To The Soul Not Yet Whole 1962

       To The Soul Not Yet Whole

If swingin’s

All you’re bringin’

To music,

That’s not art,

But only part.

Or change your bit:

That isn’t it,

That’s only sham.

That is, if swingin’s

All you bring

To music.


Soul music may have heart,

Soul music may be smart;

Soul music may be art –

But not necessarily so.


Swing, man, hard and loud,

But man, you’re clinging to a cloud.

Call horn x,

Call music y,

Call yourself small letter i.

Remember son,

You modern soul,

The abstraction,

Means, the goal –

The three in one

Is solely you.

Practice one or all of these,

For art is born of one-in-threes.

Love will do,

And horn will do,

And absoluting you will do


©To The Soul Not Yet Whole (on hearing a record by Charlie Mingus) 1962

Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin


The Trick Is To Stay Fresh 1994

           The Trick Is To Stay Fresh

I heard a band four decades old.

“Good God, I thought, what a good band!”

How do they do it? Forty years?

What do they think night after night

When each man steps up to the stand –

Night after night his horn in hand,

Old licks, clichés

Takes his solos even on the days

His wife is sick?

And still they’re slick and stick it out

Night after night, year after year,

Internal tensions always there.

It must be like a factory job,

To entertain the drinking mob.

Or maybe not.

Maybe jobs have been a ball,

A chance to leave four walls,

Create, maintain a freshness,

Make some music on the spot,

Feelings tapped, without pretence;

Spontaneous, and proud of what

The dents he’s chalked up on his horn

All signify.

Perhaps, instead of blasé scorn

He manages to like the crowd –

The drunks, the dancers raw and loud.

Maybe the leader has charisma –

Makes each guy feel that he’s good;

Shows respect for solos

Drummer, sax or trumpet blows;

Drumming, blasting, bellowing.

By hook or crook, the trick’s eternal:

Keep the kernel of renewal growing,

Tapped and showing;

Ever crowing.

The trick is to stay fresh.

©The Trick Is To Stay Fresh 94.11.30

Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin



The Courage To Say This Is The Way My Soul Sounds 2006

The Courage To Say This Is The Way My Soul Sounds

Now you start,

Discarding all neurosis

Grounded in the fears of failure,

Certain in your heart

“I am creating as I speak”

Avrah kedabra!” – Aramaic.

I will lose the seven deadly sins

Or use the seven deadly sins,

Converting them to sharp discernment,

Wit and wisdom, common sense,

Clear thinking and refinement.

And singing out, and when you pen,

And when the music of your days marooned

Is opened,

These will spring from courage that says

This, my prize, my non-disguise,

My jazz, my phrase – these are the ways

In which my soul sounds

And has sounded in its silence

Since its cause.

©The Courage To Say This Is The Way My Soul Sounds 06.7.28

I Is Always You Is We; Vaguely About Music; Definitely Didactic;

Arlene Corwin



I Asked And No One Said Yes 2005

   I Asked And No One Said Yes

I asked and no one said yes.

I knocked on doors –

It wasn’t my time.

I waited and worked,

And waiting, work.

That time may not come.

Still writing tome,

Waiting at home,

I’ve finished with asking:

Philosophy wrong.

I simply hold to my song.

©I Asked And No One Said Yes 05.1.13

The Processes: Creative, Thinking, Meditative; Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin


Convincing Myself 1997



     Convincing Myself

Trying to regain the innocence,

Tired of peer caused fears,

The jargonized ideas.

I want to be

A limited, courageous me

Dependent only on the muse;

Reviews, the news

The chasing, bruising crews a gnat.

I’ve got the right to pick and choose


Oh God, did I say that?

Okay, I can’t escape the past,

The couplet form, the easy rhyme,

The melody in four/four time,

The simple cadence, key of C;

Ham and eggs or corned beef hash,

If standing on my legs or feet

Means using just the simplest beat,

Not taking jobs just for the cash,

Splashing song/poems cross- the-sky,

Not letting a timidity

Dispose and keep me un-exposed,

But, like my niece of three

Who shouts her piece,

Stands back and waits for the applause –

No wisdom’s it, just giggly grit –

Who doesn’t criticize herself or pause,

But gives the world the critic’s role

Singing artless, baby troll.

No sweat, no threat, no frets. Not yet.

I’m trying to regain the youth

That had no pre-concepted truth.

My mind’s eye sees a rainbow sky;

The swing, the arch,

Colors constant – climbing, sliding.

At each end a cache of gold:

All that me, when young, when old:

Soul pastel;

In between the stages all:

Rise, peak, fall primordial.

What’s there to be convinced of?


Convincing Myself 97.4.30I Is Always You Is We; Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin

*unconsciously borrowed from Johnny Mercer’s

“I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues”





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