I’d say that more than most people, Andy Senior has many selves. JAZZ LIVES readers are likely to have encountered him as the creator and editor of THE SYNCOPATED TIMES; others know him from his internet music program devoted to the sounds of 1900-40, RADIOLA!. I feel fortunate to have met him and his wife Sue in person at a jazz weekend in Connecticut; he is a deep, articulate person, generous in his devotion to the music, with a side of wry darkness in his makeup.
But it was only recently that I encountered Andy the poet. I have a long history of reading poetry (studying and writing about Yeats, although that was long ago) and I admire the way it can deliver a variety of shocks to the system, startling as a Sidney Catlett rimshot or as reassuring as Ben Webster’s furry tone. I stumbled over one of Andy’s poems — terse, vinegary, with a kick at the end — on Facebook, a venue I don’t associate with original poetry of value.
Andy is completely himself as a poet: he does not write paeans to The Great Dead as did Philip Larkin, nor does he seek to be conspicuously “inspirational” in the usual ways.
Andy told me: It’s been my experience that when people see you doing one thing they think that’s the only thing you do. (Like eating tomato pie, for example.) My problem is that I’m a confirmed dilettante and I’ve done plenty of different things–some of which I have no intention of spotlighting. But I’m proud of what I’ve written and I’m happy to get it out there.
Here’s the poem that first climbed into my lap, its snap as sharp as an energized rubber band:
The adjectives that come to mind are “shockingly delightful.” And while you are still reeling, here’s another:
His poems straddle stand-up comedy and philosophy, with darts of mockery aimed all around. A third:
At this point, a musical interlude might be both refreshing and needed. Preparing this post, I asked Andy for some music most dear to him, and he offered some favorites. Here’s one:
Where did Andy the poet come from? I asked him.
I’ve aspired to write ever since it became less of a chore–which is when I learned to type, starting about age 12. Owing to my natural clumsiness and mild dyslexia, when I tried to write in longhand I felt like I was dragging my trombone case to school. (And I demonstrably had the handwriting of an idiot, which didn’t encourage me.) Once I started typing I began to have fun playing with words and ideas. From childhood I loved MAD Magazine (and the verse and parodies by Frank Jacobs), progressing to humorists like Benchley and Thurber, the archy and mehitabel poems of Don Marquis, and the short, acerbic poems of Stephen Crane.
I wrote reams of stories, journals (in unreadable longhand), essays, songs, letters to the editor, and poems through my teens and twenties. I never thought about showing my poems to anyone until 1994, when I was asked to entertain with my songs at a local coffeehouse–called, appropriately enough, Slackers. Slackers had a poetry night and it proved to be an ideal venue for reading my work.
Slackers closed (as coffeehouses do) and I crashed the poetry night at the Adirondack Coffee Company in Clinton (down the hill from Hamilton College). I made myself such a pest there–even siding with the local kids who got thrown out of the place–that the management rewarded me by making me emcee of their Wednesday poetry readings. During that time, the spring, summer, and fall of 1996, I wrote scores of poems–I had half a dozen new pieces to read every week.
What was odd that I was a dumpy guy of 34, already starting to lose my hair and put on weight, reading sarcastic poetry–hardly a dreamboat–and women were paying attention to me. In fact, I met my wife Sue there. (Her son Joe was one of the kids who got kicked out by the management of the Adirondack Coffee Co. At present, he is associate editor and webmaster of The Syncopated Times.)
After the tsunami of verse I loosed in ’96 and ’97, I still dash off irregular lines occasionally (or should that be “occasional lines irregularly?”). Now that I am 60 (and more visibly a boat of the tug variety) I may be headed back to the Underwood for further reflections.
We welcome the poems. Here are more.
and an alternate version:
and just one more for good measure:
I hear an orchestra of voices emanating from Andy Senior, poet: some elusive, some satirical, some brightly world-weary. Know that what I’ve offered here is only the smallest of samples of his melodies and rhythms.
Incidentally, if you would like to see and hear Andy singing and playing his original songs, you have only to visit his YouTube channel, carpaltunnelkid.
When I read the first few poems I’d ever seen (on Facebook) I wrote to Andy, asking if he would like such a post as I’ve done here, and he was delighted. I even pressed on and said that I would buy a chapbook of his work should one exist or be made to exist. If his poetry twangs within you, let us know. For me, I salute his left-handed energies and applaud them.
May your happiness increase!