Spoon River Gossip Column

How, as a poet, I didn’t know about Spoon River Anthology is beyond me. I just recently found out about the marvelous poems of Edgar Lee Masters by chance as I was listening to a back issue of Poetry Off the Shelf.    It had been 100 years since it had first been published, and the book, despite being somewhat dated in stories, has never gone out of print. Now talk about staying power.

I fell in love with the tragic poems recited in the podcast, but it was once I started reading them that it really became the good stuff. Sitting down and flipping through the Kindle version ( I now know I must get a hardback copy) I felt my heart start to race and the just utter shock at the stories hit me like I was reading a gossip column about the trials of all of Hollywood.  I sit there and I want to share this titillating story with my mother.  “Did you hear?” is running through the back of my head as I read one more snippet of scandal. The horrors, humor, and tragedy just make my heart start to pound and I am flipping the next page (the crackle of a newspaper is nearly at hand!) and I’m on to the next salacious story.

Back when my mother was in Jr. High, (I believe) my aunt did a skit of sorts reading three poems from Spoon River. Lucinda Matlock, Yee Bow, and Elsa Wertman were those recited. Years later, meaning just a few weeks ago, I was telling my mother all about finding Spoon River Anthology and falling in love with it, and her first thing she said to me was, “Why does that sound so familiar?”  I explained the premise and boom, she was back remembering hearing her sister recite the poems. After I downloaded the ebook, she flipped through it, page after page and found those three poems and said those were the ones she remembered here. Boom, and email from my aunt confirmed it. Clearly the poems have such staying power as to stick in the head of a 14 year old girl, who is now much older.

I can totally understand the appeal of such poems, done in such a loose, informal way, that there is no actual meter or rhyming scheme, because the stories themselves talk of life in such a way that you can relate, even if the poems and situations were written one hundred plus years ago. There is till rape, racism, hate, greed, sloth, longing, adultery, pure love, long lasting love, commitment, abortion, murder…… All of our sins are spilled out for us to ooh and ahh over, with no thought that we are just like them. Written in such a way that you eagerly turn to the next story.

I think every high school drama class should perform a rendition of Spoon River Anthology. Take and mix it up with each class. Heck, I would do it in a heartbeat. If I could stand out there and recite a story that has such meaning and emotion embodied in so few words. Heartbreaking and entertaining, I highly recommend Spoon River Anthology for anyone interested in learning about poetry and having it almost completely understandable. And if you enjoy People magazine, well even better. The gossip rags have nothing on Spoon River’s drama.

If you are looking for a free copy, Project Gutenberg has one, as the copy write is out of date, but personally while I downloaded that one, I like the Kindle Dover Thrift Edition.

Kate

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Music Videos Are More Fun Sometimes – Day 6

Sometimes it is the music video that I love almost more than the song itself. Or sometimes the video is what gets me to like the song better. It does depend sometimes, as the video can make me not like the song. Case in point, I love “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez, and the video is really creative, but parts of it irk me enough that I probably will avoid the video if I can help it.

Here is a random sampling of music videos I love as much as the song, or vise versa.

Song, violins, 50+ girls playing violins…Train. It’s all good.

Nick Jonas isn’t one of my more favorite artists, but this song is killer.

The original “You Don’t Own Me” by Leslie Gore is a classic woman’s empowerment song.   The new version by Grace featuring G-Eazy is exceptionally sexy.

Fun’s ‘Carry On’ is cool because of that underground subway-esque restaurant.

Maroon 5, What can I say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this band. This song, well, it goes without saying that I love this song, and video, and surprise wedding receptions.

Mumford & Sons is my second band, and when “I Will Wait” came out, fans just screamed. Me included. It didn’t hurt that it was filmed at Red Rocks, my ultimate place to see a concert.

I could go on. The Piano Guys have some of the best videos ever. I love sexy Enrique Iglesias  songs. Oooh, Pitbul! His are fun. Oh, and before I go, I’m going to leave you with one of the best videos I ever saw. It’s probably still a favorite being that it’s a Paul Simon song. Chevy Chase makes it perfect. Yes, I am a child of the 80s. Try and tell me this isn’t a great song and video though. Just try.

