more dang poetry and thinking about that sort of thing

I woke up early thinking about poetry.  It is in the cracks of life that I find my meaning. This is probably why I like accompanying ballet so much, because it is such a small and delicate thing to provide the musical framework for strenuous careful physical poise and activity.

These cracks contain the poetry of life for me. I recall once again a high school teacher who used to pompously proclaim read poetry not the newspaper, more meaning and reality in the former.

Now I read both. And I realize that many people do neither.

Here’s a poem by Elizabeth Alexander,

the poet who wrote a poem for Obama’s inauguration:

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

"Every 'I' is a dramatic 'I'"),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I'm sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

This morning I listened to a podcast of Alexander reading this poem. link to hokey religious radio show I have lately become enamored of)

Later she says this:

“.. my poet self, she’s all intuition. There’s no program. She’s just, you know, doing as Adrienne Rich says, diving into the wreck.

One of my heroes, Adrienne Rich

Her job, again, to quote that great poem from Rich, she says, ‘I want the wreck itself, not the story of the wreck, I want the wreck itself.’ “

Which got me thinking. I think I like “living in the ruins” (reminds me of the title of a great novel by the Southern writer Walker Percy which I quite like)…

I also am all intuition and creative understanding and want the wreck itself.  Here’s a link Rich’s entire poem.  She is someone I have read and admired.

Poetry is my oxygen.  It’s what I find in those cracks I mention above, in the people who are forgotten and even invisible.  I am becoming one of them. Gratefully.


There. I thought I would quote myself. Heh. Well enough of this.

I did some composing yesterday, working on tidying up “Dead Man’s Pants” which I may get finished in time to submit to a composition contest.

Wrote a little melody for today’s beginning ballet class that had to be done in the successive time signatures of 6,5,4,3,2,1,1, in order to fit the combination.

Spent an hour in a church committee meeting.

Then a couple hours of ballet-class-accompanying interrupted in the middle by a class discussion of a dance concert I recently attended.

Very interesting to sit silently in the back and listen to what students have to say about other students’ choreography and dancing. I also watched the teacher closely as she led them through the discussion. As dancers, these students are careful observers of the dance.  They admired the performance but could detect incongruities in it and even speculate about the possible intended ideas of the design of the dances.

They of course know the performers and that helps.

I was struck by the diversity of opinion and understanding as well. From one student who objected to the use of street noise as music for a dance until the second half of the piece involved music to another student who said the dance to the noise was one of her favorites on the program (me, too, I thought silently).

The teacher told me later I was welcome to join in the conversation. I told her I was curious to hear what the students and she had to say at this point.

I didn’t say that I am a fourth of the way into a history of dance and am learning quite a bit. Knowing something of the history of music and literature it is interesting to walk through the same time span from a new point of view that weaves in and out of the familiar.

I have thought about dance most of my creative life, beginning with a little song I wrote years ago. I sometimes say to musicians, “Music is gesture. How can you interrupt a gesture in a performance, an action, just because you played one wrong note or rhythm?”

I realize now that I was assuming a lot about movement, most of it justified but not thought through. Now I am thinking about body and movement.  With the body as instrument, the artist approaches a unity and coherence of human beauty that appeals to me at the most inner core.  It’s where I love music and poetry.

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