Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pretty Saro: Issa's Sunday Service, #192

Artwork by Bob Dylan

This 18th century traditional song, sung by Bob Dylan 43 years ago and just released last year, is accompanied by amazing video by filmmaker Jennifer Lebeau. As you will note, it is comprised largely of images from the Farm Security Administration. Dylan, for the 1970 Self-Portrait sessions, was in fine voice. The mention of "If I was a poet" gets it on the Sunday Service list. Here's some more about the release of this brief little gem

Pretty Saro (traditional) 

Down in some lone valley
In a sad lonesome place
Where the wild birds do all
Their notes to increase

Farewell pretty Saro
I bid you Adieu
But I dream of pretty Saro
Wherever I go

Well my love she won't have me
So I understand
She wants a freeholder
Who owns a house and land

I cannot maintain her
With silver and gold
And all of the fine things
That a big house can hold

If I was a poet
And could write a fine hand
I'd write my love a letter
That she'd understand

And write it by the river
Where the waters overflow
But I dream of pretty Saro
Wherever I go

~ Bob Dylan (traditional lyrics)
What follows is another version, with different lyrics, sung by Ires DeMent for the movie, Songcatcher:

 Photo by Martin Sercombe via foter

dawn's glow
hasn't quite yet dyed
the dewdrops 
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scott Watson and Leo Tolstoy: Good and Evil

I'm a correspondent of fellow poet John Bennett, whose email distro list I'm on. Likewise, for another email correspondent and fellow poet, Scott Watson. In both cases, these two poets have an unblinking dedication to truth as they see it. It has been an honor to publish the work of both poets previously, in print (Lilliput Review) and online (here at the Hut).

A little while back, two emails arrived in my box, one right after the other, Scott's first and then John's. First, I read Scott's powerful, devastating poem, IN PREPARATION FOR LOOKING AT AN A-BOMB. The poem, parenthetically, asks two very specific questions.

In his email, John passed along a quotation from Leo Tolstoy (On Good and Evil), which he saw a couple of weeks back (at the time he sent me the email, it was a day or two before) on the Writer's Almanac. In the quote, Tolstoy asks and, in a very real sense, answers, Scott's more specific questions. 

I hasten to add that, in my mind, Scott's parenthetical questions were, in fact, rhetorical, Scott's sentiment being very similar to Tolstoy's own, all of which may be gleaned in his poem, if by implication.

Or it least my feeble brain made the segue. This may be a case of the reader, myself, being way off base. Be that as it may, I want to thank both folks for permission to reprint. See what you think when what they sent, poem and quotation, rub up, one against the other.


[Why was Hiroshima chosen?]

600 meters above
on a mountain's peak
a Buddha bone--or
tiny piece of one--is composed.

Innumerable scenes
are collected here.
[No flash photography]
Eternal Flame.
A sudden enlightenment
burns away
rational. Irrational too.

[Why was the A-bomb made?]

This life we are
given took eons to evolve:
incinerated blink
of an eye gazing
Namu Amida Butsu
Mercy, compassion--
  fire blowing winds
          nothing can be done

and it rains
      human myth

skin drips off mama melting river flames.

I move with you
  through this exhibition
      seeing slowly
          as a lifelong

to know,
  touch, feel
          how this can be.

There must be something wrong with me
      that is me too
          wanting to

Reduced to this.

Scott Watson

Tolstoy on good and evil...

"...In 1854, Tolstoy was promoted and sent to the front to fight in the Crimean War. He was horrified by the violence of war, and in 1857, he witnessed a public execution in Paris, which affected him deeply as well. He wrote:

"During my stay in Paris, the sight of an execution revealed to me the instability of my superstitious belief in progress. When I saw the head part from the body and how they thumped separately into the box, I understood, not with my mind but with my whole being, that no theory of the reasonableness of our present progress could justify this deed; and that though everybody from the creation of the world had held it to be necessary, on whatever theory, I knew it to be unnecessary and bad; and therefore the arbiter of what is good and evil is not what people say and do, nor is it progress, but it is my heart and I."


not a devil
not a saint...
just a sea slug
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku.