I.

__

The ideal candidate: vigorous

easily connects with others;

Prefer stubbornly offers.

Please send resume, cover letter, and salary requirement to

 __

Dear

Kate,

 __

what if I find a stupid one, a lunatic bitterness that pleasantly

I presently found, what a kind one, your invitation and what a stupid one

am I, having just now found your envelope, pleasurable archival

I cannot make it to your lavish

 __

II.

 __

Dear William,

sweet, what a kiss

yes, I’m a confident panic,

without the pomp

brocade, bluish and blush, I’m a grocery store fire

through the night awake, aware, whimpering, alarmed with waiting

glass, glossy, fogged up or, worse, opaque,

me, the fragile circumstance on the eve of an electric engagement

public, through which they all saw, fooled about lying

and ceremony in the manner of the procession

to honor and to keep at bay

fooled about liking me

in the quake of the proceedings, the golden spectacle,

I prefer vigorous

dead stones, lifeless taffeta, crisp curls deflated, limp lace

like a backwards someone

impinging

God I can’t stop talk

so this will have to do—

moon and, honey, the crowning to the sumptuous

our postprandial travel panning out in sips,

tip by angled tip, the brine, twinge, and prick of the nuptials,

God I can’t stop, think—

your habit of smiling out at strangers

what if I

thinking you’re the habit of sitting, doused in vacant expression, inside

stalled cars, stalked idly,

end up dead, with dead diamonds and a pork chop in my ear,

will be more profit,

I mean will be more proud if I

already know, but far be it from me to tell you things

can profit on a cool evening in Northern

the tulips were falling out over their

fur and leather wedding gowns’

seams

I would

prefer difficult no’s, stubbornly offers

a lunatic future, riches, treasure, yes I’d love one,

some. but why be sneaky,

nice knowing you. glad we love so much we lost,

could love so much we shot them down.

I wonder when it’ll air or tear, the hail and gusts come walloping down

so much northwesterly warmth and so much green outside the Narthex

the tulips falling wide, talking idly amongst themselves,

fondly I remember first the offer

fondly I remember first hearing from

too bitter for me

and hence more detrimental

what if I find a nun? or a younger man?

whether I’ll err, what if I?

why are you wrong? this song is not at all over

or else gone to code

why are you merry? this is not yet sung

I shall be one,

so easily connects to others

I shall be

so in the future

connect the other way

the cry of the nautilus shell,

Gods, and pegs I think too big

I think I’m a virtual place to revise

more possible long-range

I need to burn

the world needs to learn to be more

fondly I first remember hearing from

I don’t know when these things heir

this absurd policy, how much?

a bunch, went well with

the longer term

I’m just curious

I’ve been a held note so long

I think I’m a

boiled away

I’m scared, seems I would

so long

nice knowing you some

 __

III.

__

Dear Kate, I regret to inform you

your application, though kind and brutally charming,

cannot be accepted

at this time

 __

IV.

__

Brain abuzz,

entirely overwrought,

hard work is overrated

overdone, overworked, I was once…

 __

Kate, I must decline your kind invitation

you, an old friend who’s made me very, very sad

to the royal banquet

and friendship is hard, Fran

 __

Hesperion cadges

the castanets in un chanson amist the casa

de locos oranges and greens deranged

doing dishonor

 __

I think my spleen is coming undone

my seams are ripping apart

each foot drop pounds

a million  __    __    __

 __

ashes into the turf, aerated

oils celebrity addiction,

swigs of disordered destinies

chugged afast, abrupt

 __

dripping sweat from the tripod, robotic legs

branching, forked tongues latch

onto one another, clasp the meaning of trust, grasping

a fine but grandly misguided love

 __

the pattern will emerge,

so hopes your falt’ring seam,

and what can you do,

what is left to do

 __

Grille your ideas

Business your taste

School your desires

Fashion your instinct,

 __

end up

penniless, groveling for mercy

to the Merchants of Miracles in the purple square,

tantalizingly alone

 __

Being dinosaur,

Hesperion, to Saint Andrew and George,

brain abuzz, entirely overwrought,

“I think your spleen is coming undone.”

 __

dripping sweat from robotic legs,

branding one another in fire, misguided love,

grandly loping up

clasp one to the other

 __

School your desires,

dishonored dinosaur,

pauperized,

and what could you have done?

