I’m pleased to have my poem “On the Day of the Dead” included in the new issue of Antiphon in both text and audio.
It just didn’t seem fair, the way those experts dissed the catbird on a public radio program I happened upon.
I assume they were correct in saying he’s only a mimic, but isn’t it the case in song that interpreters can matter every bit as much as originators, and quite often surpass the composer in mining the music? How else would you explain, say, Ella Fitzgerald?
So, here’s what I had to say to those opinionated birders, in a poem now appearing in the Winter 2016 issue of WestWard Quarterly (print only).
Those believed to best know birdsong say
and say again the catbird lacks a song of its own
to broadcast from the crest of a winterberry tree.
In some way the critics know nature’s error of orchestration
that leaves this bird only to sample the proper sounds
of the wood thrush the magnolia warbler the red-eyed vireo
even the spring peeper, even your neighbor’s lawnmower.
In some way they know that the catbird’s mews
and whistles and squeaks, nasal moans and throaty
gurgles, count only as illegitimate borrowings from
the walls of sound that delimit his woodland home.
But we lack such certainties and, for the gift of lacking,
we still can make with innocent wonder the critical mistake
of marveling at the catbird’s discredited scatted inventions.
Okay, here’s the story. Early last summer, I was one of 12 participants in noted novelist/poet/activist Marge Piercy’s annual juried poetry intensive. On a day when we were charged with writing a poem using a single extended metaphor, about half of the people in the workshop showed up with freshly-minted sex poems. Sex lends itself to metaphor, after all. I wasn’t a part of that half, but I couldn’t help but write this for the next session. Then my filmmaker friend Ronn Kilby decided to work on it as well . . .
Why not every poem is a sex poem
Some poems are theological, in a biblical sense.
Some are heroic tales of gland-to-gland combat.
Some political poems turn on a joint session of congress.
A poem can be about completing the jigsaw puzzle,
crashing the custard truck, making a magical sandwich,
sharpening a pencil, parallel parking, or exploring a mine shaft.
A poem can be about checking the oil, churning the butter,
Driving Miss Daisy, filling the gas tank, hitting a home run,
jumping the turnstile, planting a parsnip, or disappointing the wife.
You’ll discover many poems about putting bread in the oven,
plowing through the bean field, passing the gravy, whitewashing
the picket fence, peeling the tree bark, or taking Grandma to Applebee’s.
So why did you think sex has to be the thrust of every poem?
I’m happy to have a poem of mine — “After the Diagnosis” — included in the new issue of Touch: The Journal of Healing, along with some compelling work by Elise Hempel, David Anthony Sam, Dianne Silvestri, and others.
Here’s one for the many musicians on my friends list, and for the even greater number of serious music listeners. You want to own a copy of the new multimedia anthology, STORIES OF MUSIC, and you want give it as a gift. I received my contributor’s copies yesterday and can tell you that it is simply gorgeous in every way, from concept to design to content. It is stories, artwork, poetry, and song, all exploring the impact of music in our lives and told on the page and through scannable codes that take you to audio or video renditions. It crosses genres and includes contributions from around the globe. I have nothing to gain from peddling the book here–I was paid a flat fee upfront–but I thought you would want to know about this lovely and unique alternative to the season’s shopping madness.
Here’s the book: https://www.storiesofmusic.com/
And here is my contribution, in text and audio:http://content.yudu.com/htmlReader/…/SOMv1WebEd/reader.html…