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Poems In Song: Turning Words Into Jazz

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, as well as National Poetry Month. This week's Take Five celebrates both art forms in the same place.

Each of the five songs featured here was originally written as a poem to be read, not as lyrics to be sung. The jazz artists here transformed the poems into lyrics that fit their particular style and phrasing, and then composed music to round out the interpretations. You won't find any examples of "jazz poetry," or poetry spoken over a jazz-music accompaniment — those are entirely different subjects and styles.

The first four songs are based on poems by Pablo Neruda, Theodore Roethke, E.E. Cummings and Paul Verlaine. If you aren't an avid poetry reader, you might at least recognize these from a literature class. The fifth selection, "Strange Fruit," is a historically important song, condemning American racism, originally published in a teachers' union magazine in the 1930s. The song — and its impact — has an entire book dedicated to it.

Each entry includes a link to a book in which you can find each poem and further explore the poet's works. In the meantime, enjoy five jazz re-imaginations of literary works below.

For more entries in the Take Five series, click here. And don't forget to subscribe to the Jazz Notes newsletter.

Copyright 2009 90.5 WESA

Shaunna Morrison Machosky