with them i live my life

Young man surrounded by books (thumbnail)

I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I now have seven (seven!) books of poetry laying around my comfy chair. I have reading a bit in each one. Poems by Bukowski, Eliot, Mary Oliver, Louise Glück, Adrienne Rich, Ai and Raymond Carver.

Quite a crew. This morning I was struck how so many of them use narrative in their poetry: Bukowski, Carver and Ai especially. Eliot does this to some extent. Vita Nova by Louise Glück which is the book of hers I am currently reading uses mythology as a backdrop for her personal stuff.

Mary Oliver’s book Winter Hours seems to be a meditation in prose and poetry that I am finding very moving and helpful.

Examples from this morning’s reading:

A few years ago I heard a lecture about the Whitney family, especially about Gloria Vanderbilt Whitney, whose patronage established the museum of that name in New York City. The talk was given by Mrs. Whitney’s granddaughter, and she used a fine phrase when speaking of her family—of their sense of “inherited responsibility”—to do, of course, with received wealth and a sense of using it for public good. Ah! Quickly I slipped this phrase from the air and put it into my own pocket!

For it is precisely how I feel, who have inherited not measurable wealth but, as we all do who care for it, that immeasurable fund of thoughts and ideas, from writers and thinkers long gone into the ground—and, inseparable from those wisdoms because demanded by them by them, the responsibility to live thoughtfully and intelligently. To enjoy, to question—never to assume, or trample. Thus the great ones (my great ones, who may not be the same as your great ones) have taught me–to observe with passion, to think with patience, to live always care-ingly.

Here I want to say for me the “great ones” are composers and poets.

Forebears, models, spirits whose influence and teachings I am now inseparable from, and forever grateful for. I go nowhere, I arrive nowhere, without them. With them I live my life, with them I enter the event, I mold the meditation….

Oliver captures the way Bach and others linger in my day to day existence. I’m learning (relearning) a couple of Buxtehude pieces for a week from Sunday. One of them, the Jig Fugue as it is sometimes called, is one I have been playing for years.

I learned it out of the E. Power Biggs bastardized version many years ago. I had very little organ technique then but it has stayed with me all these years.

Yesterday I looked at a better version seriously. I am going to play it from a new edition (probably). At any rate, Buxtehude like Bach like T. S. Eliot and a long list of people are people to whom I am “forever grateful” in Oliver’s phrase. “I go nowhere, I arrive nowhere, without them. With  them I live my life…”

Another of these is Couperin. Here’s a little video I made yesterday of me playing a piece of his chosen at random. I do love his work.

Sorry about the sound.


BBC iPlayer – Drama on 3: Napoleon Rising

This makes perfect sense. Burgess wrote his book in the mold of Beethoven’s third symphony which was written as a tribute to Beethoven (later disavowed when he declared himself emperor).  A radio play allows use of the music that inspired the biography. Cool.




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