Why this song you might ask, with total legitimacy? Well, there are many reasons, probably both starting and ending with the fact that this old hippie fart believes this to be the finest song to come out of a unique era of music. And because I gave myself the album on which it appears for Christmas in my very early, impressionable teen years, hence the association.
"River," by Joni Mitchell, has to be one of the most unusual songs to somehow, slowly, slowly, wend its way into the classic Christmas canon. Again, a song that goes straight to heart.
Finally, no explanations necessary here. It's a toss up - who would you rather have come down the chimney, Santa or Eartha? Eartha or Santa? Something in a name, something in a rhyme. Truly, there is only one Santa and, as far as I know, one Eartha.
Eartha. Just think about that name.
Best of holidays to all. I'm very fond of the winter solstice - a dangerous time, true, for all species, hence all those lights from the upright brigade. Bank up the fire, brothers and sisters. Someone's told me that, from here on out, it will get lighter every day.
Last weekend's New York Times Book Review had a piece done by the poet/novelist Brad Leithauser on the second volume of Stephen Sondheim's collected lyrics, Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011). Anyone who has followed this blog knows popular music is a penchant of mine - the long running feature, Issa's Sunday Service, currently on hiatus, attests to that.
The relation between lyric and poem is less relation than symbiosis so, though not particularly interested in Sondheim's lyrics more than casual fan, which I certainly am, I gave the review a go and stumbled on a little bit of wonder. Here is Leithuaser, after discussing Sondheim's decided preference for exact rhyme as opposed to off or half rhyme, setting up a pointed quote, followed by some fine commentary, and the other shoe:
Here he (Sondheim) is discussing a rhyme from "Follies":
"I had a similar moment when I paired 'soul-stirring' and 'bolstering.' The rhyme is not perfect of course - the equal accents on 'soul' and 'stir' don't quite match the heavy accent on 'bol' and the lighter one on 'ster,' but I tried to mask that by leaping the melody up on each '-ing' to distract the ear."
In fact, I can't imagine how serious craftsmen in any field wouldn't find both books (of Sondheim's collected lyrics) inspiring. The quilt maker fussing over which shade of red to employ as a highlight; the cook experimenting on how most appetizingly to glaze a plate of scallops; the automobile designer sketching a streamlined new speedometer - all such people should experience a sense of kinship when reading Sondheim debating whether, when seeking a rhyme, he might fairly use "wood" rather than "woods":
"What justification was there to use 'wood' here (and in the 'Finale') and 'woods' everywhere else? I finally hit on an explanation: 'wood' sounded statelier and therefore suited a lyric sung by someone outside the action."
A wonderful bit of insight for poet, songwriter, and those attentive to detail in any circumstance. Leithauser is to be praised; to focus on this 'small' bit of detail in a 450 plus page book encapsulates the importance of the whole book, exactly what is needed in the short art form known as the book review.
Photograph by Jack Delano
the farting contest
begins at once...
Lesser Ury: London in the Fog (London im Nebel 1926)
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
This post contains some poems and photographs in tribute to Theodore Enslin, by fellow poets and friends Ed Baker, David Giannini, and John Phillips, as well as a poem by the poet himself. In addition, there is also a link to a brief obituary (and an excerpt from same) and a recording of Brahms Intermezzo, Opus 18, No. 2, which Theodore Enslin requested be played in lieu of a memorial service or other type of observance.
“let me tell you a
"about that chair you’re sitting in
"I call it The Low Down Chair
“it was many years ago now.
“She was a Catholic girl.
& then he took a snap of me w my
little Kodak Instan-matic.
“In THAT LOW DOWN CHAIR
“& It was many years ago
“& lots of poems-into-books came
“and the cane?”
“It’s one that I made.
“I make them. Sell them.
“That’s how I got to be so rich.
“Selling canes. Selling poems.”
a short time later
we walked his property to that Old Pine
“There’s a story in that Old Pine
“You sure take a lot of pictures.
"I’m hungry. You hungry?
“I know a place in town. Great Haddock Chowder
“Ever eat a Bloomin' Onion? Big as a basketball.”
At the diner he flirted w the cute waitress
knew his ways & means
made Love with spoon in chowder
Here are three poems by David Giannini:
THREE POEMS to TED (THROUGH the YEARS)
“so quick to feel surprise and shame”
of waves at
crest that suspense
the soul feels
the soul feels its mirrors mirrors
of salt of our
bodies of our blood
of instants of
the moon of the tides
spreading us to
grains and with
“The earth under
our feet we are
not asked to begin
we stand on
belief and sand
then step this
way to the marsh.
2. MAYBE SONG
Maybe if you tell it the wind will stop maybe
the long wind if you tell will stop banging its
bells. Maybe the wind will stop if you slip
into the wind silence that wants in maybe
bell longing will come. Maybe your silence
lives inside the will of the wind maybe in
long bells hiding from ruthless interims
of eye. Maybe if you spy them the bells will
stop maybe the long bells if you spy them
will stop if you will. Maybe if you slip into
the silence the wind that wants in will spy
a forest being maybe many still trees. Maybe
if you feel it being tall pine air maybe the
being will be silent ruthless interims of ear.
and move uneasily
in mind (assuming
curse of it)
despite macular de-
to ground, then
and the final jit-
tery track of
what you always were,
A poem and a photograph of Theodore Enslin by John Phillips:
Anyone who knew Ted will be familiar with his desire to have the last word -- so here it is:
lieu of a memorial service or other observances, I would prefer that
concerned friends in thinking of me might listen to or perform, the
Brahms Intermezzo, Opus 118 #2, whenever it might occur to them as
appropriate. To me, that one short piece sums up what I might have hoped
to achieve in a life in art."
The Way Desideratum
Goodbye, but not
I do not leave you--
land behind me
in the land ahead.
I step the curve,
and curve enough
Photo courtesy of Ed Baker
from the thin curve
of the sickle moon...
one leaf falls