Ted Joans Lives! A Tribute

When Charlie Parker died, Ted Joans coined the phrase ‘BIRD LIVES’ and wrote it in chalk or charcoal on walls. Laura Corsiglia suggests that we remember Ted in the same way:


jimmy bruch

Listen! can you hear it? i hear him now that old Ted Joans. i hear the beat, beat, beat, the beat of the heart. i hear the sound of all them hep cats and hipsters hanging out under the big drunk sky, following that one way celestial highway swaying to the dharma, the bum, the tenor sax and trumpet blowin blues with those big beautiful black lips, the bird flappin, the click click of the mimic and mockery of a generation. there he goes leaving us his dreams, now revisited through the eyes of fallen angels and saints- leaving us sad angels in search of our own eternal freedom and love. leaving us lookin for home in the sweat stained cities on old earth, teducated from nyc to timbuktoo. and there he goes that Ted Joans, leaving this old earh and karma riding on the back of the great Rhino. there he goes ‘on the road”

Charles Woods Gray

I met, or should I say experienced Ted Joans at Festac (the festival of arts and culture in Lagos, Nigeria) in 1978. Not only did he inspire my writing of poetry, he made me proud to be a Black Man living in North America. I left the festival and ran, or should I say danced back home to Vancouver, BC and started Black Arts Theatre, where I produced & directed many plays from the heart, “For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide” being the most successful. I must have missed Ted when he moved to Vancouver, as I had moved to Toronto in 1980. Had I known Ted Joans was living in Vancouver I would have made a special trip just to meet with him and let him know what a positive effect he had (has) on my life. (TED JOANS LIVES) CW

Mike Evans:

I first met Ted when he came to Liverpool, England in 1967, hanging out with the Mersey poets including Adrian Henri, with whom I had a flat in the same house. I have fond memories of searching the Edinburgh branch of Woolworths with Ted for a toy pistol to fire Malteseers at the audience during a happening called ‘Chocolate Astonishment’ which Ted staged later that day, Adrian., Ted et al reading poetry, myself playing sax, Ted playing trumpet etc. When we hit NYC in 1969 (AH and myself) in a poetry band called Liverpool Scene, Ted introduced us to Mingus who invited us down to the Village Vanguard, where he was playing, as his guests… referring to Ted as “the poet” !!


A.D. Winans:

The photo was taken by me at City Lights in the year 2000.

Ted Joans and Allen Ginsberg by A.D. Winans

Bo Helgesson:

The CitySaint

Ted Joans had fast feet and a childish mind.
The winter 1988 we stayed at the same hotel;
hotel Monte Carlo in the center of Mexico city.

We drank “pulque” at Plaza Garibaldi,
walked the Alameda and visited the Book Fair
at Palacio de las Mineras.
We ate fish at la Faena, drank coffee at Café Gandhi
and went to Studio Rivera in San Angel.

Ted read his poems with jazzmusic from a taperecorder
at Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin.The poet and reporter
John Ross was also there.

I was thinking of miss Wilma T. from London
and Ted was dreaming of Frida Kahlo from Coyoacan.

He was a worldcitizen and a Mexico CitySaint.
Ted Joans had fast feet and a childish mind

Mexico City Must be…

(paraphrasing Ted Joans´ Jazz Must be a Woman)
to all the foreign artists and writers who left a piece
of their soul in this City.

Langston Hughes André Breton Tina Modotti Jean Charlot
Katherine Anne Porter Anna Seghers Egon Erwin Kisch
Graham Greene D H Lawrence Luis Buñuel Sergei Eisenstein
Benjamin Perét B Traven Malcolm Lowry Norman Mailer
Jack Kerouac Lawrence Ferlinghetti Muriel Rukeyser
Gregory Corso William Burroughs Allen Ginsburg Remedios Varos
Hart Crane Carleton Beals Henri Cartier-Bresson Alma Reed
Edward Weston Pablo Neruda Margaret Randall Philip Lamantia
Budd Schulberg Hal Chase Anita Brenner Kenneth Klich
Leonora Carrington Kati Horna Arnold Belkin Vlady Kibalchich
Victor Serge John Dos Passos Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Paul Westheim Frances Toor Ted Joans
and John Ross is still living at Hotel Isabel

Ted Joans by Bo Helgesson

Ted Joans by Bo Helgesson

Ted Joans by Bo Helgesson

John van der Does

I knew Ted Joans in Paris in the 80s and, actually, earlier in New York City. Many times in the 80s at Shakespeare & Co. on rue de la Bucherie he would read his poams, always in engaging and dramatic fashion. One poem, “I Will Sell Paris,” was quite humorous and had everybody rolling laughing. He also read his poems at La Pensée Sauvage bookshop on rue l’Odeon. It was always a mixed crowd at La Pensée Sauvage, more international than at Shakespeare & Co., with people reading poetry in French as well as Spanish, Russian, etc. Everybody would listen intently even if they didn’t understand, and afterwards we all would go out for a glass of wine nearby on the Boulevard Saint Germain des Pres.