So, what are some of your favorite music videos and songs? Share. I’m always on the lookout.

Kate

All Because Of Billie – Day 5

English: Portrait of Billie Holiday in Down Be...

English: Portrait of Billie Holiday in Down Beat magazine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had Billie Holiday’s ‘Love Songs’ on my shelf for several years before I actually fell in love with her. It took several years of listening to other artists of a more modern era before I could fully appreciate Ms. Holiday’s tunes. Things like Diana Krall and Norah Jones. Ella Fitzgerald and various other 40s and 50s -esque tunes.

Then it was reading, and in this case, re-reading Emilie Loring‘s “original” books which all took place pre 1950s, to suddenly need to hear music that was from the time period I was reading about. Billie Holiday was never mentioned in an Emilie Loring book. I’m not sure it was her kind of music since she seemed to stick to much more classically inclined music. (I’m currently reading The Trail of Conflict, published in 1922 and the song repeated a couple times is “Papillions” by Schumann) Which is fine, but I do like non classical things and Billie Holiday seems like ‘the thing’ I would have listened to in the era she was most popular.

Now, well now that she has filtered into my repertoire, I can’t help but put her on regularly, again, much to my family’s dismay. To Dinah, who has commented on my first post about Jazz, I totally agree, Billie is probably my first love with jazz, not counting those two songs mentioned in the post. I love her husky wavering voice and oh, it just makes me want to start moving around the room.  “You Go To My Head” is my all time favorite of hers,  though “Me, Myself, and I” are a close second……. Oh Heck! I love the whole gosh darn album. I love Billie Holiday.

So, if you want a very snazzy introduction to just some of the best jazz, listen to Billie Holiday. You just won’t be disappointed. “You go to my head like a sip of sparkling Burgundy brew……”

Kate

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John Denver Ruled My Childhood – Day 4

In more ways than one. I still think the first music or John Denver’s I listened to was either his Rocky Mountain Christmas (my favorite) or his Some Days Are Diamonds album. I didn’t get around to his greatest hits until I hit my late teens, which was odd because my father had both of his Greatest Hits albums. And by albums, I do mean vinyl records. I actually love that I’m from a generation that still knew what records meant. The poor kiddie saps of today who think everything is digital.

I’ve posted plenty of times about John Denver, probably because he has had a pretty big impact on my music listening life. My father was a huge JD fan; I think he actually did see him in concert once, and I’m too lazy to go downstairs and ask Mr. B if that is correct, so let’s assume it is. It’s much more fun to think that he did see him in concert. Something I wish I could have. (I have never been to a concert. It’s on my list of things I want to do.)

But I’ve always known about John Denver, mostly because of the two Christmas albums we listened to without fail every year. It’s tradition to turn on his Christmas Like a Lullaby album, which my sister loves more than the Rocky Mountain Christmas, which I adore. There’s something about that 70s and 80s vibe that takes me back in time to when I was a child, but without actually having to go through the time period as an adult. There are things that the music brings back to me that I really can’t explain other than a deja vu moment.

As for all his other music, well, it’s probably the most calming music I’ve ever listened to and probably know by heart. I can sing a few bars of almost every song of his, with a few exceptions.

And I have a list of general favorites that I know almost all of the lyrics. Aspenglow is probably one of my all time favorites these days. It’s Christmas without actually stating it’s Christmas, not to mention that it is THE song of December for me that takes me back to being about 5.  Gravel on the Road (the message in the song), Sunshine on My Shoulders, Some Days Are Diamonds, The Cowboy and the Lady, Thank God I’m A Country Boy, Starwood, Leaving on a Jet Plane, and Take Me Home, Country Roads. There are probably lots more, but those are particular favorites.

