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Month: April, 2014

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Freddy Mercury‏


the poetic dramatic monologue, which finds
its popular source in Shakespeare, though
they are essentially introspective there,
philosophical rather than strictly narrative,
making them nevertheless, in a play, by
definition, dramatic, rightful claimants
still to that name, and which was
institutionalized as a poetic form by
Robert Browning later in the XlXth Century,
by upending the Shakespearean mode,
turning poems into plays instead of plays
into poems, makes its way into the XXth
Century, probably mostly unobtrusively,
no one really particularly notices, but
powerfully culturally nonetheless when
applied to, for instance, music, which is
to say poetry, of course, with notes

here’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”*, an abridged
version, as sung by Rose Osang Fostanes,
delivering a classic dramatic monologue

here’s Freddy Mercury’s complete version,
with a Greek chorus supplying oracular
even feedback

Richard

* Bohemian Rhapsody

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn’t mean to make you cry,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh (anyway the wind blows),
I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico.

I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me.
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Oh, yeah, oh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Anyway the wind blows.

Freddy Mercury

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“My City” – Christine Fichtner‏


at the end of her blog Christine Fichtner writes,

A fun Friday challenge by OM to describe any
city in less than 1 000 words.”

this is what she writes

” The endless rain of cars upon the streets lends a droning noise to the excited bustle of crowds that pace the streets in furious waves of cell phones and music players. Conversations you did not need to hear and lyrics you shouldn’t even be able to hear.

Up and down and across the buses loop with black coughs. At even intervals, as trains arrive with squeals as painful as aching joints, and the ground rumbles in a mockery of the earthquake that has been on its way for the last fifty years.

Around, buildings tower with promising winks and glassy eyes. Mirrors of desire. Coffee warms the hands of most who browse the streets.

Trees grow within their cages, trimmed and perfected. Blossoming in spring and illuminated in winter. They line the streets like ornamental filters. People flick their cigarette butts in appreciation.

An overpriced food truck. The same free newspaper you avoided two blocks back. No, you don’t have any spare change. You jaywalk a one way street. A car stops for you.

Every once in a while the sun deigns the city worthy of an appearance. But most days the skies mimic the cold cement, and cry for good measure. Ever followers, clothing of black and grey greet the eye like the dense fog that has been around all week.

Hard paths line the water, just beyond the shore. Bike bells and pounding steps followed by the scent of sweat. The occasional seal greets from afar, soon chased away by a ship’s horn. Gritty sand is cool in the shadow of the logs that line the beaches. Hills of grass and a spattering of trees give a semblance of privacy.

Every few months, fireworks cheer, costumes parade the streets. And sometimes birthday suits on two wheels flash past amongst cheering laughs.

Languages hum to each other. Every corner, a new one. Pointing fingers, flashing cameras, and large buses driving just a bit too slowly through the winding, illogical streets.

Yellow, red, black, signs lit, meters already running, slowing past bus stops and huffing when no one moves, speeding off for better luck elsewhere. Of course when you call, there are none available.

Because when night falls, the buses retreat and the alcohol pours and the police are unyielding with their sirens and dooming slips of paper. Stumbling from the bars and clubs, money scattered throughout the night, the cabs are there to collect the rest.

The scent of cuisines as you walk towards the water. Never the same one twice. Except for sushi.

Clothing sales as you move towards the pounding heart of traffic lights and beeping cars. Malls of stale air and clashing stores. Further away, niche boutiques and trendy wear eat away at your bank statement.

You avoid the east. The used needles that sleep beside someone who is not all there at the moment. The transactions that take mere seconds, switching hands as fast as they greet each other. And after dark, the knives that flash.

The buildings sigh downwards as you move north. Trees overtake the ground. Houses coexist among them, each with pet plants growing, well manicured and obedient. Here you hear the children playing, the dogs barking. Occasionally the complaint of a hungry cat.

Vehicles grunt their way up the steep roads. Colourful shoes flash as joggers and cyclists challenge the slopes. Up and up, until the forests swell, ripe with bird calls, dainty hooves, and snuffling snouts.

And the mountains overlook with the fondness as the city spreads like competing children. At the buildings that covet the watery view and the bright colours of the sun’s extremes.

