A Fire Was In My Head

Pop Music
19 April 2009, 1:29 am
Filed under: Influence

From the time when I was very young, nothing has ever stuck with me the way popular music has. Something about the bravado of its rhythms and attitudes has always struck me as a very playful and worthwhile approach to life. Good pop music lyrics manage to speak volumes much better than any actual musty volumes can. And in my present rationale, the ability of a pop lyric to linger, both in word and melody, in the brain, repeating itself almost at random–well, this residual pleasure represents the apex of poetic ambition. If poetry is the stuff of moments, one may judge it partly in its ability to persist out of print.

In the spirit of persistence (and of fun) I offer up a list of popular music lyrics that have made it their business to squat among the furrows inside my head.  Surely this exercise does more to venerate the genre than any attempts on my part to produce originals, which could only look and sound flabby in comparison with the rich backlog of exemplars. You may find it here, or underneath the “features” link to the left.

My personal definition of “pop” is a broader one than is used by most contemporary music critics. As a rule, I use the term to signify music from the 1940s or later that has been commercially produced and recorded in a way that makes it generally available to the public and can (read: should) be sung along with. This working definition allows me to include much of the hip-hop that, for commercial and less savory reasons, in presentation is largely segregated from the rest of American music. With a few exceptions, I do not include the world of jazz, which fascinates me in a very different way. Besides, so much jazz music contains no lyrics in English or any other spoken language.

The inaugural selections come from Chuck Berry, Outkast, and Paul Simon. Enjoy.


A Poem from California
17 April 2009, 1:58 pm
Filed under: New Poetry | Tags: , , , ,

The title of this poem does not refer in any way to the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, save that I read that book recently and found the phrase apt. I wrote it in direct sunlight on yellow paper, the sun being the measure of all things in California, the ultimate force of that place. Or, rather, the sun was part of the reason and the circumstances at the poem’s conception. The other part is the person about whom it is most nearly written–I will never claim not to distort partially even the purest feelings and qualities in the translation from life to verse, so no real people will ever appear in my poetry–and to whom I have dedicated it.

Remains of the Day

for Kristen

You freckle in the light
with the surface of all plain things.
The swimming pool shimmers.
I puzzle under an open sun,
comb the freckles,
big, brown thumbs, prickles
of sun come up
to the surface to shimmer,
breathe in the light.
I puzzle of a night: they remember,
breathing in the dark,
wordless as hums,
shineless, shuffling buckles.
You and I know what
sun did or did not.