Monday, September 16, 2013

Robin Trower's Music with Tomas Transtromer's Poetry

Craig Lewis suggested this combination.

I wanted to mash up this poem with the same instrumental bits from "Bullet the Blue Sky" by U2.  In my mind's ear, it's what a storm sounds like.  But maybe this will work too.
This is the Robert Bly translation of this poem, which can be found in "The Half-Finished Heaven"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where The Mind Is Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore

As I sipped the precious nectar of this poem, my hands rose in worship, with my inner man shouting "Amen" to its noble sentiments.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I interpret the word "free" in the line "Where knowledge is free" to mean "unfettered, unchained, unrestricted," as opposed to "without cost." Whether one is talking about the secrets of nature, or the great mystery of one's life, knowledge cost someone something. Whether one is talking about the original discovery, or the sharing of the discovery at a later date, knowledge had a price in time, effort and trust.

Steve Miller's Music With Mary Oliver's Poetry

Immediately after hitting the stop button on the recorder after reciting the poem, I said to my 20-year-old son "I'm going to mash this poem with Wild Mountain Honey by Steve Miller."  He said that the poem could stand by itself, and while he is entirely correct, he couldn't stop me from hearing it in my mind's ear.

Is Mary Oliver the only poet to talk about bees "rumbling?"  Doesn't a poem with bees in it go along with a song with honey in the title?  It does in my world.  Wild Mountain Honey is a song about the glory of dropping out, letting the voodoos of ambition sleep.

Come on papa
Your end is the means
Don't trade your love and goodness
For the golden machine
You run for the money
You don't even know about wild mountain honey

The Party Was Over Then Too by Leonard Cohen

This poem is from the book Book of Longing.

When I was about fifteen
I followed a beautiful girl
into the Communist Party of Canada.
There were secret meetings
and you got yelled at
if you were a minute late.
We studied the McCarran Act
passed by the stooges in Washington,
and the Padlock Law
passed by their lackeys in Quebec,
and they said nasty shit
about my family
and how we got our money.
They wanted to overthrow
the country that I loved
(and served, as a Sea Scout).
And even the good people
who wanted to change things,
they hated them too
and called them social fascists.
They had plans for criminals
like my uncles and aunties
and they even had plans
for my poor little mother
who had slipped out of Lithuania
with two frozen apples
and a bandanna full of monopoly money.
They never let me get near the girl
and the girl never let me get near the girl.
She became more and more beautiful
until she married a lawyer
and became a social fascist herself
and very likely a criminal too.
But I admired the Communists
for their pig-headed devotion
to something absolutely wrong.
It was years before I found something comparable for myself:
I joined a tiny band of steel-jawed zealots
who considered themselves
the Marines of the spiritual world. It's just a matter of time:
we'll be landing this raft
on the Other Shore,
we'll be taking that beach
on the Other Shore.

Love by George Herbert

LOVE bade me welcome, but my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And you know not,' says Love, 'who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

This poem can be found in many places, including The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1918

Today by Mary Oliver

I'm sharing this poem for a number of reasons.

One, Mary Oliver is a deeply beloved American poet, and has been a deeply beloved poet for many years.

Two, there has been a gap in my education, in that I have not read very many of her poems.

Three, her most recent volume of poetry, A Thousand Mornings, published in October of 2012, has been warmly received by lovers of poetry.

Four, I have been reading little bits of A Thousand Mornings, and taking great happiness in them. Mary Oliver says more in the things that go unsaid in the spaces in between words and lines than a lot of people do in the words and lines. Got that?

Five, I consider this poem to vibrate quite sympathetically with the experience of studying Steps to Knowledge. I'm patiently waiting for an opportunity to use the phrase "voodoos of ambition." Mary Oliver seems to have originated that phrase.


Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Maybe by Mary Oliver

I'm sharing this poem because Mary Oliver did a great job of capturing the emotions of the disciples after Jesus spoke to the winds and waves and made them stand still, in my opinion.

Sweet Jesus, talking
   his melancholy madness,
     stood up in the boat
       and the sea lay down,  
silky and sorry.
   So everybody was saved
      that night.
         But you know how it is
when something
    different crosses
       the threshold -- the uncles
          mutter together,
       the women walk away,
            the young brother begins
                to sharpen his knife.
                    Nobody knows what the soul is.
It comes and goes
   like the wind over the water --
      sometimes, for days,
        you don't think of it.
 Maybe, after the sermon,
   after the multitude was fed,
     one or two of them felt
       the soul slip forth  
like a tremor of pure sunlight
   before exhaustion,
      that wants to swallow everything,
         gripped their bones and left them
miserable and sleepy,
    as they are now, forgetting
       how the wind tore at the sails
          before he rose and talked to it --
tender and luminous and demanding
   as he always was --
      a thousand times more frightening
         than the killer sea.

What's Going On Here?

Pretty much what the tagline says. I'm reciting poems I like, and making mashups of poems I like with the music for which my ear hungers when I read and think of these poems. It is my sincere hope that other lovers of these poems will do likewise.