Saturday Song: Cleopatra and the Lumineers

I’ve liked the Lumineers for some time now, and my son Micah got me listening to their brilliant new album, Cleopatra. When music and poetry come this close together, how can I not fall in love? And it’s just a gorgeous thing when a real-life conversation in a taxi can turn into a work of art that moves other souls who listen.

“If we’re lucky, and we listen, the song is gonna tell ya what it wants.” I’ve said this about the way I write poetry. It’s important to listen.

And a bonus, just because I can’t stop listening to them today:

Release Party on June 17th

It’s official, the relaunch of Word Fountain is under way! Friday, June 17th will be the party date at our home base, the Osterhout Free Library on South Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The time will be at 7:00 pm. We will have several contributors there at the event to read from the new issue. There will also be some delicious snacks and beverages on hand, so please set it on your calendar app and come join us.

Learn more about Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library by clicking on the link and checking out WordFountain.net

Source: Release Party on June 17th

Poetry Month Then and Now

English: Signature of Shel Silverstein.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night Rebecca, George, Magda and a small group of library patrons celebrated National Poetry Month by gathering in the reading room at the Osterhout Free Library for Wilkes-Barre’s first Third Friday Art Walk of the season.  Patrons stopped in, some to watch and listen between checking out the historic photographs and paintings on the wall, and some to spend a little time reading with us. The majority of the poems were from books of children’s poetry. We had everything from A. A. Milne and Shel Silverstein to Robert Lois Stevenson and Sherman Alexi.

Next month we’ll be celebrating the release of the new Word Fountain literary magazine, which has been on hiatus for the last two years. Recently some other new library employees agreed to join me in editing a relaunch. The submission deadline was April 1st, and we had no idea how many submissions we would get. Thanks to Duotrope adding us to their database, and promotion through the library and sites like NEPA Scene and Poets of NEPA, we were overwhelmed by the response! So if you submitted and haven’t heard from us yet, we’re down to making the difficult, last-minute decisions, so you’ll hear from us soon.

line art drawing of catbird.

The Catbird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before going back to finish up Word Fountain though, I’ll be taking this week off to spend time with one of my best friends in the world, as fellow poet and member of the original triumvirate who led the old GayFatherhood.com website, Vincent Creelan comes to visit from Northern Ireland. We’ll be trekking through the woods, looking for birds and geologic rock formations, drinking wine and reading poems together. So, I know I’ll return back to you refreshed for next week.

And while gathering things like binoculars and field guides today, as I do a bit of house-cleaning in preparation for Vince’s arrival, I thought of a poem about birds that I wish I had shared with the group at the library last night. By this point in my life I could probably recite this poem by memory, but here is a video of me reading the poem in King Street Park, Northumberland as my family was celebrating National Poetry Month about this time four years ago. We don’t always gather in local parks with sidewalk chalk, poetry books and a guitar, but when we do, we certainly get the neighborhood’s attention. Then again, they probably just think, ‘Oh, it’s that weird Bauman family again. They’re always doing stuff like that. Bunch of hippies.’

The Kitty-Cat Bird

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he sat on a Fence.
Said the Wren, your Song isn’t worth 10 cents.
You’re a Fake, you’re a Fraud, you’re a Hor-rid Pretense!
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’ve too many Tunes, and none of them Good:
I wish you would act like a bird really should,
Or stay by yourself down deep in the wood,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Kat Bird.

You Mew like a Cat, you grate like a Jay:
You squeak like a Mouse that’s lost in the Hay,
I wouldn’t be You for even a day,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he moped and he cried.
Then a real cat came with a Mouth so Wide,
That the Kitty-Cat Bird just hopped inside;
–Did the Kitty –the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’d better not laugh; and don’t say “Pooh!”
Until you have thought this Sad Tale through;
Be sure that whatever you are is you
–Or you’ll end like the Kitty-Cat Bird.

Theodore Roethke

Music Monday with Simon and Garfunkle’s America

I was just 7 days shy of turning 7 months old when Simon and Garfunkle released the album Bookends in 1968. The third cut from that album is one whose harmonies and key changes has haunted me in such beautiful ways my whole life. If you’ve ever traveled cross-country in a bus, this song will take you back. But even if I you haven’t–how do I explain it? Well, the music does it for you. It takes you on the journey; you’ll swear you were on the bus.