Ted was quite a ladies man. One time I was walking in the Luxembourg Gardens with my girlfriend, Cynthia, and we met Ted who raved to us about his next book, “an anti best seller book.” He had a good sense of humour. I have also briefly crossed his path several times in the 70s in New York City, one time at the Strand on Broadway and 12th and another time at a bookstore in the East Village which no longer exists. I recall Ted talking about living in Timbuktu. He talked about his Surrealist art collection and about his record collection. He taught me a few things about listening to jazz. One time, don’t recall where, but it was in Paris, while listening to records, he got me to recognize several jazz tunes and musicians. We will always miss him. He had a bright star.

You know, the Parisians sometimes stay up all night talking and then go out for coffee and croissants at a local corner café before returning to their apartment and going back to sleep. In a sort of reverie sitting at a cafe on Boulevard Saint Germain at 6:30 am, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I can make out “TED JOANS LIVES!” written in the clouds across the Paris sky (and every other sky all over the globe too).

Solveig Klaßen:

It was in 1988 when I first met Ted in Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop, Paris, reading poetry to jazz music playing from a battery driven recordplayer and showing S 8 films: Ted Joans turning into a street in Marrakech, Ted Joans coming out of the metro in Paris, Ted Joans and Andy Warhol at a party, desert, Parisians, New York Museum of Modern Art. Time, places everything melted into the Tedworld.

I was 19 and Ted 60 years old. He told me from the beginning: No KKK (he meant : No Kinder Küche Kirche). On my 20th birthday we already had toured the U.S. by Greyhound Bus, visiting sons and daughters of all colours and life styles, now me filming on S-8 and Ted giving lectures, writing poems – always inspired and inspiring to old and new friends.

For me it was a journey into his past life, like when we bumped into a Weegee exhibition in N.Y.U. and Ted found himself dancing on a photograph next to Elisabeth Taylor – or when we met Peter Orlovsky on the streets, and turned up at Alan Ginsberg’s studio. We ran through Soho and Greenwich village and Ted’s stories – he brought them all back to life – seemed to still be everywhere.

When we ran out of money he took an old scratch from Rauschenberg out of his paperboxes (which were piled up in his Parisian apartment ) and sold them at Christies. We went on to Chicago, Boulder, San Francisco and Seattle, Vancouver. We visited galleries, artists, university professors, surrelists, musicians. It was real, though Ted already was a legend.

One year later we had visited Mexico, Morocco and Algeria, where he encouraged young female poets. By then I had seen every museum of Modern art there was on the way, doing cadavre exquis everyday. It was the most inspiring time I have had in my young life. I returned to my country, to Berlin and I studied arts and movies.

Although it was not always easy to live with a legend and to be "teducated" when I only wanted to be myself, and! not knowing what that meant, my time with Ted Joans was like the most exciting novel. A poem full of love and inspiration: Nad I found out: Art and life can not be separated. Thank you Ted.

Elin Babcock:

I have been friends with Laura and Ted for many years. Ted introduced me to Paris poetry, Shakespeare & Co readings and Jim Haynes’ parties. I miss him much. A poem for Ted…. Elin

You No Longer Sit At My Table

In memory of Ted Joans living now in Africa, a rhino sitting with the ancients,
returning only in dream stories. Visited here Fourth of July, 1928 — 25 April,, 2003

You have gone back to Africa –
to Goddess – to Mother
She feeds you now
Peanut soup spooned
From a blue brass singing bowl
Rocks you young again
In the warm folds of her jazz black body
Lullabys you into smoke sweet pleasure dreams
I cannot share.

You no longer sit at my table
Laughing — caught by your own humor.
We will not share a meal again.
The bottle of Paris Red spilled in Vancouver

In anger
In honor
I broke your plate today.

One thousand chards
Cascade into Black Velvet
Into waves washing away now
The bare foot path you journeyed
Back to my sister, back to Mother Africa.

Ted Joans Lives He has nothing to fear but the truth.

Lyn Woodcraft:

It’s remembrance day today here in Britain. Which got me thinking of those
I miss most. I met Ted in 1967, at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. I
also have wonderful memories of a club in Paris called Le chat qui peche.
Miles Davis was playing there and Ted was performing. I was in contact
with him for a couple of years through Poste Restante, Rue Scribe in Paris.
After that, although I saw him less often, we bumped into each other in
half a dozen different countries, and always kind of stayed in touch. In
January 1968 I received a wonderful handmade one-off book from Ted. You
were asking for photographs and so I am sending you a copy of a page from
this book showing Ted, as I will always remember him – down South with a
smile on his mouth.

Ted Joans / Lyn Woodcraft