Interview

Now this here rag is the one they used to call
the lost rag.

Sort of thing everybody knew and nobody ever bothered
to write down.

It was just a few licks, something you'd sit and play
by yourself,

when there was nobody else around. Maybe it was
some old man

showed you how to play it, a long time ago. You turn off
that machine,

I'm going to play it for you now. I said
turn it off.


From After the Rain. First published in The Harbor Review.


Photograph below: James P. Johnson (1894-1955) , American pianist and composer ('The Charleston') . A major proponent of 1920s stride piano style, he is one of the two most important figures - the other is Jelly Roll Morton - in the transition from ragtime to jazz.

Interview
POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
In 1979 I had a summer job traveling around central Indiana and tape-recording interviews with elderly persons who claimed they had been amateur or professional musicians during the Ragtime Era - the period right before World War I. When they were teenagers, they had been as excited by the music of Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb as today's teenagers are excited by the music of Snoop Dog and Eminem. They could remember ragtime music well, and many of them could still play it. All had stories to tell.
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