His music has influenced my love of folk and a specific type of country music you don’t hear much these days. It’s the music that makes me feel solemn but also comfortable. He’s mocked by many and loved by many. You have to be a specific type of person to love John Denver, but his music has spanned the decades. I might be old school, but I’m glad my life has been filled with the music of John Denver.

So, thoughts? Have you been a Denver fan or do you mock him? Listen to him? Love him?

Kate

Scoring Myself – Day 3

While  yesterday was all about musicals, today is about the scores and soundtracks from films. One of the best things about films is the music used. Some scores make the film so magical that you just have to have the score for later on to listen to. Soundtracks come a very close second, or maybe you just need both, but many times the score is what gets me most. I can list composers that I just adore; Alan Silvestri, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore, and Alexandre Desplat to name just a few.

I have several film scores that are just tres magnifique, in my opinion. Disney scores, with the soundtracks are just perfect. I actually would love if you could get a double feature of soundtrack and score most of the time. Best scores in my opinion as of right now are, The Holiday, Harry Potter (all are perfect especially the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them), just about anything Disney, the new King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and You’ve Got Mail. I’m blanking if there are others. I mean, every John Williams score is unbelievable, same with Alan Silvestri and Hans Zimmer. I mean, there are very few of those three that I can think of as bad.

Soundtracks, now those, I could list so many of those. My family has quite a few soundtracks that have filled up our musical life. The best ones are where the whole song list is wonderful. Of course, Disney tops the list. Others, well, okay, I could make an incredibly long list, but I won’t. Here’s a handful.  Serendipity, The Parent Trap (newer version), You’ve Got Mail, Chicago, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music (see, all those musicals too) Morning Glory, just to name a few.

So what score/soundtracks do you like best?

Kate

Musicals are for Girls? – Day 2

My Fair Lady (film)

My Fair Lady (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I put that title in a question as I know most girls like musicals, but really they are for anyone. I was talking to a man a while ago and he spit out something from My Fair Lady. So no, it’s not just for girls, but I’d say, on the whole, there are very few girls/women who don’t know one musical….. or more, and can sing something out from them.

Disney is to blame for me loving musicals, and there will be another whole post on Disney tunes, later this month. But when you start at age 2 seeing your first musical, they kind of just ingratiate themselves into your life. I actually didn’t see My Fair Lady until I was in my late teens, which is honestly just a shame. If I had a daughter, I would have had her see it when she was about 6 or so. Maybe not, it’s a long film.

From Singing in the Rain to Grease, Moulin Rouge, Mama Mia, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera (which falls under the heading of opera as well) White Christmas, The Sound of Music, The Music Man…. and that’s just to name a few of the ones I know I’ve seen. I know, it’s a small list. But musicals have shaped my music life. Out of nowhere I can break into song from any one of those… Grease came out the other night for some reason or other. Not sure why.

My Fair Lady is probably the most ‘quoted’ sung musical in my repertoire, though Chicago’s Cell Block Tango spits out a lot when we are talking about things dying… or murder. Trust me, anything with a really catchy tune will stick in my head. Murder just makes it a bit more fun, especially when you can get all emphatic and nearly spit out “he had it coming….”

I’m not sure what it is in particular that make musicals a necessity in my life, but there is something about a song that is telling a story that ingratiates itself into your head and you find yourself pulling it up and blurting it out, usually at the top of your voice, at the most random moments. I actually find plenty of moments to do it and the joke around my house is “oh gosh now that song is stuck in my head!” (to which the reply is, “I can fix that, want something worse?” Trust me, there is always something worse. We have two backup standby ‘worse’ songs that get pulled up all the time. Natasha Bedingfield’s “I Got A Pocketful of Sunshine” and Bill Nighy singing “Christmas Is All Around” from Love Actually…. You’re welcome! )

There are lots more other musicals I’ve yet to see (and by see, I mean film) but my list is growing. The ‘Mikado’ is first on the list, since my mother can sing several songs from that and I’ve yet to actually listen to one…

West Side Story, South Pacific, Les Miserables, and I just pulled up the Wikipedia article and realized I’ve seen a heck of a lot more than I thought, and there is a LOT more I want to see….. Here, List of Musical Films by Year  Start having fun with that list…

Yes, musicals have definitely shaped my musical life.

