2. The sweetness of this photo. I have always thought that for Bob, Suze was the. ONE. That got. Away.
1. Rewriting the definition of sexy to include ninety-three pound readers of Verlaine and Rimbaud.
The last performer I saw in concert in the decade previous to this one was Joan Baez. She was stunning as usual, looking fit and healthy as a sexagenarian who’s devoted over four decades to passionate activism through the sharing of songs and empathic insights.
Her voice still strong and clear as ever. I have always loved her covers of Dylan best. And at times I’ve thought she had nailed it . . even better than Bob could do. Here are Percy’s Song and Love is Just a Four Letter Word.
I can’t remember if she actually sang Percy’s Song, (damn that’s a beauty) since the concert was a few years ago, but I do remember that she did my all time favorite Joan Baez song, the one she’s remembered for composing on the topic of Bob. 😉
Anyway after she finished her first encore, the crowd went as crazy as middle-aged people can go for more and as everyone was clapping and howling, I heard someone shout from a few rows ahead of me: Take it to the Full Moon, Joanie.
And there it was, the one I had been waiting for all night:
OK I’m going to be quiet now. . .and just let you listen to the beauty of this.
And next speaking of tongues, here is one more song with the moon in it.
Rock on! I am done here. xo
A day or so ago, I wrote about the “God” creative writing experiment and mentioned how illuminating it was to listen as my students read their free-writes and spontaneous poetry aloud. And also how it began with one student sort of expressing reticence about speaking his mind because he seemed to fear it would lead to judgement and criticism, but that as he read, he just grew stronger and more grounded in his personal beliefs and was reassured by several other students who more or less shared similar feelings.
I also explained that my next goal was help draw out the shyer students at the back of the class, those who seemed to fear the same thing. The latter pair also struggling to share as well.
I had left the class feeling like I needed to validate where they were coming from as we had spent quite a bit of our discussion time on fears and doubts and breaking free of what many saw as a form of forced faith. . .something that was more or less handed down from generation to generation, strong in traditional adherence to a set of rules that didn’t always resonate.
We were able to establish common ground and caring, looking to core beliefs such as the practice of love and compassion. . .it was the dogma that more or less got in the way of a meeting of the minds.
Some students admitted that while they felt uncomfortable with the inconsistencies and hypocrisy practiced by others of their chosen faith, they themselves were still able to find peace and freedom in another kind of upbringing, one wherein those core beliefs remained the basis for their spiritual existence, and this at times within the same setting that had left so many feeling oppressed and questioning.
And I left class feeling kind of sad for them, as it seemed as if they too were struggling to be heard.
So this motivated me to search for poems to help draw them out a little, maybe explore some ways to write about their own journeys, as these like-minded writers had done.
And so here then is some inspiration and validation for them:
Gerard Manley “Hip” Hopkins, “Spring”
|The Angel that presided ‘oer my birth|
|by William Blake|
The Angel that presided 'oer my birth Said, "Little creature, form'd of Joy and Mirth, "Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth."
direct link to “Every Grain of Sand” in case the above imbedded one malfunctions. 🙂
Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.
Aug, 1964 Hotel DelMonico, New York City:
After much anticipation and excitement, Dylan meets the Beatles for the first time. . .his jealousy over their “bubble gum” success almost palpable. . .
As the story goes, the unwashed phenomenon offers the fab four their first marijuana cigarette and bam, music is changed forever.
At least that is what they say anyway. It was the drugs that did it.
Fine. I will grant you that one in theory. No doubt the sloshing and slowdown of brain function had an impact. . .there’s zero denying that. Love minus zero denying the altered state and how it changes things. And if you want to go to that altar and worship the gods of creativity, you can use drugs to do it. . .
Or you can just let the awkardly emo chips fall where they may.
