Over the past weeks, I’ve rediscovered my devotion to yoga. After a session, I feel lithe, vibrant, athletic, and quite possibly taller?
Given health & age, exercise and nutrition are not so much choices as necessities, and running is infinitely more a cooler weather option…. so, I use yoga to bring balance, energy and focus to these lingering summer days.
On the nutrition front, farmer’s markets make summer food easy, grape tomatoes sweet as candy bursting on my tongue, peaches so juicy they have to be eaten over the sink — winter “healthy food” seems far away.
How do exercise & eating relate today’s topic of poetry and prose… long ago, there was a sweet, darling college boy who composed a poem for me, memorable only in that I was on crutches at the time, and he somehow worked those in while also referencing my beloved Tate Street Coffee House. Perhaps the coffee was poetry, the crutches definitely belonged in the world of prose.
The awkward constructions that attempted to render a prosaic broken foot into poetry illuminate the necessity of both. Prose can tell the story, while the poet can make it dance… For example, one of the most beautiful of Shakespeare’s sonnets is 116, his paean to constant love, “Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle’s compass come:/Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,/But bears it out even to the edge of doom.” Concisely, and with extraordinary beauty dear old Will illuminates lovers’ dreams. Yet, it falls to the ever, so pragmatic Miss Austen to illustrate this construct in the delightful Sense & Sensibility, where we find Marianne trying to make a similar point to her sister, “t is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; – it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.” Despite the vagaries of the tale, the sensitive Marianne’s faith in the constancy of love and indeed, her love survive.
Finding happily ever after in poems and stories — maybe not a needle in the haystack kind of search, but finding gorgeous goodbyes is far more an art. While there are poems, one of the kindest most gentle depictions of breakups is found in the extremely well-written collaboration between John Green and David Levithan called, Will Grayson, will grayson… “this is why we call people exes, I guess – because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end. it’s too easy to see an X as a cross-out. it’s not, because there’s no way to cross out something like that. the X is a diagram of two paths.” Utterly cool! I think prose may be the more effective option, though I find there are terribly apt songs — poetry with a bass line? One that I find delightful to describe how a relationship just finds itself in different places, is Paul Simon’s You’re Kind, ” So goodbye, goodbye/I’m gonna leave you now/And here’s the reason why/I like to sleep with the window open/And you keep the window closed/So goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”
It’s not always so straightforward — there are some histories with passages that if you close your eyes the pictures are painted in the vivid colors poets use against the page. Paul Fussell, a brilliant cultural historian, looks at the inefficacy of language to describe WWI in an excerpt from, The Great War and Modern Memory.”:
One of the cruxes of the war, of course, is the collision between events and the language available — or thought appropriate to describe them….. Logically, there is no reason why the English language could not perfectly well render the actuality of trench warfare: it is rich in terms like blood, terror, agony, madness, shit, cruelty, murder, sell-out, pain and hoax, as well as phrases like legs blown off, intestines gushing out over his hands, screaming all night, bleeding to death from the rectum and the like. Logically, one supposes, there’s no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man’s works.
Listen to the cadence, as you read his words — every image that defines the war rushes to that space behind your eyes — and you understand him as fully as if he played you an “ab-ab-ab” rhyme scheme.In the hands of a master like Fussell, even prose can tell the story and dance…
Imagine, as you go through your daily life — the tasks, the conversations, the music — which are prose, which are poetry and how do you integrate each into your routines?
- Ain’t Even Done with the Night (John Mellencamp) — sometimes the story isn’t in the song, as all I think of when this plays is the little boy who tugged at his mom’s sleeve in the house ware’s section of Belks, saying “Mommy, why isn’t he done with the knives? Can we buy some…”
- Late Morning Lullaby (Brandi Carlisle) — her voice, her fantastic song selection — kind of poetry
- Imagine (John Lennon) — quite perfect in music & lyrics — of course, there are a million covers — I just remember a guy in HS wrote it out longhand like a poem for me as a Christmas present…
- Poetry Man (Queen Latifah) — a true renaissance woman — she can do anything… the bluesy, jazz-infused album is delightful, and this cut charming
- Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne) — rivers, and stepping stones and waiting for your “love” to call, and trying to grab the phone before it woke anyone….
- Bad Self Portraits (Lake Street Dive) — with a sound that echoes the great R&B voices of an earlier time, and indie pop of the most jazzy/swingy variety — I hope to see them live this autumn.
- Ghost Story (Sting) — one of my favorite of Sting’s poetry songs — it’s kind of replaced “fields of gold,” long a favorite but not one I can listen to anymore….
- We’ll Sing in the Sunshine (Gale Garnett) — when you’re a kid, and a song is cool — you don’t sit & think — “cool, a song about the joy of serial monogamy…” but hey
- Vanity Fair (Squeeze) — Squeeze is sporadically punk and/or pop — this one is more just pretty — it’s a story song, saddish, but lovely instrumentation
- You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) — everyone has dated this guy at some point in their lives, and wished for Carly’s voice to say “get over yourself, my dear.” — definitely not poetry, though there’s always a way of being kind about it.
- Should I Stay or Should I Go (the Clash) — the punk anthem, — prose or poetry, I think it rather depends on how you need the song…
- Long Ago & Far Away (Gene Kelly) — there are few men that are pure poetry. Gene Kelly was — maybe he wasn’t the world’s most perfect singer — but when he moved — he was comfortable with his body in the way a pianist knows his instrument
- I love you ’cause I want to (Carlene Carter) — the scion of the Carter/Cash family has a rockabilly style that harks back to more chaotic mountain music — I like this rather unapologetic take on love..
- Worlds are Made of Paper (Ben Taylor) — one of those evocative, paint a picture little poems
- Cough Syrup (Young the Giant) — a song the band wrote even before they became “Young the Giant,” they describe it as a song about breaking free of the constraints that shackle them to conventional life — there’s a gorgeous line, :”a dark world aches for a splash of the sun”
- Square One (Tom Petty) — Tom Petty working with Cameron Crowe is quite possibly spontaneous poetry generation — unlike the biological nonsense, if you put these two in the same room — magic results…. simple and generous in lyric and melody…
- Birdland (Weather Report) — few instrumentals make you want to paint, sing and dance in quite the way the compositions from Weather Report’s Heavy Weather album do. Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuña, and Manolo Badrena created wordless poems that run the gamut of emotions
- Sympathique (Pink Martini) — in French, it’s always poetry — and some of the translation — “where once I knew the scent of love,,,,” delicious song… it feels very 1950s
- You’re Kind (Paul Simon) — I remember this on the playlist as I broke up with one on the kindest men I ever knew… both of us smiling at the irony of the song, because I do like open windows —
- Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye (Leonard Cohen) — some consider him one of the premier poets of the 20th century and I wouldn’t disagree — this song is a slight departure, but the notes lie softly against your ear…
Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.–> William Hazlitt