Ted Joans

Ted Joans was born Theodore Jones on July 4, 1928 on a riverboat in Cairo, Illinois. His father, a riverboat entertainer, put him off the boat in Memphis at age twelve and gave him a trumpet. He is a painter, a trumpeter, and a jazz poet. His jazz poems are collected in a book called “Black Pow-Wow.” He earned a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University, and in 1951 joined “the Bohemia of Greenwich Village, USA.” He has since recited his poems in coffeehouses in New York and in the middle of Saraha Desert. He has lived in Harlem, New York, Bloomington, Indiana, Haarlem, the Netherlands, and even Timbuktu. His books include:

  • Funky Jazz Poems
  • Beat Poems
  • All of T.J. and No More
  • The Truth
  • The Hipsters (a book of collages)
  • The Truth
  • Afrodisia
  • A Black Pow Wow of Jazz Poems

His work is characterized by black nationalism, or a black consciousness, a strong rhythm, and a musical language and sensibility closely linked to the blues and most importantly to best of the avant-garde jazz. His style is associated with the oral tradition of African-American writing but also to the Beat Generation. Joans, along with Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka began their poetic careers in the artistic haven of Greenwich Village in the late fifties and early sixties. Joans, though, has expanded his work and embraced more serious jazz-inflected sounds, and Black Power.

Read one of his poems, ‘The Sax Bit,’ here.

Ted Joans died at his home in Vancouver on April 25, 2003.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you for the page &
    Thank you for the page on Ted Joans. I am his daughter. I enjoy reading about him. He is in my heart and thoughts everyday.

  2. JUST A WORD THAT I KEEP
    JUST A WORD THAT I KEEP READING TED’S COLLECTION OF POEMS IN THE BOOKLET DATED 1960 ” THE BEAT GENERATION ” I THINK IT’S THE ONLY COPY. I BOUGHT IT FOR A BUCK IN 1961 IN THE VILLAGE. HE IS A GREAT LOSS!!!!

  3. Re Joan Vollmer Burroughs—
    Re Joan Vollmer Burroughs—-It seems too plebian for anyone to seek out the police report re her death. It is not unlikely that the Mexican police, learning of Burroughs’ prestigious background, did a thorough and able job of investigating the matter.

  4. I am 70 years old this year. I met Ted in my early twenties when he gave a reading in Newark, NJ. I was a close associate of Amiri Baraka. Joans came to Newark at the invitation of Baraka. I never forgot the great and lasting impression he made on me.

    Recently, I read an article in the NYT entitled, “The Struggle to Preserve a Moroccan House of Music, and It’s Legacy” which mentioned that Joans was a friend of Abdullah El Gourd, the famous Moroccan Gnawa musician. What an amazing person he was. I hope someone will write his biography.

  5. Can someone tell me where I can find a copy of TJ’s “Let’s Do Something, Let’s Do Anything, Let’s Do Something Big”?

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