There is a price to pay for imbibing. . .no denying that either. And speaking strictly for me, I would have to admit that my own delicate physiological state can’t absorb the shock of it so I choose to abstain. . . not out of any kind of moral high ground choice. . .it’s just simply a result of cause, effect and lesson learned. I simply cannot handle the crash that follows a high. It feeds these suicidal tendencies, ones that I already have a hard enough time with, minus any other kind of input from unprescribed chemistry. But there is also a price to pay for sobriety, especially when it comes to friends and fitting in, having something significant to offer in a situation wherein many of the participants are saying things you really can’t relate to. . .
It’s not hip to open that can of worms, I know. And I await the backlash to come. But whatever. (I still say that 40 minutes of meditation does a kickass job at calming the nerves and relieving social anxiety, without the accompanying slowdown of actual awareness followed by a significant chemistry crash and paranoia. And people forget to mention it. ..especially in a culture dominated by a consumer mindset, one that says if you are lacking something, especially charisma, creativity, self-confidence, there’s an app for that.)
Again, you get screwed up for turning it down too. . .you spend a lot of artist time alone for being such a square that way. . . That’s life, I guess.
So anyway, back to the Beatles vs. Bob and August 1964.
And a question for you to ponder. Just suspend your belief system for a minute with me here, and then let go of everything you know about music and drugs. Then consider this question and proposal if you will:
What happens when strong emotional input follows intellectual stimulation, mixed with a bit of jealous venom from the guy who could/would smash the competition in a single strum?
And there is just no denying it. Something happened that day. ..something that had a massive impact on the fab four plus one. So here we go again. ..which one had the most impact that day? The weed or the seed? Maybe a bit of both; you decide.
No doubt it had to hurt the first time the boys heard Bob’s unabashedly sneering parody of Norwegian Wood. . .
Enough for them to have wanted to break free of that kind of scrutiny, looking for the cracks in the floor, lettin the shortcomings slip into them. . .
And what ARE you really saying with your art when all you do is sit in a room and pencil dream about some girl who’s got you by the short and curly:
And then enter Yoko, who was undeservingly designated as breakup scapegoat for a lot of years. . .I guess if you forget about Bob, you might want to grab a club and go after that, but think about it. That moment when Dylan saunters out of the room after having been introduced to the newest Lennon/McCartney collaboration.
Think of it again. Hard. Imagine half of that creative team walking away that much more determined in his resolve to writing “Silly Love Songs,” and the other just feeling crushed and stuck to the bottom of Bob’s bootheel.
And now to drive it home and see if I can get there without anybody getting hurt by this rant. ..(with apologies to Doors fans as well as anybody who has to deal with the insanity of the prison industrial complex, one that punishes us all for just trying to escape this ratrace and make some art. Love to you all. xoxo)
This is your brain on Bob.
Any questions? 😉
Inspiration for mixed media
This new piece began, believe or not, with a series of events set in motion by an initial fascination with Bob Dylan‘s music, a fascination that led to a lot of questions as I began to listen more and more fervently to the lyrics, especially those so heavily laden with metaphor and image, not so much narrative as language poetry, I guess. And I found them mostly in those songs from 1966, songs like “Just Like a Woman,” “Desolation Row” and “Visions of Johnanna.” My questions led to investigation, which took this writer time and time again to Google searches, fine tooth searches that ultimately led to the internet discussion boards. . . places where they have threads with names like “Who is the Jack of Hearts and What Do You Think He’s Doing These Days.”
Here was a place where you could literally log in from home and talk about Bob with insomniacs all over the globe, people who couldn’t fall asleep for those same burning questions that could only be answered by the man himself. ..man of mystery and seclusion, but especially since the incident involving a souvenir-seeking concert-goer, armed with a pair of styling scissors. . . for the rest of us, we guessed the internet would be a place we might find him somehow, perhaps even hiding behind his own persona and avatar. .. as one of us.
Alas, if Bob wasn’t going to give any clues to those inscrutable lyrics, here was a community of strangers that would try and channel them somehow.
