Tag Archives: writing

Wurst

It seemed lovely, oh mavourneen –
You won and you preened.
Yet, when such is your bailiwick –
Spreading the hate and reeling the sick –
you’re a wandering nudnik
taking in bathos and spreading disease.

My galimatias notwithstanding,
your governed approach to this whole dismantling
contains a truth you have never once known
amongst your whole opuscule – blustered, overblown.

Your stemwinders reveal all your foibles and flaws.
You actually blow all the wind in your cause,
And the ignominy you will sooner feel among laws.
Words capture and stall e’en the worst of us all.

And this apotheosis I leave in verse, the paroxysm-
I’m leaving it all uncoerced and letting them burn
in their own mixed up wurst.

For poetry gives me a hope to instill
and words are a means for spreading good will.

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I wrote this in response to a challenge by Cricketmuse.

The challenge was to use a specific set of ten words in a written piece.  I’m a sucker for a good sounding word.  And these are probably the most unusual (real) words I’ve tried to incorporate in , as per my normal approach, a poem.  I kind of like it.  I hope you do too.

 

 

Dispatching the Doldrums

It is time to clear the cobwebs and write about anything.  Blog writing for me is  a way for me to exercise my creative skills and (bravely) share what I’m writing.  Every now and again, I like to share what I’m thinking/doing/reading/listening to/watching.

Watching

A week ago, I just finished watching Band of Brothers on Amazon, which was based on the book of similar name by Stephen E. Ambrose.   I  know I’m a little behind ( it first aired on HBO in 2001).  But, I didn’t subscribe to HBO then, and never invested in DVDs of the miniseries.  Wow.  An incredibly well-done set of vignettes from the history of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne during WWII in Europe.  It was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks – it has much the same feel as Saving Private Ryan.  Each episode centers around a different event and focuses on a different character’s perspective.  My favorite episode involved the Battle of Bastogne, and told the story from the perspective of Doc Roe, the company’s medic.  He displayed courage and a singular ability to keep going in bone chilling cold under relentless bombardment, while keeping the men is his company in fighting shape and providing care to the wounded.  The scenes are graphic and the emotion is raw.  The miniseries drives home the point, that in war- there is no rest.  Even when you think you may get a weekend leave, something happens to call the company back into the fray.  After battles, you move on to the next line.

Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slow reader and one who is prone to start multiple books to find one that captures my interest.  Right now, I think have five books in various stages of reading.  Most recently, I started reading Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant. It is a true tale, a collection of tales actually, of a British travel writer (Grant) and his girlfriend after they decide to buy an old plantation home in heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Stories of Southern tradition, along with the tenuous combination of gentility, race and class, are told without judgement – but with a keen perception of the relationships involved.  This book is a great look into this forgotten region of the country.  Truth be told – I am related to people who grew up in this area of Mississippi, and am very familiar with the themes of this book.  The Delta is a both a wasteland and a land of riches.

Listening

I have eclectic music tastes.  I will listen to almost any genre, depending on my mood and as long as it is well done.  In recent years, I have become interested in Americana/folk styles.  I like the realness of it and how it can impact you emotionally.  With that in mind, I want to recommend music by a friend.  I met Mark Currey in high school, when we both attended a Gifted/Talented Summer Camp.  We were in the choral program, and were introduced to many different genres of music in the program.  We were encouraged to be creative in our free time, and it was obvious that Mark was a songwriter even then. I wrote in my journal in my free time- ain’t life funny.  We weren’t best friends, but we got along well. After that summer, we parted ways (like most everyone does), only to reconnect many years later via FaceBook.  I found out he had recorded an album, his first, in 2017.  The classic story of the Late Bloomer – I can relate.  His record, Tarrant County, is part Country, part Americana – and I encourage you to give it a listen. Mark has a very warm vocal style (he’s a tenor), and his lyrics are real storytelling.  You can download it at the either of the links above, or you can find it on streaming services.   There are some really nice musical moments, some thought provoking lyrics, but never overdone.  You might find something you like.

