The Musicality of Words

The Musicality of Words
Wednesday Workshop
Bastille Day
14 July 2021

            The Roman armies marched all over Europe and, as they marched, they sang marching songs, traces of which lingered, along with the Latin language, everywhere they went. Think of the poems in his book as songs, each with its own special rhythm. You can find music in a single word, in a group of words, in a single line. You can hear and feel it too when you follow the punctuation and move with the words across adjoining lines. Unfortunately, far too many of us have become used to slogans and advertisements: three words repeated incessantly, two verses of a song that loop continuously. Many of us have forgotten how to read anything other than newspaper headlines and simple sentences. We have also forgotten how to listen to words, how to gain multiple meanings beyond the simplistic message of slogan, sound byte, scandal, and news. Diversity of meaning is what you learn when you read poetry, for poetry is more, much more, than the delivering of a simple message. To read a poem is to set out on a personal journey of exploration, into your own memories and mind, as mediated by the poet’s words. It is also to explore the vast treasure trove of our personal relationship with our language. Remember: a poetry book is a dream you hold in your hands.

Comment: Words have meaning, but they also have music and the musicality of meaning must never be forgotten for when music an meaning combine, a new set of meanings is formed that depend as much upon the ear as they do upon the decoding mind. This is all a part of what we refer to as the poet’s voice and remember this style of poetry is not to be found in newspaper headlines nor on the radio and television news, scaled down as they are to the lowest common denominators of language.

Look carefully at the painting that heads this Wednesday Workshop. Look at the movement and the musicality of linked forms and colors in a still, silent, two-dimensional space. Meaning takes on different meanings and becomes something different when we look at these words of color, these soundless sounds, these rhythmical movements of color. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed it is, and in poetry, it is also in the musicality of the words and the flow of the ideas that bind the words and change their meanings.

Eclipse at KIRA

Eclipse at KIRA
June, 2021
as seen from the Red Room

Another exercise in light and the emotions triggered by changing light. I couldn’t look at the early morning sun, with its partial eclipse, especially through the camera’s eye. So I did my best through the digital screen. These photos are the result of hope and a set of digital colors that are way beyond my human eyes to comprehend.

Incredible moments in time and space, and oh so subjective, this seeming objectivity of the camera’s eye. Who are we, what are we, we tiny morsels of humanity when we see ourselves, so miniscule, so seemingly meaningless, beneath the daisy eye of heaven and the celestial dance that began before us and will continue long after we have gone.

The Old 100th in metrical form:

“All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, his praise foretell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.”
Scottish Psalter, 1650.


Comment: No, I am not an overtly religious man and definitely not ‘a man of any cloth’. However, yesterday afternoon I received my second shot of Moderna and I want to offer my thanks to all those, world-wide, who made the vaccine possible and also to all the New Brunswickers and Canadians involved in distributing and delivering the Covid-19 vaccine. Today, I remembered my digital photos of the partial eclipse I witnessed at KIRA, St. Andrews, NB, earlier this month. So, this morning, for better or for worse, I have come before you to encourage you to rejoice.

 

Mirror Image

Spotify
Remember to scroll down to the correct audio episode.

Mirror Image
(on seeing the outline
of a painting on the reverse side
of my painted note-book page)

What price these corkscrew lines,
reversed, seen through a glass, darkly,
the wrong side of a tapestry,
all twisted threads and imaginings,
no clear pattern of thought
or design, as if designated by an errant
hand and signed by a man with a mission
to bewilder, confuse, muddle, shock,
turn inside out, back to front, upside down
all our notions of what is what,
and who is when, and why, and where?

Yet there is meaning to this madness,
a sense of a blind man trapped underground
in the labyrinth of his darkened mind
with only a thin thread of belief
to guide him, upwards and outwards,
away from the torrid torment of doused flames,
the damp spark’s midnight glow,
the search for substance in a new world,
insubstantial in a neologism, whirled
through inner spaces and spun, guileful,
out of the back of the hand to spin,
this way, that way, who knows which way,
according to the moment of delivery,
the angle of acceptance,
the untrained brain of the recipient,
tottering on the brink of a world
with a definite end: the suicide of logic.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Dalí ‘s Clock

Spotify

Remember to scroll down to the correct audio episode.

Dalí ‘s Clock
Salvador Dalí

A clock, a sheet hung out, strung out,
on a canvas washing line. No wind,
no pegs, soon to be sun-bleached, dried,
then folded in on itself, corner to corner
the sheet, and the watch, how will it fold?

Face to face, in half circles, perhaps, or
back-to-back with time cut in half, a tick
without its companion tock, a stutter of time,
halved, then quartered, then in an eighth,
a quesadilla of broken springs and tiny
wheels within wheels, all disjointed,
with glass fragmenting, shattering.

