“It is more than music.” (Amy Karon on Cadenza)


Amy Karon is a contributor to Half Mystic Journal’s fifth issue, cadenzaShe lived for years in the American Southwest and loves rain, jazz (all genres), and border collies. Recent credits include Eastern Iowa Review, Basket Sea Journal, Iowa Heritage Illustrated, Inking the Unthinkable (Lagan Online), and Eternal Haunted Summer.


We asked three of our Issue V contributors to share with us their personal definitions of cadenza: how it is formed, where it has been, what it could be. Here is Amy Karon's vision of the saxophone laugh – the air of smoke & blue – the love affair as old-fashioned as it is timeless…

Cadenza: an improvised solo, a soaring elaboration of a riff. Impossibly fast or pitch-perfect slow. Magnetic. Cadenza seizes our attention, rockets us skyward like childhood swings. We grip its chains and fly.

Cadenza is more than music. Consider the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball final, when Villanova’s sixth man, Donte DiVencenzo, came off the bench to single-handedly upend Michigan. Thirty-one points, five rebounds, and two blocks later, he’d broken records and created a new possible. An athlete in his zone, an ephemeral god, DiVencenzo embodied cadenza.

The apparent effortless of cadenza belies lifetimes of rehearsal. Dishes crust in the sink and appointments languish as we steal minutes from hours and hours from days, layering skill upon for the chance to blow notes of gold or steal a scene, pitch a perfect game or scale a wall faster than thought.

Cadenza is not just for humans. It's universal. Seek it in a breaching whale, a petal whose fall perfects a vase, a first cool drop of monsoon rain. Cadenza belongs to us all, a peerless flourish, a final rejoicing line.


Amy Karon's poem “The Riff of a Saxophone”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and two columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue V: Cadenza, a stunning collection of contemporary art, lyrics, and writing celebrating swing jazz and tapping feet, midnight on cobblestoned streets, drunken solo out a three-story window, drowsy night and clumsy dance, serenade with the stars as a microphone. It is available for preorder now.