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Poetic nostalgia and daffodils

daffodils“I wandered lonely as a cloud…”

One of the most amazing things about Bob Gardner was that he could recite poetry by heart. Something would come to mind and he could rattle off a poem at the dinner table. As a burgeoning poet, I admired his knowledge in all things, but especially poetry and his ability to recall poems so easily. Now Bob’s gone, but today, the first line from Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils” just popped into my head. It brought me back to some fond memories of the man.

A couple of years ago, my parents gave me a book of English Romantic poets that had belonged to Bob. There was a bookmark left in the book. On the marked page was this poem, I’m assuming one of his favorites.

The Daffodils
By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

I’m part of a tapestry

"Tapestry" was released in 1971. That year it won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

“Tapestry” was released in 1971. That year it won a Grammy for Album of the Year and a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Way back when, on a whim, I bought “Tapestry.” It wasn’t because I was a huge Carole King fan, I just knew that it was a classic. I was eager to explore.

Like pulling a special card from the tarot or reading a moving passage from a novel, I was struck. There were many messages in the album for me  — or at least that’s how I felt. I was young, experiencing many emotions, but the words were raw and they struck me. They spoke to me. On so many different levels. There was loss and love in the lyrics. Friendship and power. And it was a woman who was singing it all – that had written the words — a woman who seemed to have experienced them, like me. Although I was young, I was naïve and believed that these emotions happening to me were unique. That no one had felt them or their enormity before. I found solace in the discovery of these songs. I learned that what I felt was growing up. It was an awakening to see, or to hear, that women before had felt these same feelings, dealt with the anguish and joy, the revelry of beauty and youth, love and heartbreak.

Last night, many years later, a program on TV aired. I had it on in the background. My kids were playing in the living room and I was trying to reset the security questions on my iPhone. My attention was piqued when Carole King’s songs seeped from the living room and was swept back to that time long ago. Much has changed. I’m grown, with kids of my own, but I’m thankful. I’m thankful that King’s lyrics, her words, are recorded in time. That someone put them to music and recorded them. I’m thankful these songs came six years before my birth on a record called “Tapestry.” I’m thankful because I found them at the right time and they soothed me. They built my confidence and they made me realize that I am just one small part of a history of women that feel and express and share for the sake of art.

Words are my muse. I suppose they are because they represent the feelings that I long to explain and make sense of.

Tapestry. “Tapestry.” I get it.

Now, I need to find my Carole King CDs and add them to my iTunes.

Go here to see Ms. King do her thang.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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This poem is why I love poetry

I can see the alcoves of a cathedral even in this subpar lemon that was probably purchased at Walmart and transported thousands of miles from where it was grown to reside in my kitchen. Thanks, Pablo!

I can see the alcoves of a cathedral even in this subpar lemon that was probably purchased at Walmart and transported thousands of miles from where it was grown to reside in my kitchen. Thanks, Pablo!

The other night I grabbed a book off the shelf. It was Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda. I’ve been devouring the poems since as even though they’re translated, they remain rich, deep and beautiful. Neruda’s “A Lemon” exemplifies all the reasons I love poetry and display the poet’s prowess in both Spanish and English.

I can’t get the poem out of my head! I keep reading it. There were some lemons in a bowl on the kitchen counter. I cut one open and I thought about the awesome journey Neruda takes ruminating on the ordinary and finding something nearly holy in the process. I suppose a lemon is something miraculous after all. See what you think…

A Lemon

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love’s
lashed and insatiable
essences,
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree’s yellow
emerges,
the lemons
move down
from the tree’s planetarium.

Delicate merchandize!
The harbors are big with it —
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions;
creation’s
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
alive:
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little
cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
altars,
aromatic facades.

So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Tuning in

A snapshot of some of the CDs included in the Aug. 25, 2015 edition of 'Round Midnight Jazz.

A snapshot of some of the CDs included in the Aug. 25, 2015 edition of ‘Round Midnight Jazz.

Lately, my schedule is crazy and the few things that I want to do – those things that just make me tick – often get pushed to the back-burner. I try to make the time for myself, but work, family commitments, the lack of a babysitter that can swoop in – all of these often encroach on the quality “me time” I’m going for. My story is nothing new. But today, I tried to salvage the little tiny bit of me that gets joy out of spending a couple of hours in a studio, surrounded by music. Today, I pre-recorded my jazz show and now I’m sitting at my laptop six hours later, listening to myself on the radio at home. It’s surreal, but it’s like “me time” cubed. I’m diggin’ in! The kids are asleep; I’m listening to songs I love; I’ve got no interruptions and a full glass of wine. This. This makes me tick and I’m so happy that I actually took leave to create tonight’s show. It was worth it.

Glass o’ wine philosophy, while listening to jazz after a stressful day at work

A glass of wine,
a smoke,
some chill jazz tunes –
these are simple things,
but they relax my soul,
ground me.
I want to write
and think
and put to words
all of the complexities
of the day
with this.
And this
melts away what doesn’t matter
or maybe it burns
and then turns to ash.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The beauty of Dorian Gray

This is the Dorian Gray from the 2009 film of the same name.

This is the Dorian Gray from the 2009 film of the same name.

There is much to learn about the macabre story of Dorian Gray and the gentleman’s enchanted portrait that changes with each sadistic act and shameful sin the man commits. Gray’s intoxicating beauty affords him leniency. No one images the cruelty he’s capable of because, after all, he has the face of a boy. One hundred and twenty-four years after this novel was first published, beauty still equates to godliness to many.

