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Artist: Tsvetana Kalaykova

Great music revitalizes the weary soul, emboldening it to renew its vows to work for the noble causes of the human spirit; Nickleback fuels frat parties and the wars in the Middle East. Joking aside, let us recognize that countless writers and thinkers have bowed down to the coveted powers of music: expressing what words cannot, healing where medicine fails, guiding when the light has been extinguished. Jack Kerouac went so far as to say, “The only truth is music.” Yeah, yeah, the beat behemoth said a lot of off the wall things in his day, but I’m pretty sure he was on to something there.

As poets, though words are the tools of our trade, and though we’re up against the impossible task of “expressing what cannot be expressed in words,” we are keen to the arsenal of literary devices and instruments that, when used wisely, can evoke the soul in much the same way that music does — utilizing rhythm, meticulous word choice/association, cadence, and of course the modes and moods you create by what you say and by the spaces you leave for the reader/listener to make their own. Never let anyone, least of all a non-poet, tell you anything’s impossible.

When we consider melancholy, or grief, or even profound joy — any overpowering emotion that might cause us to cry — what in our music lets us feel so deeply that it provides space for us to explore and affirm our sorrow? Sometimes the music catches us unawares like a best friend knowing how to share your burden better than you know how to. How can we tap into this awesome power of music in our poetry? Let’s take for inspiration this poem by Seán Ó Coileáin,

The Ruins of Timoleague Abbey

I am gut sad.

I am flirting
with the green waves,
wandering the sand,
feeding reflection
into the seaweed foam.

That Shaker’s moon
is up.
Crested by corn-colored stars
and traced by those witchy scribblers
who read the bone-smoke.

No wind at all —
no flutter
for foxglove or elm.

There is a church door.

In the time
when the people
of  my hut lived,

there was eating and thinking
dished out to the poor
and the soul-sick in this place.

I am in my remembering.

By the frame of  the door
is a crooked black bench.

It is oily with history
of the rumps of sages,
and the foot-sore
who lingered in the storm.

I am bent with weeping.
This blue dream
chucks the salt
from me.

I remember
the walls god-bright
with the king’s theology,

the slow chorus
of  the low bell,
the full hymn
of  the byre and field.

Pathetic hut.
Rain-cracked and wind-straddled.
Your walls bare-nubbed
by chill flagons
of ocean spit.

The saints are scattered.
The high gable
is an ivy tangle.
The stink of fox
is the only swinging incense.

There is no stew
for this arriving prodigal,
no candled bed.

My kin
lie under the ground
of this place.

My shape
is sloughed with grief.
No more red tree
between my thighs.
My eyes are milk.
Rage my pony.

My face has earnt
the grim mask.
My heart a husky gore.

But my hand. My hand
reaches through this sour air
and touches
the splendid darkness
of my deliverer.

(Translated from the Irish by Tony Hoagland and Martin Shaw, Source: poetryfoundation.org)

Or here is another, coincidentally also about nostalgia (though for our prompt’s sake feel free to write about a different theme.) I can hear the singing now…

Piano
⁃ D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

(Source: poetryfoundation.org)

This is Amaya Engleking and as tonight’s pubtender — and in need of a good cleansing cry — I want to hear about a piece of music that has made you shed tears. Write a poem about the experience and try your best to link the song via YouTube so we readers can engage and even possibly be touched in the same way. It is my hope that on this evening’s poetry trail (of tears) we all slow down and take the time to listen to our fellow poets’ music choices, either before or after reading their complementary poems. 

For more inspiration, here’s part of the haunting ‘Funeral Canticle’ composed by John Tavener, which I originally heard in Terrence Malick’s astounding 2011 film-poem, Tree of Life.

So write a poem to your blog and link up to Mr Linky below, then read, listen, cry, and comment on other’s work. I have a jar of quarters for the jukebox and a box of tissues — let’s get to it…