Saturday, November 24, 2012

RADIO: An offering from Rob Stuart

Poems about Music: Playlist for November 23, 2012

 “I Broke the Spell That Held Me Long”

By William Cullen Bryant 1794–1878

I broke the spell that held me long,

The dear, dear witchery of song.

I said, the poet’s idle lore

Shall waste my prime of years no more,

For Poetry, though heavenly born,

Consorts with poverty and scorn.


I broke the spell–nor deemed its power

Could fetter me another hour.

Ah, thoughtless! how could I forget

Its causes were around me yet?

For wheresoe’er I looked, the while,

Was Nature’s everlasting smile. 


Still came and lingered on my sight

Of flowers and streams the bloom and light,

And glory of the stars and sun; –

And these and poetry are one.

They, ere the world had held me long,

Recalled me to the love of song.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Clair de lune, by Gabriel Faure


Place and Time

By Lisel Mueller b. 1924

History is your own heartbeat.                

                   —Michael Harper 


Last night a man on the radio,

a still young man, said the business district

of his hometown had been plowed under.

The town was in North Dakota.

Grass, where the red-and-gold          

Woolworth sign used to be,

where the revolving doors

took him inside Sears;

gone the sweaty seats

of the Roxy—or was it the Princess—

of countless Friday nights

that whipped his heart to a gallop

when a girl touched him, as the gun

on the screen flashed in the moonlight.

Grass, that egalitarian green,

pulling its sheet over rubble,

over his barely cold childhood,

on which he walks as others walk

over a buried Mayan temple

or a Roman aqueduct beneath

a remote sheep pasture

in the British Isles. Yet his voice,

the modest voice on the radio,

was almost apologetic,

as if to say, what’s one small town,

even if it is one’s own,

in an age of mass destruction,

and never mind the streets and stones

of a grown man’s childhood—

as if to say, the lives we live

before the present moment

are graves we walk away from.


Except we don’t. We’re all

pillars of salt. My life began

with Beethoven and Schubert

on my mother’s grand piano,

the shiny Bechstein on which she played

the famous symphonies

in piano reductions. But they were no

reductions for me, the child

who now remembers nothing

earlier than that music,

a weather I was born into,

a jubilant light or dusky sadness

struck up by my mother’s hands.

Where does music come from

and where does it go when it’s over—

the child’s unanswered question

about more than music.


My mother is dead, and the piano

she could not take with her into exile

burned with our city in World War II.

That is the half-truth. The other half

is that it’s still her black Bechstein

each concert pianist plays for me

and that her self-taught fingers

are behind each virtuoso performance

on the stereo, giving me back

my prewar childhood city

intact and real. I don’t know

if the man from North Dakota has

some music that brings back

his town to him, but something does,

and whatever he remembers

is durable and instantly

retrievable and lit

by a sky or streetlight

which does not change. That must be why

he sounded casual about

the mindless wreckage, clumsy

as an empty threat.

 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Moment Musicale in A-flat by Franz Schubert

Thou Art My Lute

By Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906

Thou art my lute, by thee I sing,—

     My being is attuned to thee.

Thou settest all my words a-wing,

     And meltest me to melody.


Thou art my life, by thee I live,

     From thee proceed the joys I know;

Sweetheart, thy hand has power to give

     The meed of love—the cup of woe.


Thou art my love, by thee I lead

     My soul the paths of light along,

From vale to vale, from mead to mead,

     And home it in the hills of song.


My song, my soul, my life, my all,

     Why need I pray or make my plea,

Since my petition cannot fall;

     For I’m already one with thee!

 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Galliards for Lute by John Dowland


Song from a Reedless Flute

By Sara Littlecrow-Russell b. 1969 

You are beadwork woven by a broken Indian woman

That I mend with cautious, needle-pricked fingers.

You are raw sweetness of burning chaga

Scraping my lungs and startling tears.

You are the bear claw necklace

No longer caressing

The space between my breasts.

You are cigarettes

That I quit years ago,

But sometimes smoke anyways.


You are maple syrup on snow

Melting on my tongue

Until I ache from the cold.

You are the cedar tree

Sheltering my childhood

From unwanted caresses.

You are the star blanket

Sliding off the bed on autumnal nights.

You are a stubborn braid of wiingashk

That must be relit with a dozen matches

Before it releases thin streamers of sweetness.

You are the love song

Played on a reedless flute

That only spirits hear.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Native American Flute music performed by Robert Tree Cody


A Man in Blue

By James Schuyler 1923–1991

Under the French horns of a November afternoon

a man in blue is raking leaves

with a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegs

or rather, dowels). Next door

boys play soccer: “You got to start

over!” sort of. A round attic window

in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.