What Wedding?

April 28, 2011

Well, I was going to post some of my notes from the process of writing that cento for the National Poetry Month Cento (NaPoMoCento) contest, but that’s the magic of a week’s wait–I no longer feel compelled by the dangling strands of verse congealed on the page. One of my most influential writing teachers always extolled us students that the writing process for any given project is never truly over. Revision is a sticky, messy, frustrating, interminable, thankless, but ultimately rewarding and insightful journey. Which explains why even some of the lines retained in any given poem can still make a writer recoil in horror. Oh well?

Before wrapping up this second meta post in one night, I just want to explain that the following creation is in no way meant to deride the significance or romantic beauty of the occasion marking these twenty-four hours with its history and fame and extremely pinpointed focus on celebrity and spectacle. But I felt it would be too grotesque to take in all these disparate and often bizarre details of Britain’s Royal Wedding and not create something from all the information overload. You know, at least redeem myself in some way for all my shared stake in fawning over modern icons, celebrities, and royalty hold-outs in the twenty-first century? Otherwise, the pointlessness of being so invested in strangers’ lives (made less strange and more known, relate-able, examined than even possibly my own life, thanks to relentless media and all its glaring lights and shrill, droning commentary) would be pretty much unforgivable. Consider this a debate opened!

So, to reiterate, this poem is a bit drafty. If ever there is a legitimately published version (or multiple spawned published versions), it will most likely not look like this one. In any case, I’d like to share my imaginative examination of the mythologies (in both meanings, as larger-than-life, exploded truths and perverted falsities) of the Kate & Will story–some say fairy-tale, but last I checked, Kate didn’t seem to be sprouting wings or giving the impression of struggling to keep said fluttering wings flat against her back. It seems that the work would be more meaningful in its proper context than removed from it by a year or more. Curious to hear your thoughts!

I mean…WAIT!

Wedding? What wedding?

Show Me Sunset

April 8, 2011

When I get a smartphone in a couple of years, I surely will have lost all of my values. The best way to support built-in obsolescence in cellphones and automobiles? Buy cars and smartphones. The older I get, the more strange urges I get to own such things, despite their inessential natures. Surely, I will have moved too far from the simpler self, a simpler me, that needed only to savor a vivid sunset to find joy, to heal the wounds of the past, and to deal with what could not be got rid of from the vast repository of memory (forgiveness, memory, happiness, healing …recurring theme much?). If and when I get that phone, samples from the lengthy and awe-inspiring instrumental sections of this Bat for Lashes (moniker for prodigious Brit, Natasha Khan) composition will make up my ringtone.

The deeper we get into this grey, cold month of April, the more evident it becomes that some of these song-poems become so flat on the page–all words, no orchestration. Yet the same goes for the inverse. That future (sell-out) ringtone will pale in comparison to the full song, not only for the tinny timbre of the cellphone speakers but also for the lack of the words (impeccably original, profound, lucid, ad infinitum…) that accompany the electronic fantasia of this piece. Please, enjoy!

 

Two Planets

We are all strangers in a strange land,
Wanderers in a vast and unknowable universe.

Show me moonlight on the sunrise.
I’ve seen so many planets dancing,
I’ve seen too many people hiding.

Show me sunset, and I won’t forget
That I am one of two planets dancing,
I am one of two planets dancing.

Shallow man,
Sign your name
On my sun.

Where the song of Solomon
Died in the battleground,
Where the song of Solomon
Died in love’s battleground,

I am full,
Shattered by this sailing time,
For all your suffering by night,
Oh warm, but under bright.

And life is so much dark and light,
When day cannot exist without a night.
And you are not separate from me.
I am a heart that’s full of life.

And to be shared, on this night,
Feel my hands, feel my life,
For the sun and the stars,
Oh my Mother and my sisters.

I know where the form is changing.
I know that the stars will follow me.

Common Vs. Common

April 4, 2011

Today only!

Geographers’ Special: Cities, Decadence, et cetera …

Another day featuring bands with male vocalists. I kind of feel like I need to wedge The Go-Go’s in here somewhere just to balance it out. Or Portishead, maybe. And it’s another British and another American band. C’mon, other countries, catch up! (Actually, that’s ultimately the focus of this blog – more on that in future posts!)