So what are some of your favorite musicals of all time?

Kate

 

The Miles Spin Round And Round – Day 1

Especially as a writer…

I fell in love with jazz long before I probably even knew I liked jazz. Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and probably other classic big band artists from the 30s through the 60s that I didn’t even realize that I liked the genre. But I still remember that first time I heard Miles Davis.

At the very end of Runaway Bride (a tragic romcom that really needed help in so many ways), Richard Gere’s character puts on a Miles Davis record and the film ends with the very sweet “It Never Entered My Mind .” Ever since then I have been hooked. To this day that is still my favorite jazz song that I have used as inspiration for scenes in a short story as well as my go to romantic song. I love the song so much that I could probably wax poetic about it. (get to 6:02 on the clip below and the song plays. Of course you could listen to any other recording as well)

After that one groundbreaking moment, I slowly started paying attention to jazz music

The Harvey Specter wall of vinyl records.

that was the sweet mellow kind. What I call the Miles kind of jazz. My next song to the collection wouldn’t come for another several years when I heard Count Basie’s “Li’l Darlin'” on an episode of In Plain Sight. Again it was one of those earth shattering moments that you remember.  ( my father still remembers the day he heard “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks on the radio years ago. I have been wracking my brains for songs that hit me the same way and I just now remembered as I wrote this post.) Those two jazz songs will probably go down as pure bliss with only one more so far as to coming close and that was watching an episode of Suits and Chet Baker’s song “Green in Blue” was played. It took me a few years to find that one because it was never listed in the show’s credits. Suits has actually contributed quite a lot to my jazz experience.

 

Jazz and Miles Davis, and other greats I’ve only just delved into, have played a huge part in my writing life, more so than even my family would ever realize. I started a story several years ago with the Miles Davis song as a key feature. Jazz has taken a part in much of my poetry, from being mentioned by titles, to just a vague references that maybe I am the only one that gets.

Currently Miles Davis’ “Nature Boy”, Chet Baker’s “Almost Blue”, and Luke Christopher’s “Roses” (which is a remix of Errol Garner’s “I’m In the Mood For Love) have all played  huge parts in poetry, or large poems, as of late. Not to mention the music relaxes me like no one’s business.

My family is dismayed and flabbergasted that I put on jazz whenever I get the chance, not realizing that I’m not only enjoying it, but finding the songs that really speak to me. I would say Miles Davis and Chet Baker are my current favorites, though I have delved into Charlie Parker, Horace Silver, and the Branford Marsalis Quartet falling in love with several. I would like a selection of jazz that runs the gamut and is much larger than  it currently is, from new to old.

And lastly I’ll mention that I find jazz incredibly romantic, sexy even depending on the style. It is a genre that gets mocked by those that don’t understand it, which as a poet, I’ve come to expect. Maybe that’s why I like it, because I am a poet, and you know, a lot of poets like jazz. Maybe there’s something to it..

So, dear readers, who among us likes jazz? What kind? Got any recommendations? I am all ears.

Kate

My Musical Life in 31 Days

I’m going to attempt to write a post a day for the month of October, detailing my fascination and love of music.

Music is second only in my life to writing/reading (I group reading and writing together). In fact, I think music has enhanced my writing and reading life, which is what I hope to explain more as the month will go on. From how jazz has influenced my poetry, to how country songs convey romance and heartbreak. The poetry of music has played (no pun intended) a huge part in my writing life.

My parents introduced music into my life from the first I can remember. We were always asking for Mom to turn the radio on (me at about 2) when we were in the car. Records went on the minute my father was out the door and off to work in the morning. Music was part of being a Christian, from hymns at church to Christian children’s records as I was growing up.