“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian day

lapses from waltz to march. The grass,

rough-cropped as Bruno Walter’s hair,

is stretched, strewn and humped beneath a sycamore

wide and high as an idea of heaven

in which Brahms turns his face like a bearded thumb

and says, “There is something I must tell you!”

to Bruno Walter. “In the first movement

of my Second, think of it as a family

planning where to go next summer

in terms of other summers. A material ecstasy,

subdued, recollective.” Bruno Walter

in a funny jacket with a turned-up collar

says, “Let me sing it for you.”

He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spaces

of naked elms he draws a copper beech

ignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazes

a rhododendron “a sea of leaves” against gold grass.

There is a snapping from the brightwork

of parked and rolling cars.

There almost has to be a heaven! so there could be

a place for Bruno Walter

who never needed the cry of a baton.


in a small, dusty, rather gritty, somewhat scratchy

Magnavox from which a forte

drops like a used Brillo Pad?

Frayed. But it’s hard to think of the sky as a thick glass floor

with thick-soled Viennese boots tromping about on it.

It’s a whole lot harder thinking of Brahms

in something soft, white, and flowing.

“Life,” he cries (here, in the last movement),

“is something more than beer and skittles!”

“And the something more

is a whole lot better than beer and skittles,”

says Bruno Walter,

darkly, under the sod. I don’t suppose it seems so dark

to a root. Who are these men in evening coats?

What are these thumps?

Where is Brahms?

And Bruno Walter?

Ensconced in resonant plump easy chairs

covered with scuffed brown leather

in a pungent autumn that blends leaf smoke

(sycamore, tobacco, other),

their nobility wound in a finale

like this calico cat

asleep, curled up in a breadbasket,

on a sideboard where the sun falls.

 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73 (1st movement) by Johannes Brahms


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poems about Youth: Playlist for November 9, 2012

O Mistress Mine Where are you Roaming?
By William Shakespeare 1564–1616 
O Mistress mine where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love's coming,
      That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
      Every wise man's son doth know.
What is love, 'tis not hereafter,
Present mirth, hath present laughter:
      What's to come, is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me sweet and twenty:
      Youth's a stuff will not endure.
 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Dances from Terpsichore by Michael Praetorius
Of the Last Verses in the Book
By Edmund Waller 1606–1687  
When we for age could neither read nor write,
The subject made us able to indite.
The soul, with nobler resolutions deckt,
The body stooping, does herself erect:
No mortal parts are requisite to raise
Her, that unbodied can her Maker praise. 
The seas are quiet, when the winds give o’er,
So calm are we, when passions are no more:
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness, which age descries. 
The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home:
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Four Medieval Dances by Joseph Lauber
Sonnet XXV
By George Santayana 1863–1952  
As in the midst of battle there is room
For thoughts of love, and in foul sin for mirth;
As gossips whisper of a trinket’s worth
Spied by the death-bed’s flickering candle-gloom;
As in the crevices of Caesar’s tomb
The sweet herbs flourish on a little earth:
So in this great disaster of our birth
We can be happy, and forget our doom.
For morning, with a ray of tenderest joy
Gilding the iron heaven, hides the truth,
And evening gently woos us to employ
Our grief in idle catches. Such is youth;
Till from that summer’s trance we wake, to find
Despair before us, vanity behind.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Enchanted April by Richard Rodney Bennett
  A Memory of Youth
By William Butler Yeats
THE moments passed as at a play;
I had the wisdom love brings forth;
I had my share of mother-wit,
And yet for all that I could say,
And though I had her praise for it,
A cloud blown from the cut-throat North
Suddenly hid Love's moon away.
Believing every word I said,
I praised her body and her mind
Till pride had made her eyes grow bright,
And pleasure made her cheeks grow red,
And vanity her footfall light,
Yet we, for all that praise, could find
Nothing but darkness overhead.
We sat as silent as a stone,
We knew, though she'd not said a word,
That even the best of love must die,
And had been savagely undone
Were it not that Love upon the cry
Of a most ridiculous little bird
Tore from the clouds his marvellous moon.
ALTHOUGH crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,
And even old men's eyes grew dim, this hand alone,
Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping-place
Babbling of fallen majesty, records what's gone.
These lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,
These, these remain, but I record what-s gone. A crowd
Will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cello Sonata (movement 2)by Samuel Barber
Coy Mistress
By Annie Finch b. 1956 
Sir, I am not a bird of prey:
a Lady does not seize the day.
I trust that brief Time will unfold
our youth, before he makes us old.
How could we two write lines of rhyme
were we not fond of numbered Time
and grateful to the vast and sweet
trials his days will make us meet:
The Grave's not just the body's curse;
no skeleton can pen a verse!
So while this numbered World we see,
let's sweeten Time with poetry,
and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love
and give us time our love to prove.
You've praised my eyes, forehead, breast:
you've all our lives to praise the rest.
 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Girl with the Flaxen Hair by Claude Debussy

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wind and Rain: Playlist for November 2, 2012

All Hallows’ Eve

By Dorothea Tanning 1910–2012 

Be perfect, make it otherwise.

