Tag Archives: music

Leonard Cohen’s Final Album (plus Poem)

 

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Fascinating Interview (in The Guardian) with Adam Cohen on completing his father’s final album.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/nov/24/leonard-cohen-adam-thanks-for-the-dance-interview

A poem from the past:

Driving Home with Leonard Cohen

Despite what he says
not everybody knows,
not everybody knows
like Leonard knows.
Not everybody knows
that the best songs
are about loss,
about endings;
about so long
ways to say goodbye
closing time,
and that age
can be laughed about
but not at,
if I had a hat
I would raise it to Mr.Cohen
perched up there alone
in his tower of song.

Limbo Blues (aka Existential Boogie)

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Limbo Blues

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

today I remembered limbo
you can’t stand too far from the track

the first line is about memory
the second is a disconnected fact

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud
Van Morrison does too

today I remembered limbo
Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus

existential boogie
do that existential thing

existential boogie
do that existential thing

you can do it in your armchair
summer, autumn, winter, spring

Good Song Blues

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Good Song Blues

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay

you can travel that distance in a minute
you can travel that distance in a day
but sometimes it takes forever
sometimes you can’t find the way

there’s a distance between a good song
and one that’s just okay.

 

and while I’m here i’d like to give a shout-out to one of my favourite music blogs – Zoolon Hub.  Zoolon is George Blamey-Steeden, a very talented singer, songwriter, guitar player, composer and a witty and engaging blogger. Check out his blog ( for all you guitar players out there, he offers backing tracks to jam to, and for you poets, he will put your poems to music for a very reasonable sum).

Sunshine on Goodge Street (Donovan mash up)

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Sunshine On Goodge Street (Donovan mash-up)

in the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty
a violent hash smoker shook a chocolate machine

and sunshine came softly through my window,
thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I opened my eyes to take a peek.

Yes, I could have tripped out easy
forever to fly, wind velocity nil

but I decided to stay.

(Donovan Phillips Leitch
Superman and Green Lantern
ain’t got nothing on you)

This is a found poem using lines from 5 Donovan songs: Catch the Wind, Sunny Goodge Street, Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow. I’m sure you can figure out which line came from where, but just a note on the second line:

“a violent hash smoker shook a chocolate machine”.

This line is from Sunny Goodge Street and is my favorite Donovan line because of its inherent music –violent, smoker, shook, chocolate, all those o’s, that recurring ‘k’ and the internal rhyme between hash and mash. Say it out loud a couple of times and it will stick in your head!

Sunny Goodge Street appears on Donovan’s second album “Fairytale” and , according to Wikipedia, it “foreshadows the jazzy feel and descriptions of life in urban London that Donovan would continue to explore over the next two years”. There are a few covers out there (Judy Collins and Tom Northcroft), but they are little too earnest and none match the sludgy stoned feel of the original. The recording of the song is almost perfect, except for Harold McNair’s flute solo in the middle which nearly derails the whole thing. Take a listen:

 

Taking part on Open Link Night over at dVerse!

Rhymin’ (Neil) Diamond – the Good, the Bad and the Internal (music on Monday)

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The great Paul Simon once said: “I’d rather be a bucket than a pail”. Ok, maybe he didn’t but perhaps he should have. Anyway, this is not about rhymin’ Simon, this is about rhymin’ Diamond who once said:

I am, I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

Implying that, in a room containing inanimate objects, the object most likely to reply would be a chair. That chair is important, not just because it rhymes with “there”. The chair suggests that Neil is in a room, and there is only one chair (“the chair”), so Neil is most likely lying on a bed and of course he is alone, so alone that he has resorted to talking to the furniture. Without the chair, he could be anywhere, it becomes the focus of his existential crisis. This is a “pop song”,  grab the attention of the audience or they are gone and it has to look easy and that’s hard and he does it through that one detail, the chair.

It has to be said that Neil is perhaps not at the same level as Paul Simon when it comes to poetic, sophisticated lyrics, but he has his moments. Take the first verse of “ Cracklin’ Rosie”:

“Aw, Cracklin’ Rosie, get on board

   We’re gonna ride

   Till there ain’t no more to go

   Taking it slow

   And Lord, don’t you know

   We’ll have me a time with a poor man’s lady

There’s that internal rhyme happening – board, more, Lord, poor -and all those ‘O’s’, fifteen in total! And the assonance in the chorus of

“Cracklin’ Rose,

You’re a store-bought woman”

It goes a bit downhill after that – “you make me sing like a guitar hummin’” – hummin’ and woman – ouch!

But, for my money, Neil’s finest moment when it comes to writing lyrics is in “Sweet Caroline”. The song, admittedly, is not without some absolute groaners:

“Where it began,

I can’t begin to knowin’”

And that’s the first two lines.

Even the chorus, which contains that finest moment is a syntactical nightmare:

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I’ve been inclined,

To believe they never would

Oh, no, no

I have wrestled with this for some time and the best I can come up with is this: ”I’ve been inclined to believe that good times never would never seem so good”. Think about that too long and I guarantee that steam will come out of your ears. But it doesn’t matter, because all that matters is that rhyme between “Sweet Caroline” and “I’ve been inclined”. He could have gone for “fine”, “wine”, “mine” etc but there is something about “inclined” that is so unexpected, so colloquial, so conversational. It surprises every time you hear it. And of course, the acid test of any chorus is how well it does in a pub or bar late in the evening and everyone is a little hammered and some skinny guy on acoustic guitar hauls out “Sweet Caroline” and everyone is just waiting to belt out that chorus and I guarantee you that the volume will perceptibly increase when they reach that line and everyone takes just a little credit for recognising how clever it is.

 

 

Sgt. Pepper Mashup (Art, pop and found poetry)

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Sgt. Pepper Mashup (a found poem)

Made passively tolerant by LSD, he was happy to sit back
endlessly recombining like some insoluble chemical compound
all he really wanted was the cyclic cloud drift of his verse.

The song never relinquishes this staccato dominant
played by Harrison on his Stratocaster with treble-heavy settings
making the most of McCartney’s rich ninth’s and elevenths –
a brilliantly whimsical expression of period burlesque.

It is impossible to conduct a revolution without picking a side
like a comic brass fob watch suspended from a floral waistcoat
objectivity is illusory and all creativity inescapably self –referential.

The track is whipped to a climax by a coruscating pseudo-Indian guitar solo.
Lennon grinned sardonically, as he walked past Aspinall,
requesting from Martin a sound like the end of the world.

 

I have always felt that found poetry is a form of theft. Yet, here I am with my first found poem. It all started with listening to the remastered copy of Sgt.Pepper, ( a vast improvement on the snap, crackle and pop of my old vinyl version) and in particular, the guitar solo in “Fixing a Hole”. Paul McCartney played lead guitar on a number of tracks on the album, but the style of playing on the solo sounded more like George Harrison. So, I consulted the bible – “Revolution in the Head”, by Ian MacDonald, a track by track analysis of 241 Beatle tracks and essential to any Beatles nerd. Yes, it is George’s solo!
I read a couple of other track analyses and found myself enjoying MacDonald’s writing style, a number of phrases jumped out from the page and the idea of a found poem formed. The result is the above poem. It has, believe it or not, a structure: each line is a direct quote from an analysis of an individual Sgt. Pepper track, and the lines are sequenced in the same order as the tracks appear on the album.
Buy Ian MacDonald’s book, you won’t be disappointed and I will feel better about stealing his stuff.

The subject over at dVerse is Pop Art, I can’t think of anything more pop art than Sgt. Pepper from the cover to the content (the Beatles turned pop into an art form) plus found poetry is a form of collage, so I thought I would link this one!

 

 

Fracking Song

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Fracking Song

You’re standing on the corner
Watching the trucks roll past
Pumping out their diesel fumes
Pumping out that carbon gas

And it’s the middle of winter
And it’s twenty below
And that gas just sits there
With nowhere to go

There’s something wrong in the valley
Babies stillborn
Ten in one year
And they call that the norm

There’s something wrong in the valley
Poison in the ground
Something wrong in the valley
Since the frackers came to town.

 

The challenge over at dVerse is to write a poem consisting of 4 quatrains. This is a song lyric adapted to that form.

 

Listening to Carlos Santana in Kitsilano Gym (quadrille)

 

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Listening to Carlos Santana in Kitsilano Gym.

listening to Carlos Santana
in Kitsilano Gym,
his guitar solos
leading always
to that existential wail
on the top fret
above the cutaway
takes me back to Asbury Park
walking along the boardwalk
having watched Woodstock
my head an unsustainable mix
of idealism, hedonism.

 

This is a response to Quadrille #82 – Fretboard of Poetry, the prompt from Kim at dVerse, which is to use the word fret in a 44-word poem that does not require meter or rhyme.

 

Saturday Morning in Idabel (Sunday Morning Coming Down)

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Saturday Morning in Idabel

There’s a dead armadillo
On the side of the road
Empty beer can in his claws
That joke just never gets old

There’s a dog on the shoulder
Trying to bite his own tail
I’m in the motel parking lot
Watching that dog fail

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go.

Down at the Piggly Wiggly
There’s no one in the aisles
No one at the check-out counter
Hasn’t been for a while

There’s a big box store sitting
Out of town, someplace
People are moving towards it
Like it came from outer space

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go

And Cookie he is worried
His wife’s leg has turned black
He’s got a concealed weapon’s license
A shotgun and a rack

And he has no idea
How he’ll pay the hospital bill
He says: guns never hurt nobody
only people kill

And I can’t remember
When I ever felt this low
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
Saturday morning in Idabel
And I ain’t got no place to go

 

Amaya, over at dVerse has asked for a poem about or based on a song to which we have a strong emotional connection. The above piece is a song lyric I wrote thinking of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. I used to travel in my work, and I got stuck in strange towns and cities on Sunday mornings quite a lot. Being away from my family was a depressing experience at times and Kris Kristofferson’s song lyrics resonated. On the upside, being stuck in Idabel, Oklahoma, generated a poem, and a song lyric which my friend, John Mitchell wrote music for, (I have previously posted about that process).

 

 

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
That’s half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleepin’ city sidewalk
And Sunday mornin’ comin’ down”

Little Richard (a quadrille)

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(the prompt from Kim over at dVerse is to write a quadrille -44 word poem- using the word “rich”)

Little Richard

Richard Penniman
Little Richard
not just any man
a pioneer of rock and roll
twelve bars and no holds barred
and all about that one thing:
Molly likes to ball
Sally has everything that Uncle John needs
Sue knows just what to do
a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom.

 

 

 

A Lai for Bob

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A Lai for Bob 

adenoidal snarl
it’s about a girl

mostly

but sometimes, the world
and how it turns, or

maybe

it’s a frantic swirl
of images, words

let fly

with venom and spite
an angry prophet

raging

but he’s more than that:
clown, joker, poet,

snide sage

in a feathered hat
an imp at sunset

dancing.

 

( a few notes on the form – each verse in a lai has nine lines arranged in groups of three; each group contains a couplet of 5 syllable lines and a single 2 syllable line; the rhyming pattern is aab aab aab; each verse can have different end rhymes but the pattern must be the same, for example…ccd ccd etc. I have been a bit loose with what constitutes a rhyme , so this poem is sort of lai-based, but I have tried to maintain consistency in terms of vowels and/or consonants.
For more detailed discussion on the form, check out here )

Participating in Open Link Night over at dVerse.

So Long, Halong (Poem)

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So Long, Halong

As we ride out of Cat Ba

through a valley circled

by limestone crags,

a compilation of pop ballads

 

from the seventies and eighties

oozes from the speakers

and the affable English backpackers

at the back of the bus

 

groan in faux horror

as Aerosmith follows Bryan Adams

follows George Michaels

follows Michael Jackson

 

but when the Bee Gees launch

“How Deep Is Your Love”

the backpackers quieten down

and the driver stops honking his horn

 

at the dogs, children, women

in cone hats and cyclists

with finely balanced cargos

who drift carelessly

 

in front of the bus

as if it was an invisible

visitor from the future,

and we all strain against

 

the tug of the song’s chorus

far too cool to sing along

except for one backpacker

let’s call him Nigel

 

or Christian, or Jason, or Justin

who, in a high piping voice

declares his oneness

with the song’s embattled lovers.

 

This poem was first published in Oddball Magazine, and is a re-post from 2016. Participating in Open Link Night over at dVerse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Jazz 2 (of ruba’i and rubaiyats)

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Free Jazz 2

The saxophonist taps his foot
the trumpet player palms his mute
they sound like elephants mating
when they play free, when they play loose.

The drummer puts on his jazz face
eyes closed in ecstasy, lips pursed,
they dance on the edge of chaos
when they blow free, when they play loose.

 

So this another entry in response to the dVerse challenge to write a ruba’i or rubaiyat. For a description of the form , check out Frank Hubeny’s post here.

The two quatrains (which makes it a rubaiyat) have an AABA CCDC rhyming scheme, although I have avoided straight rhymes and relied on some sonic connection between the end words.

After a month of sonnets and now this, I’m getting a bit rhymed out. I’ve also been working on shoehorning another song lyric into sonnet form on the basis that sonnet means “little song”. It’s not working. I think it’s time to return to the relative chaos of free verse.

 

 

Listening to U2 in Kitsilano Gym (Poem)

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The Edge

the Edge is a painter
he’s all about the brush strokes
a splash of metal here
a splash of funk there
an acoustic wash
a chopped abstract rhythm
on top of bass and drums
yes he can make it
cry or sing
but that’s not his thing
that’s not his thing
and if a one note solo is enough
a one note solo is enough.

Savannah (a sonnet)

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Savannah

Rotund tourists wander the street below
drinking lukewarm beer out of plastic cups
and watching the Savannah river flow,
and Chuck’s in a corner playing guitar
for the plaid shorts and polo shirts, standing
in all their pastel glory at the bar.
Karla is on her fourth mojito, and
trying hard to catch his eye, as he segues
from Kentucky Woman to Fire and Rain;
joining the chorus , she stands on her chair
chugs back the remains of her mojito
and drunkenly punches the empty air.
Time, time is a disappearing muse
in time, in time, you feel every wound.

 

I’m participating in the month long sonnet challenge over at dVerse. This is my second attempt, the first can be found here. This one has an ABACDCEFEGG rhyming scheme. I wrote it after reading Jilly’s excellent dVerse post on enjambment.

The poem revisits content from two poems that were published in Cyphers magazine and a song lyric I wrote. The song lyric had a different rhyme scheme, shorter lines, a chorus, and of course more room to play (there’s always room for an extra verse).

Not sure how well this works, but it was fun trying.

 

The Beautiful Game (The Lads’ Poetry Project 2 )

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It’s Open Link night over at dVerse, so I thought I would link this post from a few days ago, mainly because the subject matter of the poem – sport and the level of discourse associated with it – is somewhat neglected in the world of poetry. When you read the poem you may conclude that that is actually a good thing.

The Beautiful Game

Me and the lads are warming up
for our Sunday morning kickabout,
the weather’s not so good:
a black cloud loiters over head
spitting occasionally;
there’s a chill in the air.
Not that we care.
We are here for that moment of magic:
those three short passes
that raise life above the ordinary.
It’s all going well.
We’re stretching, squatting
sprinting, jogging, popping
Esther and Abi*
when up steps Paul
all sanctimonious-like
and starts to rattle on
about how this is a family park
and we should watch our language
and surely we can play a game of football
without accusing each other of onanism.
The lads are confused, gobsmacked even.
My face adopts an expression
which would later be described as quizzical
Onanism, I inquire,
what on earth is that wanker talking about?

 

*Esther and Abi (Ofarim): rhyming slang for ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory. Esther and Abi Ofarim, an Israeli singing duo, had a hit with “Cinderella Rockefella” in 1968.