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit A.

I’m really glad I had the month divvied up before I started blogging musical poetry for National Poetry Month because it sure keeps things flowing smoothly around here, but I’ve only stuck to the chosen song once (on the 2nd), and every other day, I’ve shuffled things around, made alternate arrangements. Today, I changed my mind, on a dime, as usual, this time due to a lovely line I came across in an interview with poet Catherine Theis on the semi-blog from Salt Publishing. She responded to a question, in part, with the remark, “The inside of a verse play or poem (or a painting or a song) is one of the last decadent places on earth.” I then went hunting for a decadent song tucked away in my little list of April’s flowers. (If you didn’t guess on the first day, yes, that’s a layered reference to all these gorgeously-written and mellifluously-echoed songs, as well as the fact that in spite of April’s showers, April has some of its own flowers.) And after paying more careful attention to the exact wording of one of my newer favorite compositions from Editors, “The Boxer,” off their most recent 2009 album, In This Light and On This Evening, I decided it would make an even better double-feature with my second-favorite creation from The National, “City Middle,” off of Alligator, from way back in 2005. The amateur geographer in me tries to look for inspiration even in diversions, like rock music obsessions, which really shouldn’t be considered diversions but appreciated for the high art they so often achieve (and critiqued when they don’t, of course!).  I think part of me feels guilty for lavishing more attention on this blog than on my more academically-oriented endeavors. Ah well. Music heals those wounds, too.

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit B.

As much as I want to wrap this up and get this syndicated to you guys, some points I shouldn’t put off:

1. If there’s a Simon & Garfunkel connection in Editors’ lyrics, it’s slight, but I don’t disavow its potential presence. That would, of course, only make the gravelly-smooth beauty of the song more delectable.

2. “City Middle” (and its counterpart, “Karen”) features some of The National’s most explicit, grimy lyrics, but the instrumentation and vocals are so beautiful that they would perfectly make up for the partially crude storyline if the storyline itself didn’t have its own redeeming qualities. For me, its in the vividness of the imagery and the way that hazy (or not so much hazy as uncertain) childhood memories are evoked for me by the line “pissing in a sink, I think.” I swear the woman that lived in the next room in the communal apartment of my childhood, who I wholeheartedly believed was my Great Aunt (also uncertain on that now, after all these years, though I still continue to believe it, for lack of an alternative explanation for pieces of my memories, some including threads of conversations structured explicitly around the referent, Great Aunt, though what if that’s an inaccurate memory, too? My toddler years were so very long ago, after all!), had some incident in the apartment which afterward involved a lot of screaming by all parties about pissing in sinks. Maybe a fabrication of my imagination? What an imagination that would be, though… Doesn’t seem right to me. TMI again? Oops. Sorry.

3. The thing about what remains, in our society, of archaic poetry — that is, sung verse — is that there seems much more repetition in song than in printed, never-attempted-sung verse. Aside from ballads, most of today’s songwriters, even the best ones, adhere fairly strictly to industry conventions involving choruses, bridges, echoing of verses, and all that jazz. It’s true — We the audience do very much like the tantalizing hooks, mostly to ensure we have some snatch of tune stuck in our heads all day. We hate silence above all else, it seems (which is quite disheartening!). Repetition works. Poets do use it, too. And there are songwriters who use it less than others. (I dare you to give me example of those who hardly use it at all!) But in our inexhaustible taste for easily-devour-able material, written lyrics can seem not at all smooth, a bit jumpy, a bit coarse, a bit bogged down, to drag their feet more than slightly. Yet when we listen, we are hardly aware of the echoing. It’s a strange phenomenon, and I’m not entirely sure that I have a preference one way or another in terms of the written versions, in spite of all that obstructiveness.

4. Okay, I’m getting antsy and impatient now. Tennessee Williams references! You can easily connect them back to Ms. Theis’s comment about “verse plays” ; I once dreamt that Common Vs. Common was a band that came to play at my school ; I’m having too much fun adding punctuation to lyrics to find the best ways to enunciate the poetic in these lyrical creations, which we might otherwise overlook as too mundane for poetry (shame!) ; … long red socks and red shoes! Are you overwhelmed yet? Great!

