First, this from My Poetic Side:
History has been made today, as Bob Dylan has become the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is also the first American to win the award since 1993, when novelist Toni Morrison walked away with it. The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said that Dylan won the award because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”. It may seem like the rules have been somewhat bent for Dylan to win the award, but his lyrics are considered poems, and no one can deny that they are excellent works of literature. The award will be presented on December 10th, which is the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the prize founder. …
We recently conducted some research to determine where the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature originate. If you look at the map, you will be able to get a good understanding of the countries that have had the greatest success.
No, the rules were not “bent” to give Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature; the rules were tossed along with the basic purpose of the Nobel Prizes. Now I like Bob Dylan’s work, but c’mon, he’s a folk singer. Even an aging Carl Sandburg knew better than to accept Dylan’s claim to be a poet.
Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it
This is just the latest slam against legitimate literature. I’m still steamed over North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s careless appointment of a state employee who’d self-published two thin books of poems as the state’s Poet Laureate. After an outraged literary community gave him an earful, McCrory changed his mind by replacing his initial candidate with Shelby Stevenson, a poet deserving of the title.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the Nobel Committee will do an about-face and give the Literature prize to Don DeLillo, Ron Rash, or Cormac McCarthy.
Too many forces are arrayed against the simple act of reading. Click on “Read Story” on many news sites (here, for example) and you get a blaring video that snaps your attention away from the written report.
So the Nobel Prize in Literature, once a sturdy champion of writers and their readers, has turned into yet another pusher of pop culture. Yuck.
Orchestrating Vangelis’ soaring keyboards and Sean Connery’s powerful reading of Cavafy’s poem creates an inspiring and unforgettable experience. Do yourself a favor and listen to it in its entirety. Your challenges will shrink before your eyes.
For a little refresher on the significance of the journey to Ithaca, check out the About section in this review of Robert Fagles’ translation of The Odyssey.
You may recognize Tom Cochrane for his hits “Lunatic Fringe” and “Life is a Highway.” But “White Hot” is my favorite Cochrane song, and this version, featuring Cochrane’s band Red Rider and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, is electrifying. The song is a tribute to French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who abandoned a promising literary career for a life of reckless adventure. Cochrane’s lyrics evoke the thrills and terrors Rimbaud experienced:
Cast out from the jungle
With no rations or canteen
For selling faulty rifles
To the thieves in Tanzania
Adventures and misfortune
Nothing wagered, nothing gained
I have wandered through the desert
Found the ocean not the rain
Rimbaud influenced a number of important writers, including Ezra Pound and Henry Miller. Miller acknowledged his debt to Rimbaud in The Time of the Assassins, which Cochrane read and admired.
Here’s the passage that inspired Cochrane to write the song:
Rimbaud turned from literature to life; I did the reverse. Rimbaud fled from the chimeras he had created; I embraced them. Sobered by the folly and waste of mere experience of life, I halted and converted my energies to creation. …
Rimbaud restored literature to life; I have endeavored to restore life to literature. … With him I have felt an underlying primitive nature which manifests itself in strange ways. Claudel styled Rimbaud “a mystic in the wild state.” Nothing could describe him better. He did not “belong” – not anywhere. I have always had the same feeling about myself. [emphasis mine]
I think Cochrane’s lyrics and melody perfectly capture Miller’s mood and message. The song’s distant, mystical opening lures the listener close, then sweeps him up with a driving melody that arouses stark awareness of the dangers and adventures Rimbaud chased all over the globe. Ezra Pound believed we can recognize worthy poetry by “the play of image, music, and meaning” within it, and “White Hot” definitely qualifies.
That’s great songwriting. No wonder Tom Cochrane’s career has endured over the decades.
Space Squid Magazine has published my story Notes From The Underground as its featured story of the month.
Here’s how I came to write it. While researching an alt history novel I’m working on, I saw a video about Japanese Kamikaze pilots saying good-bye to their loved ones and dedicating their lives to their nation in a solemn ritual before taking off. It was deeply moving to see those young men preparing for death. I could not help but recall Mishima’s Patriotism.
A few days later, I read an Atlantic article entitled How Indie Rock Changed The World. That’s when the scenario and characters came to me. Several of my interests, including music, history, electronics, and writing converged into a gritty, yet hopeful, post-apocalyptic tale. I hope you enjoy it.
“Bill, play full value. Make four beats be a really full four beats. Don’t rush to the end of the bar.” Jerry Garcia to Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann
Here’s an excellent explication of the lyrics of Walk Away, Renee:
The lead singer’s voice and the music are haunting and well-matched. But the song hits the trifecta, because the words are at least as extraordinary as the music and the singing. They are poetry, conveying a tense pull between sorrow and stoicism, yearning and renunciation, regret and acceptance. You don’t believe me?
Read the rest here. I must admit the symbolism and craftsmanship in this song escaped my notice, despite my admiration of the Left Banke.
Frank Stasio of North Carolina public radio interviews David Holt about his upcoming special on the music of western North Carolina. There’s a great slide show accompanying the interview you don’t want to miss.
And don’t forget: David Holt’s State of Music premieres Thursday, January 29. It promises to be a wonderful introduction to mountain music.