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Free Verse: David Clewell

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2010 - We'll kick off this monthly series with a poem by David Clewell, Missouri's new Poet Laureate. "In My Dream, Coleman Hawkins" reflects the poet's penchant for long conversational lines, jazz and old jokes that never get old. The last three lines illustrate my favorite thing about Clewell's work -- the sense of the poet being played like an instrument by the world in all its beautiful, sensual and ridiculous riches.

In My Dream, Coleman Hawkins

walked right up to me at the corner of West 52nd and Broadway,

and he actually said Do you know how to get to

Carnegie Hall? And even in my dream I realized

he'd been dead since 1969, although I still couldn't believe it,

his not knowing Carnegie Hall was only blocks away,

so I figured he'd meant all along to be setting me up instead,

but who was I to deliver a punchline to the Hawk

himself, the royal Bean -- the unmistakable

heavyweight champion of the tenor saxophone world?

I'll blow you a real quick chorus or two

if you help me out just this one time, man -- and

that's exactly what the late Coleman Hawkins did.

So, finally, I had to tell him: Practice. And I guess

he had to laugh: That's really what I needed to hear.

Then he thwacked me with his immortal horn, and I woke up

to the coolest breeze through any window, ever, my head still ringing

with every strain of Body and Soul.

David Clewell is the author of eight collections of poetry, as well as two book-length poems. His new collection, "Taken Somehow By Surprise," will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press this spring. He is the 2010-11 Missouri Poet Laureate and teaches at Webster University.

Richard Newman, River Styx editor for 15 years, is the author of two full-length poetry collections. He teaches poetry and literature at St. Louis Community College and co-directs the River Styx at Duff's reading series.

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