What is Jazz Poetry?

There has always been a strong musical component in poetry.  In some cases, like Jazz Poetry, music plays a huge role.  Please welcome my guest, poet and fellow Wordsmith Studio Member Michelle Pond, as she introduces us to Jazz Poetry.

Swinging is not a word that most people associate with poetry. Those of us who enjoy jazz poetry do.

As noted in “A Brief Guide to Jazz Poetry“, this genre is poetry that is informed by jazz. The poet may be inspired by the history of the music, the lives of musicians or elements of the music itself.

Jazz and jazz poetry grew up together in the early 20th century. During the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes began to incorporate elements of the music such as rhythm, syncopation and improvisation into his work. In the link above, you may read an excerpt from his piece, “The Weary Blues”, which is the title poem of his collection published in 1926.

The Beat poets of the mid-20th century also were influenced by the jazz musicians of their time. In fact, Jack Kerouac recorded an album entitled “Poetry for the Beat Generation”. Kerouac read his poetry and was accompanied by Steve Allen on piano. Allen was the first host of the Tonight Show.

Jazz poetry also had a strong presence in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960′s and ’70′s. This link includes audio of Gwendolyn Brooks reading and discussing her poem “We Real Cool”.

My interest in jazz poetry began when I attended a workshop facilitated by Glenn North, the poet in residence at the American Jazz Museum. I attended out of curiosity more than anything else, but I became a fan of both the music and the poetry.

Certainly, the fact that I live in Kansas City, which has a rich jazz history and is home to the museum, is a factor. I am only minutes away from the great programming at the museum and music in the Blue Room.

Although I did not consider myself a fan of jazz when I took the workshop, I had seen many of the jazz greats on television during my childhood. Most were near the end of their careers. My new-found interest in jazz has allowed me to meet these people when they were young and understand the role they played in the evolution of the music.

Jazz poetry has been a springboard to learning about other art forms that are influenced by the music. I have been introduced to painters, photographers and textile artists who have created work inspired by jazz. I have even written some poetry inspired by their work.

I’ll close with a quote from Langston Hughes:

Jazz is a heartbeat-it’s heartbeat is yours. You will tell me about its perspectives when you get ready.

Are you familiar with jazz music and/or jazz poetry? How have you seen jazz reflected in various art forms? Thanks Michelle!


Michelle PondMichelle Pond is a poet and photographer who likes sports, jazz and art inspired by other art. She also volunteers with a bereavement support group. Her poetry has appeared in Thorny Locust, rusty Truck ezine and Salon, an anthology from Kansas City’s longest running open mic.  You can read her work at http://www.mapoetpoems.blogspot.com.




Vocabulary for the Exhausted: Logy

wondrous memeWelcome to another round of Wondrous Words Wednesday!  Visit Kathy at Bermudaonion to learn more fun words.

As you are reading this, I am traveling across the state of Virginia with 120 fourth graders to visit Richmond, Williamsburg, Jamestown, and (my favorite!) Monticello.  All in less than 48 hours.  We start at 4:30 am Tuesday and get home by midnight Wednesday.

I think by Wednesday evening I’ll be feeling logy.


logy \LOH-ghee\ adj, from the Dutch word log, meaning heavy; marked by sluggishness and lack of vitality

Word Nerd Workout

Think of a synonym for logy and share it here.  If you can make it comical, all the better.  I’ll need something to make me smile.  :)

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!



How Poetry Keeps Us Connected

Please welcome my guest, J. Lynn Sheridan, a poet and fellow Wordsmith Studio member.   Read on to learn about the lasting power of poetry and a new poetry site, The Slow Forget, for people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.  

No doubt, if you ask your favorite poet what’s happening this April, s/he will spout off a few alien acronyms or wordplays—NaPoWriMo, PAD, 30/30, PYP.

April is National Poetry Month and that means an abundance of poeming challenges.

National Poetry Monthba1969

The blogosphere will be buzzy with prompts, free-verse, cinquains, sestinas, and sonnets. Poetry will be dripping from our eyeballs by National Oatmeal Cookie Day on April 30, when we’ll all need a few cookies and a nice mug of milk to wind down from all the meter, iambs, and metaphors.

If you decide to participate, I’ve prepared a few tips on my poetry blog, Writing On the Sun.  It’s a loosely structured site chronicling my responses to various poetry prompts plus a sprinkling of biographical sketches.