Now on to the poems of our bleak cities, occasionally beautiful in their dreariness!

When all the world is dripping poetry, how easily we forget our concrete prisons.

 

The Boxer

A bruised full moon
Play-fights with the stars.
This place is our prison,
its cells are the bars
So take me to town,
I wanna dance with the city.
Show me something ugly, and
Show me something pretty.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

An unwanted sun
pulls rank in the sky.
The boxer isn’t finished,
He’s not ready to die.
I’m attracted to the light,
I’m attracted to the heat.
It’s a violent night;
There are boxers in the street.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

And damn this place
— makes a boy out of me
The ring meets my face
before an oak tree!

Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds.

"I wanna dance with the city..."

 

City Middle

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I’ve got five-hundred in twenties,
And I got a ton of great ideas;
I’m really worked up.
I’m on a good mixture, I don’t want to waste it.
I’m on a good mixture, I do not want to waste it.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners;
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you.

I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
Parking your car — you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You were parking your car, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You said, “I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

“I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
La da da da …

I have weird memories of you.

Today’s a sick day so I’ll have to keep brief my comments about my National Poetry Month tribute, in the form of a shared modified poem, or song. Today’s selection comes from across the pond, from recent British, and let’s be honest, international, sensation Mumford and Sons. These lyrics were my first introduction to the band (via Hype Machine, beloved Mecca of music junkies everywhere), and even though I love all the tracks on Sigh No More, with the exception of “Little Lion Man,” overplayed by 101.9 RXP, my local rock station, before they finally got some sense knocked into them somehow and started airing the single, “The Cave,”… *inhale* … my devotion to the aesthetic delights of “Thistle and Weeds” is fast and unyielding. I start to develop a slight jealousy for the Greeks, who not only made their acquaintance with poetry through their ears but had the luxury of hearing those packed verses overlaid with melancholy melodies to tug at the heart. Oh, wait. I need not be jealous. I feast on the same luxuries all day long, day in and day out, through my ease of access to rich music, made available in part thanks to those technologies for which we have the Industrial Revolution to thank. The only unfortunate part is that I live, day in, day out, in a society that mostly disavows the poetry pervasively in its midst, by divorcing connected arts from each other in the pursuit of greater and greater specializations. But it is among us, people, it’s among us! Blaring melancholy! Stirring us with the profound!

Thistle and Weeds

Spare me your judgments, and spare me your dreams,
‘Cause recently mine have been tearing my seams.
I sit alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind.
Alone in the wind and the rain you left me;
It’s getting dark, darling, too dark to see,
And I’m on my knees, and your faith in shreds, it seems.

Corrupted by the simple sniff of riches blown,
I know you have felt much more love than you’ve shown,
And I’m on my knees, and the water creeps to my chest.

But plant your hope with good seeds.
Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds.
Rain down, rain down on me.
Look over your hills, and be still;
The sky above us shoots to kill.
Rain down, rain down on me.

But I will hold on,
I will hold on hope.

I begged you to hear me, there’s more than flesh and bones.
Let the dead bury the dead — they will come out in droves,
But take the spade from my hands, and fill in the holes you’ve made.

Plant your hope with good seeds.
Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds.
Rain down, rain down on me.

I-I Follow

February 15, 2011

The Grammies (and the BRITs) have been passed out, and I’m paying more careful attention to The Black Keys, La Roux, Switchfoot’s Hello Hurricane, and Patty Griffin’s gospel album, while rediscovering Sade’s recent album, Soldier of Love. Obviously happy (ecstatic, really) for Arcade Fire and Danger Mouse (of Broken Bells, etc.), Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Pete Seeger, Big Star, Train, and Muse, as well as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. And planning on checking out Miranda Lambert (and may-be, but only maybe, Lady Antebellum) eventually, especially since Lori McKenna tweeted so excitedly about her win.

But really, I’m riding the crest of Valentine’s Day “weekend” (there needs to be an equivalent term for a combination of weekdays and weekend days falling at the beginning of a work week!) by falling madly in love with Lykke Li, day after day after day. Each day in the past week, I’ve delved into a whole ‘nother layer of my love for “I Follow Rivers,” and now I’m spreading out my affection to her entire ouevre, mostly the songs (and remixes of the songs) from her first album, Youth Novels. I am half-desperate for the next half-month to pass so that I can get my hands on Wounded Rhymes, which is being referred to, logically, as her sophomore album.