I grew up when records and vinyl records were still in fashion despite compact discs becoming more popular. I listened to records at my grandparents when they would babysit. The old records that were my father’s and uncles’. I first learned about Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and that glorious woman in the whipped cream dress from my grandparents. How scandalous at the age of 6. I mean, she was a well endowed woman in a whipped cream dress!

Stereos and boomboxes of the 90s became my introduction into what I thought was pop music, but turned out to be late 70s classics and early 80s light rock. (Light Rock Less Talk, Sunny102 FM….. ah yes, I knew my station well. Right out of California’s central valley). These also made it possible for my first mix-tapes. Which eventually led to mix cds and now to mp3 playlists.

The delayed love of boy bands, slowly finding myself and what I really liked, mp3 players and online music. I have lived my life full of music. To this day I still consume music, always hunting for new things and having current fascinations that take me off on a tangent of styles. The rap years (which were few) the jazz period (current that has flabbergasted my family), the pop years, which have continued depending on how good the summer pop season is. If I had my druthers, I’d have music on all day long. My family would go nuts, but I would if I owned my own house. A perpetual shuffled playlist that went all day, yes, I would be quite happy with that.

So for the 31 days of October, you will get to live my life of music. I hope you enjoy, and I would love to have people’s (reader’s) likes and dislikes. Comment up the wazoo. On this post, on any post. Heck, every post. What kind of music do you like?

Kate

 

Comfort Zones

Photo by Owen CL on Unsplash

Just the other day I was off to see one of my doctors, a three hour drive away. Now I love this doctor. he is a dream, he is so sweet, nice, good at what he does, good looking…. married. <– Total bummer.

Anyways, one think that I have found over the years is I need comfort zones and surprisingly, I don’t need much to put me in it. For the doctor’s visit, all I needed was one of my favorite shirts, a necklace and a pair of earrings. That was it! Granted, my metal crow feather necklace is pretty unique and I use it lots of Saturdays when I write. It’s kind of my statement piece of jewelry. My earrings were my ‘silver’ square columns that are about  two inches long and a quarter of an inch wide. They have heft. They are cool. They are not silver despite ebay saying they were, but I love them anyhow. They give me comfort.

I have comfort books too. Those books you know you need to take with you even if you don’t ever plan to read it, but you know you could pick it up in a flash and you are okay. For me it’s my paperback copy of Here Comes the Sun by Emilie Loring (there Patty, I’ve mentioned EL after a dry spell of not bringing her up at all!) That book will always make my life more relaxed. Sometimes I put it in my purse (it’s more of a bag) even if I have another book or two in there just because I want that comfort zone. I know, weird, but I always take too many books with me, especially to doctor’s visits. This last week I took three books and my kindle… which has a ton of books on it.

Another comfort author is Janet Dailey’s Americana series. The books are short ish and I have almost the entire paperback collection.

I have comfort zones in my house. Sitting on the couch on the front porch, being in the blueberry plants, my chair at the kitchen table that can be pushed back to sit over the wall heater in the winter.  I have comfort clothes; that perfect pair of jeans, certain shirts, a purse I love, even socks! Gotta have a comfy pair of socks.

I gravitate towards turquoises and coral pinks for my comfort colors. Colors are a huge comfort zone thing that most people don’t even realize they have. First off, did you know that your eye color is going to determine your comfort color? Most people with aqua colored eyes, will pick that tone, or variations of that tone and wear it, or want to decorate with it. Same for blue eyes, hazel, brown. Take a look at what you would pick in an instant as your comfort color. I bet it’s close to your eye color.

Music is a huge part of comfort zones for me. There are songs that I can always turn on and just sink right into it. I keep a lot of those on my mp3 player for when I go somewhere and need a pick me up. Currently Miles Davis’ ‘Nature Boy’ has become a huge favorite. But I have had all kinds of comfort zones.

I think even in our writing we step into a comfort zone at times when we just need to write. I ramble and make short fragment statements, puttering with word sounds and rhymes or assonance. Or is it alliteration? One or the other. It just happens. I the we default back to comfort zones and what makes us feel ‘grounded’ more often than not.

