The Freedom I Stole

The Freedom I Stole

A review of The Freedom I Stole by Jason

Published on April 1, 2008

The Freedom I Stole

Cumulus Press

Jason “Blackbird” Selman is a performance poet and jazz trumpeter who plays with the music collective Kalm Unity. A performance poet can’t always reduce his art to the page, and jazz seems resistant to being fixed in form, but in The Freedom I Stole, Selman generally succeeds. Most of the poems are meditations on important jazz performances and provide a note at the end specifying the artist, album, and date of recording, but not, fortunately, all the personnel. Some of the performances selected have strong social relevance, others represent sheer joy and inventiveness. The verse responding to the songs shows its musical roots mostly through parallelism. Interestingly, Selman’s verbal imagination is freer in the occasional prose poems, where he is less abstract. The most interesting parts of the book are not the reflections on music but the poems written about Selman’s trips to Cuba and Barbados. In July 2006, he went to Cuba with a hip hop group. He says in his useful preface that he wanted to write a poem a day-the jazz spirit of spontaneity, no doubt-but at first was too much in awe of the country to keep the pace. He eventually picked up speed, and the diary-like entries show a mind enthralled by a rich new cultural experience. The poems are more concrete and more passionate than the earlier reflections on songs. Better still are the poems about his visit to Barbados in December 2006. Barbados was the birthplace of his parents, but not his own, and he is aware that he is an outsider to the Caribbean as well as an outsider to American jazz. This outsider’s point of view is both a deprivation and an opportunity, as many an artist has proven, and Selman has the skill to use the opportunity. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.



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