Andy Senior, Poet

For this month’s column, I cede the floor to Michael Steinman, who published the following kind commentary about me on his excellent site, jazzlives.wordpress.com. I offer it here in abridged form and with Michael’s encouragement- A.S.

ANDY SENIOR, POET by Michael Steinman

Posted August 10, 2022, on jazzlives.wordpress.com

I’d say that more than most people, Andy Senior has many selves. JAZZ LIVES readers are likely to have encountered him as the creator and editor of The Syncopated Times; others know him from his internet music program devoted to the sounds of 1900-40, RADIOLA!. I feel fortunate to have met him and his wife Sue in person at a jazz weekend in Connecticut; he is a deep, articulate person, generous in his devotion to the music, with a side of wry darkness in his makeup.

But it was only recently that I encountered Andy the poet. I have a long history of reading poetry (studying and writing about Yeats, although that was long ago) and I admire the way it can deliver a variety of shocks to the system, startling as a Sidney Catlett rimshot or as reassuring as Ben Webster’s furry tone. I stumbled over one of Andy’s poems—terse, vinegary, with a kick at the end— on Facebook, a venue I don’t associate with original poetry of value.

Andy is completely himself as a poet: he does not write paeans to The Great Dead as did Philip Larkin, nor does he seek to be conspicuously “inspirational” in the usual ways.

Andy told me: “It’s been my experience that when people see you doing one thing they think that’s the only thing you do. My problem is that I’m a confirmed dilettante and I’ve done plenty of different things—some of which I have no intention of spotlighting. But I’m proud of what I’ve written and I’m happy to get it out there.”

Evergreen

Here’s the poem that first climbed into my lap, its snap as sharp as an energized rubber band:

under the big top (4/28/97)
i envision gaudy striped billowing canvas
flapping in a stiff breeze
covering a vast acreage
that i know is the greatest show on earth
yes these indeed are my boxer shorts
and my diet starts tomorrow

The adjectives that come to mind are “shockingly delightful.” And while you are still reeling, here’s another:

how to read poetry (5/27/2013)
a slight rising inflection
at the end of each line
as if pondering that more sacred
than funding

His poems straddle stand-up comedy and philosophy, with darts of mockery aimed all around. A third:

Nauck

repast (3/1/97)
desirous of food
but lacking funds
i went into a restaurant
and asked the waitress
for a breath sandwich
and the condensation
from a cold glass of water
sorry she said
we’re all out

Where did Andy the poet come from? I asked him. “I’ve aspired to write ever since it became less of a chore—which is when I learned to type, starting about age 12. Owing to my natural clumsiness and mild dyslexia, when I tried to write in longhand I felt like I was dragging my trombone case to school. Once I started typing I began to have fun playing with words and ideas.

“I wrote reams of stories, journals (in unreadable longhand), essays, songs, letters to the editor, and poems through my teens and twenties. I never thought about showing my poems to anyone until 1994, when I discovered a local coffeehouse—called, appropriately enough, Slackers. Slackers had a poetry night and it proved to be an ideal venue for reading my work.

Elvis

“Slackers closed (as coffeehouses do) and I crashed the poetry night at the Adirondack Coffee Company in Clinton (down the hill from Hamilton College). During that time, the spring, summer, and fall of 1996, I wrote scores of poems–I had half a dozen new pieces to read every week.

“What was odd that I was a dumpy guy of 34, already starting to lose my hair and put on weight, reading sarcastic poetry—hardly a dreamboat—and women were paying attention to me. In fact, I met my wife Sue there.

“After the tsunami of verse I loosed in ’96 and ’97, I still dash off irregular lines occasionally (or should that be ‘occasional lines irregularly?’). Now that I am 60 (and more visibly a boat of the tug variety) I may be headed back to the Underwood for further reflections.”

Nauck

If his poetry twangs within you, let us know. For me, I salute his left-handed energies and applaud them.

Michael Steinman has been published in many jazz periodicals, has written the liner notes for dozens of CDs, and was the New York correspondent for The Mississippi Rag. Since 1982, Michael has been Professor of English at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. This story was originally published on Michael Steinman’s excellent blog Jazz Lives (jazzlives.wordpress.com), and is reprinted here with Michael’s permission. Write to Michael at [email protected]. May your happiness increase!

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