Monthly Archives: October 2013

Oct 28, 2013 I’ll Be Your Mirror

Dear friends:

Well there’s no choice about this one, as once again a giant’s passing gives us occasion to reflect. I had a pretty happy childhood. I had friends in high school and I did OK. I was maladjusted in all the normal ways, but I don’t think I ever felt black rage boiling over my brain. I never felt like no one–nobody!–in this world understood me. And whatever pain I was feeling, I think I had some fairly sane outlets for. And yet–I can pretty safely say that my life was “saved by rock ‘n roll,” just like 5-year-old Janie listening to the radio in Lou Reed’s (1941-2013) eponymous song. Man, this guy wrote so many good lyrics, and they were all over the place, from the hardened, dirty, smelly street cadence of New York to bizarrely straight pop pieces that referenced a time when “poets studied rules of verse and ladies rolled their eyes.” He’s not a poet–he’s a songwriter–but I can hardly think of anyone better to round out a long segment on formal poems.
Here’s the weird thing: he could be so nasty. There were times where the music absolutely overwhelmed the lyrics, and times when that music was so out of my taste range (most of White Light/White Heat; all of Metal Machine Music) that the destination was not worth the trip. He’s probably unsurpassed in giving voice to debauched and debased states of mind. But then he could write the purest, the most tender, the most life-affirming (even if ironic, yes) ballads, and incredibly deft pop poetry. There’s a handful of Lou Reed songs that will always make me tear up, even when the dude was alive. Now that he’s gone, I’m not sure how I’ll react next time I put onTransformer or Loaded. Don’t worry about being a bandwagon-jumper; go out and get ahold of this music.
I’LL BE YOUR MIRROR
(lyrics by Lou Reed)
I’ll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain, and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you’re home
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
‘Cause I see you

I find it hard to believe you don’t know
The beauty that you are
But if you don’t, let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you won’t be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
‘Cause I see you

I’ll be your mirror

 
-1967
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Oct 21, 2013

Members,

We all know Billy Collins (b. 1941). I had the good fortune to read one of his poems, posted inside a subway car, while riding toward my destination, Grand Central Station, this weekend. I don’t know exactly where and when I was, but I knew that I am lucky! -ed.

GRAND CENTRAL

The city orbits around eight million
centers of the universe

and turns around the golden clock
at the still point of this place.

Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling

under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.

Oct 7, 2013

Good morning!

I’m not feeling terribly creative today, so we’re coming at you straight from the Writer’s Almanac, with their selection of an Elizabeth Bishop (“Hi Bish; Blaze, poet”) poem. How do you publish only 100 poems during your lifespan (1911-1979), and still come to be regarded as one of the most important modern American poets? You kick ass, is how. Bishop deployed a technical mastery that few can equal (note the radical, complex rhyme and repetition scheme here), and though tranquil, detached observation was a hallmark of her voice, there was always a piquant note, too. This poem, for example, might be a love poem–or it might be a premonition. Anyway, who doesn’t love poems about kissing in the rain? -ed.

IT IS MARVELLOUS

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.

An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lightning struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one’s back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.

Oct 14, 2013

Dear readers,

If you’ve never heard of J.T. Barbarese, (Jabber, stare), join the crowd. I could find no biographical data on him other than his birth year of 1948. A glance at the title below should explain why he is today’s selected writer. Let’s stroll desultorily through his references here:

Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist and writer, and perhaps most importantly, Holocaust survivor and author of the memoir “Survival in Auschwitz.” Levi died after a fall that the coroner ruled a suicide, which Levi’s friends and colleagues disputed. I believe Levi’s ghost appears in the poems’ final lines.
Bouchon, Thomas Keller-run French bakery and bistro on W. 59th street.
Lager, short for konzentrationslager, the German word for concentration camp.
Che Guevara, who abandoned med school in Argentina to foment communist revolution in Guatemala and Cuba.

This poem is very nearly a sonnet, with its ABCB quatrains totaling 16 lines. Barbarese uses slant rhyme in the first stanza to throw us off the scent, but the remaining three are pretty tight and traditional. This is plain American language, wrapped without fuss around a tough theme. I like it. Enjoy your week! -ed.

READING PRIMO LEVI OFF COLUMBUS CIRCLE

Re-reading him in Bouchon
past noon, it is mobbed midtown,
like an ant farm seen through painkillers.
God, what a bust it’s all been,

capitalism, communism, feminism,
this lust to liberate.
Che should have stayed in medicine.
The girls here admit they can’t wait

to marry and get to the alimony,
before they hit thirty. The men,
heads skinned like Lager inmates,
know only the revolutions

in diets and spinning classes.
Still, one table away,
these two, with gnarled empretzled hands,
seem unhappy in the old way.

-2013

Oct. 7, 2013: IT IS MARVELLOUS (Elizabeth Bishop)

Good morning!

I’m not feeling terribly creative today, so we’re coming at you straight from the Writer’s Almanac, with their selection of an Elizabeth Bishop (“Hi Bish; Blaze, poet”) poem. How do you publish only 100 poems during your lifespan (1911-1979), and still come to be regarded as one of the most important modern American poets? You kick ass, is how. Bishop deployed a technical mastery that few can equal (note the radical, complex rhyme and repetition scheme here), and though tranquil, detached observation was a hallmark of her voice, there was always a piquant note, too. This poem, for example, might be a love poem–or it might be a premonition. Anyway, who doesn’t love poems about kissing in the rain? -ed.

IT IS MARVELLOUS

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.

An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lightning struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one’s back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.