“He got up and locked both doors; at least he would be alone when he looked upon the mask of his shame. Then he drew the screen aside, and saw himself face to face. It was perfectly true. The portrait had altered….Was there some subtle affinity between the chemical atoms, that shaped themselves into form and color on the canvas, and the soul that was within him? Could it be that what that soul thought, they realized? — that what it dreamed, they made true? Or was there some other, more terrible reason? He shuddered and felt afraid, and going back to the couch, lay there, gazing at the picture in sickened horror.”

Through his title character, Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde presents his reader with two potent questions: How much value do we place on beauty and what are we willing to excuse because of it? I have a feeling the answer to both questions is the same and that IS truly frightening.

This is a portrait of Franz Liszt by Henri Lehmann, but it dons the cover of my edition of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

This is a portrait of Franz Liszt by Henri Lehmann, but it dons the cover of my edition of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the face of Dorian from the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful.

This is the face of Dorian from the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why you need to read The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison found solace from her unhappy marriage in a small group of poets and writers who met informally to discuss their work. It was in this setting that her creative instincts began to stir. A short story about a little black girl who wanted blue eyes would be her first completed literary work, and the seed of her first novel, The Bluest Eye. The book was published in 1970.

Toni Morrison found solace in a small group of writers who met informally to discuss their work. It was in this setting that she began a short story about a little black girl who wanted blue eyes. This short story would eventually turn into a novel. Morrison published The Bluest Eye in 1970.

Everywhere you turn, you’re reminded that you’re less than; you’re ugly; you don’t matter. Your existence is the opposite of everything’s that’s valued in the world. Not even your mother cherishes you. Even your friends equate you to a “plot of black dirt.” Why does everyone reject and despise you? It’s because your skin is black. This is the story of Pecola Breedlove, the subject of Toni Morrison’s book, The Bluest Eye.

If the fictional character, Pecola Breedlove, was to ask “Why?,” she may get an answer like the one above, but I doubt it. Her very existence is treated like an abomination, for she is the lowest of the low — a poor child, a female, with skin and eyes so dark that even her family rejects her. Such an inferior being probably wouldn’t be worth the breath to respond. Pecola is the reason everyone should read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She is the voice of the underdog, the underrepresented and the one you’ll likely never hear in real life and that’s why it’s important to read her story and her longing for a pair of the bluest eyes.

I can’t say that I loved the book. It’s sad. Pecola is much like the character of Precious in Push in that every possible thing that you can imagine weighs heavy on her shoulders. Both are ugly, they’re poor, they’re female and they’re less than. They’re abused, they’re pitied and their journey is a difficult one. But it is through their trials and their experience at the bottom that the rest of us can gain an understanding of what it means to not have any value. Thankfully, most of us will never understand this. However, it’s important to gather a glimpse of what it is like at the bottom, so we’re careful to never overlook those whose circumstances are tougher than our own.

“All of us — all who knew her — felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used–to silence our own nightmares. And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt. We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty, and yawned in the fantasy of our strength…”

BTW: The Nobel Prize in Literature for 1993 was awarded to Toni Morrison “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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My take on “Mr. Mercedes”

 

Mr. Mercedes

“’Mr. Mercedes’ is rooted, firmly and affectionately, in the classic noir tradition and contains none of the horrors, hauntings and supernatural phenomena so prevalent in King’s enormous body of work. The result is a straightforward, tightly plotted crime novel that retains that essential, instantly recognizable flavor that has distinguished King’s fiction for more than 40 years.” – Bill Sheehan of The Washington Post. Read the whole review, if you like – it’s a good one – at http://wapo.st/1MENOdr.

“Can he be blamed for striking out at the world that has made him what he is? Brady thinks not…Poof. Seeya later, alligator. Off you go, killers and killed alike, off you go into the universal null set that surrounds one lonely blue planet and all its mindlessly bustling denizens. Every religion lies. Every moral precept is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That’s all history is, after all: scar tissue.”

Mr. Mercedes plays on a current of fear in our society. It’s that of the diabolical loner. The one that’s miserable, yet intelligent. The one that’s so empty and cold they can only feel by inflicting pain. Someone who feels their only recourse is to inject the deep pit in their soul with a massive eight-ball filled with the suffering of others. That’s a scary thing. It’s our society’s monster and King has discovered this fear and constructed a narrative that both thrills and seeks to flesh out this boogie man of the early 21st century.

We can learn a great deal by examining the books that top the Best Seller lists. They are the stories that readers cling to for some reason or another. They entertain, they romance, they educate, but they are all purchased by the masses because they tap into a common hope or fear. The authors that continue to churn out those books that sell millions can somehow wrench it out of us — what we hope and fear–  and I find that fascinating.

It seems like an easy task. Look around and see what’s got people talking or what’s in the headlines. But is it that easy? I wonder where they begin. With themselves and their own deep, dark fears, or a headline? I suppose these authors are trying to make sense of the world just like the reader. But through the act of writing, they create an understanding of what’s seemingly un-understandable. Perhaps that’s why I’m even writing these words. I’m trying to make sense of what I read. The academic in me wants to box King into some pop-culture box. He fits there, but in his accessible stories he also transcends that space into a loftier one that encases our culture’s collective fears. I guess what I’m trying to say – in the most simplistic way I can – is King is a damn good writer.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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