So, whether or not you’re feeling blue and lovesick or manic and love-crazed, I bet you’ll benefit from checking out what I’m calling, “Attack of the Swedes!” :

First there was Ane Brun, summoned from within some vague locale in the Internet itself to make my acquaintance. Her voice is mature, with a maternal quality reminiscent of some folk or country singers. She sounds self-sure, plaintive, and sweet, all at the same time.  After listening to some of her songs, you’ll be surprised that the voice you’re listening to isn’t a Brit’s but rather that of a Norwegian who has been living and working for a decade in Sweden. This fact is more evident in her cover of “True Colors” (which I had no idea was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper!). As for what I mean about her “maternal quality,” I sometimes notice something in her sound that, in my mind, makes a perfect match to moments in the recordings of Malvina Reynolds, who I’ve also been obsessing over in the past month. This most likely means one of two things: either our voices don’t change that much over time, or Brun is ahead of her time in multiple ways. Her voice just somehow doesn’t match with her gorgeous, youthful, movie starlet looks. And that’s a good thing! Nothing like the elements of surprise and incongruity to make us pay more attention to beautiful music. Even better, her voice in “Humming One of Your Songs” has some lovely parallels to that of Beth Gibbons of Portishead on “Glory Box.”

Then, through the amazing powers and magic of Last.fm, there was Anna Ternheim. Ternheim has an exquisite voice with a Laura Marling quality you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a native Swedish speaker (I’m referring both to her basic vocals and her British-ish accent here). Notice  a theme here? Anyway, Ternheim shares with Brun a knack for songwriting that mines insight, heartbreak, and everyday, hum-drum life experience and turns it into gold. They’ve both been recognized for this closer to home. It’s time the rest of the world learned to pay more attention!

“You’re my river running high  – run deep, run wild. I, I follow…I follow you, deep sea, baby. I, I follow…I follow you. Dark doom, honey.”

And somehow, somewhere in there, through some dazzling coincidence, Lykke Li appeared from on high and blasted her rays of discoteque-boosted glory through the wires of the Hype Machine. Youth Novels is packed with songs of the heart, as I suppose is understandable if we really concentrate on the meaning of the album’s title and the typical, iconic qualities of youth novels. Lykke had a tempestuous childhood molded by her parents’ jet-setting lifestyle, the effects of which weren’t entirely positive in crafting her world-wise persona. There’s this terrific article from SPIN (cover story, actually), highlighting the fact that she’s poised to become the next international pop superstar, which artfully details Lykke Li’s tempered take on her childhood, her young career, and her talent. I’m just waiting for the day when, several months from the official release of Wounded Rhymes, “I Follow Rivers” becomes a mega-hit, and I’m lounging around, feasting on the high of my “I told you so’s”! ;-)

(Then again, for some mysterious reason, North America has yet to wake up to Bat for Lashes. At least she’s getting recognized on her home turf! Third time’s a charm, Natasha Khan. Just get us that next album, stat!)

El Perro del Mar fits right in with this echelon of strong stars. I know I’m failing at painting these gorgeous, golden-voiced women in all their uniqueness, but, to my credit, it’s past midnight as I blather on and on. But really, El Perro del Mar in all her dreamy, jewel-studded dream-pop glow, has that crazy combination of strange British-influenced accent, tender voice, and model looks as Ane, Anna, and Lykke.  “Inner Island’ wields the timeless quality of its imagery with a calming force, making it reminiscent of Tori Amos’s “Cool on Your Island” from her Y Kant Tori Read days (which I only finally delved into this week — Reactions? “Oh, wow — the eighties!”).

In review, here’s a playlist of songs to check out, for starters (of the love-struck variety):

Little Bit – Lykke Li

Rubber & Soul – Ane Brun

Summer Rain – Anna Ternheim

Humming One of Your Songs – Ane Brun

Inner Island – El Perro del Mar

What Have I Done? (El Perro Del Mar Mix) – Anna Ternheim

I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li