And at this point I must also confess I was drawn to the photos as well, photos both showing the innocence of that unwashed moppet face,
and every incarnation of it. ..
from relaxed and happy activist mode to cocaine-addled “I don’t much give a damn mode,”
the one that was launched across an ocean in the act that would eventually be referenced as the electric tour. These performances got him tremendous praise and pummeling from fans and critics alike, some becoming so enraged and crazy they couldn’t decide whether to crown or disembowel him for that tour, especially the English leg. .
Alas I digress but that last sentence is kind of an appropriate segue into the next part of my story, the pinnacle of enlightenment and embarrassment as well as source of numerous neuroses brought on by a secondary obsession, that of posting under a pitiful series of usernames on aforementioned forum, one that, to save further embarrassment. ..shall remain nameless.
At any rate, this was a time of learning a great deal about internet entanglements and much ado about nothing. ..of how the world worked when people hid behind musical usernames and the most flattering of avatars, which made it way too easy to lob a lot of potshots and innuendoes at one another, a sordid seedy underbelly of the poetry and music scene. ..and a place where you meet some of the most interesting people. . .
enraging and engaging one another in various on and off topics, topics involving everything from the intricacies of symbolism and metaphor in music to the unabashed eruditeness of threads entitled “What color is Bob’s underwear?”. . .each of us at home, screaming, spitting and oftentimes flirting with the printed words and photos of our fellow posters, and coffee cups launched across the room with laughter. . . and other kinds of incidents involving tears, humiliation, and the craziest kind of intangible anger imaginable.
It was in this atmosphere of high anxiety and insanity that I met the muse for much of my recent work.
We started off on the most mangled and crazy foot imaginable. . . you might say. . .with myself more or less playing the role of idiot in distress and him looking past the insanity that was me. ..
to defend my honor anonymously against all manner of masked and tyrannical attack. (Admittedly I deserved it though. But will spare this gentle reader the boredom of those details. . .except to say that it was comforting to be defended in such a playfully strange and gallant way, from so far across the ocean, where he sat in his Swedish apartment, consoling with words of encouragement . . .)
We became fast friends in the private message area, where I initially thanked him for the uninvited kindness but also warned that the geography and age difference would prove to be difficult if ever we became too attached.
That all fell away in a matter of days as we more or less became inseperable as chatting companions.
In all my life, I’d never met anyone who could turn a phrase the way he did, (especially in a second language) or make me laugh and react. .finding all the right songs by indie artists I’d never heard of. .. and then passing them across on MSN, both of us blabbering on for hours and hours, me dripping and drooling with interest for his quirky and insightful criticism. . .and him just so happy with the fact that I adored it.
The most challenging thing for us, was the distance part, I guess, and we were able to bridge it a little with incessent chatting and skyping.
He often liked having someone to listen while he practiced playing guitar and singing. . . and I liked having someone to comment on my work in between sets.
Anyway, as relationships go, this whole arrangement just defies definition as again, I am considerably older and then there is the matter of distance. . .and as the days pass and the birthdays go by, I think of every reason I should be ashamed of myself. ..and sigh.
So we just take it a day at a time and I make a lot of art. . .we exchange overseas home-made presents and candy in the mail. . .and it’s lovely to come home to his puffy chartreuse envelopes, postmarked from Sweden. . .
And here, is the latest attempt at reaching out to my dear friend so far across the world. ..a gift inspired by his love of black and white photos, avante garde and bizarre images, horror and Lovecraft, the latter obsession leading to more discord and dismemberment between us than I care to elaborate on, especially when I can’t get past my own insecurities about losing him somehow. .. to the demons that take him away from me. 😉
Can’t forget what happened yesterday
Though my friends say don’t look back
I can feel it coming through me
Like an echo
Like a photograph
Be careful what you wish for, people tell us from the moment we begin to reach and dream, you just might get it. And at times, that kind of warning may even sound like encouragement, ironically, and perhaps that’s where the trouble begins. . .we like the unpredictable uncertainty of longing too. . .the escapist notion of “if only”. . . “as soon as”. . .”at which time”
Somewhere over the rainbow. . .
