Tuesday, August 03, 2010



By A.D. Winans

erbacce-press, Liverpool UK 2009

36 pp., $8.00

Review by Terry Reis Kennedy

It’s holy. It’s blue as a bruise. It’s A.D. Winans at his best, so merged with Billie—her pain, her songs, her longing for love—that we feel their Oneness. Winans identifies with the Jazz saint’s ability to survive the worst in life, and remain committed only to her art.

These poems are hard as nails, but paradoxically smooth as honey because they are sprung from the depths of compassion, the poet’s great love of humanity—particularly the downtrodden, the abused, and the outsider. His is a love so large that, like his heroine, Winans never finds an equal partner.

In much of his published work, for example, we discover that personal, sexual love is thwarted by fate. He loves, instead, the unknown suffering, the “huddled masses”. His idealistic longing is always disproportionate; nothing can fill the void that the Truth keeps on enlarging— people are not interested in their fellow men, not interested in seeing them as brothers and sisters, only as objects to be used, abused, and cast aside.

In “Jazz Angel” one of the most evocative poems in the collection, Winans relays what he discovers walking the streets of San Francisco. Delivering the poem like a detective’s report, the straight forwardness of the words eviscerates us:

She sits alone

In her small hotel room

Above the 222 Club

At Ellis and Eddy Streets

8 months pregnant

Forced to give head

For soup and bread…….

And after showing us the woman’s life, as if he was in her room himself, which perhaps he was, he writes:

She heads for the door

Hears the night manager whisper


Suspended in silence

And grief

Floating face down

In the bowels

Of the American dream….

For Winans, the Jazz Era celebrated the sensitivity of souls who had no interest in superficial values. To him, Jazzers were what William Blake had described poets as, “fallen angels”. Billie Holiday was an alien in a world hooked into money and fame. And Winans who always worked at jobs to support his art never wanted to be part of any Gentleman’s Club. In “Post Office Reflections,” he notes:

Bone-ass tired from

Sorting thousands of letters

Fingers numb from stuffing

Them into pigeonholes

& I smelled of sweat and death

& kept drinking until

I felt good

Or ran out of money

Or both

& rode the 14 Mission Bus

Home with other people

Like me

Who couldn’t do

A nine-to-five shift…

Although Billie Holiday’s archangel wings got burned up in the fires of the country’s heartlessness, its racist Klanism, its failure to perceive women as equal to men, in her performances she was she able to fly. Winans empathizes with her yearning for salvation through freedom. Consequently, he has created this tribute, not only for “The Jazz Lady” (title of a poem dedicated to her); but he sings a sad farewell to the Blues as well. For example, in “The Demise of Jazz in North Beach,” he writes:

No cool cats in North Beach anymore

No cool cats blowing the horn

No jazz at the old Purple Onion

No be-bop snapping fingers

No fallen angels spreading their legs

On the way home after

A conversation with God

No black cats improvising the blues

No white dudes riding the midnight express

No stoned soul train musicians blowing

Mean clean notes crucified suffocating

In the smoking mirrors of the mind

Gone buried in the decadence

Of collective madness

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