The Slow Forget 

A few months ago, I launched a new poetry blog that is more focused, combining two emotive concepts—Poetry and Dementia/Alzheimer’s.

It’s no secret that the topic of poetics evokes either a twinge of fear or a thrill of anticipation.

It’s always one or the other response.

It’s also no secret that dementia never elicits a thrill of anticipation. It’s a dreaded disease that affects over 5 million Americans.

One of these is my mom. She is slowly forgetting her world, her life, her memories.

It’s painful for her.

It’s painful for us.

So why write poems about a disease?

The Ancients

For two reasons.

Both reasons date back to the ancient world.

First, poetry, as one of the healing arts, is a sensory language that condenses snapshots of an event, an insight, or a journey.

While poetry itself will never heal dementia, it can assist in healing emotions.

Job, of Old Testament biblical times, knew this. The book of Job, one of the oldest books in the Bible, is written in verse. In it, he was described as a righteous man, who was blessed with health, children, and great wealth. In the blink of an eye, it was all taken away. He records his laments in verse:

My lyre is tuned to mourning, and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

Though I don’t own a lyre or a pipe, I can connect with his grief.

And in a strange way, it’s comforting.

Poetry affirms history.

Second, poetry is a tool for recording history.

A memoir in verse, if you may.

One of the oldest surviving epic poems is the Epic of Gilgamesh, from the 3rd millennium BC.  Gilgamesh, was king of the ancient Sumerian city-state of Uruk. The story contains an account of a universal flood that parallels the flood of Noah’s day. Some historians believe this poem validates the Babylonian, Phoenician, and Hebrew accounts of an ancient flood.

Here we have history recorded in a poem etched on a tablet.


Moreover, one of the world’s oldest love poems dating from 8th century BC Ancient Babylonian Era, reads like a modern love poem:

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

This memoir of love in verse affirms humanity’s continuous yearning for romance.

We all can relate to a love poem.

Even one written on a tablet.

Love poem on tablet

Reviving the Tradition

By penning a word journey of my experiences and insights dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s, I’m not only recording family history, I’m remembering for her. All those things she would want to tell her grandchildren, but can’t, I’ll have her memories written in verse.

My main reason, however, is to connect with others who are on the same confusing journey and that’s the purpose of poetry.

Connecting heart-to-heart.

Can you relate?

Join me at The Slow Forget.

 J Lynn SheridanJ.Lynn Sheridan writes poetry and fiction in the Chain O’ Lakes of northern Illinois in a very ordinary house, but she’d rather live in an old hardware store for the aroma, ambiance, and possibilities. She’s been published in several literary journals and anthologies, among them: Beyond the Dark Room, Em Dash Literary Magazine, Four and Twenty Literary Journal, and Garbonzo. Find her in cyber-world at Writing on the Sun, The Slow Forget and on Twitter @J.lynnSheridan.

What is a Holacracy?

wondrous memeWelcome to another addition of Wondrous Words Wednesday!  Visit Kathy over at Bermudaonion.net for links to interesting words.  It’s a great way to exercise your brain.

My word today comes from a recent news story on an unusual way to structure companies.  Normally, business lingo doesn’t interest me, but this word grabbed my attention.



holacracy- noun, from Greek hol, complete, + kratos, strength or power; a management structure based on the tasks a company needs to accomplish, rather than a standard reporting structure

Essentially, companies using a holacracy divide employees into teams, and each team assigns people to do certain tasks.  The focus is on task completion, not micromanagement. However, the system is flexible so that employees aren’t always locked into a certain position, like programmer.  Company processes are divided into “governance” – how the work gets down and “operations”- getting the work done.

If you’re interested in the concept, check out this article, which describes Holacracy as the hot management trend of 2014.  Also, check out the Holocracy website.  There’s a cool infographic I was afraid to share because of copyright issues.  

Have any of you ever heard of this concept, or better yet, worked in a holacracy?

Word Nerd Workout

Use holacracy in a sentence.  My example:

As my kids get older, I’d like to run my family as a holacracy, except there still would have to be a boss.  Me.

Word Nerd Vocab Quiz Winner

Congratulations to the winner of my Word Nerd Vocab Quiz, Spring Edition.  (drum roll…)

 Amy O.

Amy, welcome to the word nerd crew!  You’ve won a copy of 1100 Words You Need to Know  or a Barnes & Noble gift card.  Your choice!  Email me at julia dot tomiak at gmail dot com to let me know your preference and mailing address.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!