While we watch, our clockwork universe
disintegrates before our eyes, in a tiny
explosion as all chronological creation
implodes into a logic of carnival, absurd
our words and world, devoid of meaning,
a pocket-watch going over a waterfall,
a timepiece soon to break into rusty pieces,
painted by a man who dreams he isn’t mad.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale


Man of Glass

Spotify

Remember to scroll down to the correct audio episode.

Man of Glass
After El Licenciado Vidriera
(Miguel de Cervantes)

“I am made of glass,” I said.
“You can see right through me.”

But the harder you looked,
the less you saw.
You claimed
there was nothing there,
just empty air.

“Your glass is an illusion,” you said.
“It’s not half full
and it’s not half empty.”

“Glass is fragile,
I break easily.
Drop me, I shatter;
hot and cold will
make me crack.”

“Your fragility is in your mind,
not in the fact of your existence.”

“When light passes through me
I break into a million colors,”
I said.

“You are a prism,
the colors that you cast
change you and rain
rainbow lights
that change others
too.”

“That’s because,” I said,
“I’m made of glass.”

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Freedom

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Freedom

We are all so lonely,
locked in our cardboard castles,
no view beyond the battlements,
save for the wild lands, the forest,
from which the enemy might come.

Wild beasts, we cage ourselves
in our isolation and bang our heads
on the bars we built to protect us.

Sometimes, at night, we ascend
to the topmost turret to observe
the stars that dance above us,
tracing our lives in their errant ways.

And is this freedom, this night sky,
with its wayward planets, trapped
in their overnight dance and weaving
our futures, for ever and ever, amen?

Fire

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Fire

Fire
a double-edged sword

Fire
the beginning
and fire the end

Fire
the means of forging
the Omega and Alpha
that surround us
day by day

Fire
surrounds us
but leads us
nowhere

we must create
our own path through
Fire
to the life beyond
Fire

so many things
to save from
Fire

so many things
to be consumed by
Fire and flame

only a fiercer Fire
will free us from
will put an end to
Fire

Driving at Night

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Driving at Night

Once upon a time,
my hair was brown and curly,
but now it’s straight and as white as
this drifting snow clogging the windshield.

I smooth down my hair with my fingers:
swollen knuckles, crooked joints.
I burn with feverish thoughts
yet cold blood shivers through my arteries.

Headlights blind me in my good eye.
The other one’s useless when I drive at night.
It’s a long time since I last saw,
let alone touched, my toes.
Putting on my socks or tying my shoelace
is a morning no-no.

Short of breath, of agility, with no ability
to climb up stairs: I stop to catch my breath,
pause, and shudder with despair.

What happened to my youth?
Where did my childhood go?

Charles Baudelaire

A butterfly perches on Les Fleurs du Mal.

Charles Baudelaire

He walks past the Jesuit Church
where the shoe-shine boys store
polish, brushes, and chairs overnight.
He walks past the wrought-iron bench
where the gay guys sit, caressing,
asking the unsuspecting to join them.

Nobody asks Charles for a match,
for a drink, for charity, for a walk
down the alley to a cheap hotel.

The witch doctor is the one who stops
the hands on all the clocks at midnight.
He’s the one who leaves this place,
and returns to this place, all places being one.
The witch doctor sees little things
that other men don’t see. He reaches out
and flicks a fly from Charles’s nose.
“I too have lost my way,” it sighs.

Charles thinks he knows who he is,
but sometimes he wonders when he shaves,
rasping the razor across his chin’s dry husks.
The witch doctor, his lookalike, his twin,
stares back at him from the bathroom mirror.
Three witches dance on the waning soap dish.
One spins the yarn, one measures the cloth,
one wields the knife, that will one day sever
the thread of all poor creatures born to die.

Oh hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère.

Time

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Time
A Theory of the Absurd

I wonder what I’m doing here, so far from home, sitting
at the bar, with my beer before me, my face distorted
in half a dozen fairground mirrors, surrounded by
people half my age, or less, all smoking, cursing, using
foreign forms of meta-language, gestures I no longer recall:
the single finger on the nose, two fingers on the forehead,
the back of the hand rammed against the chin with a sort
of snort of disapproval. It’s way beyond my bedtime, yet
I am held here, captured, body and soul, by foreign rhythms,
unreal expectations of a daily ritual that runs on unbroken
cycles of time: morning brandy, pre-lunch wine and tapas,
home for the mid-day meal, a brief siesta, back to the café
for a post-prandial raising of spirits, more blanco, then back
to work at four and struggle on until seven or eight when
the bar routine begins again with pre-supper tapas and tinto.
Time, comprehended in this new life-cycle, lacks meaning.
Time, in a cycle I have long abandoned, is absurd as well.