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Joans, Ted, 1971 - 1982

 Item — Multiple Containers

Scope and Contents

Jazz poet, painter, and trumpeter Ted Joans delivered 7 lectures, ranging from the years 1971 to 1982.

He spoke on 10/12/1971 (2015-0002/RR193), 9/13/1977 (2015-0002/RR194), 10/3/1978 (2015-0002/RR195), 9/11/1979 (2015-0002/RR196, 9/30/1980 (2015-0002/RR197), 2/16/1982 (2015-0002/RR198), and 9/19/1975 (2015-0002/RR325).

RR 193  Ted Joans (Poet) shares his personal history followed by reading some of his poetry. RR 194  Unidenfitied speaker (presumably Ted Joans) who reads poetry about several African based topics, for example Nimba--poetry of Guinea and the language of the women and Love, among other topics.

RR 195  Hale Smith introduces Ted Joans (Poet), a member of the Beat Generation. His poems are about things he loves, things he hates and things with which he associates and he brought them to the podium to read to the class.

RR 196 Hale Smith begins speaking about ~50s into the recording. Smith introduces Ted Joans (Poet), a significant 20th century American poet, by reading a portion of a letter from Joans to Hale Smith and his wife. Giving a similar presentation to that which he gave at the San Francisco Art Institute--"He's Just a Jazz Poet."

RR 197 Hale Smith introduces preeminent jazz poet, Ted Joans. Reads his poetry and engages in a discussion with the class. [Static on recording for first few minutes of program (possibly a technical issue during recording)]

RR 198 Hale Smith introduces poet, Ted Joans. Joans' presentation is on Langston Hughes.

RR 325 After several class announcements and introduction by Hale Smith, Ted Joans speaks about living his poem, and his poem is his life in connection with others. He continues with readings of his poetry beginning with "the Truth."


  • 1971 - 1982

Conditions Governing Access

Links to digitized content are included in the finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

As a poet, Joans was a part of the Beat Generation and often combined elements of Jazz rhythm, Surrealism, and African American oral traditions into his poetry. His work is considered a precursor of slam poetry. After graduating from Indiana University with a degree in fine arts, Joans moved to New York City where he met Langston Hughes, who encouraged him to pursue poetry. Joans would go on to publish over 30 books of poetry, prose and collage the most well-known being Black Pow-Wow, Beat Funky Jazz Poems, Afrodisia, Jazz is Our Religion, Double Trouble, Wow, and Teducation.

In addition to being active in New York City, he also spent significant time in Paris and Timbuktu.

Joans was born in Cairo, Illinois, as Theodore Jones, on July 4, 1928. He played the trumpet and was an avid jazz aficionado, following Bop as it developed, and continued to espouse jazz of all styles and eras throughout his life. Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, he earned a degree in fine arts from Indiana University, before moving in 1951 to New York City. In New York he painted in a style he dubbed Jazz Action and read his poetry, developing a personal style of oral delivery called Jazz Poetry. He was a participant in the Beat Generation in Greenwich Village. He was a contemporary and friend of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Leroi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), Gregory Corso, Diane Di Prima, Bob Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others. Joans shared a room for a time with the great jazz musician Charlie Parker. Joans' bohemian costume balls and rent parties were photographed by Fred McDarrah and Weegee. Joans was also deeply involved in Surrealism, meeting Joseph Cornell; and at first becoming close to his childhood hero Salvador Dalí, then soon breaking with him. In Paris, he was welcomed into the circle of André Breton. Joans was an erudite africanist and traveled extensively throughout the continent, frequently on foot, over many decades between periods in Europe and North America. From the 1960s onward, Joans had a house in Tangier, Morocco, and then in Timbuktu, Mali.

While he ceased playing the trumpet he maintained a jazz sensibility in the reading of his poems and frequently collaborated with musicians. He continued to travel and maintained an active correspondence with a host of creative individuals, among them Langston Hughes, Michel Leiris, Aimé Césaire, Robert Creeley, Jayne Cortez, Stokely Carmichael, Ishmael Reed and Paul Bowles, Franklin and Penelope Rosemont; many of these letters are collected at the Bancroft Library of the University of California Berkeley. The University of Delaware houses his correspondence with Charles Henri Ford. Joans was also a close correspondent/participant of the Chicago Surrealist Group.

Joans' painting Bird Lives hangs in the De Young Museum in San Francisco. He was also the originator of the "Bird Lives" legend and graffiti in New York City after the death of Charlie Parker in March 1955. His visual art work spans collages, assemblage objects, paintings and drawings including many resulting from the collaborative surrealist game Cadavre Exquis. The rhinoceros is a frequent subject in his work in all media. He also created short Super 8 film works.

During the early 1980s Joans was a writer in residence in Berlin, Germany, under the auspices of the DAAD (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst) program. He was a contributor of jazz essays and reviews to magazines such as Coda and Jazz Magazine. His autobiographical text "Je Me Vois" appeared in the Contemporary Authors Autobiographical Series, Volume 25. His work has been included in numerous anthologies.

In the late 1990s Joans relocated to Seattle and resided there and in Vancouver, between travels, until 2003. He was the recipient of the American Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Ted Joans died in 2003.

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7 Reels (Magnetic tape audio recordings ) : RR 193 1:01:46; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 194 Side A-0:28:53, Side B-0:49:02; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. The combined run time of the digital recording is1:17:51. RR 195 1:04:12; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 196 1:35:17; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 197 1:30:31; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. Static on recording for first few minutes. RR 198 1:19:01; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester. RR 325 0:45:55; tape speed 3¾ IPS; track position ½-Track Mono; Substrate: Polyester.

Language of Materials

From the Series: English