Spoken Word Poem

...and all that Jazz

Summer long island
Booze and babes
Adoring fans
Of Gatsby

Parties, not the person
You’re a wonderful man…
No, that’s not right.
A Great man

Thanks for your hospitality... fabulous party
no really, quite smashing

Gatsby… great in his charisma
His smile, made them feel
irresistible prejudice
They felt understood
Felt important
Needed. Loved.
But more importantly… needed alcohol
Mint juleps
And cocktails
What Prohibition?

Bourbon helped them speakeasy
To be… more fluent in gossip
At the Gatsby Party
Meeting of the League of the Social Elite
West Egg high class society
Like a pretty daisy growing out of an ash heap

Rich partiers in unlimited hells
Money pouring out pockets
Oh and look at
Their smiles
Their champagne glasses
Their flapper dresses, head bands and feathers
Flasks at the hip
Their zoot suits and fedoras
Puling up in their model Ts
Speeding away in their cream colored cars
Hitting little ladies
These things happen… we’re sorry

Reckless spirit of the jazz age

Don’t worry, I’ll be alright
S’long as I don’t meet anyone
As reckless as me

Nick knew this reckless spirit
All too well
Saw how it drove a man to murder Gatsby

A genuine friend

And he idolized this Gatsby
Dressed you up as a hero

Are you a hero?
Or the image of one.
A platonic self-conception
To Nick’s naïve recollection
Or childhood fantasy

I thought I heard the Twenties Roar
But really this party’s… a drag, a bore

Gatsby: what is the nature of your greatness…?

Ah, who cares?
We just want to dance
Get wasted
Waste away…
moral decay...
…and all the jazz.

I wrote this spoken word poem, in response to The Great Gatsby. In the poem, I repeatedly referenced several happenings and quotes from the novel. I spoke of the lavishness of Jay Gatsby's parties, and image of the so-called
Great man. "He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself," (Nick about Gatsby, Ch. 3). I focused on party goers' image of Gatsby, as well as Nick views on the man. To the party-goers, Jay Gatsby is a charismatic man who they can easily take advantage of. They gossip about him, question his past, but still come to his parties. To Nick, he is something more... something great. Nick idolizes Jay as a hero, although he knows his true and questionable history. Nick realizes that Jay Gatz reinvented himself at age 17. "The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end," (Ch. 6).

The poem can be somewhat confusing, in that many of the lines seem to contradict each other. I wrote it like that purposefully, to give a sense of more than one voice. There is one overall speaker in the poem, but they are constantly interrupted by rude wealthy anonymous 1920s party-goers. I thought this would give some comedic relief and flavor to the poem. These interruptions are from random people attending Gatsby's parties. They capture the mood and essence of the Roaring Twenties. They are completely superficial and selfish. They look grand, but are really ugly inside. Towards the end of the poem, the party-goers begin to loose interest, complaining that the party is a poor. This shows how easily distracted they can be. I further explored this with the metaphor of a daisy growing out of an ash heap. The alludes to the character, Daisy, and the Valley of Ashes mentioned in the novel. The metaphor represents the idea of the social elite of 20s, decaying morally.

My inspiration for the writing style came out of another novel we read this year, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. I modeled the flow of the poem after some of the expository chapters in Grapes. In many of Grape's side chapters, Steinbeck would explain something through fast paced snippets of conversation. This is similar to what I have done with the poem, including snippets of party-goer's conversations.

The poem also talks about the recklessness of the Jazz Age, hinting at events in the book. I allude to Jordan and Nick's careless driving conversation. I also reference Daisy running over Myrtle, with Gatsby's yellow car.

1920s Historical Research:
I used these site as inspiration for my Great Gatsby Poem. I alluded to many things that the 1920s became famous for. I referenced famous cars, clothing styles, and alcoholic beverages from the Jazz Age. I also watched some 1920s Jazz clips and Cartoons to gather some inspiration. I really wanted to capture the mood of the jazz age through listening to music.

Anthony Privitera