SPRITES & FLARES: PROMPTS RESPONSE FEATURE
AUSTIN HART : CLUB 55
(Interviewer: Amber Carpenter, Prompts Editor for SPACES)
Create art in conversation with music by an emerging or under-recognized musical talent.
Blue eyes closed over. Double-
breasted navy two-button pulls against
wet sand skin under cotton collar.
It tapers & traces
his body from knot to tip; a rope
-thin four-in-hand, noosed about his throat, hung
like the ancestors his heroes channeled
on the crowded bandstand, clean
as Miles giving birth to cool,
but with a sax in his mouth. Hands
doing the Charleston all over the
neck like two spiders in heat.
Thick blue melodies ooze from
his tarnished brass mouth & fall
out to thicken the dim juice-joint.
White strings of illuminated Christmas bulbs,
tacked around all four ceiling
corners, shimmer off a worn, water
-stained wooden bar-top where drinks sweat
languidly in smoky bebop. A thin cloud
slips through the pursed pink lips of the cat
on the keys, head bobbing over
loosened bowtie & yawning collar.
He fits into the rhythm, his Rhoades
& its wet sheets of sound. The place awash
in antique sepia, the night-owls reverent
through each set; Irish-coffees thicken,
shooters of Hennessey finish drowning
their rocks. & somewhere from the kit
sharply, a drum solo closes in abrupt
transition back full like it’s 1959, Kind of
with a dab of Ra’s Saturn.
Their confidence falls off them,
thrusting note after note under the skin.
Crammed up front, in grin, in defiance,
bopping, they string riff into melody
to make a jam this basement seems to
breathe in, keeping the stoned cats balanced,
sitting pretty. At once
they emote with distinction
in thickened cacophonies,
feeling out their place in the space
they find themselves, & when finally
they calm down to tell, in turns, how
all life is essentially a coming together,
the Birdbrain on alto catches a chance to run off
again, the others
right at his note-tails.
Interview with Austin Hart
Amber: This is such a unique poem that pays tribute to Jazz music. What inspired you to write “55 Club”? Moreover, to which prompt were you responding?
Austin: The prompt was: Create art in conversation with music by an emerging or under-recognized musical talent. But a lot of things inspired this piece; the most basic two would be: a great love and appreciation for Jazz, rhythm, and improvisation, and a strong desire to write what poet Kevin Coval termed a “Racemusic poem.” The title and some of the setting, however, were derived directly from a small, jazz spot of the same name in New York City.
Amber: How did you come up with the overall format? Do you often experiment with various types of poetry?
Austin: I’m not really sure!—Serendipity? I tend to always write by hand first, arranging and line-breaking as I go about the digital composition from my notes; I try to push myself to think about the page as a canvas, to try and find the right way to organize rhythms and movement for the reader—I think it’s important to experiment with variety and difficulty, formal and free-form structured space. You have to show yourself things just as often as you show readers; we’re constantly forced to create our own revelations.
Austin: Thank you! Sometimes I find I put way too much of it into my work sometimes, focusing too long on this or that, and destroying this or that in the process—in this sense, a great deal of my process is analogous to erosion.
Amber: One last question: if you were to write a prompt, what would it be?
Austin: Artists have always prized themselves on the ability to speak to others from/at the crossroads of important social and political issues. Find one that is important to you and explore it honestly.