Category Archives: Art

Poetry and 1950s Music

I’ve never been interested in poetry, so I surprised myself recently by registering for a workshop for beginning poets.  Imagine me writing a poem.  As things turned out, I dropped out after the first day.   I am however, still thinking about poetry.  I’m not giving up on it just yet for a number of reasons.

My good friend Nick whose judgement and taste I respect values poetry and recently loaned me books by three of his favorite poets.  One of the three is Charles Bukowski.  I like some of his poems.

Chapter 3 in The Immortal Irishman, a biography of Thomas Francis Meagher,  is titled Poetry In Action.  It begins with reference to a poem that set Ireland afire during the potato famine in the 1840s.  This was for me a demonstration of the power of poetry.

It was poetry, the bend of words to frame a cause, that lifted Ireland from its gloom in the last good months before catastrophe [the potato famine].  Thomas Davis, educated at Trinity; the Protestant son of a British army surgeon, came forth with a burst of verse that roused a generation. . . . In a country where most peasants were illiterate, the poetry of Tom Davis spread by word of mouth – stanzas repeated on a sheep path or a loading dock.

. . . Meagher grew infatuated with this rarest kind of subversive:  a poet with power.

Yesterday’s Brain Pickings Newsletter had a post about fear of poetry for which there is actually a term:

Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down, and search for esoteric meanings. [definition from Verywell.com]

The post say this:

But meditation is somewhat like poetry — a lamentable number of many people hold a stubborn resistance to it, a resistance that “has the qualities of fear,” borne out of a certain impatience with learning a new mode of being that doesn’t come easily but, when it comes, brings tremendous and transcendent satisfaction.”

I am skeptical that poetry will ever bring me such satisfaction, maybe some, but I’ve never encountered anything that is tremendous and transcendent, and I doubt that I ever will.  In the same way that I’ve never had epiphanies or road-to-Damascus moments.  Again, I doubt that I ever will.  Whatever changes or improvements or insights I’ve had have come slowly over years or decades as a result of experience, perseverance, stumbling and getting up again and moving forward and getting hopefully a bit further down the road before stumbling again which I certainly will do.  On the brighter side, I know that I will always get up from my stumbles until that final big one.  I’ll always get up to appreciate the moment, the day, the summer, a thunder-storm, a little taste of the summer, music (I’m listening to Greg Brown singing about his Grandma canning a bit of the summer).  Being able to write this entry.  Being able to listen to great music right now (Zambesi, a great instrumental from the 1950s done by Lou Bush who I had never heard of until I stumbled on this song, a cheery song.)  Being able to look forward to today, tomorrow, next week, my trip to Madeline Island in a month.  (Another instrumental, Skookian, Perez Prado, another fine, cheery song from the 1950s)  This can of La Croix sparkling water that I just popped – Blackberry Cucumber.

So I guess I’ll at least continue to read Bukowski although it’s hard for me to read even his poems for much more than ten minutes at a time; probably better than nothing.  Before I started this entry, I watched a short video on meditation that stated that the research shows that its benefits come with only five to ten minutes of meditation a day.  Five to ten minutes of poetry will at least keep me in the poet’s game.  (Stranger On the Shore, Acker Bilk, the song that got me going down this road of searching for 1950s instrumentals.  I heard the song as part of a sound track, recognized it as a song I love, and then promptly forgot its name and the name “Acker Bilk”.  I succeeded in finding the name through research which led me to a half-dozen other 1950s instrumentals worth a listen.)

How Much Is That Doggie

I started to look at Billboard Top-100 lists from around 1958.  There didn’t seem to be any earlier than that on the Billboard website.  I see now why rock-and-roll arrived with such force and was able to take over the popular music world and shove the old music aside.  The hits of the fifties, the best sellers, are a soup of unbroken insipidity, cute sometimes likable music that stirs nothing in the soul.  It’s easy to see why my generation preferred listening to rock over songs about doggies in the window and the like.

 

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Help! I Can’t Stop!

I thought this would be just another morning at home.  Then I stumbled upon the song Guantanamera done on YouTube as part of the Playing For Change project.  That led to watching and listening to La Bamba, What’s Going On, Stand Up Sit Up . . .   Lots of great songs.  Watching the videos caused goose bumps – they are that good.  Fun.  Uplifting.  Especially the out-of-this world rendition of Lean On Me.  What a show!  What a show!

