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The poem ‘Jazz Poem Two’ by Carl Wendall Hines, Jr. is a poem written in free verse. The poem has a clear division in thought between the first 30 and last 17 lines. If the first 30 lines describe the old, worn-out state of a Jazz musician, the last 17 lines speak about his transformation from a pathetic figure to a powerful musician. Just as he can transform himself with the power of music, he can transform the world around him with his preaching of the Black Gospel in Jazz. With his eloquent music, he can make people listen to him.
“There he stands, see? like a black Ancient Mariner* his wrinkled old face so full of the wearies of living is turned downward with”
An old Jazz musician is standing like a black ancient mariner. Ancient Mariner is a character from the poem ‘The Rime of Ancient Mariner’ by S.T. Coleridge. The old jazz musician feels he has a message for the world. His old face is wrinkled and weary and appears to be a pathetic figure. He had no interest in the present world.
“closed eyes. His frayed-collar faded-blue old shirt turns dark with sweat and the old necktie undone drops loosely about the worn”
His eyes were always closed. The poet further describes the appearance, he wore a faded blue shirt that had turned dark with sweat. The tie he wore was loose and torn.
“old jacket? Just barely holding his sagging stomach in. yeah. his run-down shoes have paper in them & his”
The jacket was old and it was not being able to hold his hanging stomach. He wore old shoes which had papers inside. The appearance of the singer here indicates that he has undergone suffering.
“rough unshaven face shows pain in each wrinkle but there he stands. in self-brought solitude head”
His face was not shaved. One could see the pain in each wrinkle of his face. He alone stood with his head down even when he has suffered a lot.
“still down eyes still closed ears perked and trained upon the bass line for across his chest lies an old”
His eyes and ears were closed. Though he has a pathetic look he has trained ears for music, he has prepared himself to perform and has been training for a long time and across his chest lied an old instrument which he was about to play.
“alto saxophone- supported from his neck by a wire coat hanger. gently he lifts it now to parted lips. see? To”
An old alto saxophone hung across his chest supported from his neck by a wire coat hanger. He then gently lifts the saxophone to the parted lips.
“tell all the world that he is a Black Man, that he was sent here to preach the Black Gospel of Jazz. now preaching it with words of”
He wanted to tell that he was a black man. He had been sent here to preach the black Gospel of Jazz. He was preaching it with words.
“screaming notes & chords he is no longer a man, no not even a Black Man. but (yeah!) a Bird- one that gathers his wings & flies”
He played loudly in high notes and chords. When he started playing the music, he was no longer a black man, he was transformed into a bird. The bird that gathers his wings and flies. The wings can be taken as a metaphor for imagination and creativity. Thus, we can say “He is silent in speech but eloquent in music”.
“high high higher until he flies away! or come back to find himself a Black Man again.”
Empowered with the wings he soars higher and higher and can fly away from the miseries of the world. When he stops playing the music, he again becomes a black man. The Jazz player wants to convey to the world that he is a black man who can draw people towards him through his music. He places before the readers the two possibilities – the musician escaping the burden or coming back to his drab existence as a Black Man again.
The poem can be read with different interpretations. On the one hand, it can be taken as a poem that speaks about the power of music and the freedom of spirit that is expressed in Jazz music.
On the other hand, it can be about the pathetic condition of the blacks and their attempts to make the world listen to them, their efforts to show to the world what is morally right and their inability to sustain and their tragic relapse into the slavish existence. The implication can also be taken as the man enjoying all the rights of civil society like a free bird or being denied it, and being the victim of discriminatory treatment.