Stanzas for Music

LORD BYRON (GEORGE GORDON)

ByronThere be none of Beauty’s daughters

With a magic like thee;

And like music on the waters

Is thy sweet voice to me:

When, as if its sound were causing

The charmed ocean’s pausing,

The waves lie still and gleaming,

And the lull’d winds seem dreaming:
.

And the midnight moon is weaving

Her bright chain o’er the deep;

Whose breast is gently heaving,

As an infant’s asleep:

So the spirit bows before thee,

To listen and adore thee;

With a full but soft emotion,

Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.
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On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

 

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Little Fugue

Marianne Boruch

Little FugueEveryone should have a little fugue, she says,
the young conductor
taking her younger charges through
the saddest of pieces, almost a dirge
written for unholy times, and no,
not for money.
               Ready? she tells them, measuring out
each line for cello, viola, violin.
It will sound to you
not quite right. She means the aching half-step
of the minor key, no release
from it, that always-on-the-verge-of, that
repeat, repeat.
             Everyone should have a little fugue
I write that down like I cannot write
the larger griefs. For my part, I
believe her. Little fugue I wouldn’t
have to count.
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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The Supremes

Mark Jarman

The SupremesIn Ball’s Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses outside of Detroit,
And old Ball clicks his tongue.
Gloved up to their elbows, their hands raised
Toward us palm out, they sing,
“Stop! In the Name of Love,” and don’t stop,
But slip into the lower foreground.
.
Every day of a summer can turn,
From one moment, into a single day.
I saw Diana Ross in her first film
Play a brief scene by the Pacific–
And that was the summer it brought back.
Mornings we paddled out, the waves
Would be little more than embellishments–
Lathework and spun glass,
Gray-green with cold, but flawless.
When the sun burned through the light fog,
They would warm and swell,
Wind-scaled and ragged,
And radios up and down the beach
Would burst on with her voice.
.
She must remember that summer
Somewhat differently.  And so must the two
Who sang with her in long matching gowns,
Standing a step back on her left and right,
As the camera tracked them
Into our eyes in Ball’s Market.
But what could we know, tanned white boys,
Wiping sugar and salt from our mouths,
And leaning forward to feel their song?
Not much, except to feel it
Ravel us up like a wave
In the silk of white water,
Simply, sweetly, repeatedly,
And just as quickly let go.
.
We didn’t stop either, which is how
We vanished, too, parting like spray–
Ball’s Market, my friends and I.
Dredgers ruined the waves,
Those continuous dawn perfections,
And Ball sold high to the high rises
Cresting over them.  His flight out of L.A.,
Heading for Vegas, would have banked
Above the wavering lines of surf.
He may have seen them.  I have,
Leaving again for points north and east,
Glancing down as the plane turns.
From that height they still look frail and frozen,
Full of simple sweetness and repetition.
.
Listen to The Supremes sing “Stop In The Name Of Love” (Ready Steady Go – 1965)
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Please note that on June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Technical mastery and peculiar intimacy: new Irish poetry

Review: Strictly No Poetry by Aidan Mathews and Europa by Sean O’Brien

Caitriona O’Reilly

Technical mastery and peculiar intimacy-1TTechnical mastery and peculiar intimacy-2The career of Aidan Mathews is an interesting case study. Mathews published his first collection of poetry, Windfalls, in 1977 with Dolmen Press. There have been only three since, each appearing at increasingly lengthy intervals and with a different publisher on each occasion (The Gallery Press, Jonathan Cape, and The Lilliput Press, respectively). If he were puckishly conniving at his own obscurity he couldn’t manage it better, so counter to the prevailing ethos of brass-necked, twittery self-promotion does he seem. The pressure to push product with grinding regularity – driven by the twin demons of overproduction (“Elbow room! Elbow room!”) and the haunting, pervasive anxiety that no one actually cares about or reads much contemporary poetry, except the poets writing it – seems to have left no mark on his work, judging by the poems in Strictly No Poetry. He’s been here all the time, quietly getting on with it.
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The material in Strictly No Poetry could not be described as a departure for Mathews. The voice here is still assured, confident, self-delighting in the true Yeatsian sense, and still circles around familiar themes: family, history, religion, the persistence of memory, illness, the body. But such a neutral gloss cannot give a flavour of the peculiar intimacy of a Mathews poem: the clash of sacred and profane; the sui generis brio of his image-making; the obsessive sexual synecdoche; the breadth of reference; and the weirdly hippyish buoyancy that sustains it all. I cannot think of another male poet, for example, who has written a poem of celebration on the occasion of his daughter’s first period. Yet Mathews has done this in the tender love poem Menarche. There is little that he cannot turn to poetic account; he makes syringing an ear seem like a profound metaphysical event: “Now the other ear is light as a moccasin slipper/Tracking the stickiness of a slug’s slow glister/Through the pulverised grass outside, the Jew’s harp//Of the hairs in the cashier’s nostril at reception…”