As light fades, the clouds, in a rare moment of kindness, may choose to reveal the sky’s solemn sentries that dot the darkness in a slow, rotating guard. The city lights glimmer like a dying fire’s embers. It’s warm, and if you could, you would reach out and touch it. ”

______________

“I decided to describe my city, Vancouver.”,
she later explains, though by that time I’d
entirely, of course, got it, it should, I think,
be Vancouver’s official poem, right up there
with Chicago’s Chicago

bravo Christine

Richard

“Ambush at Five O’clock” – Stephen Dunn‏


from the New Yorker, February 3, 2014

Ambush at Five O’clock

We were by the hedge that separates our properties
when I asked our neighbors about their souls.
I said it with a smile, the way one asks such a thing.
They were somewhat like us, I thought, more
than middle-aged, less dull than most.
Yet they seemed to have no interest
in disputation, our favorite game,
or any of the great national pastimes
like gossip and stories of misfortunes
about people they disliked.

In spite of these differences, kindred
was a word we often felt and used.
The man was shy, though came to life
when he spotted an uncommon bird,
and the woman lively, sometimes even funny
about barometer readings and sudden dips
in pressure, the general state of things.
We liked their affection for each other
and for dogs. We went to their house;
they came to ours.

After I asked about their souls
they laughed and stumbled towards an answer,
then gave up, turned the question back
to me. And because I felt mine always was
in jeopardy I said it went to the movies
and hasn’t been seen since. I said gobbledy
and I said gook. I found myself needing
to fool around, avoid, stay away from myself.

But my wife said her soul suffered from neglect,
that she herself was often neglectful
of important things, but so was I.
Then she started to cry. What’s the matter? I asked.
What brought this on? She didn’t answer.
I felt ambushed, publicly insensitive
about something, whatever it was.

It was a dusky five o’clock, that time
in between one thing and another.
Our neighbors retreated to their home,
but the women returned
and without a word put her arms
around my wife as if a woman weeping
indicated something already understood
among women, that needn’t be voiced.
They held each other, rocked back and forth,

and I thought Jesus Christ, am I guilty again
of one of those small errors
I’ve repeated until it became large?
what about me? I thought. What about
the sadness of being stupid?
Why doesn’t her husband return
with maybe a beer and a knowing nod?

Stephen Dunn

____________

poetry is a conversation, of course, a poet
has with all the other poets who’ve come
before him, her, here Dunn is evidently
channelling Robert Browning, “This is
my last Duchess”,
Browning writes,
“painted on the wall / Looking as though
she were alive.”,
from his My Last
Duchess
“,
a poem I’ve never forgotten,
wherein the speaker discusses the
portrait of his earlier wife, one he’d
summarily purportedly got rid of

Robert Browning had learned his craft,
the dramatic monologue, from, of course,
Shakespeare, down to even its dramatic
content

Elizabeth meanwhile had been inspired
rather by Shakespeare’s sonnets, by his
thee, thy, thine, and thou’s

in Dunn the Browningian drama is
significantly less dour, nobody out and
out dies, though the dilemma is never
not existential, however less morally
compromised, less psychologically
and tragically fraught

neither does Dunn rhyme

but that just sends us back to Homer
of course, less epic, more, maybe,
middle class, very, and distinctively,
XXlst Century

but that’s how you read between the
lines, the verses, in this case, and
thus across the centuries

poetry is a conversation

Richard

Rose “Osang” Fontanes‏

forget the Eiffel Tower, an antiquated
relic, you’ll want to know about Rose
“Osang” Fostanes, a Philippino woman
of 46 who now lives in Tel Aviv, she
works there as a caregiver cause she
likes to take care of old people, how
can you not give her a chance

she never had time, she says, for
romantic love, I say, who’d o’
thunk it

here she is auditioning

this is what happens next

be inspired

bring Kleenex

Richard

psst: it gets better every time
you put her on

“Reciprocity” – Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel prize
in Literature in 1996, here is one of her
poems, translated from the Polish by
Clare Cavanagh

Richard

_______________

from the New Yorker, February 3, 2014

Reciprocity

There are catalogues of catalogues.
There are poems about poems.
There are plays about actors played by actors.
Letters due to letters.
Words used to clarify words.
Brains occupied with studying brains.
There are griefs as infectious as laughter.
Papers emerging from waste papers.
Seen glances.
Conditions conditioned by the conditional.
Large rivers with major contributions from small ones.
Forests grown over and above by forests.
Machines designed to make machines.
Dreams that wake us suddenly from dreams.
Health needed for regaining health.
Stairs leading as much up as down.
Glasses for finding glasses.
Inspiration born of expiration.
And even if only from time to time
hatred of hatred.
All in all,
ignorance of ignorance
and hands employed to wash hands.