Thanks for reading.

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A Cappella Friday: Choose Something Like a Star

A cappella music (without instrumental accompaniment) is particularly enjoyable for me to listen to. As a poet (and an avocational musician), I am drawn to the similarities that poems and a cappella music have. Lyrical phrasing, meter, rhyming, and onomatopoeia mean so much to a cappella music, because it relies so heavily on the human vocal element.
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Anyone that has followed me since my origins here with Taps and Ratamacues may recall this as a semiweekly feature for a while, but I haven’t written about specific music/poetry combinations in quite some time. Again, as in other entries, this is not an a cappella piece specifically, but the positive interaction of music with poetry is undeniable.

This entry came about as a result of phone conversation with my mother and father, both life-long musicians – now retired. They both have an impeccable memory for musical anecdotes.

We were discussing the word taciturn, as it described a friend of theirs going through rough time, to which my father said the only other place he ever recalled hearing that word was in a choral setting of Robert Frost’s poem, Choose Something Like a Star.

My curiosity was peaked, and I went searching.

Frost wrote the poem in 1916. It is a remarkable piece that addresses humankind’s need for reassurance from a greater being.  It contains elements of philosophy, religion, and science – the trifecta of sought meaning.  It is one of Frost’s more direct and driven poems.  We seek meaning in life, and can choose things to convey that meaning. We expect these icons to give us direction and explanation.  “To be wholly taciturn is not allowed.”

Frost’s point was that in choosing “something like a star”, something distant and far off, we can be comforted in the fact that it exists and “it burns” despite our desire for clear explanation.

Randall Thompson (1899-1994) wrote a collection of songs using Frost poems as lyrics, entitled Frostiana (Seven Country Songs). In 1959 Thompson was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the bicentennial of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. It was decided that the piece should include lyrics comprised of Robert Frost’s poetry, as he had lived in Amherst for a number of years. The town originally lobbied for The Gift Outright, which Frost later recited at JFK’s inauguration.  Not believing that poem to be appropriate for this occasion, Thompson gained permission to select poems himself.  He eventually  chose seven texts – including the well-known poems The Road not Taken and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  Also chosen was the poem Choose Something Like a Star.

The vocal arrangement starts ethereally, with sopranos singing the ‘O star’ phrasing as if it is a far away object and the other voices of the choir building in the harmony – pushing outward to meet this fairest object in sight.  Thompson is masterful in his use of chord structure and phrasing with Frost’s poem.  There is tension in the unanswered questions, there is calm in the resolution.

Frost and Thompson knew each other and held great mutual respect for each man’s work.  Frost was in attendance at the premiere performance of Frostiana, and was so delighted by the performance that, at the conclusion of the piece, he stood up and shouted, “Sing that again!” In fact, he was so impressed by the composition that he banned any other composers from setting his poems to music.

We seek meaning in the universe, and often we can find it in the beauty and unexplainable mystery of existence itself.

Lament (a Cento)

Our one forever,

when it stole through the red gates of sunset
left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass
is yet vibrant with the cadence of the song you might have been.

No longer mired in waiting to begin.

They tell us the night means nothing,
and the candles their light the light.

Nothing is hid that once was clear,

then gone and then to come:
all the time, except the split
second, except—

What is there to say except to lament.

You live in the wrong place.

There’s no flowering time to come.

The hands fell off my watch in the night

and you counted the time
from this instant.

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This Cento contains lines from the following poets: 

Kenneth Rexroth, John Koethe, Lola Ridge, Brenda Hillman, Martha Collins,  Melissa Kwasny, Katharine Tynan, Esther Louise Ruble, David Yezzi, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, Jonathan Galassi, Michael Goldman, Robert Francis, and Lucille Clifton.

 

Layering

First, lay down a crumble of moments in a dish,
childhood memories and first visions evoked –
if you have them – mix them with a butter
sauce of retention.

Smear a layer of simple exuberance – whisked and sweet
over the base. Linger if you must, smoothing and spreading
a zestful meringue until it glistens reflected light.

