Thursday, December 23, 2004

Brief reviews: Mehldau, McDonald, Eternal Sunshine

Haven't written here in a while perhaps because I've been busy with a Wintermester class and little things like Christmas and birthdays. Seems I have lots to write about, but all I have for you at the moment are fragments.

Listening to: Brad Mehldau's Live in Tokyo. Very enjoyable disc. At the moment I'm hearing "Someone to Watch Over Me," a song I think I've never heard a bad version of. This has a nice "Intro" and then Mehldau has this beautiful bumping improvisation in the middle that never loses sight of the tender melody. Further into the song one hears q section that certainly shows me why some compare Mehldau to Keith Jarrett. Another cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" (his studio version of the song is on Largo) is a particular favorite. Nineteen and a half great minutes, with not a single note wasted.

Most recently read: Walt McDonald's All Occasions. This volume was published in 2000 and while I had read some of the poems before, those poems were well worth re-reading. I allowed myself the luxury of taking my time with this, as one should do when reading good poetry. I never used a bookmark but trusted my failing memory to help me recall where I had last put down the book. Often times I came back to a poem I'd read the previous occasion and re-read it before moving the those new to me. I must say doing this was a very good experience for me.

Walt's poems have brought be great joy since I first encountered his work, even when he is digging in unfamiliar or unpleasant territory. I'm pretty much a city boy, but his description of life in rural areas seems common with my own in the most significant ways. In "Chocolate," the speaker recalls hiding from his father after eating candy that had been meant for his sister. Any adult who does not recognize the fear and thrill and guilt here isn't reading his or her own life well. As a sports fan, I'm particularly fond of pieces that reference baseball and football: "Batting Practice at Sixty," "Instant Replay," and "When Baseball Was A Game." The latter poem includes these marvelous lines: "Before Vietnam and the death of friends/I could chase down a ball off the wall/and turn and hurl a strike three hundred feet//to a teammate blocking home plate,/the capless runner diving but hopelessly out,/the home crowd going wild." The strength of this poem (and of the whole collection) is that one does not need to have been an athlete not only to get the surface level picture, but the larger vision of time's passage and power of memory on the present.

Many of the poems recall Walt's experience as pilot, particularly during the Vietnam War. These, for me, are further evidence of the fact that poetry is stronger than rhetoric. I do not know his political leanings or how he feels about war (either the one he served in or the present one). However, I don't know how to explain why or how I can support soldiers without supporting the war except to point to these poems. They provide the images and the events and the impact of those events on the life of those who lived what I never have. No reader should assume that Mr. McDonald's ideas mirror my own. However, they should likely rank these pieces right up there with another poet who has written powerfully about the Vietnam War, Yusef Komunyakaa.

Movie I recently watched: Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. I just watched this tonight, and I did think it very interesting, but I'm not sure what to say about it. It's story is not told in linear fashion, and that does not bother me. The narrative certainly works here. In fact the story must be told this way for the viewer to really get the experience being dealt with. One thing I liked was that the main characters, after saying and hearing the worst things the other thinks/says, decide to accept these flaws (foibles?) about themselves and each other and enjoy the relationship for what it is. I'm not sure if what I just wrote is very clear, but I'll leave it for now. I do recommend the movie, but don't blink. Definitely don't fall asleep.

There is much more to say, but my hands are tired.

No comments: