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Category Archives: poetry

If the doors of perception were cleansed…


“Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through anyone that suits you,” said Jim Morrison. The layers of meaning in Morrison’s poetic song lyrics have been examined for almost four decades. Many of the analysis attempt a literal interpretation and some open “all doors” and “walk through anyone that suits” them.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite,” said poet  William Blake. This inspired the writer Aldous Huxley’s book title The Doors of Perception which in turn led Jim Morrison to name his band The Doors.

Morrison died under mysterious circumstances at the age of twenty-seven and the doors to his personality and his lyrics (and even to the cause of his death) continue to be opened four decades later. I’m mostly interested in Jim Morrison, the poet. So, I’ve initiated this journey of discovery by looking at what he had to say about himself as an artist and about poetry.

“I see myself as an intelligent, sensitive human, with the soul of a clown which forces me to blow it at the most important moments,” are lines that resonate with me and provide a glimpse into who he was. As an artist myself, I also understand his philosophy “If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel. I like people who shake other people up and make them feel uncomfortable.”

I don’t know what I’ll find as I open more doors to Morrison and to his poetry but it promises to be an adventure.

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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in 60s music, art, lyrics, poetry, song, sound

 

It’s just the wasted years so close behind…


The melancholy in Lou Reed’s Sunday Morning is accentuated by the melody and the mellow sounds of the instruments, which include ringing of bells.

Reed’s lyrical style was informed by the French poet Charles Baudelaire, the Beat Generation writers, and many other poets. As I see it, this poem is transformed into a song simply by the repetition of a few lines, the tone of voice, and the inclusion of a few musical sounds. The lyrics retain the emotional textures that the poem lays out for examination.

Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning and I’m falling
I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning
Sunday morning
Sunday morning

When I first came across Reed’s band Velvet Underground, in the 80s, I thought of them as an art-punk sound. I’ve heard various classifications since then, ranging from rock to punk to avant-garde (the band’s manager was Andy Warhol). Regardless of how he might be categorized, one thing is certain. Lou Reed’s songs are an artful combination of poetry and experimental sound that influenced many future generation of poets. “The nature of [Reed’s] lyric writing had been hitherto unknown in rock…he supplied us with the street and the landscape, and we peopled it,” David Bowie.

 

Tom’s Diner


In the 80s Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner was a popular song. Except that it was more of a poem than a song. The only instrument she uses is her voice and she doesn’t exactly “sing” but narrates a story via the poem. She doesn’t “read” the poem either. Her voice blurs the line between singing and reciting.

So, unknowingly, millions of people heard and appreciated a poem while they thought they were listening to a song.

The world is overflowing with song and music. Yet, poetry remains a mystery to many and has not entered the popular conscience in the United States.

Since April is national poetry month, I am exploring the boundaries between poetry and music.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in 80s Alternative, poetry, song

 

Lie to me


The hypnotic beat compels me to move my body… I’m listening to the music on the commuter train through my iPhone headset so I’m not free to dance right now.  But I feel my body relax and a smile spreads across my face. These lyrics from my youth remind me of the explorations of romance which were often filled with missteps and yes, perhaps even lies… Depeche Mode’s lyrics resonated with the uncertainties fueled by the restlessness of our youth… their beat encouraged us to enjoy our youthful vibrancy…

Come on and lay with me
Come on and lie to me
Tell me you love me
Say I’m the only one…

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in 80s Alternative, dance, lyrics, poetry, song

 

Why can’t I be you…


“Why can’t I be you…” moans a familiar voice through the speakers… I recognize the lyrics, the notes, the tones… It’s from an album I bought in the late 80’s or maybe the early 90s.

“Is it The Cure” I ask the store clerk, a 20-something who responds with a big grin “Yes, I love them!!”

The song reminds me of my own youth. I lived in a house with three roommates, and all of us had met because of music. We had bonded on the basis of knowing the lyrics of songs like “Lips like Sugar” (Echo and the Bunnymen), “Your own personal Jesus” (Depeche Mode), “I Know It’s over” (The Smiths), and “Boys don’t Cry” (The Cure). One of our roommates, Bill, was a singer/songwriter in a band. When he told us the title of his new song “Diet Christ”, he didn’t need to explain to any of us what it was about.

I recall my rebellion against the cliched emotions of pop songs and my attraction to the poetry in the lyrics of alternative bands. I think of my friends who shared the existential angst that penetrated our souls and the upbeat irony in the music that moved our bodies.

Today, in a store on Valencia Street in San Francisco, music connects me to my youth in Boston…


 
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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in lyrics, poetry, sound

 

Good Radiation


Surprised at the sound coming from the radio, I do a double take. Yes, my radio is tuned to 88.5, to KQED, which is the NPR station in San Francisco. I hear the name Terry Gross and know for sure that I am at the right station.

I smile and listen to the song and am very pleased by what I hear.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in lyrics, poetry, rap, song

 

Poetry, Story, & Music


As a teenager, I was drawn to the Talking Heads and The Cold (a local punk rock band in New Orleans).

I enjoyed the poetic vibrancy of Talking Heads lyrics:

They pick the sound and let it drop
Nobody know what they’re talking about…

Their unpredictable and unique beats elicited unique movements of the body. I felt free and happy letting my body interpret the music without any feedback from my mind…

The Cold told stories with their songs:

So now you’re starring in a show
You’re up there on the stage
I’m down here in the crowd.
You make your entrance and the dialogue begins
But all I hear are your words…

And the fast pace of the music was a perfect match for the teenager energy that my friends and I brought to the small nightclubs where the band played. We’d sing the songs along with the band and dance and jump and shake our heads vigorously as our hair cascaded back and forth and side to side.

Ahhh… to feel music, to feel it in our bones… it was the best therapy for our raging hormones…

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2011 in dance, poetry