Way up. . .
I met Terry Pierson a couple of years ago when he showed up in the front row of a Creative Writing class I was teaching at Southwestern Illionis College on the Belleville campus. Strangely and serendipitously enough, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him though.
“Hey, I know you,” I said after taking attendance. ” You are the painter guy from the Joan Baez concert. . . sitting one seat over in the next row. I remember because you had paint on your jacket and a sketchpad. You were also the dark figure following on the sidewalk just past the Metrolink station.”
In the course of that conversation, we agreed that the concert had been a memorable one, each recalling the moment in the encore after hearing one of our fellow concertgoers shout, “Take it to the full moon, Joanie!”
And take it to the moon she did. Continue reading
Lately I guess I’ve been writing a lot about the dark side of art brain, the side we can be reticent to talk about in polite conversation,where even the most well-meaning of friends and close contacts are put upon to come up with immediate solutions and earnest attempts to help you climb out of the well you’ve fallen into. . .
or gloss things over with words of encouragement you’re not quite ready to hear.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but that kind of awkwardness just makes me want to hide like a dying animal. Because I am fairly certain that in a depressed state of mind, I’m about as much fun to be around as a road-kill barracuda. . .
which would be a fitting metaphor if killer fish could swim across asphalt.
At any rate, I digress.
At some point in my self-imposed exile with time off to go and teach, pockets stuffed with diet coke and kleenex for weeping over the current state of readiness for post-secondary education. . ..
At some point after having talked my feet into moving across the bedroom floor to the barnyard. . .I must get back on the horse and try to ride it out somehow. . .
and as I am too poor to own a horse or even a saddle, I’m trying the only kind of sustenance there is (aside from brainwashing and following the teachings of Constantinian Capitalist Jesus, no relation to the actual guy who was closer in his political affiliations to George Thorogood than the other George if you take the time to actually study the man, which most people in this state of mind cannot be bothered with . . .)
when we live at the bottom of the food chain. . .
and that salvation comes from a saturation of the angriest, craziest, anti-establishment sex, drugs, rock and roll blues one can download onto a cd.
And to supplement that activity, and in the interest and respect for the dual nature of humanity, yin and yang, instant karma, etc. ..I have also found these little self-empowerment and law of attraction gems of youtube to be kind of helpful so I’m trying to get back into them. No seriously. There was a time when they were actually helping some. 🙂 (Significantly more than those cozy little end of days numbers put out by “Doing it with Betty.” )
In the meantime, thank God for apples, hay, and Idiot Wind at your back:
So today I begin work on a new painting. There is a clean canvas on the kitchen easel. ..the rubbermaid palette is freshly scrubbed and ready to receive the splats, blobs and sloppiness again. . .the scrapes and dabs and dry spots.
(Gotta love those plastic palettes with a lid and an undersponge. ..as I am a slow study and need to conserve wet paint on an extremely limited part-time instructor budget).
So now what is needed is some water, paint rags and creamed sweet coffee, followed by a plethora of pre-painting google searches: Impressionist technique, abstract art. ..but also pastels and paintings. .. most likely including: Cassatt, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Brancusi, Renoir, and Billy the sidewalk chalk boy.
I also need to fix myself up with some tunage. ..something that will help move the brush across the blank page. ..keep the blood going. . encourage some lame attempts at humming, jumping, and sing-a-long stuff.
I like early Dylan for this. . .assorted blues music including John Lee Hooker and Billie Holliday. . .maybe some Corinne Bailey Rae, who always keeps it upbeat and playful. . . Judy Collins. . .Pogues. . .Fleet Foxes. . .Badly Drawn Boy. . .Iron and Wine. . .
Here’s a favorite Waterboys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VKouBHarIo
I wish I was a fisherman. . .
from “The Electric Significance of Singing the Blues”
Mary Cassatt (taped to my drafting table)