for pianists’.
A big man, almost blind,
Art Tatum sat there on a stool,
addressing the piano,
two hands floating on the keys
(‘hardly touching,’ people said)
and not a trace of histrionics,
just the smile, convivial,
as if he were no more involved
than any other listener,
loving just the repertoire,
the Broadway / Tin Pan Alley stalwarts,
lyrics drifting in the air.
Whether or not the audience
had managed five grades with the nuns
or never hit a note,
the man’s arpeggios
would always leave them gasping —
not just the speed but all that
detail of articulation,
the heady soar of mathematics
but not, at last, the tonic.
Each two bar rest became
a sort of short sonata
hinting at a future
he’d finally abjure.
At times, to offer variation,
there’d be some counterpoint,
left hand glancing at the right,
right hand nodding back.
Behind it all was ‘Harlem Stride’,
Fats Waller, James P. Johnson,
the bar room and the barrelhouse
but that was just an inside joke,
a smile from time to time.
Who can say what technique ‘means’,
apart from all those scales + talent?
Of course, it is a miracle
but what is left to say
when all the options are supplied
in one man’s summary of hands?
Sometimes, they’d have him play with rhythm,
a back-up of guitar and drums,
even add a horn or two
but they could never be the point.
The orchestra was there already,
black and white, all eighty-eight.
‘That man plays way too much piano,’
the mother of a friend declared
and briskly left the room.
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 94: EARTHSUBMIT to M Takolander 93: PEACHCOMING SOONwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones
- Submission to Cordite 94: EARTH
- NO THEME VIII Editorial
- ‘A means of resistance’: Susie Anderson Interviews Alison Whittaker
- 10 Works by Richard Bell
- Shipwrecks in Modern European Painting and Poetry: Radical Mobilisation of the Motif as Political Protest
- 4 Self-translations by Danijela Trajković
- Brutalism: Poems by Alex Creece
- Imperfect Growth: a Travel Log
- 4 Translated Kim Seung-hee Poems
- Residence: Dwelling with The Shards (an essay)
- The Shards
- in yr swimming pool
- Sonar for Conception
- The slow clock
- nanny on the water
- Vernal Funks & Bluffs
- I’d Have Called Her Sooner
- Call of Summer
- Sunday, call me a squid
- Mother Bird
- The Wrong Colour
- Milk River
- House fitting : surprisingly