Help, I can’t stop.  I’m going to be here all day listening to music. Oh god!  Now it’s What a Wonderful World!

Each video has many different musicians and groups that contribute to the songs.  They play in locations around the world on every continent.  Somehow, all the clips of all the different musicians and all the different locales are combined into wonderful creations.  They musicians are the best.  The videos are the best.  The music is the best.

Playing For Change has a motto:  Connecting the World Through Music.

Mark Johnson, the co-founder, says

The idea is to show people enough different cultures using music to uplift themselves, so that we can see the connections we all have.

Keith Richards

. . . that’s the way music was meant to be.

Grandpa Elliot

. . . man, all my life I’ve been putting out love, but not like that

Far from being just another morning, it’s been an inspiring, fun, music-filled morning.  I feel like it’s a bright, sunshiny day even though it’s wet and cloudy.

Peace Through Music

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Punk in 1970s New York

city-on-fireI’ve recently read or watched two items that involve the punk scene (or should I say punk-rock scene?  I’m not sure.) in New York City in the mid-1970s:  The book City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg and Spike Lee’s movie Summer Of Sam.

City On Fire is a long book, almost 1000 dense pages.  The nexus of the plot is the murder of a young woman in a New York park on New Year’s Eve 1977.  The book describes in great detail the lives and relationships of the people who were involved in one way or another with the murdered woman.  It jumps back and forth in time from the early sixties to the start of the 21st Century while also jumping back and forth between characters.  Many of the characters are punks participating in the New York City scene that apparently started in the mid-1970s.  I cannot speak from experience about any aspect of punk.  During that time period I was moving in the opposite direction; exploring bluegrass, country, and mountain music.  So while the punks in this novel were moving away from the musical (pop) mainstream and finding punk, I was moving away from the mainstream and finding bluegrass.  Given what I learned from the book and movie, I’m glad I moved in that direction.

City On Fire also covers the massive and  complete blackout in New York City in the summer of 1977.  Some of the book’s climactic events happen during the night of the blackout.

summer-of-samThe movie Summer of Sam uses the background of the Son Of Sam serial killings to depict life in New York when David Berkowitz was on his killing spree.  It focuses on the punk scene and on life in the city’s Italian neighborhoods.  City On Fire presents more of a political and artistic picture of punk as a search for a sort of anarchistic freedom.  Summer Of Sam, in contrast, focuses a lot on the sexual goings-on within the punk and club scenes.

I’m not sure I would recommend watching the movie or reading the book.  I was often irritated at the book’s author for jumping around so much.  I kept wanting him to stick to the plot line in which I was engrossed.   Eventually, I just wanted him to wrap things up and tell me what happened to all the characters whom except, I think, for one, were strung out on drugs or alcohol.  They were all drinking excessively, strung out, shooting heroin, dropping pills, sometimes doing it all in one day.  I did not think it was possible for a person to use as many drugs and as much alcohol as some of the characters.

Watching the movie left me feeling like I had besmirched my soul.

eye-and-tear

 

 

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Good Graffitti

I went for a walk the other day and stumbled (not literally) upon some good graffiti.  I laughed out loud.

The chalk artists are a mother and daughter.  I think they had a good time with their chalk.  They have a Facebook page titled You Matter.

Here are more of their chalkings.

 

 

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McSorley’s Bar

Last week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post:

This week, find inspiration in a piece of art. Then, imitate it.

I chose to try to imitate John Sloan’s painting McSorley’s Bar:

McSorley's Bar Imitation

McSorley’s Bar Imitation

Mcsorley's Bar

Mcsorley’s Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Sloan was a painter in the Ashcan School,

an artistic movement in the United States during the early twentieth century that is best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

Their unity [of the artists in the school] consisted of a desire to tell certain truths about the city and modern life they felt had been ignored by the suffocating influence of the Genteel Tradition in the visual arts. Robert Henri, in some ways the spiritual father of this school, “wanted art to be akin to journalism… he wanted paint to be as real as mud, as the clods of horse-shit and snow, that froze on Broadway in the winter.” He urged his younger friends and students to paint in the robust, unfettered, ungenteel spirit of his favorite poet, Walt Whitman, and to be unafraid of offending contemporary taste. He believed that working-class and middle-class urban settings would provide better material for modern painters than drawing rooms and salons.

 

 

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Filed under Art, Photo Challenge, Photos, The Daily Post