ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Ellis the big Daddy / is really loose, but only in the fingers

and it is moving to hear Jason, / who should be bowed down by tradition




Ellis Marsalis albums

Duke in Blue  /  Loved Ones  /  Joe Cool’s Blues  /  The Marsalis Family  / Piano in E-Solo Piano  / Heart of Gold

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Books by Lee Meitzen Grue

Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud  /  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh   / French Quarter Poems  / Three Poets in New Orleans  / Downtown

CD Live! On Frenchmen Street

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Ellis Marsalis on Wednesday 

at Snug Harbor with Jason on Drums

   By Lee Meitzen Grue

Natalie hangs with the young jazzmen,

knows somebody on the door.

We go upstairs, nod our small acquaintance at Ellis

where he sits on a stool, casual in conversation

with students and friends.


At eleven he goes back downstairs

and sits down at the piano.

Talks into a side mike, introducing

Dewey Sampson on bass, and Jason Marsalis on drums.


Jason looks like a kid whose orthodontist

has stretched rubber bands from his back molars

to the heels of his shoes,

and when he starts the drums sound just as tight.

This is the kid who’d been loose last year.

Ellis the big Daddy

is really loose, but only in the fingers

and it is moving to hear Jason,

who should be bowed down by tradition

and the live up to your brothers that everyone expects.

Jason just sits there and works — works hard.


Works through adolescence

at a trade, a family trade.


He picks up on a saxophonist and a vocalist

from Duluth or Washington or Albuquerque,

they run down from upstairs to take their places on stage

with Ellis, the bassist, and Jason.


At some point a drummer named Cheoff comes on

and Nicholas Payton on trumpet plants himself in the middle

of the stage like a brick house and turns it up,

and the drummer who took over so smoothly in mid set

from Jason is loose

but sharp this Wednesday,

can’t help thinking about Wynton, how they used to say

his trumpet had no soul, just technique, and the tone

of Wynton’s trumpet now,

how what he gives is sometimes fatherhood or hungry children.


There’s promise in the stiff clothes of adolescence,

Ellis holding it all together

in those effortless runs

that never seems memorized

and he plays my favorite song

“Lush Life” and I get back

into the music

and away from thinking about

the high school student

learning his in a bar at midnight.

Ellis Marsalis on Wednesday . . . ” appeared in the Warren Wilson Review.

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By Lee Meitzen Grue

Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of poetry in New Orleans’ storied history. These superb writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o’ town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent City herself. “If you’re missing New Orleans, and you know what that means, you need to read Grue’s book front to back, place by place, time by time, name by name, everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New Orleans”—Dara Wier

 “Lee Grue’s work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly from the city’s history. Her poetry weaves her personal history to the five centuries of the city’s own, a fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she emanates the love that raises the soul levees”—Andrei Codrescu

Lee Meitzen Grue was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.

Kichea Burt contributed some of the photographs in Grue’s book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In 1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent international literary journal which is still published today. She has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are: Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems,  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 8 July 2008



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