poets and jazz bios


Sarah and Lucy landed in England this morning around 8 AM Holland Michigan time. Matthew texted that they home safe and sound by 9 AM. This means both of my daughters and granddaughters Alex and Lucy are now safely back home.

Eileen and I have had a very lazy day. We got up late (me around 8, Eileen more like 10). This is a very good thing since we are both a bit tired from the last couple of weeks.

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I finished reading Donald Hall’s first book of poems after his wife died, Without. I’m not sure what I think about it. The grief in it is palpable and arouses my sympathy. I can’t tell if the poems are any good. In fact, they don’t feel like poetry to me since he rehearses many of the facts around the life and death of Jane Kenyon that I already know. No one poem jumped out at me. I continue my examination of his work after Kenyon’s death and have started reading The Painted Bed.

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This book holds out more promise for better poems. I also have been dipping into Kenyon’s posthumous collection, Otherwise. The book has been sitting on my shelves. I have read in it but not finished it. It’s interesting to read her poems and think about them after Donald Hall has also died.

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Speaking of dead poets, I am reading Leonard Cohen’s The Flame. As I read it I wonder if he is my guilty pleasure. He has written some excellent songs and poems. But many of them are not good. I find that usually I still like them. I’m enjoying this book especially because everything in it is new to me.

Jelly Roll Morton in Washington Webcast | Library of Congress

I stumbled across this last night and watched some it on YouTube. I was very surprised to learn about Szewd’s scholarly work on Jazz. I am eager to see how his bios of Miles Davis and Billy Holiday hold up.

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I have read bios of both of Davis and Holiday and have found them unsatisfactory. Szewd’s work looks promising. The local library owns four of his books and I have put the bio of Miles Davis and Jazz 101 on hold.

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Davis and Holiday are huge presences in my musical world. Both have a bit of larger than life persona that doesn’t always add up. But I do love their music.

Republicans are terrified of the “left-wing mob”: What really scares them is losing | Salon.com

I think of Salon as a bit of an echo chamber source for me. But I am reading more of those these days. I have this bookmarked to read.

Alternative Nobel literature prize goes to Maryse Condé | Books | The Guardian

I follow Tyhimba Jess on Facebook. He put this link up. I don’t know  Maryse Condé , but I think Jess’s work is amazing and if he speaks highly of a writer I’m interested.

Michigan Voter Information Center

When we dropped off Sarah’s absentee ballot, Eileen and I applied for and received our own absentee ballots. If you’re over sixty you don’t need a reason to request one. I thought I would do so to make sure I haven’t been purged from the rolls by the local Republicans. At the above link, I can follow the progress of my vote after I drop it off.

Juan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer | TheHill

I have read Juan Williams’ bio of Thurgood Marshall and like it. However, as a public commentator sometimes he seems too conservative for me.  But his new book looks good. The comments section on the above article flame the hell out of him from the brain dead right. That alone might be enough to make me take another look at what he’s doing.

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a little poetry talk


I’m feeling a little better today. My feet aren’t as swollen. My daughter Sarah did the dishes for me this morning so I didn’t have to stand like I usually do. It’s hard to say why I feel better, but my feet definitely benefited from not having to get up and stand a long time. Yesterday morning I did the dishes for over an hour. Maybe that contributed to not having a great day.

Right now Eileen, Sarah, and Lucy are in downtown Holland shopping. I managed to get over to church before lunch and get stuff ready for tomorrow.

I also dropped by the library and picked up some poetry books by Donald Hall and re-checked out the library copy of Negro Side of the Moon by Early S. Braggs.

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I was reading in my copy of Negro Side of the Moon when I noticed that he didn’t keep the long line format throughout. This aroused my curiosity. Comparing the two versions, I find that Braggs rewrote the first 43 couplets extensively making the lines longer by a few syllables. In these first 43 couplets he tidies up the poetry mostly by omitting words here and there. Then in the 44th couplet the new version is the same as the old one and reverts to the shorter line. So far I have compared couplets 44 through 164 and they are the same. I’m planning to continue reading both books to note what changes he made in the old version. I do think that the rewrite improves the poem some, but not that drastically.

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In his A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety  Donald Hall writes about how his poetry improved at one point late in his life after Jane Kenyon his wife died. He does this in the essay entitled, “Necropoetics.” It occurred to me that at one point I quit reading his poetry. Or at least I quit following his new books of poetry as they came out. I was interested to see if I agree with him, so I rustled up some books by him at the library today.

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I have been reading in Without by him which seems to be poems about his wife’s long illness and death. I’m about half way through. The poems are moving, but I’m not sure how good they are. In his essay, “Necropoetics,” Hall writes “After her death, I was able to assume a diction as potent as Jane’s… In the months and years after her death Jane’s voice and mine rose as one, spiraling together images and dipthongs of the dead who were once the living, our necropoetics of grief and love in the unforgivable absence of flesh.” (p. 146)

What that last sentence is undeniably beautiful, I’m not sure that Hall’s work rose to the level of his wife’s. I had previously concluded that she was a better poet, but that’s just my opinion. I have read more of Hall’s prose than his poems, I guess. I think his prose is pretty good. But I want to investigate to see if his poems really became as good as Jane’s.  The first half of his book, Without, has not convinced me, but I’m still trying to keep an open mind about it. After all, looking for poems I like is something I enjoy doing especially when I find one.

NYTimes: Did Hell Freeze Over? My Republican Dad Is Voting for a Democrat

By Sarah Vowell. I’m a fan of her work.

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