My Love Affair with W. B. Yeats

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I had not heard from Mr. Yeats in years. He was buried in my bookshelf with other old friends, tucked away in closed pages, long gone. Or so I thought–until this past October when I visited Ireland, a country in love with writing and with its writers–especially with William Butler Yeats.

In the interest of compression, the story goes like this: My husband and I were leaving the National Museum of Ireland where we saw the Cashel Man preserved in the Irish peat bogs. He was buried during the early Bronze Age, 2,000 BC, making him 4,000 years old!  (They had bogs; we have blogs.)

"The Lake Isle of Innistree"As we left,  we saw a notice for a Yeats exhibit next door at the  Irish National Library. “Oh my gosh,” I said to my husband, “we  have to go in.”  And there, as if Yeats too had emerged from the bogs of my memory, I found him still alive.  I heard his sonorous voice reading  “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” His words were music. The images of Innisfree were projected onto transparent screens:  the bees, the clover, the land. I listened as  other Irish poets read more of his poems. I was transfixed. One of my favorite poets, the complicated William Butler Yeats, whose poems sent me spiraling as a college student, was here alive and well. For the next hour, we made our way around the exhibit, visiting smaller rooms with multiple inter-active exhibits that captured his loves, his marriage, his politics, his interest in the occult, his writing, and finally his death and re-burial in Ireland. As we left, I knew that my love for Yeats had never really been lost.

If you won’t be making a trip to Ireland anytime soon, you can visit the Irish National Library exhibit and take a virtual tour. Go to The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats.

A few weeks after we returned from Ireland,  I opened my e-mail to find  that Yeats was still speaking to me. There in my mailbox was his poem, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” (Poem-a-Day, Academy of American Poets). Go to a Video Homage to “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” for a lovely reading of this poem.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve met many times with my friend, W. B. Yeats, reading his poems and biography and tracking him down on the internet.  I discovered a favorite poem, “When You Are Old,” one of his best-loved poems, written when he was quite young. As an extra bonus, I found a wonderful love story related to “When You Are Old”  from the Favorite Poem Project (founded by former Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky) about a young woman, her grandfather, and her husband-to-be. The lovely video shows how one poem can connect several people and give meaning to each of their lives. Click here to watch it:  “Yeats, When You Are Old,”  Favorite Poem Project.

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When You Are Old

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

 

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Writing Ideas: Take the phrase “My Love Affair with _________.” Try out different words to fill in the blank: “My Love Affair with the Ocean,”  “My Love Affair with My ’62 White Buick Convertible,” “My Love Affair with Chopin or Elvis.” Don’t think too much about it. Just write for at least ten minutes. There’s passion there–and longing. I know.

Or take the lines: “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you/ And loved the sorrows of your changing face.” There’s plenty there to fill a few pages of your writer’s notebook. Go.images-9

We Have To Do What We Have To Do

I’ve been thinking about the prompts (jumpstarts) I’ve been adding to these blogs. They are meant to be little exercises for limbering up the writing muscles. If I can do one of these a day for ten minutes, then in one week I would have seven pages of a notebook and seven more observations or details than I would have if I ruminated about my writing and waited for an inspiring idea to float into my brain.

Yet I often hear myself saying: “But I don’t really want to write about parakeets (see the last post) or whatever the prompt might suggest.” A little moment of rebellion starts up in my brain. Some voice is asking, “How is this going to help you write what you really want to write? That novel, that short story, that great poem?” Another one says, “It’s too late.” Another one says, “You have too much to do.”

imagesRecently I started taking piano lessons again. When I said to Hannah, my new teacher, “I don’t think I can play that. Maybe when I was twelve and just learning, but now my brain feels like concrete.” She stopped me. “All you have to do is try the six things I write down in your book each week. It’s my job to take you to the new place,” she said.

So where is that writing teacher who will take me to the next place? Right here, inside of my own head. There is another voice that says: “Tell me everything you have to say. I want to hear it. And by the way, hurry up! The clock is ticking.” That voice also says: “Once you get some words on paper we’ll work on it and get it to be that novel, that short story, that great poem.” That voice keeps saying, “You know you told me you want to do this. Let’s go.” (Maybe it’s my dad’s voice. He used to stand in the dining room listening to me practice the piano and then clap like crazy after each song.)

