Friday, March 14, 2003

I'm listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African vocal group most famous for singing with Paul Simon on his "Graceland" album. I think this song, "Ujesu Wami," will be on my second library mix CD. It's quite captivating.

After saving and listening to it a few times I've deleted "Weird Al" Yankovik's parody of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". I like the farm animal sounds but Yankovik's lyrics are just a tease about how the original's lyrics are difficult to understand. The song sounds good because the Nirvana song sounds good. I included Weird Al's "One More Minute" on my last library mix CD and I still like to hear him say he's going to jump into a swimming pool full of double-edged razor blades.

I've been discovering great stuff on CDs from Arhoolie Records and Shanachie. Yes, I'll admit some disturbance in my conscience about not paying for this stuff. In a new book of essays Aram Saroyan, notorious among the anti-NEA set for getting a grant on the basis of his poem "lighght" (that's the whole poem), grumps that maybe writers would have an easier time of it if they got a snippet of royalty every time one of their books was checked out of a library. In an interview with Acoustic Guitar magazine Pete Seeger says he portions out the earnings from his songs to those who had some part in creating them: "All around the world, songs are being written that use old public domain material, and I think it's only fair that some of the money from the songs go to the country or place of origin, even though the composer may be long dead or unknown. That's why 50 percent of [Seeger's earnings for] the story-song 'Abiyoyo' is going to South Africa, because 'Abiyoyo' is an old lullaby."

Now Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" is playing. Bluesy crooning. Sweet melancholy song. "Just because I'm in misery, I don't beg for sympathy. But if it's not asking too much, please send me someone to love." Yeah, man, I been there.

I just learned that CMJ, the magazine that keeps me up with the music of today, charges to put a song on its sampler CD. $3000? Oh. I find this disappointing. I thought the music was a result of editorial choices. I guess I really have to listen to college radio if I'm going to hear the college radio sound. I don't like radio much. Not for music. I usually don't like what's playing and when I do hear something great that I'm not already familiar with I can rarely figure out who it was.

Sarah Byam, my sis-in-law, in her latest column, says she's frustrated by her lack of productivity. "When I was in my twenties, I promised a friend of mine I would produce '6 feet of red' before I died." The measurement refers to designers who fill up bookshelves. You've seen those nondescript books in furniture stores or catalogs, right? Stephen King, she says, made his six feet. If only she could sleep less there'd be more Sarah footage. I don't think I'm a writer. I used to think I was. Or I wanted to think of myself as a writer. Now I figure I'm a poet. That means I write poetry. Nobody's seen the great bulk of it. Once in awhile a poem gets published. I have some footage on the shelves here at home. The poems and diaries I've kept in bound notebooks. There's some good stuff there. And I do derive some satisfaction from the quantity, from the bookliness of these gathered works. I gotta admit that every time I read a book I'm frequently checking to see where am in it -- 1/3 of the way through? halfway? only ten pages to go? I do the same with my notebooks. It only really provides usable information when I'm a handful of pages from filling the book and might write a poem too long for the available space. I'm not a writer because that suggests I write something other than poetry, something that people will read maybe. Essays, right. Stories or novels. Columns of inches. Inches of columns.

Going on about productivity. Whenever I've taken a creative writing class I've been the most productive. Or the second most. I haven't taken any classes in awhile. Nice thing about a class: getting credit for something you'd do anyway. An audience. Of other students, yeah. An audience. Am I ambivalent about having an audience? Am I not ambivalent about something?

The forthcoming attack on Iraq. Yes, I'm even ambivalent about that. Frankly, I'm looking forward to the appalling death and destruction and misery and the failure of the U.S.-installed government. And would much prefer it all remain my own skull-bounded fantasy. Where it can cozy up next to my fantasies about global justice, love, and sharing.

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