Tweet: Word nerd word: holacracy- a task based management structure that promotes flexibility. More from @juliatomiak at http://ctt.ec/d1cd1+


Why Memorizing Poetry is Good For You: Get Started!

photo (6)How do you feel when you see this word:


Do you cringe?  Applaud?  Start composing verse in your head?

April is National Poetry Month, and it’s time to give poetry some much deserved love on the blog and at home.

Poetry Out Loud Contest

Have you heard about Poetry Out Loud?  The National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation support this annual event to promote:

  • public speaking skills
  • self-confidence
  • knowledge of literary heritage

To participate, students must:

  • choose three poems from the 800 poems in the Poetry Out Loud archives
  • memorize and recite these poems for a panel of judges
  • impress the judges with articulation, understanding, dramatic effect, accuracy, and level of complexity

According to an article about the Poetry Out Loud contest in Kansas City, teens who recite poetry improve their vocabulary and develop an appreciation for active verbs and figurative language.  That means better writing!

Sounds like a Word Nerd Workout to me!

Poetry Out Loud, Word Nerd Style

We’re going to do our own version of Poetry Out Loud in the Tomiak house.  When I announced this plan on the way to school, a muffled groan rolled through the minivan.  But then someone mentioned Sick, by Shel Silverstein, and I Did Not Steal Your Ice Cream, by Jack Prelutsky.  The mood in the van became moderately positive.

My husband refuses to participate.  Back in college, he studied benzene rings while I recited Shakespeare.  No iambic pentameter for that guy.  But maybe I can keep my kids from becoming poetry-phobic.

Poems to learn by heartTo make this thing work, I’ve got to find appealing poems.  For starters, I’m looking in Poems to Learn By Heart, by Caroline Kennedy.  It’s beautifully illustrated with watercolor paintings by Jon J Muth, and it features a variety of poems organized into categories like:

  • I Dreamed I Had to Pick a Mother Out (poems about family)
  • I’m Expecting You! (poems about friendship and love)
  • We Dance Around in a Ring and Suppose (poems about sports and games)

In the introduction, Ms. Kennedy explains why we can all benefit from memorizing poetry:

Poets distill life’s lessons into the fewest possible words.  But those tiny packages of thought contain worlds of images and experiences and feeling… If we learn poems by heart, we will always have their wisdom to draw on, and we gain understanding that no one can take away.

Wow. I can’t add much, except that reading and reciting poetry is an excellent way to practice reading aloud.  My kids like to rush through words while they read to me; the poems force them to slow down, listen to the rhythm, and use proper inflection.

Wanna join me for Poetry Out Loud, word nerd style?  Pick a poem and memorize it by the end of this month.  You can find poems in the archives at the Poetry Foundation Website.  Or check out Poems to Learn By Heart or Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, another great resource.

And tell me, how do you feel about poetry?

Tweet: April is National #Poetry Month; memorizing #poems builds vocab, confidence, thinking skills. Try it w/ @juliatomiak http://ctt.ec/bR743+



Word Nerd Vocabulary Quiz, Spring Edition

Word Nerd ReviewDare I say it?  Spring is FINALLY here!  (I’m afraid Mother Nature will drop a few more snow flakes now, just to scare me.)

It’s been a long, tedious winter, and to celebrate its end, I’m hosting a GIVEAWAY.  This word nerd workout will review some of my vocabulary words from the past few months. Everyone who plays will be entered into a drawing for a copy of 1100 Words You Need to Know, my favorite vocabulary book, or a Barnes and Noble gift card.  You can earn bonus entries by:

  1. answering all the questions correctly
  2. sharing the giveaway on social media (tell me about your shares)
  3. answering the bonus questions on my Facebook

We’ve had a lot of time to stay inside and read; let’s see how much you learned.

Word Nerd Workout – Review Quiz

1.  Fill in the blank:  The sound of waves crashing will always remind me of our ___________ days in Maui.

    1. polemic
    2. prosaic
    3. garrulous
    4. halcyon

2.  Complete the analogy:   inexorable:relentless :: inchoate: ____________

3.  Where are you most likely to find a polder?

    1. Colorado
    2. Alaska
    3. The Netherlands
    4. Switzerland

Leave your answers in the comments, and thanks for playing.  Don’t forget to earn bonus entries!  The giveaway will close Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

wondrous memeVisit Kathy at bermudaonion.net to learn more interesting words!