If we can listen to the voice that questions why we would write for ten minutes every day about some topic, then why can’t we believe in some of those other voices (like Hannah’s) that say, “Just do this. I’ll help you get to the next place.” All I have to do is try a prompt or jumpstart and write for ten minutes. It adds up.

It’s like practicing the piano, who knows where I will be able to go?  Maybe I can play “To a Wild Rose” for my brother by the holidays.

Wait! I can hear him groaning in the background. He had to hear me practice that piece for months for my first recital. I won’t let that stop me. It’ll be fun to torment him again like when I was twelve, and he was eight. Sorry, Glenn, we have to do what we have to do!

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If you’ve forgotten how “To a Wild Rose” goes, here’s a version played by someone who can really play.  (Just click on the highlighted song title.)

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Writing Jumpstart: For ten minutes, write down what all those voices are saying about how you shouldn’t be writing. Then rip up the page or mark through the words or simply turn to a new page. Now write down all those other voices that are saying, “Go for it.” Listen to them and write what they are saying, for another ten minutes.

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dirtylove_coverP. S. Also if you don’t really want to write, then go do what you really want to do. I had a chance to speak with Andre Dubus III at the Sanibel Writers Conference last year. When I told him that sometimes I’d rather just go watch the sunset on the beach and not write, ever, he said, “Well, do that. Forget about writing, if you can.” That last phrase says it all.

(Andre Dubus most recent book is on my list of books to read. Great reviews!)

Deb Shelton and the Goodreads Poetry Contest

I hardly ever send my poems out, but one day recently while looking at the Goodreads site, I saw an announcement for a monthly poetry contest. So I sent one of my poems: “The Space between the Words.”

I wrote this poem some years ago (June 2004) in honor of my good friend, Deb Shelton, who died at age 58, from breast cancer. On the day of her funeral, the words came to me as I searched for the answer to the question: Where are you, dear friend? Where have you gone?

DEBDeb was so full of life and laughter and love that it seemed impossible that we could ever lose her, but we did. We used to talk a mile a minute and ride bikes around the lake and go on about our children (our sons were about the same age.) So the poem lives on now as a reminder of Deb and how she came to occupy “the space between the words” in my heart.

This morning when I opened my e-mail, I found that the poem was one of the six finalists for the month of November. I am honored, but the poem is not about me. It’s about a good friend–and all those we love and lose–those we are honored to have as part of our lives.

If you want to read the six poems, here’s the link:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1552505-please-vote-for-the-november-2013-goodreads-newsletter-finalists

I think you’ll enjoy all of them. And of course, you can vote for your favorite! (But you have to do it today.)

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Writing Jumpstart:  Take ten minutes today to write about someone who isn’t here anymore. Go.

No Time to Write?

by Arlene Mandell

Guest Author

You want to write. You love to write. BUT you’re too busy to write right now. And when you finally clear a space, you find yourself staring at a blank screen with nothing urgent to say.

Here are ten ways to keep creative ideas flourishing:

Arlene Mandell

Arlene Mandell

1. When you don’t have time to write a “proper” journal entry, jot down a description, for example, of the tiny fawn faltering as she tries to cross the road. Use an index card or a sticky note. Date it and toss it into a shoe box reserved for that purpose.

2. Grab a book from your stack of unread books. Open to the first page; read the first sentence. For example, from the introduction to Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach: “I write this sitting in my cozy kitchen on a wintry morning, my old cat dozing beside me on the warm, hissing radiator.”

3. Pick a quotation at random from Bartlett’s or another anthology. Here’s one of my favorites from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry As Insurgent Art: “Poetry is the truth that reveals all lies, the face without mascara.”

4. Visit an art museum on-line and wander through a current exhibit. As a former New Yorker, I often drop in at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the U.S. I select the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron, for example, one of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography, and learn that she was forty-eight when she received her first camera.

imgres-15. Copy this quote by poet Ellen Bass and pin it to your bulletin board: “You should know something at the end of the piece that you didn’t know at the beginning.” When you have a moment, read the last line of your latest poem, story, or essay.

