Tony Whedon’s new book The Hatcheck Girl vividly describes border crossings where language, culture and states of consciousness collide. In these richly layered poems about jazz most of the musicians we meet are sidemen: few are famous, most are notorious. They’re united, as he says in his opening poem “The Tradition of the New,” by their devotion to the music and by their appetite for a note, a phrase to “make it new . . . over and over.” Whedon is a poet of historical juxtaposition: in “The Peacocks” we meet both trumpet player Chet Baker and Italian Baroque painter Michelangelo Caravaggio on a lonely beach outside Naples. In “Head Wound” Whedon’s narrator, an expat jazz musician who’s suffered a head wound in WW II France, contemplates the beauty of late-14th Century illuminated manuscripts. Some poems in The Hatcheck Girl feature women – Whedon’s opera singer sister dying of cirrhosis in Manhattan, an aging torch singer in Jacksonville, a young, green female pianist in Paris – struggling to survive in a male-dominated art form. Others depict the lives of musicians who scuffle for gigs in out-of-way clubs because they both love the music and don’t know what else to do. Robert Pinsky has praised Tony Whedon’s “masterful verbal music,” and in The Hatcheck Girl Whedon, a jazz trombonist, is in command of the medium. His new collection is full of brilliant improvisational surprises.
Advance Praise for The Hatcheck Girl
“Here is the poet as jazz musician at the height of his creative power, fluent in the magic of written word and pursuing musical pathways that are hidden in shadow or bathed in furious sun. Like pieces of sculpture, Tony Whedon’s poems offer innumerable vistas and can be taken out of sequence or subjected to the reader’s own sequence. A feast no doubt, “The Hatcheck Girl” also offers beautiful garish Whedon watercolors that unite poetic and musical worlds.”
—Tom Fay, jazz pianist with Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, and Benny Goodman
“The poet Hayden Carruth once said, “I’d have rather been a trombonist than anything else in the world,” and I know he would have relished this latest collection by Tony Whedon, who’s an active jazz trombonist in addition to being a writer. (Add painter to the mix and you have, as Duke Ellington dubbed Ray Nance, a triple threat.) . Everything in this varied, unfailingly honest collection swings.”
—Sascha Feinstein, editor of Brilliant Corners
“From the downbeat of “The Hatcheck Girl,” Tony Whedon claims musical authority in a far broader sense than we know it as a rule. He uses nothing jingly, no labored syncopation, no other mere effects to achieve such authority: rather, his poems display a mind like the first-rate jazz player’s, uncannily combining lightning reflexes with deep command of the art’s prior literature. “The Hatcheck Girl” is beautiful, to be sure, but not merely that: the author is akin to the pianist Phineas Newborn, whom he describes as reaching “past the beauty that dogged him all his life”– on the far side of that beauty is a wisdom so deep as to beggar efforts to articulate it. But articulate it Tony Whedon does.”
—Sydney Lea, Vermont Poet Laureate (2011-2015)
Tony Whedon is the author of the poetry books Things to Pray to in Vermont Press and The Falklands Quartet, and the poetry chapbook The Tres Riches Heures. His poems and essays appear in Harpers, American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares and over a hundred other literary magazines. His essay collection A Language Dark Enough: Essays on Exile won the Mid-List Press award for Creative Nonfiction. Tony is a working trombone player and the leader of the poetry/jazz ensemble PoJazz. Along with Neil Shepard, he founded Green Mountains Review. He lives with his wife Suzanne in Montgomery, Vermont.
6 x 8; Trade Paperback, 116 pages with color artwork throughout
Publication date: October 14, 2016 / poetry
Distributed by Midpoint Trade Books. Available wherever books are sold.
ISBN: 9780997452839 Pbk. $19.95
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