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 Songbird 1997


       The Songbird

I heard a singer and was moved,

Which proves not much.

We’re touched by mediocrity,

The second-rate,

The bait of glamour.

Hers was honesty,

Simplicity dug deep in skill.

Talent and ability.

Oh, so good, voice many-hued.

Interpretation, even the

Pronunciation, woven in

The loveliness.

A jazz parfait: a marmalade,

Jade luminesence

Honesty, simplicity,

Substance in each nicety;

Who wouldn’t want to sing so well,

That those who heard would feel compelled

To tell the world what you exude

Though under-known and undervalued?

(such a gift might give me hubris where, too satisfied,

I’d have to watch for sins of pride.)

For now, there’s happiness-near-bliss,

Aesthetic saturation

Having heard this songbird sing.*


The Songbird 97.10.4Special People, Special Occasions; Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin

* Sue Raney



The Performer 1992

                   The PerformerShe makes her face up, picks her frock,

Goes to the club and hopes she doesn’t play a crock

Of shitty, shoddy work that night.

Gets there on time; the sound is set.

She starts to play; she’s planned her set.

The baby pink is not quite right –

You know, the baby pink spotlight.

Her phrasing’s delicate but bright.

Though she’s a pro, raring to go

There’s always just a bit of nerves:

The need to please. She feels she serves.

That’s good. The voice is good, quite good.

That song came out as best it could.

The people clap. Some even shout

And whistle. “How about

Another tune?’ She sings another.

Finally the evening’s over.

Just like that: a moment’s bubble.

Was it really worth the trouble?

People who’ve just seen the act,

The ones who sat, admired, practically

Dying for a skill they lack,

Who long for what seem so attractive,

Think that after she’s performed

She goes to any place but home,

But that’s exactly where she’s headed:

Home, a bite to eat and bed.

No frilly glamour in this art,

Just daily practicing and heart,

Mind, soul, evolving luck;

A mucking in, not mucking up.

The underlying need to grow

Sleeps underneath the this-night’s show.

A groping upward, outward and

A digging inward guides her hands

And every member of the band’s.

©The Performer 92.12.6

Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin



The Nature Of Chains 2008

     The Nature Of Chains

He writes a song.

Somebody listens.

Hears it,

Likes it.

Someone takes it

To his body-brain

And hums it,

Learns it,

Goes into the world and sings it.


Bring royalties.

And when the royalties

Have run

Their time,

The melody –

It’s rhythm, rhyme

Stays on infecting and connecting.

Almost never done

And finished with:

The chain.

© The Nature of Chains 4.9.2008

Nature Of & In Reality; Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin






Talent Helps 2004

    Talent Helps

All the virtues

To make envious

A world around:


Strong, kind,


(There virtues stop)


And very, very,

Very rich.

The glitch

Is talent –

Does he know

He hasn’t got it?

That a scale of one to ten

Shows that he weighs in low,

And cannot fight it?

Does his staying power count?

Should he be out there, a playing clown?

Should he cower while I grunt?

Or does he steal an era

From the standard that he sets,

Send a generation walking

In the wrong direction?

Or, is he its mirror that selection

Just reflects?

Oh, if only he had talent!

© Talent Helps 04.7.13

Our Times, Our Culture; Vaguely About Music;

Arlene Corwin

Starting Out Of Time 1994

    Starting Out Of Time

I must start out of tempo,

Sometimes getting lost.

But after hours and many tries

At thoughts and skills and inner ties,

An inner eye will clarify;

The thing is fostered, building up;

Lost gets tossed, then lost gets lost.

At seemingly no cost. Rubato

Takes up speed,

Which leads to something it itself

Can breed. Ideas appear.

Indeed, ideas cohere

In fullness and in form, informed

By sheer reflection; sheer and clear,

Like glass through which one sees, gets seen.

Jazz musicians have the key –

And those who master Zen.

I must start out of tempo,

Let the hand say when.

When I get lost, it can be years

Before I’m back on track.

But after years of lies and tries

The tempo builds up speed

As if and of itself, the seed

Of spontaneity has cracked,

Sprouting, spurting, spuming out

A finished, polished thing with clout.

©Starting Out Of Time 94.9.9

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

Arlene Corwin




Skeleton Of Change 2006

       Skeleton Of Change

I heard an old friend sing her style.

She’s sung her style since ‘fifty-three.

I smile.


She sounds as good as ever –

Red line running through,

The red line true,

Nuances never better,

Fresh, refined down to the letter.

Style pale yet never stale.

People queue.

Songs are new –

Different but the same.

There was a guy I used to see.

A heartthrob, prancing up and down

The stage and singing, dancing;

All the rage when he was thirty.

Thirty later TV years

He’s there – the same arrangements –

Stepping, pepping up the footlights.

Sixty-year-old fans adore him.

Me, I was so sad and bored for him,

But who am I to say?

The only constant – so they say – is change.

The mystery is what is behind its

Skeleton, that doesn’t change

But seems to change in aspects.

©Skeleton Of Change 06.8.30

Vaguely About Music; Nature Of & In Reality;

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


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