50 Reasons Why Jazz Musicians are Cooler than Poets

(Note: This list was originally published January 6, 2012 at GotPoetry.com.)


This is sort of a “Poetry Is Doomed” column addendum.

People love digging up my old articles and finding stuff I said I’d do but didn’t. To wit, in the third installment of my “Poetry Is Doomed” column I very casually mentioned that there were about fifty reasons why being a jazz musician was better than being a poet. I then added a P.S. that said I’d post the list eventually. I never did. Naturally, almost two years later, someone calls me on it. I’d like to say that this is what “eventually” means, but honestly: I forgot about it.

So here is my compilation of fifty reasons why jazz musicians are cooler than poets. It was done on the fly on Twitter in real time. For better or worse I haven’t changed the content of any of these tweets besides removing the hashtag, “jazzvspoetry”.

In no particular order…

1) Anybody can do poetry. Not everybody can do jazz. (but don’t tell that to the guy covering Sade down at the local lounge.)

2) Jazz lingo is WAY cooler than poet lingo. “Gig” > “feature”. “Swing” > “meter”

3) The jazz musician uniform is a suit and tie. The poet uniform is whatever is least dirty.

4) Jazz groupies are laid back. Poet groupies are other poets who end up writing poetry about you when you break up.

5) The most famous joke about jazz musicians starts off with money. The most famous joke about poets starts off with delivering pizza.

6) When you make shit up as a jazz musician it can still sound cool. When you make shit up as a poet you sound like you’re having a stroke.

7) Poetry has no John Coltrane. (…though Rumi came close.)

8 ) The city most associated with jazz is New Orleans. The city most associated with poetry is not New Orleans.

9) Black folks created jazz. (You’re welcome.)

10) Branford Marsalis interviews are better than W.S. Merwin interviews.

11) You can make a living at jazz if you don’t work in a college. Poetry? Eh… (Please don’t call sleeping in your car a living)

12) “Round Midnight” > “love jones”

13) “Mo’ Better Blues” > “Slam”

14) “Bird” > “Poetic Justice”. (Shit, “Cotton Club” > “Poetic Justice”.)

15) There is no poetry book that is the equivalent of “Kind of Blue”. (Yes, I will fight you over this.) (MAYBE a children’s poetry book.)

16) Jazz singing has Nina, Ella and Billie. Poetry singing has Saul Williams. LOSE ALL DAY.

17) Poets write about jazz musicians all of the time. Jazz musicians don’t write shit about poets.

18 ) Actors are generally smart enough not to join jazz bands as a side gig…but they LOVE publishing their poetry.

19) When four jazz musicians play together, it’s beauty. When four poets perform together, there’s a 90% chance of ugly.

20) If Sonny Rollins played the way Billy Collins reads we’d have stoned him 30 years ago.

21) Kenny G somehow magically, mysteriously, and beyond all reason and comprehension does not invalidate this argument at all.

22) A lot of poets sound better with the bongos. No drummer sounds better with a poet.

23) Smooth jazz > smooth poetry. (Note: Your erotic poems probably aren’t erotic or poems.)

24) The pimp in “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” was a better poet than half the poets I heard last year.

25) Jazz musicians “play” and “cut” and “shed”. Poets “spit”. You do the math.

26) When you want to seduce your lover you put on “Kind of Blue” not “Weary Blues”. (Google it, motherfuckers.)

27) Any joke that replaces “jazz musician” with “poet” is medically proven to hit 53% more dogs in a pack.

28 ) If you dance to poetry you’re probably having a seizure.

29) Hillary Clinton owns a spoken word Grammy. Bill Clinton, despite his facility with a sax, does not own a jazz Grammy.

30) Really good actors play jazz musicians. Poets play poets. #WhenKeepingItRealGoesWrong

31) I can sell my jazz record collection on Ebay for five figures. I can sell my poetry collection for a week of Ramen.

32) If you play sax on a street corner you’ll get spare change. If you recite your poetry you’ll get arrested.

33) Jazz musicians go on tour. Poets go to two readings in the same town and call it a tour.

34) When a jazz musician is homeless he has the good sense to not call it “being a professional artist”.

35) Barnes and Noble has a bigger jazz section than poetry section…and they’re a BOOKSTORE.

36) If a jazz musician sold as many albums as the biggest book of poetry last month they’d have to get a day job.

37) Denzel Washington will never, ever play a poet in a film.

38 ) Neither will Wesley Snipes…and he NEEDS the money.

39) No poet ever had a religion created around them. (…even a crazy one.)

40) Jazz has a Count and a Duke. Poetry doesn’t have any royalty whatsoever.

41) Even this crap jazz album cover looks better than 85% of all chapbooks by poets done at Kinkos.

42) The theme song to Sanford & Son would suck if it were a poem.

43) Much of jazz requires that you at least have decent embouchure. Poetry? All you gotta do is open your yap.

44) Rudy never made fun of a jazz musician on the Fat Albert Show.

45) Poets require absolute silence when they perform even if they suck. Jazz meets you halfway because YOU’RE IN A BAR.

46) No self-respecting jazz musician would ever play a song with his cell phone.

47) Poets always be soloin’.

48 ) White folks haven’t stolen poetry yet so it must still suck.

49) While you may hear the worst jazz ever in elevators, you won’t ever hear the greatest poem.

50) Poets have over 200 thousand words at their disposal at any given moment. At most, a piano player has 88. Look at list again. Do math.

One thought on “50 Reasons Why Jazz Musicians are Cooler than Poets

  1. You are losing it. I think you have been a failure in life so you are practically looking for somewhere to unleash your frustration. All the jazz icons you name which one of them can match the likes of William Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes. Tupac Shakur was a poet and he brought his poetic side into the rap industry; we all are witness that combination of poetry and rap in ‘The rose that grew from concrete’. I think you are a confused man who is just trying to gain cheap fame here. Well, guess what; you sucks scumbag.

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