What I Don’t Know About Miles Davis

Back in the early 90’s I got involved in live poetry readings.  ‘Poetry Slams’ were trendy then, and I was at just the right age, with just the right influences and just the right artistic neediness to fall into that scene for a bit.  I wrote some terrible stuff as well as a couple of pieces I continue to be impressed with, but the actor in me especially liked the live delivery of emotionally loaded, supposedly clever mini-monologues.  Even then I recognized how self-indulgent the whole thing was (those were self-indulgent times), and now I can enjoy the memories as the pitifully funny experiences they were .

One of the most irritating things about listening to other self-indulgent would-be poets then (although I would bet good money the practice continues), was hearing nearly every one of them mention Miles Davis and/or Charlie Parker in at least one of their poems.  Ugh.  What did they think, that they were actually Beats?  Trying to buy some credibility by invoking the jazz heroes?  I’d roll my eyes, tune out, and pride myself in never resorting to that embarrassing tactic (although I had no trouble, apparently, squeezing Lou Reed and Dostoevsky in the same horrible piece.  Ouch.).

Unfortunately, those idiot poets actually made me less interested in jazz, and especially Miles Davis.  How stupid of me to be so judgmental.  Maybe I’ve finally learned to not be influenced negatively by losers (there’s room for a separate post on this topic), but now that I’ve actually listened to Miles, on my own terms… well… I get it.

Miles Davis was a genius.  Maybe not everyone who felt the need to record that they were listening to Miles in their amateur poetry was as incredibly gifted, but there is no denying that Miles Davis is one of a very small number of artists who actually changed the world of music.  Plenty of other people have written eloquently about the subject of his greatness.  From my perspective (it is my blog, after all), I will admit Miles does indeed inspire, in a way too few artists can.  Great art, to me, whether music, movies, literature, or any other form is art which immediately inspires me to be creative.  If it moves me, it (I hope) moves others, too, and leads to new methods for doing things, new ways to see and think about things.  And that’s what Miles Davis accomplished over and over during his lifetime.  It’s what he does to me now.

So I can understand now how Miles – and Charlie Parker, and some of the other namechecked jazz giants – really may have inspired poetry.  Even bad poetry.  While I still believe some of the folks who tortured me with their bad lines (in return for me treating them with my own) may not actually have connected with Miles Davis, or even ever listened to his work at all, I am willing to think that at least some others might truly have been moved to do something to express themselves by the inescapable provocation the creator of cool couldn’t help but give.

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