6. Even if you’re wearing baggy jeans and a faded sweatshirt, wrap yourself in the glamorous shawl that’s too good to use. Add a squirt of French perfume. Dream of faraway places . . . then write a few lines from Tangiers or Tahiti. Time to pick up the children from school? Toss your notes into your shoe box.

7. Open any book of poems. Riffle through the pages till you come upon one you like and read it aloud. Here’s Mary Oliver from “For I Will Consider My Dog Percy.” Read it aloud, then repeat the last stanza: “For often I see his shape in the clouds and this is a continual blessing.” Let the words and sentiment linger.

8. Visit your local bookstore. Yes, this can prove expensive, so set a limit, say $20
and buy one new thing, a book (obviously) or a scented candle or a box of beautiful note cards. If the store has a café, sip a cappuccino and write a note to yourself from a beloved teacher or a boyfriend from long ago.

9. Before chopping vegetables for dinner, dig through your CDs for something you haven’t heard in a long, long time. Put down the knife, close your eyes and remember.

10. Find your oldest journal. Turn the pages till something explodes and demands an immediate update.

* * *

I could go on and on, but by now you should have enough material to get you through some rainy days and dark nights. When you’ve completed all your grownup chores and double-locked the doors, take pen in hand. . . .

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Arlene L. Mandell, a retired English professor who lives in Santa Rosa, CA, was formerly on the staff of Good Housekeeping magazine. She has published more than 500 poems, essays and short stories in newspapers and literary journals, and in 24 anthologies.. Her echapbook, Scenes from My Life on Hemlock Street: A Brooklyn Memoir, is available free at  http://www.echapbook.com/memoir/mandell.
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Going Home and Leonard Cohen

Last week our family, all twelve of us, returned to my home in southeastern North Carolina. We stayed at Wrightsville Beach, one of my favorite places in all the world. I grew up in Wilmington, N. C., only a few miles from this beach. So this would be a time to come together with family to celebrate my mother’s life and to scatter her ashes in the ocean.

Wrightsville Beach, N. C.

Wrightsville Beach, N. C.

She used to fish in the surf next to the house we would be renting. It turned out to be a beautiful, hurricane-free week. Yet as much as I wanted it to be the same beach, the same place–it all had changed. Now my mother was gone, and I had become the matriarch. I missed sitting around our dining room table eating her home-cooked food. I missed the house I always returned to when I came to visit.  I missed that sense of life going on forever in a certain way. Not to say, that we didn’t have a great time. We walked the beach, swam, laughed, and enjoyed a great week. But I had lost my anchor to this place I loved so much.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

In his song/poem “Going Home,” Leonard Cohen lends his distinctive voice and intellect to the idea of home. Cohen, our Renaissance man, is still writing and singing at age 79. In this poem, another voice enters:  “I love to speak with Leonard/He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.” In the song, Leonard becomes a conduit for this greater voice of wisdom that says: “Going home/Without my burden/Going home behind the curtain/Without the costume/That I wore.” This voice takes the idea of “going home” and lifts it out of a literal place and out of real time. It made me think about how my mother’s ashes looked when we tossed them in the surf on a moonlit night. It made me think of home in a different way.

Here is Leonard Cohen’s poem as it appeared in The New Yorker (1/23/12):

Going Home

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He will never have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision

That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
That is to say what I have told him
To repeat

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
That I wore

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

–Leonard Cohen

Listen to  Cohen sing/speak “Going Home” in his inimitable way. (Click highlight.)

 
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I wrote the following poem before my mother died. It is about an earlier visit home when she sat beside me at the same beach and sketched. I remember her saying that she needed an eraser. Even then I was feeling “erased” from this landscape that had been home to me as a child.
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Erased

“By now, I think I have been entirely erased.”
–Henri Cole, “The Erasers”

Time was when this piece of an island
(the blues of rolling surf,
the whites of shifting sand
its language with words like in the beginning
and holy, holy, holy
that stopped at that ridge of sand dunes)
owned me;
and I, it.