Yesterday is torn in shreds.

Lightning’s thousand sulfur eyes

Rip apart the breathing beds.

Hear bones crack and pulverize.

Doom creeps in on rubber treads.

Countless overwrought housewives,

Minds unraveling like threads,

Try lipstick shades to tranquilize

Fears of age and general dreads.

Sit tight, be perfect, swat the spies,

Don’t take faucets for fountainheads.

Drink tasty antidotes. Otherwise

You and the werewolf: newlyweds.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cello Sonata (movement 5) by Benjamin Britten

First Storm and Thereafter

By Scott Cairns b. 1954 

What I notice first within

          this rough scene fixed

in memory is the rare

          quality of its lightning, as if

those bolts were clipped

          from a comic book, pasted

on low cloud, or fashioned

          with cardboard, daubed

with gilt then hung overhead

          on wire and fine hooks.

What I hear most clearly

          within that thunder now

is its grief—a moan, a long

          lament echoing, an ache.

And the rain? Raucous enough,

          pounding, but oddly

musical, and, well,

          eager to entertain, solicitous.


No storm since has been framed

          with such matter-of-fact

artifice, nor to such comic

          effect. No, the thousand-plus

storms since then have turned

          increasingly artless,

arbitrary, bearing—every

          one of them—a numbing burst. 


And today, from the west a gust

          and a filling pressure

pulsing in the throat—offering

          little or nothing to make light of.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: World To Come (movement 3) by David Lang



By Thomas Carlyle 1795–1881 

The wind blows east, the wind blows west,

And the frost falls and the rain:

A weary heart went thankful to rest,

And must rise to toil again, ’gain,

And must rise to toil again. 


The wind blows east, the wind blows west,

And there comes good luck and bad;

The thriftiest man is the cheerfulest;

’Tis a thriftless thing to be sad, sad,

’Tis a thriftless thing to be sad.  


The wind blows east, the wind blows west;

Ye shall know a tree by its fruit:

This world, they say, is worst to the best;—

But a dastard has evil to boot, boot,

But a dastard has evil to boot.  


The wind blows east, the wind blows west;

What skills it to mourn or to talk?

A journey I have, and far ere I rest;

I must bundle my wallets and walk, walk,

I must bundle my wallets and walk.  


The wind does blow as it lists alway;

Canst thou change this world to thy mind?

The world will wander its own wise way;

I also will wander mine, mine,

I also will wander mine.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Shallow Brown, by Percy Grainger

Storm Windows

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991

People are putting up storm windows now,  

Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain  

Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,  

I saw storm windows lying on the ground,  

Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass

I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream  

Away in lines like seaweed on the tide

Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.

The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass  

Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by,  

Something I should have liked to say to you,

Something ... the dry grass bent under the pane  

Brimful of bouncing water ... something of  

A swaying clarity which blindly echoes

This lonely afternoon of memories

And missed desires, while the wintry rain  

(Unspeakable, the distance in the mind!)

Runs on the standing windows and away.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Sonata for Violin and Piano (movement 3) by Cesar Franck


No Moon Floods the Memory of That Night

By Etheridge Knight 1931–1991 

No moon floods the memory of that night

only the rain I remember the cold rain

against our faces and mixing with your tears

only the rain I remember the cold rain

and your mouth soft and warm

no moon no stars no jagged pain

of lightning only my impotent tongue

and the red rage within my brain

knowing that the chilling rain was our forever

even as I tried to explain:  


“A revolutionary is a doomed man

with no certainties but love and history.”

“But our children must grow up with certainties

and they will make the revolution.”

“By example we must show the way so plain

that our children can go neither right

nor left but straight to freedom.”

“No,” you said. And you left.  


No moon floods the memory of that night

only the rain I remember the cold rain

and praying that like the rain

returns to the sky you would return to me again.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Etude in c-sharp minor, Op. 25/ 7 by Frederic Chopin