Read the complete review

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Lost Fugue for Chet

Lynda Hull

Chet Baker, Amsterdam, 1988  

Lost Fugue for ChetA single spot slides the trumpet’s flare then stops
   at that face, the extraordinary ruins thumb-marked
with the hollows of heroin, the rest chiaroscuroed.
   Amsterdam, the final gig, canals & countless
.
stone bridges arc, glimmered in lamps. Later this week
    his Badlands face, handsome in a print from thirty
years ago, will follow me from the obituary page
    insistent as windblown papers by the black cathedral
.
of St. Nicholas standing closed today: pigeon shit
    & feathers, posters swathing tarnished doors, a litter
of syringes. Junkies cloud the gutted railway station blocks
    & dealers from doorways call coca, heroina, some throaty
.
foaming harmony. A measured inhalation, again
    the sweet embouchure, metallic, wet stem. Ghostly,
the horn’s improvisations purl & murmur
    the narrow strasses of Rosse Buurt, the district rife
.
with purse-snatchers, women alluring, desolate, poised
    in blue windows, Michelangelo boys, hair spilling
fluent running chords, mares’ tails in the sky green
    & violet. So easy to get lost, these cavernous
.
brown cafés. Amsterdam, & its spectral fogs, its
    bars & softly shifting tugboats. He builds once more
the dense harmonic structure, the gabled houses.
    Let’s get lost. Why court the brink & then step back?

After surviving, what arrives? So what’s the point
    when there are so many women, creamy callas with single
furled petals turning in & upon themselves
    like variation, nights when the horn’s coming
.
genius riffs, metal & spit, that rich consuming rush
    of good dope, a brief languor burnishing
the groin, better than any sex. Fuck Death.
    In the audience, there’s always this gaunt man, cigarette
.
in hand, black Maserati at the curb, waiting,
    the fast ride through mountain passes, descending with
no rails between asphalt & precipice. Inside, magnetic
    whispering take me there, take me. April, the lindens
.
& horse chestnuts flowering, cold white blossoms
    on the canal. He’s lost as he hears those inner voicings,
a slurred veneer of chords, molten, fingering
    articulate. His glance below Dutch headlines, the fall
.
“accidental” from a hotel sill. Too loaded. What do you do
    at the brink? Stepping back in time, I can only
imagine the last hit, lilies insinuating themselves
    up your arms, leaves around your face, one hand vanishing
.
sabled to shadow. The newsprint photo & I’m trying
    to recall names, songs, the sinuous figures, but facts
don’t matter, what counts is out of pained dissonance,
    the sick vivid green of backstage bathrooms, out of
.
broken rhythms—and I’ve never forgotten, never—
    this is the tied-off vein, this is 3 a.m. terror
thrumming, this is the carnation of blood clouding
    the syringe, you shaped summer rains across the quays
.
of Paris, flame suffusing jade against a girl’s
    dark ear. From the trumpet, pawned, redeemed, pawned again
you formed one wrenching blue arrangement, a phrase endlessly
    complicated as that twilit dive through smoke, applause,
.
the pale hunted rooms. Cold chestnuts flowering April
    & you’re falling from heaven in a shower of eighth notes
to the cobbled street below & foaming dappled horses
    plunge beneath the still green waters of the Grand Canal.
.
Listen to Chet Baker play “My Funny Valentine” from his album “Last Great Concert: My Favorite Songs 1 & 2” (1988)
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Listening

Amy Lowell, 1874 – 1925

Listening’T is you that are the music, not your song.

 The song is but a door which, opening wide,

 Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,

Your spirit’s harmony, which clear and strong

Sing but of you. Throughout your whole life long

 Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide

 This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,

Or single notes amid a glorious throng.

