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A poem by Roy Kelly

Roy Kelly’s work appears from time to time in the kind of magazines that still print poetry (there’s one of his in this week’s Spectator). He was born in 1949, and Peterloo Poets published a collection of his work under the title Drugstore Fiction in 1987. Having read my piece on Chet Baker, he sent me this. I wanted to publish it before the summer ends, and he was kind enough to give me permission.

THE COOL SCHOOL

The folded parasols stand guard and stand by,

sentinels of the pool and sunbeds, swathes

of white material fluttering, gathered, ready to spring

up and out, defending this tender skin which bathes

in water, and also in damaging rays that fly

through millions of miles to inflame and sting.

And in the pool a figure is moving through

the ruffled, bubbled surface, the illusory

blue depths, trying to improve a swimming action

while remembering a Chet Baker solo,

the shapely lovely logic of all he blew,

placed note by note, as if physical effort had no

part in his disciplined, pretty perfection,

and the needle life some other loser’s story.

Puffing and chugging the salty outdoor pool

the swimmer tries at least to get the breathing right,

economical, smooth, under the watchful white

umbrellas, and Mr Chet, lyrical, pure and cool.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mmmmmmm, an interesting change of mode for the Blue Moment. Do you happen to know the work of Billy Collins, and particularly his ” I chop some parsley while listening to Art Blakey’s version of ” Three Blind Mice” ?

    August 24, 2013
    • I do indeed know Billy Collins’s work, and I like it a lot, starting with “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes”: a small masterpiece.

      August 24, 2013
  2. Paul Tickell #

    Re poetry and jazz: I recommend the work of Jack Spicer, the great American poet sadly neglected here in the UK even tho amongst other things this Berkeley Renaissance man paved the way for Ginsberg’s epoch-making reading of ‘Howl’ at the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco in October 1956… Spicer’s work is imbued not just with direct references to jazz – to bebop and Charlie Parker in particular – but even more with its spirit. He conveys a sense of the poem as a unique event, a transcendental performance but one which improvises upon and echoes the work of other poets (Rimbaud, Lorca, Hart Crane, Yeats, Lewis Carroll, and the Anglo-Saxon poets flit in and out Spicer’s work). A heavy drinker Spicer died in 1965 aged 40. Apart from Bird (eg ‘Song for Bird and myself’) Spicer’s poems are full of birds! I am particularly fond of “the mocking bird the Holy Ghost” in ‘Fifteen False Propositions against God’. In 1964 Spicer references the Beatles in a poem so he liked his pop as well as his bebop.

    August 30, 2013

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