experience becoming

March 29, 2020

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

new stories can root

February 13, 2020

When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves.

Jeanette Winterson
Testimony Against Gertrude Stein

Is the beauty of the Whole really enhanced by our agony? And is the Whole really beautiful? And what is beauty? Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is not for him in his littleness. But one thing is certain. Man himself, at the very least, is music, a brave theme that makes music also of its vast accompaniment, its matrix of storms and stars. Man himself in his degree is eternally a beauty in the eternal form of things. It is very good to have been man.   And so we may go forward together with laughter in our hearts,  and peace, thankful for the past, and for our own courage. For we shall make after all a fair conclusion to this brief music that is man.

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men

Homesick

January 11, 2020

When we love, when we tell ourselves we do,
we are pining for first love, somewhen,
before we thought of wanting it. When we rearrange
the room we end up living in, we are looking
for first light, the arrangement of light,
that time, before we knew to call it light.

Or talk of music, when we say
we cannot talk of it, but play again
C major, A flat minor, we are straining
for first sound, what we heard once,
then, in lost chords, wordless languages.

What country do we come from? This one?
The one where the sun burns
when we have night? The one
the moon chills; elsewhere, possible?

Why is our love imperfect,
music only echo of itself,
the light wrong?

We scratch in dust with sticks,
dying of homesickness
for when, where, what.

Carol Ann Duffy

an automatic process

October 8, 2019

A rhythm in each sentence, music almost, each syllable slotting neatly into place. It’s an automatic process. When I read out loud, I do not read but sing in my head. It’s natural, I associate any and every sentence to a tempo.

Night music

August 25, 2019

The music of the night lies not in the stars but in the darkness between them.

Chloe Aridjis
Asunder

the rush of rockets

August 6, 2019

The night was soft and persuasive. Overhead hung a summer sky furrowed with the rush of rockets; and from the east a late moon, pushing up beyond the lofty bend of the coast, sent across the bay a shaft of brightness which paled to ashes in the red glitter of the illuminated boats. Down the lantern-hung Promenade, snatches of band-music floated above the hum of the crowd and the soft tossing of boughs in dusky gardens; and between these gardens and the backs of the stands there flowed a stream of people in whom the vociferous carnival mood seemed tempered by the growing languor of the season.

Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth

Dancing to silence

July 12, 2019

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

Anon

  • Please note boys and girls, this quote is sourced to Friedrich Nietzsche all over the internet, but that is rubbish – poor old Nietzsche NEVER wrote or said this – nor anything like it! The TIMES newspaper in 1927 published this:

“They who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music. The truth of the old proverb was never more surely borne out that it is just now.”

an intimacy going

April 6, 2019

Every work has a shape. I work in a lot of different kinds of forms and a lot of the poems are long. I’m aware of using musical forms. I’m quite influenced by the symphonic form, for example, the sonata form. But I feel it’s really necessary to make as much of the formal construction of it as I can obvious and at the same time there’s an intimacy going on that has to do with the use of the human voice and the fact that one is talking to others and there’s the possibility of having some sort of enormous performance thing happen, as if performing a play.

Alice Notley

Seeing the future: a conversation with Alice Notley

I want a poetry of knowledge and of thought, not of opinion – and not of belief, which is merely dead thought. Poetry is the musical density of being,  but sometimes it is silent, and sometimes that silence is musically still.

Robert Bringhurst
Pieces of Map, Pieces of Music