1968 was before the age of music videos, but you didn’t need a video with a song like this. It was written so well you conjured it up in great detail in your head.  And the lyrics blend so artfully into the music, as good music should. You can’t help feel nostalgic. It’s even one of those songs in which I think the lyrics could stand on their own. But at this point, nearly half a century of radio time later, how you could ever read the lyrics without singing them? And likewise, how could you hear the music without singing along. That’s a hallmark of a good classic folk song.

I’ll include the lyrics below the video, and I will include another video below that, along with a link to a new blog I’ve been writing on this week. Yes, I have been working on some new poetry, and I read a little of it at my reading at Priestley Chapel last Sunday, but the new blog isn’t a poetry blog. In times like these it’s hard for a poet to not get political, even in primaries where opponents are, usually in many respects, at least ideally on the same side of the issues.

I’ve been slow to share the other blog here, not because I’m worried about people disagreeing with me on an already niche-poetry-site–after all, artists are often activists–but because some of my dearest friends either plan to, or have already voted for the other candidate, and I do not want anyone I care about to think that I am disrespecting them or their rights to vote their conscience. So, please, if Bernie Sanders is not your candidate, I respect that, and won’t feel slighted in the least if you chose not to follow the links. But if you support him, or are curious about whether you should, I’d be grateful if you clicked and checked out The Case for Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders, as you will see from the videos below, is who has got me thinking of this song “America.”

“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And walked off to look for America

“Kathy,” I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw
I’ve come to look for America”

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, thought I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

And the New York version:

The Case for Bernie Sanders

Keeping the Sabbath with Emily Dickinson, 236

Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Emily Dickinson’s “Chorister,” the Bobolink (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Sunday to you. And if I haven’t said it already, happy National Poetry Month from the Northeast of these United (sort of) States.

At last the April snows appear to be over here. It’s sunny, but with that brisk chill that somehow returns me to childhood, not for any particular memory or event, but the emotion associated with tactile memory. The taste on the breeze, of cool moisture on a spring morning, the warmth of sun contrasting with cold air on my skin.

I sat on my back steps in my bathrobe, waiting for my coffee to be ready. Through my pantry window I had seen Mamma Robin again, and it made me think of a new poem by my friend Joel. So I had to go out and see her in person, her rufus breast puffed out, the feathers on her head peaking up just a bit; she was not going to be intimidated by my presence, and soon seemed to accept my company as another fact of the morning. This was the first time this year I had noticed actual dew drops sparkling in the grass, dew drops, not frost.

A american robin bird

American Robin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It always comes back around, doesn’t it? If you wait out the winter, keep going, sometimes pushing through snow, hibernating when you can. It always comes back around. There were other birds in nearby yards, the House Sparrow landing on the eves of the house next door, the coo of a Mourning Dove, but sadly no Bobolink. Ah, Miss Emily. We do what we can with what we have. I nodded good morning to Mamma Robin and returned inside for my coffee.

I found this video this morning, and the date for its creation is the last day of February of this year. From the stark beauty of the bare trees, and the patches of remaining snow in the shade, as well as those winding roads, it feels like home in the hills of Central Pennsylvania. I even remember being a crazy youngster, walking in my bare feet in the cold woods like this.

The memory of what YouTube used to be to some of us. Yeah, that’s probably part of the nostalgia I feel in watching this simple video. Back when it was a group of creative upstarts with microphones and cheap cameras, back before it became corporate-tube. Yeah, some of you might remember. It’s lovely to find something like this is still being done.

I was once a believer in deity, but I have come to be a believer in people instead. I think it makes more sense, and is certainly no more dangerous. But I confess, I’ve always loved this poem by Emily Dickinson, number 236 as it is cataloged. Though she did not entitle her pieces, we generally find them easier to sort through by their first lines. If a touch of glossary helps: *Sexton  *Surplice.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – (236)

By Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

From The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by R.W. Franklin (Harvard University press, 1999)