Monday, February 19, 2007

Bookmarks for January/February 2007

After I'd finished Franz Wright's Walking To Martha's Vineyard (2003), I immediately started over and read it again. Something about the collection bothered me. I'd read a handful of Wright's poems before, some from this book, and I had found most moving and thought provoking, but as I read the whole book the first time, I couldn't shake the fact that this volume had earned Wright a Pulitzer Prize, and I just couldn't see why. However, after a second helping, I began to realize that the first time through I was focused on the pieces here that seem to rely mostly on image for their effect on the reader, and I just wasn't always sure what that effect was supposed to be. During the second reading, I noticed that there is a narrative here that is like real life: in one moment disjointed, in another fluid, days and nights filled with startling moments of sadness and joy, thrill and disgust. Walking to Martha's Vineyard is also an inspiring volume of poems, not because one reads them and feels vaguely better, but because one senses that the poet has encountered grace, a frightening and beautiful communion with God.

I tried reading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1958) more years ago than I care to admit, but I know it was when I was quite young. I never finished it then, and ironically, my youth probably worked against me. I say this is ironic because the book is filled with the brashness and vigor of youth. The poems rebel against many things, but they are not about rebellion for rebellion's sake. The bring the reader to rethink the world in lines that are as fresh today as when they were first read (or heard), and even if one does not come to the same philosophical place as Ferlinghetti, one does have to realize that powerful thoughts have fueled these verses. Ferlinghetti has no problem dropping in lines from other poets, often in parody (especially of Eliot). The poet is "constantly risking absurdity," but these poems aren't act, but a call to action.

Have started reading an interesting book by Ted Kooser, Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison. These poems were written during Kooser's convelescence from his chemotherapy, and so far they are a bit different from the crafted poems of his other books. These seem to be just what they say they are: notes on postcards. But oh what notes! Most of these poems don't drop the kind of bombs I found in Kooser's Delights and Shadows, but they hit with short jabs, image and mood driving action that takes place mostly within.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Music Notes for January/February 2007

Pat Metheny and The Heath Brothers: Move To The Groove. This is a disappointing release not because the material isn't good, but because it is uneven. Metheny's guitar is a bit subdued in some places, but the solos are nice, and the Heath Brothers are terrific to listen to. But the disc as a whole seems like a bit of a compilation, rather than a cohesive whole.

The first two songs, "Sassy Samba" and "Arthurdoc" are a nice collaborations of what might seem too disparate musical entities. They swing nicely and provide plenty of room for nice solos. The final, title track works the same. But in the middle are also good pieces that just don't seem to fit the disc. I really like the "Guitar Improvisation." Metheny transmits a lucid, beautiful solo that takes a piece of his composition "James" near the end. Next comes the group's take on "All The Things You Are," a classic nicely rendered.

My liner notes say that the next two songs, "Is That So" and "I Waited For You" have someone other than Metheny at the guitar. One of these songs, however, has guitar/and vocal (as instrument, not singing words) lines that remind me of some of the pieces on Metheny's fantastic Secret Story.

This is a disc that fans of Pat Metheny and/or The Heath Brothers will want in their collections. But I suspect it won't get as much play as others.

I am very happy to see that one of my favorite radio stations, KNTU, has finally gone twenty four hours a day. For years, they have gone off the air at midnight and returned at six in the morning. Now we can get more of that sweet jazz (and some interesting classical programs on Sunday) in the middle of the night/early morning (during the time I'm usually working!). I know that with the Internet, there are many good stations available playing jazz, but I am thrilled to be able to get more of the station I probably listen to most.

Speaking of Internet radio, I did run across something (through iTunes) recently that I have enjoyed: This station provided a fascinating mix of classical, new age, and ambient music that is not only relaxing, but actually works very well together. Instead of solo or chamber pieces that are called classical, but are really not, this station actually plays real classical music and seques it well with the other genres. I've not been much of a fan of ambient music, but whoever runs this station has managed to pick good material (like Fripp and Eno). I don't care for their website, as it is only a portal for the station. I'd like to see a bit more information about the music, playlists, and that sort of thing. But the station is well worth listening to.