Skip to main content

Ted Joans lectures at the University of Connecticut.

 Digital Record


  • 1971 - 1982


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).

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.

[ / / /]


7 Reels : 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.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original audio recordings reside in the University of Connecticut, Black Experience in the Arts Collection, Archives & Special Collections, UConn Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US