japonisme: 10/11/09 - 10/18/09

15 October 2009

waltz, tango, quickstep, rumba, cha-cha, mambo, samba, swing

...The only change in the creative process I've seen with the dance poems comes with the luxury of writing within a framework -- each dance has a distinct feel, an embedded cadence that will suggest a certain shape or silhouette on the page.... "Fox Trot Fridays" was the first in the group; it wrote itself rather quickly.

After that felicitous birth, I imagined writing a poem about each type of ballroom dance -- waltz, tango, quickstep, rumba, cha-cha, mambo, samba, swing, even paso doble. And then, of course, I couldn't write a word, because I was trying to write about dance, not get inside the dance.

When I began to appreciate the technical intricacies of each style -- not just the pattern "quick- quick with a / heel-ball-toe" but the rise upon tiptoe that occurs between the slow count and the first quick in fox-trot, for example, or the gradual lowering from tiptoe that one executes in the second half of the third beat in the waltz -- only then did "American Smooth" [her most recent book] start to shimmer into being.

My scaffolding was to provide a humble description of the dance technique -- what each part of the body should be doing, measured out precisely, without emotion -- in the hopes of finding the poem's true desire, to achieve flight of consciousness, a lifting of the spirit as well as of the human form. 1


(after Anthony 'Spoons' Plough)

I learned the spoons from
my grandfather, who was blind.

Every day he'd go into the woods
'cause that was his thing.
He met all kinds of creatures,
birds and squirrels,
and while he was feeding them
he'd play the spoons,
and after they finished
they'd stay and listen.

When I go into Philly
on a Saturday night,
I don't need nothing but
my spoons and the music.
Laid out on my knees
they look so quiet,
but when I pick them up
I can play to anything:
a dripping faucet,
a tambourine,
fish shining in a creek.

A funny thing:
When my grandfather died,
every creature sang.
And when the men went out
to get him, they kept singing.
They sung for two days,
all the birds, all the animals.
That's when I left the South.

Rita Dove

© 1999 Rita Dove from On the Bus With Rosa Parks pub Norton

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13 October 2009

meow • (halloween suite)


A black cat among roses,
Phlox, lilac-misted under a first-quarter moon,
The sweet smells of heliotrope
and night-scented stock.

The garden is very still,
It is dazed with moonlight,
Contented with perfume,
Dreaming the opium dreams of its folded poppies.

Firefly lights open and vanish
High as the tip buds
of the golden glow
Low as the sweet alyssum
flowers at my feet.
Moon-shimmer on
leaves and trellises,
Moon-spikes shafting
through the snow ball bush.

Only the little faces of the ladies’ delight are alert and staring,
Only the cat, padding between the roses,
Shakes a branch and breaks
the chequered pattern
As water is broken by the falling of a leaf.

Then you come,
And you are quiet like the garden,
And white
like the alyssum flowers,
And beautiful as the silent sparks of the fireflies.

Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies?
They knew my mother,
But who belonging to me will they know
When I am gone.

Amy Lowell

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12 October 2009

for Indigenous Peoples Day


Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you're wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you've chased across America's movie screens
Now that you're wondering how can it be real
That the ones you've called colorful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda
They starve in their splendor
You've asked for my comment I simply will render

My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Now that the longhouses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions
You forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe, then stress
That the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best
And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country's birth
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed
How a nation of patriots returned to their earth
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud Over Kinzua mud
And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year

My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Hear how the bargain was made for the West
With her shivering children in zero degrees
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed
And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt it's better this way
And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled
From the Gran Canyon's caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale
From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean

My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we're lacking in thanks
For the blessings of civilization you've brought us
The lessons you've taught us, the ruin you've wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America's brought us

My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we're harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life's to be known as your "heritage"
Now that even the graves have been robbed
Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you've never seen
That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest, stole their eggs, changed their story
The mockingbird sings it, it's all that he knows
"Ah what can I do?" say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can't you see that their poverty's profiting you

My country 'tis of thy people you're dying

Buffy Sainte-Marie on Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger (Episode 38)

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