Big Band Theory

It all began with music,
with that much desire to be

in motion, waves of longing
with Nothing to pass through,

the pulsing you feel before
you hear it.  The darkness couldn’t

keep still, it began to sway,
then there were little flashes

of light, glints of brass
over the rumbling percussion,

the reeds began to weep and sing,
and suddenly the horns

tore bigger holes in the darkness—
we could finally see

where the music was coming from:
ordinary men in bowties and black

jackets.  But by then we had already
danced most of the night away.

by Sharon Bryan

Copyright © 2009 by BOA Editions. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

This poem is taken from Sharp Stars by Sharon Bryan (2009).

Notes from BOA Editions:

Winner of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for 2009

As she’s shown throughout her career, Sharon Bryan is a rare breed of contemporary poet.  A practitioner of acrobatic language that probes matters philosophical and psychological, Bryan is also playful and humorous, and this mixture of attributes reveals itself in each of these tightly-knit, succulent poems. Concerned with the interplay of matter and spirit, Bryan’s poems in this collection also address, and sometimes blend, issues of biology, astronomy, and music.  The poems in Sharp Stars, from which “Big Band Theory” is taken, represent more than ten years of work. Of her last book, Flying Blind, published in 1996, Small Press wrote: “In Sharon Bryan’s most effective poems, word play is a matter of life and death… Bryan won’t let any ordinary phrase off the hook as she dangles it, circling in brilliant focus.” Indeed, in Sharp Stars we find her unraveling common phrases or sayings in the all-too-human desire for transcendence, a transcendence Sharon Bryan accomplishes with her own blend of levity and gravitas, always mindful of the complicated, vexing dynamic of body and soul. You can learn more about Sharon Bryan by listening to an interview here.

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