Wislawa Szymborska

a message, and an angel, of hope

there is so much more about music
than just music

thought I’d share

just click

Richard

psst: here’s some, equally inspirational,
background, just click

Beethoven, piano sonata no 15, opus 28‏


Beethoven’s piano sonata no 15, opus 28,
the Pastorale, is all about nature,
efflervescence and spring, one of my very
favourites, I call it his Johnny Appleseed
Sonata

in this instance, something I’ve never
experienced before, Tomoki Sakata made
me feel as though I were his instrument,
responding to his fingers, something
entirely transcendental, but with
rushes running up my spine

Classical music indeed

watch

if you dare

Richard

the question of genitalia in art‏

"Nudes"- Walter Battiss

Nudes

Walter Battiss

_______

genitalia, of course, had become overt,
even flagrant, by the start of the 20th
Century, the many reclining Venuses,
the Olympias, had led to Courbet‘s still
notorious The Origin of the World
open, I warn you, at your own risk –
and by 1911 Egon Schiele in Vienna
had exhibited his self-portrait
masturbating
, entitled, appropriately,
Masturbation – open again at your
own risk, though once again the work
is brilliant

I have ceded to courtesy and proprieties
in not reproducing here these potentially
offensive renderings, though modesty at
this point doesn’t stand a chance, the
world is determinedly uninhibited, fig
leaves are a thing of the very remote
indeed past

but I’ll tell of my mom and I, partners
in unflappable artistic appreciation,
visiting the Leopold Museum in Vienna
and having never even heard of Schiele,
whose work is supremely represented
there

moments after our arrival and turning
innocently a corner, we came upon one
of his overt pudenda
brazenly exposed,
I hadn’t ever experienced such stuff,
and there was nowhere in the stark
white hall to hide

my mom stood beside me not saying
a word, nor expecting me to comment
this time, what do you say about an
unadorned vagina anyway, I ask, even
one admirably exposed, to anyone,
never mind to your mom

we cleared our throats, probably
harrumphed, and discreetly moved
along

later we saw some of his more
conservative piece
s, idiosyncratic
and marvellous, and had to revise
our impressions, declare Schiele
categorically glowing, a master
at his art, and eventually a very
favourite, right up there with the
equally sublime Courbet, man,
can these guys colour

though I still prefer to view their
pubic stuff, however publicly,
on my own

Richard

“Adam and Eve” – Lucas Cranach the Elder

Cranach Adam Eve

Adam and Eve (1596)

Lucas Cranach the Elder

____________

from The New Yorker, January 27, 2014

Adam and Eve” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

She seems a mere girl really,
small-breasted and slim,
her body luminescent
next to Adam, who scratches
his head in mild perplexity,
So many baubles hang
from the tree
it didn’t hurt to pick one.
The snake is a quicksilver curve
on a branch she is almost
young enough to swing from.

The garden bores her anyway:
no weedy chaos among
the flowers and vegetables;
the animals so tame
you can hardly tell the lamb
from the lion, the doe from the stag
whose antlers outline Adam’s modesty.
She is like that teen-age girl
who wandered from the mall last week
not to be seen again, the world before her
glittering and perilous.

Linda Pastan

______________

yesterday on a mission to buy socks,
finally – I had only a pair left and one
of those with a hole in it – I wondered
about clothes, why hadn’t we evolved
fur or feathers or, heaven forbid,
scales, like all other creatures,
without exception

cherry trees were in blossom, birds
sang along my path, despite an
inoffensive drizzle as I went along

perhaps, I thought, by standing erect
our private parts were too much in
evidence for even indiscriminate
Nature to bear, though apes in all
their varieties walk on two legs and
seem to cavort happily, indeed
lasciviously, though ever
unsheathed, I objected, everywhere

the only difference I could muster
between us and them was that we’d
eaten from the Tree of Knowledge,
the fruit, apparently, of our
apocalyptic decadence, while they’d
never had ever an Eve, nor, for that
matter, an, equally complicit, note,
Adam, no matter what the, mostly
male, elders might say

therefore apes gambol in their
Garden of Eden still, as you can
see in the Cranach above, serenely
uncontrite, while we buy socks in
the jungle next door, and berate,
burdened, our bedevilled lubricities,
what’s under those strategically
positioned, and obliterating, leaves

Tree of Knowledge indeed

Richard

psst: from the Courtauld Gallery in
London, more on Cranach’s
painting
, just click