Saturday, February 14, 2015

Poetry about Famous Musicians: Playlist for February 13, 2015



callas lover

By  D. A. Powell 



this is the track I've had on REPEAT all afternoon:      she is butterfly


brilliant riband, rice flour face, silken, even her voice a sashed kimono



                             if I were foolish like her:   


                                          but aren't I foolish like her


                             spotting the coil of smoke and the billowed sail


                   against the verge of sky



simple on the rise surveying the anchorage:      simple me, signal me


dreading the confident assumption of return, dreading more


uncertain tone to come, the thinning notes, performance


too close to my own impatient—swells, a surge:      sick wind



but the emotion is, after all, an artfully conjured gesture


arranged marriage between a past ache and frail woodwinds


                             I could skip ahead


                                          could break the inconsolable loop


of harbor, waiting, overlook, waiting, inevitable waning eye



troubled robins, once more in the handkerchief trees


once more, brief aquarelle of triplet lilies, blue as willowware  


in that interval before his embrace falters, stuck, founders


              [shuffle play]    such a pitch of tenderness in the voice


                             such an awful lot of noise
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Un bel di vedremo, by Giacomo Puccini


False Portrait of D.B. as Niccolò Paganini

By  Michael Palmer  



Those who have lived here since before


time are gone while the ones who must


replace them have not yet arrived.



The streets are wet with a recent


rain yet you continue to count


first minutes and hours then trees



rocks, windows, mailboxes, streetlights


and pictographs refusing to


rest even for the brief span it



would take to dry off, change clothes and


reemerge grotesque yet oddly


attractive like Paganini



whose mother was visited by


a seraph in Genoa not


long before his birth and who is



thought now to have acquired much of


his technical wizardry as


a result of Marfan’s syndrome



a quite common anomaly


of the connective tissues which


may well account for the tall and



angular body, muscular


underdevelopment as well


as the hypermobile joints that



eventuated on the stage


in a peculiar stance, a


spectacular bowing technique



and an awesome mastery of


the fingerboard. He would bring his


left hip forward to support his



body’s weight. His left shoulder, thrust


forward also, would enable


him to rest his left elbow on



his chest, a buttress against the


stress of forceful bowing along


with debilitating muscle



fatigue. The looseness of the right


wrist and shoulder gave pliancy


leading to broad acrobatic



bowing. The ‘spider’ fingers of


his left hand permitted a range


on the fingerboard which many



attributed to black magic


for Paganini was said to


have signed a pact with Lucifer



to acquire virtuosity


as a small child. After his death


perhaps due in part to this tale



in part also to rumours of


gambling and wild debauchery


the Church refused to allow him



burial on hallowed ground. In  


consequence his body was moved


furtively from place to place



until after many years and


for reasons still mysterious


the Church finally relented.



A few paradoxes should be


noted as an afterward. Though


accused of charlatanism he



was rewarded for his skill like


no one before him. He loved his


violin above all yet once



he gambled it away at cards.  


He accepted wealth and renown


from his worshipping admirers



but tripled the admission price


to his concerts in the face of


adverse reviews. While openly



irreverent of tradition


he still took a princess as his lover


and let nations strike medals in his name.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Caprice No. 24 by Nicolo Paganini



After Rachmaninoff
By Ralph Block


LIKE rain, that silvers out of a silent sky—

“So hard,” you said.

And I sent back my heart in a vain try

To hold below your voice

Some remnant memory of strange songs he played.
(These moments never quite return—

Not through all the years I’ll count and spend,

Or light tapers to old gods and watch them burn.)

“Like granite feet”—

You laughed, and then came back,
“Both light and strong,

A tracery of rock on rock.”

The moment opened wide and let me in.

I looked behind

As a man who plays with sin,
Knowing what it was I sought—

The “variation” he could never play,

That from his fingered keys would always stray


“You seemed held deep
In thought”

I lied to that—confession’s cheap,

A lie’s a compliment—

And found myself wondering where to heap

New devotions that would keep
Your eyes in mine

In this strange experiment.

We were in a net

Of other people’s words:

They crossed us there like swords.
At last I tipped my hat

And felt your tension drop—

Hearts stop perhaps

Like that

No doubt you will forget
The evening when we remet:

For you a door had edged and closed

Upon a stranger awkwardly disposed

When I went out.

For me the days will live it through each time
In a kind of troubled rhyme—

When concert whispers rise and fall,

And other Russian preludes run

Up chromatic scales and down.

Repelled by chatter, and in vain,
I’ll watch the faces for a sign;

As when I held out hands and cried,

And of all the souls that faced my way

Only yours replied.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude in G major, by Sergei Rachmaninov


Please Marry Me

By  Charles Baxter  


Please marry me. Your mother likes me.

         —Line spoken by an unknown woman, in a dream


We are stretched out on a dingy sofa, and I think


I must be barefoot because a woman whom no one knows


Is massaging the ankle of one leg of mine and the instep


Of the other, all this toward morning, and I have that


Occasional epiphany one has while still asleep


That I am floating down a river


Because I am so happy and all the dismal issues


Have been made tractable at last, and so I say to her


That the late symphonies of Gustav Mahler


Are more lucid if you’re sitting close to, and above,


The orchestra, so that you can see the contrapuntal


Lines moving from strings to woodwinds


And then back again, whereupon this woman,


Sitting (I now realize) at my feet, says, in the full


Heat of our dream life, and in that happiness,


“Please marry me. Your mother likes me,”


And so I wake, not laughing, although my mother



Has been dead for over thirty years, but in wonderment


Over what quality this dream-woman must have owned


To have pleased my mother so that she,


My late mother, would have said, despite her ban


On ordinary pleasantries, that she had liked someone,


Anyone, who might have cared for me, and as I lie


In bed I think of the last movement of Mahler’s Ninth


When the melodic lines go quiet for minute after minute


In a prolonged farewell to music and to life,


Which my mother would attend to in her bathrobe


Late at night, the stereo turned up, blended whiskey


In her highball glass mixed with milk as a disguise,


Leaning back, hand over eyes, silent-movie style


Like Norma Desmond listening as Von Stroheim plays


The organ wearing his white gloves. No, it wasn’t


Mahler, it was Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht,


Moon-drunk music, mad and inconsolable.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Verklarte Nacht by Arnold Schoenberg 

For Miles
by Gregory Corso

Your sound is faultless
      pure & round
      almost profound

Your sound is your sound
      true & from within
      a confession
      soulful & lovely

Poet whose sound is played
      lost or recorded
      but heard
      can you recall that 54 night at the Open Door
      when you & bird
      wailed five in the morning some wondrous
      yet unimaginable score?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: A Night in Tunisia, performed by Charlie Parker & Miles Davis

Chet Baker In Paris

by Luis Lazaro Tijerina

In September of that year
when Paris had not yet turned her leaves
into pigments of dry reds and burnt umber,
you played your melodious trumpet sounds,
no mawkish phrases, no murmurings
sinking into the false twists, just cool jazz.
When all is said and done, no one
loved you more than your trumpet,
sending its small, lovely notes to the
night winds near Club St. Germain?

You played, “Those Foolish Things”,
“Tenderly” and “Summertime” with sad
trumpet walks on stage at the Salle Pleyel,
your phrases clear,
soft heat in April?
everything happening to you.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: My Funny Valentine, performed by Chet Baker


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