Today the dunes are feathered
with sea oats waiting
for the summer sun to fan their seed pods.
I smell fried chicken cooking for Sunday dinner
and hear Southern voices
and the birds—yes the birds.

I have forgotten this language, their language,
while these flitting, floating birds continue to speak
in the same codes—a genetic path that I cannot seem to find again.

I have been erased—the she who spoke this way
disguised now under a blue hat behind purple sunglasses.
I wear turquoise—only turquoise.

My mother starts her sketches in pencil
I need a good eraser, she says today.

And I am the one erased from this landscape
(the child running through the surf,
the young girl in love,
the good daughter,
who knew the language of wind
and of hurricanes and these birds.)

–Vicky Lettmann

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Writing Jumpstart: As you go about your life today, notice all the ways you see “home.” Then sit down for ten minutes and write as fast as you can using “home” or “going home” as your base. Try not to analyze or to write something “good,” just write first thoughts and observations. Leonard had to let another voice speak. It said, “He doesn’t need a vision.” Go.

Note about Jumpstarts: The idea grew out of my Sanibel writing classes: “Jumpstart Your Writing.” They are a way to stay in touch with your writing self. All you need is a notebook and a pen. Or use them as part of some writing project you’re working on. (For example, if you’re writing fiction, you could riff on a character who is going home or a character’s home.)

Life-changing Books: Continued

We usually think of life-changing events as precipitating actions in the real world, such as a birth or death, marriage or divorce, but to think about how  written words (especially the words of a work of fiction) can have such an effect, well, that gives great power to the imagination.

Often these life-changing books are those we read first as children. Anne Lamott says that since her childhood, she must have read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time a dozen times.Unknown

A Wrinkle in Time saved me,” she says, “because it so captured the grief and sense of isolation I felt as a child. I was 8 years old when it came out, in third grade, and I believed in it — in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience. . . . the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation as great books have done ever since.”

 

John Irving was a little older when he read Great Expectations, the book that he says changed his life:

“I was 15. It made me want to be able to write a novel like that. It was very visual — I saw everything, exactly — and the characters were more vivid than any I had heretofore met on the page. I had only met characters like that onstage, and not just in any play — mainly in Shakespeare. Fully rendered characters, but also mysterious. I loved the secrets in Dickens — the contrasting foreshadowing, but not of everything. You both saw what was coming and you didn’t. Hardy had that effect on me, too, but when I was older. And Melville, but also when I was older.”

 

Richard Ford says that the book that changed his life and served as the inspiration for his novel The Sportswriter was Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer.  Ford views The Moviegoer as “a renewing experience” and Binx as a hero “headed toward the light” and “trying find a vocabulary for affirmation, trying to find the institutions in life that will let him like life better and be better at it.”Unknown-1

Ira Glass dedicated a This American Life radio show to  “The Book That Changed Your Life.” (Click on the highlight to hear the program.) This show (which includes a segment by David Sedaris) is a wonderful illustration of the many ways a book can change a person’s life.

So how did hearing Miss Caine read Les Meserables to our seventh grade class change my life? She and the novel were links to another world–a world radically different and far away from a hot classroom in southeastern North Carolina in the fifties, a world with great conflicts and moral issues, a world that explored the nature of love, compassion, justice, revenge and the effects of poverty. Of course, I didn’t think about these great themes at the time. I was just a kid who loved a good story and was happy to avoid diagramming sentences. But when Miss Caine read to us, I left the classroom behind and saw the people and the story in my mind. I was literally lifted out of myself.

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“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”
― Emily DickinsonSelected Letters

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Writing Jumpstart: Do you remember being read to? What are you reading now? What do you want to read? Have you read something that calls you into some sort of action or that inspires you to write in a certain way?  Go for ten minutes.