Next will come chunks of a weightier kind.
Dropped upon the dish,
they will indent the surface.
They will disrupt your coated enthusiasm
with texture, and by themselves, will be unfulfilling.
Do not allow them to cover in total,
but position them throughout – they will later add contour
and context to your beginnings.

Prepare a lime gelatin containing your favorite morsels
of triumph (and defeat)-
One cannot come without the other-
Spoon it over the patina of your past until covered.
Cool and let it set for a time- until solid.

When removed and sliced, savor the different
complexions – the marrow and the substance in between
and within the continuous and smooth.

Add layers.

Thoughts, and Prayers

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the use of the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” and its use after events of loss and suffering.  We all tend to say it.  Your best friend’s Grandmother passes away, and your response is “my thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of loss.”

What does this phrase mean?  Thoughts and prayers of what, exactly.

In this case, I think these are thoughts of sympathy (or empathy) and prayers of comfort directed towards those who have lost someone.  The thoughts are just to let the person know that you have them on your mind. It seems kind, and harmless, but I believe that this is most meaningful when you know them, or have shared the relationship that they just lost.  Prayers of comfort (in our society, from my perspective) stem from the Judeo-Christian belief in an all-powerful God, one who can (for lack of a better word) gather you up and give you a big spiritual hug.  I believe this expression is less effective (for the person who experienced the loss) when you don’t really know them, or you sense that the conveyance of sympathy is insincere.  The issue of late, where our nation’s leaders express their sympathies (time and again) over a repetitious tragedy – that could have been avoided – is an example of this.  Their approach to this expression of sympathy weakens the concept of prayer.  Why? Prayers are supposed to be powerful, they are intended to reach us, change us, and help us.

Let’s talk about prayers a bit.  There are different kinds of prayers:   thanks, confession, hope, comfort, deliverance – to categorize a few.  All prayers are goal oriented.  They are intentional- to get us to believe, to convict our minds of something, to help out someone, to give ourselves clarity, etc.  They are meant to spur us to action.  The strength of our humanity is in our ability to act, in compassion, of one mind.  I think prayer facilitates this.

But the issue is, you must act.  Prayer without action at some point, is empty.  The very act of prayer should indicate that you are considering a problem that needs a solution. Our lawmakers offering their prayers to those who have lost loved ones in a senseless mass killing is an empty platitude without some intention to make their suffering worth the cost.

Churches should know the power of collective and intentional prayer. It is the “superpower” of churches (I know it sounds silly, but in today’s language – this is it). Yet, I believe, in these times the focus has been misguided.  Too many are concerned with their belief that “we” have pushed God out of society and they pray for supernatural intervention.  First of all, the idea that an all-powerful, ever-present God could be pushed out is – ludicrous.  Did you ever think that God may have taught us about prayer so that we could discern and then act with conviction to make changes that impact each of our lives, to meet people where they are, to comfort them out of love, or to right wrongs? Perhaps, that it is a lesson to learn to be more like him.

This is complex, but not hard.  Lawmakers should take up and pass better legislation that reduces assault weapon availability and improves mental health assistance. It is heartless and cowardly to not do so.  Those who pray for supernatural intervention should pray themselves for discernment about the importance of lawmakers who can act in the best interests of all humanity, collectively and individually.  They could also pray for strength to act out of love – not morality, not condemnation, not prejudice, not to point out faults, and most of all – to not be afraid to admit they are wrong.

And then do it.

 

Soundly

An artless man dreams no dream,

writes no poem,  cannot scheme.

He sees no beauty in those that wish

for better efforts netting fish –

Building hopes – not a gist.

Money talks – lime and twist.

A feckless man walks no walk,

Only chitters on in talk.

Shares no elegance in wit

spewing anger, bile and spit.

Polished words – not a skill.

Poisoned venom – strapped and shrill.

A useless man will he become?

Continued uninspiring thrum –

Whilst the beauty grows in spite

filling in the space and fright.

Magic overtakes the ill.

Speak it soundly, you know the drill.