 The song of earth has many different chords;

Ocean has many moods and many tones

 Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods

The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones

 Autumn alone can ripen. So is this

 One music with a thousand cadences.
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

 

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Charlie Parker (1950)

Campbell McGrath

Charlie Parker (1950)Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.

Here are the gates of Babylon, the walls of Jericho cast down.

Might die in Chicago, Kansas City’s where I was born.
.
Snowflake in a blizzard, purple rose before the thorn.

Stone by stone, note by note, atom by atom, noun by noun,

Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.
.
Uptown, downtown, following the river to its source,

Savoy, Three Deuces, Cotton Club, Lenox Lounge.

Might just die in Harlem, Kansas City’s where I was born.
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Bird is an abacus of possibility, Bird is riding the horse

of habit and augmented sevenths. King without a crown,

Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.
.
Bred to the labor of it, built to claw an eye from the storm,

made for the lowdown, the countdown, the breakdown.

Might die in Los Angeles, Kansas City’s where I was born.
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Bridge by bridge, solo by solo, set by set, chord by chord,

woodshed to penthouse, blue to black to brown,

Charlie Parker is building a metropolis with his horn.

Might just die in Birdland, Kansas City’s where I was born.
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Listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker play Yardbird Suite

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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Fugue, Harpsichord

Rosanna Warren

For Sylvia Marlowe

Fugue, HarpsichordOut of her left hand fled

the stream, from her right the rain

puckered the surface, drop by drop, the current
.
splayed in a downward daze until it hit

the waterfall, churned twigs

and leaves, smashed foam over stone:
.
from her fingers slid

eddies, bubbles rose, the fugue

heaved up against itself, against its own
.
falling: digressed in curlicues

under shadowed banks, around root tangles and

beaver-gnawed sticks. She had the face
.
of a pike, the thrusting lower jaw and silvered

eye, pure drive. The form

fulfilled itself

through widowhood, her skin

mottled with shingles, hands crooked, a pain

I fled. Now
.
that tempered tumult moves

my time into her timing. Far

beyond her dying, my
.
tinnitus, I am still

through the thrum of voices

trying to hear.
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Rosanna Warren’s comment on this poem”
“Sylvia Marlowe was one of the great harpsichordists of the twentieth century, a student of Nadia Boulanger and Wanda Landowska, and herself a famous teacher for many years at the Mannes School of Music in New York City. She was a close friend of my family, and I grew up listening to her recordings of Bach and Couperin and often visiting her in New York City. I have tried to translate into words my impression of her playing Bach’s preludes and fugues. Of course, the poem plays on multiple senses of fugue.”
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

 

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The Stolen Child

W. B. Yeats

The Stolen ChildWhere dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.
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Listen to The Waterboys sing “The Stolen Child
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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On 52nd Street

Philip Levine, 1928 – 2015

On 52nd StreetDown sat Bud, raised his hands,
the Deuces silenced, the lights
lowered, and breath gathered
for the coming storm. Then nothing,
not a single note. Outside starlight
from heaven fell unseen, a quarter-
moon, promised, was no show,
ditto the rain. Late August of ‘50,
NYC, the long summer of abundance
and our new war. In the mirror behind
the bar, the spirits—imitating you—
stared at themselves. At the bar
the tenor player up from Philly, shut
his eyes and whispered to no one,
“Same thing last night.” Everyone
been coming all week long
to hear this. The big brown bass
sighed and slumped against
the piano, the cymbals held
their dry cheeks and stopped
chicking and chucking. You went
back to drinking and ignored
the unignorable. When the door
swung open it was Pettiford
in work clothes, midnight suit,
starched shirt, narrow black tie,
spit shined shoes, as ready
as he’d ever be. Eyebrows
raised, the Irish bartender
shook his head, so Pettiford eased
himself down at an empty table,
closed up his Herald Tribune,
and shook his head. Did the TV
come on, did the jukebox bring us
Dinah Washington, did the stars
keep their appointments, did the moon
show, quartered or full, sprinkling
its soft light down? The night’s
still there, just where it was, just
where it’ll always be without
its music. You’re still there too
holding your breath. Bud walked out.
.
Listen to Bud Powell play the 52nd Street Theme

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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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