Daily Routines

My dad used to say about my mother’s art schedule, “Now if Ruth would just get up in the morning and start painting, she’d really get something done.” Then he would go off to work. Yet despite the lack of a clear schedule, my mother completed hundreds of paintings during her lifetime. e86eeccde64e0cc3271becfeae872c76

I’ve always thought that if I had a regular writing schedule or clearer goals, I could get more done. Or maybe if I could find out how other writers do it, I could tap into some magic formula.

Mason Currey has turned “Daily Routines,” the blog he has been writing for the last six years, into Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Alfred A. Knopf),  a most amazing collection of the routines of 161 composers, painters, architects, performers, writers, and other creative individuals.

So while I procrastinate, it’s enlightening to read how others managed to do what they do. The American composer, John Feldman, said that he had received the best advice from John Cage, who advised him to “write a little bit, stop and then copy it. Because while you’re copying it, you’re thinking about it, and it’s giving you other ideas.” He also believed in practical things:  the right pen and a good chair. Jane Austen wrote in her family sitting room, “subject to all kinds of casual interruptions.” Gertrude Stein liked to write outdoors where she could look at rocks and cows in the intervals of her writing. She was never able to write more than half an hour a day. “If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half hour a day,” she said.41kaZ6C4clL._AA160_

We learn all sorts of other interesting details from Currey’s collection. Louis Armstrong, a lifelong insomniac, always took Swiss Kriss, a potent herbal laxative before falling to sleep, lulled by music. Joseph Cornell constructed his boxes at night at the kitchen table. Patricia Highsmith was a chain smoker, who loved her vodka. According to one of her acquaintances she “only ate American bacon, fried eggs and cereal, all at odd times of the day.” She was also inspired by snails. “They give me a sort of tranquility,” she said about the three hundred snails in her English garden.130411_dailyRituals_intro.jpg.CROP_.multipart2-medium

As for me, I find it impossible to write in the office I created to write in. Right now I’m sitting at the kitchen counter, surrounded by newspapers and a few dirty dishes. My Kindle is open beside me as I read Currey’s book. But the best part: I’m listening to Willie Nelson. “No, you don’t know me,” he sings. “You ain’t missing me. I let my chance go by.” Only a few steps away in the cupboard is my stash of Hershey chocolate bars. And in a few minutes, I can stop writing and take Sam, our dog, and his cousin, Myles, for a walk.  I’m always looking for reasons to take a break! And besides, Roger Miller is now singing “King of the Road”: “No phone, no pets, I ain’t got no cigarettes.” Is he trying to tell me something about his routine?

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Writing Jumpstart:

What’s your routine? Go for ten minutes. Or write about your ways to avoid writing. What about other artists you know? How do they work?

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Never Too Late

I’m back in Minnesota now for the arrival of spring. Spring is late coming here. We’ve had two snowfalls in the last couple of weeks. So finally. Spring.

Return to Minnesota

Return to Minnesota

Today I walked and noticed the sky and the trees: how the clouds seem more open, how the trees are fresh and light today, how the dark ribbons of the branches are still visible. Like bones. As I walked farther along the path,  I saw a huge tree branch that had broken off, and I thought I could see the dark outlines of a woman in its shape. Her head and arms were reaching down; her legs transformed below her into dozens of branching incarnations. It made me think of my mother who died last June. The green leaves of surrounding branches softened the dead branch. But still it looked strong and forthright, claiming its space.

Broken Branch

Broken Branch

I soon came to a pond where three turtles sunned on a log. One jumped as I came closer and swam away. I remembered how I had promised myself a few weeks ago to observe and record one amazing moment every day.

Oh Turtles...

Oh Turtles…

In all the busy-ness of returning to Minnesota (seeing family, getting the house in order, going to plays, dusting, catching up on dentist appointments), I haven’t noticed much.

But it’s never too late. It’s never too late to pick up a pen and begin. It’s never too late to notice the sky, the trees, the turtles. The bees.  It’s never too late for spring.

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Bee! I’m expecting you!

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—

The Frogs got Home last Week—
Are settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—

You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me—
Yours, Fly.

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Writing Jump Start: Write about coming home to spring. Or coming home. Or go for a walk, come home, and write about what you saw.  Go for ten minutes. (I’m collecting these 10-minute writings. So feel free to send me yours. I’ll post a few along the way.)

Mingus and Matthews: A Moment in Time

Since April is National Poetry Month, I want to honor poets and poetry. Particularly poets like William Matthews, who may have slipped from our memory.

2013 National Poetry Month Poster

2013 National Poetry Month
Poster

Matthews would have been my age had he not died of  a fatal heart attack at age 55 just one year after winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection of poetry, Time & Money, in 1996.

Why does April (“the cruelest month”) bring us face to face with our own mortality? Perhaps because everything around us is so full of life, we are reminded of the brevity of it all. Poetry because of its brevity seems especially good at capturing those moments that pass by so quickly.

In “Mingus at the Showplace,” Matthews harkens back to that time in 1960 when he was age seventeen. He was listening to the music of double bassist and jazz composer, Charles Mingus, at The Showplace in New York City. At that point in his life, Mingus was 48 years old and at the height of his career. He, himself, would be gone in 1979 at age 57.

William Matthews

William Matthews

So I’m struck by the perfection of this moment in time when young poet and gifted musician come together. I’m also struck by how generous Mingus was to the young poet. “There’s a lot of that going around,” he says to the young Matthews about the poem Matthews has asked him to read.  Mingus certainly has standards because later that night Mingus, who was known for his temper, fired his pianist. Yet he is kind to the poet and continues to live in this poem.  “…and the band played on.”

Listen  (To hear the poem, click on this “listen” button.)

Mingus at the Showplace

BY WILLIAM MATTHEWS
I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen,
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem,

and it was miserable, for that was how I thought
poetry worked: you digested experience and shat
literature. It was 1960 at The Showplace, long since
defunct, on West 4th St., and I sat at the bar,
casting beer money from a thin reel of ones,
the kid in the city, big ears like a puppy.
And I knew Mingus was a genius. I knew two
other things, but they were wrong, as it happened.
So I made him look at the poem.
“There’s a lot of that going around,” he said,
and Sweet Baby Jesus he was right. He laughed
amiably. He didn’t look as if he thought
bad poems were dangerous, the way some poets do.
If they were baseball executives they’d plot
to destroy sandlots everywhere so that the game
could be saved from children.   Of course later
that night he fired his pianist in mid-number
and flurried him from the stand.
“We’ve suffered a diminuendo in personnel,”
he explained, and the band played on.
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William Matthews, “Mingus at the Showplace” from Time and Money: New Poems. Copyright © 1995 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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You can order the free poster above by going to: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/98
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Writing Jumpstart: A brush with someone of genius. Or a time when you were young, and you had a chance to rub shoulders with someone like Mingus.  Go for ten minutes.

 

Crow School

Kay Ryan has a way of getting right to the point. I’ve been subscribing to Poetry Foundation’s Audio-Poem-of-the-Day. So each morning I get to hear a poem read to me. It’s a good way to start my writing time.

A Draft of a Kay Ryan Poem

A Draft of a Kay Ryan Poem

This morning “Felix Crow” was in my ear. It made me think of my last post, “The Secret.” So far (it has been only a few days now), I’ve been good about looking for that moment during the day when I see something new or beautiful or amazing.

Kay Ryan’s “Felix Crow” calls attention to those things we don’t always see as beautiful, like crows. We tend to over-look certain creatures who don’t meet the standard definition of beauty. Here in Florida, we certainly ooh-and-aah when we see the roseate spoonbills or a tri-colored heron. Not so much, a crow or buzzard. imgres-1

“Felix Crow” called me up on that. So I’m opening my eyes a little wider today. Thanks to Kay Ryan.

Here’s the poem. Just click to hear the reading.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/audio/FelixCrow_byKay.mp3

P. S. For those of you following my earlier posts on writing prompts, the poem (and crows)   made me think of another writing prompt.  Today look for something others might not think of as beautiful. Later when you return to your notebook, write for ten minutes or more about what you saw.  

Felix Crow 

Crow school
is basic and
short as a rule—
just the rudiments
of quid pro crow
for most students.
Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet.
________________
Kay Ryan
Source: Poetry (November 2004)