I’m curious what other people find to be comfort zones. Do you have clothes you just have to wear every time you go somewhere? My friend Dona in the writing group always wears her Jane Austen ring (reproduction) and her owl earrings. I try to always have a certain pen. Some people need a specific water bottle when they go out.

What is your comfort zone? And do you need it to write?

Even the picture I used for this post is a comfort zone. Leaves in the early fall when they days are still warm but are changing…. oh yeah, the entire fall is a comfort zone.

Kate

Truths About How Hard Writing Is

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Hello, dearies. Sorry, this blog has been a bit bleak this summer. It’s been rather chaotic and I have spent more time writing in my notebook than writing online. (my book review company, BookLookBloggers) finally said, that’s it, you do not have an account with us because you are not blogging or reviewing enough…. My bad.

So I have been focusing on writing my poetry for weeks now; months. I had read that Ada Limon needed just a few more poems for her new book. I can’t say when it was that I read that. Somewhere on her Twitter account a while ago, and I totally get that feeling. I have a 62-page manuscript right now, and technically that’s all I have to have for the publication that I plan to submit to, but I’m not stopping. I feel like once I started focusing solely on poetry, the floodgates opened for the most part.

Poetry doesn’t always come. I struggle sometimes with getting anything out and when I go to my writing group sometimes I sit there for 45 minutes while everyone else is writing and at the end I have maybe started or dabbled in something but the response is “I got nothing.” I have weird blocks where I have all these ideas and I start an idea, or ten, but it never goes anywhere. Recently I had something in my head about being in a western bar and I was just kind of blanked out on that. Partly because I don’t go to western bars. I stay in at night. Drinking coffee.

But last night one of our new breweries was having live music and I have been meaning to get up and have a pint, so I went up. It was technically a total waste of my time because the music wasn’t clear enough to hear, though the tunes were good, and the brewer’s own brew was out….. And I only visited with people in my parent’s age… Pardon the complaining… But the blip of time I was there drinking a porter gave me a few lines to get me over the hump of what I’m writing. It was good research even if that wasn’t the reason I had gone. Sometimes it’s the funniest things that help switch the storyline.

I have a story I started writing a couple of years ago about kid friends who meet later on in life and it was a struggle to get anywhere with it till I had a dream last year that changed the whole narrative. Now it’s actually got a place to go.

I was reading an article last night; The 8 Hard Truths All Aspiring Writer’s Must Accept Despite The Pain. One paragraph explained how we chisel out and poke, prod and eek out the right line, the best sentence, the perfect way to say something. Poetry for me is that. I sit there sometimes and I’ll write a line and go, okay, this isn’t bad, but after reading it over and over you know it just isn’t right.

I wrote a poem in regards to Jack Kerouac the other day and I was really happy with it, but one line kept irking me and I couldn’t figure out why. In the line

‘Lost boy, did all the stars fall down and burn out?’ where the word fall is, I had the word come and it was nice, but it wasn’t just the right thing. Why such a simple word change makes a difference I don’t know, but it does. This is where I get why other poets say trimming the fat on poetry is hard. You have so little to work with that it really is a challenge and a struggle. Does it come more easy to me? Sure, but that doesn’t make writing poetry easy.

I have taken to writing longer narrative type poems, introducing a character that is the writer for the poem, not me, and seriously, one poem takes the oomph out of me for days. It takes days to write it, but afterwards, I’m kind of wandering around feeling like I have run a marathon. Sometimes I only write one poem a week.

This writing thing comes easy to me, but it’s still hard. If that is one thing I could tell nonwriters it’s that. You may think being a writer is glamorous, and there are times when you get an accolade from a friend or colleague and it’s a nice boost, but all those other times when you are in the dark, pounding, scribbling, or fighting to get it out it’s gosh darn hard. Would I give it up? No, but sometimes I wonder where my sanity lies and I wonder if I will ever make it.

Everyone says I will, but that self-doubt… well it’s a doozy.

Read the article, because it’s pretty cool in its succinctness.

Kate

 

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