Thursday, April 30, 2020

The End by The Doors—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

The End written by Jim Morrison and recorded by The Doors.

We wound up our annual National Poetry Month on the blog earlier today and that got me thinking about the end, whatever the hell that is.  And that led inevitably to The Doors 1967 song The End which was written and sung by a guy who always considered himself a poet first—Jim Morrison.
Morrison initially wrote the lyrics about his break up with his girlfriend Mary Werbelow, a fairly routine sad rock song, but it evolved through months of performances at Los Angeles’s  Whisky a Go Go into a much longer song with apocalyptic over tones.  The Doors recorded a nearly 12-minute version for their self-titled debut album, which was released on January 4, 1967 and soon became a dorm room must have.
Morrison was the son of Admiral George Stephen Morrison who had commanded U.S. Naval forces during the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964 which led to active American intervention in the Vietnam War.  He graduated from the UCLA film school within the Theater Arts Department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965.  As an undergraduate he wrote poetry, brooded, and drank heavily.  

The Doors and their charismatic songwriter and front man Jim Morrison,
After graduation he lived a very intentionally bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach working on the poems that would become the lyrics of his break-out.  He almost accidently fell in with musicians keyboard/organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore and began gigging around Los Angeles while dabbling together in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s meditation practices. 
Morrison was only 24 years old when The Doors burst on the scene on the strength of The End and other songs off the first album including Break On Through (To the Other Side) and Light My Fire.  In no time at all he became a cultural icon as a brooding, romantic, Byronic figure with striking good looks and undeniably charismatic.

Wasted, over weight, and bearded Morrison was arrested in Miami in 1970 on obscenity and other charges and sentenced to six month in jail.  He was out on bail when he died in Paris a few months later.
The Doors released 6 more studio albums with Morison through L.A. Woman in 1971 and toured extensively.  Morrison continued to drink heavily and used a variety of drugs.  A series of bazar stage incidents including allegedly exposing himself led to police harassment and then to an arrest on obscenity and inciting a riot charges in Miami in 1970 that led to his conviction and a six month jail sentence.  While out on bail the band could only get a few bookings.  Their last show was on December 12, 1970, at The Warehouse in New Orleans.  The End was the final song they performed together.
Morrison finally reached an agreement to end his relationship with The Doors and moved to Paris to pursue a literary career.  He died on July 3, 1971, at age 27found by his girlfriend Pamela Courson in a bathtub at his apartment. The official cause of death was listed as heart failure,] although no autopsy was performed.  Speculation was rife that his death was linked to a heroin overdose.

Amy Winehouse and Kurt Corbain, more recent icons who died of overdoses have been associated with Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, and Janis Joplin in the Dead-at-27-club.
He was linked to the deaths under similar circumstance with Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin — all of whom died at the age of 27.  That’s the stuff of legends.  Morrison’s Paris grave is still a point of pilgrimage after all these years.

Content Warning—A Fitting End to National Poetry Month 2020

So called Open Up America protestors have taken to the streets when others won't to claim their time in the lime light.
I was just about to post a re-tread from several years ago to close out our National Poetry Month 2020 series when multiple folks shared this stunning brand new poetic rant on Facebook.  It is raw with rage and grief but it dared to speak to what many of us are feeling during this Coronavirus pandemic cum charnel house as yahoos, cult zombies, and outright fascists parade around egged on by the White House and bankrolled by deep dark pockets demanding their rights to spit in the face of the rest of us, kill us and our loved ones.

C.S.E. Cooney
According to her web site C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes in Queens, whose borders are water. She is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, and the author of Desdemona and the Deep and the World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories.  Her work includes three albums: Alecto! Alecto!, The Headless Bride, and Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir, and a poetry collection, How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes. The latter features her 2011 Rhysling Award-winning The Sea King’s Second Bride.
Note—this is not for the prissy, the weak of heart, or any knee jerk on-the-other-hand types

Gun toting neo-fascists were a prominent part of the first open up rally at the Michigan capitol in Lancing.  Trump tweeted "Liberate Michigan!"  "Liberate Minnesota!"  "Liberate Virginia!"

Content Warning
if that is freedom, fuck it
i don’t want it
to walk bare as a genital wart in the mayo clinic
swollen with liberty, flying the colors of the flag
fuck it, fuck your freedoms
give me plexiglass prisons, given me wardens in hazmat
give me solitary confinement
give me an oubliette
so I can forget
you and your fanfaronade freedoms

to hold my dying elder’s hand in hospice
that is freedom
you, your ilk, you kick it to dust
you kick it to dust with your leather shoes
to meet at feast together, eat together
marry on the day we choose
let our doctors see their children again
such freedom
you crush with as much disgust as the snake
beneath your heel

my venom grows
every night, every morning
chokevine murderthoughts
thorn and strangle me:
the freedom to be kind, to forgive
to live and let live
all flayed away
I am a criminal in my own mind
I deserve my chains

I don’t know what you deserve
(to do time for war crimes is what you deserve)
I don’t know what you think you deserve
but you take it anyway
no matter what it takes away from
all the rest of us

my friend, swaddled like a sarcophagus in the morgue
for one last look at her sister’s face
my friend, in her lonely hotel room, decontaminating her scrubs
while she Skypes with her cat
my friend, who stares out the window as Washington Heights
bangs its pots and pans
so tired, too tired to join the humble éclat, tired
from doing nothing, from staying inside, keeping the city safe

you spit in the face of my friends
you spit in the face of my friends
you little shit
you little shit

C.S.E. Cooney

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Alone Again (Naturally) —Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O'Sullivan.

It’s a particularly gloomy day here in northern Illinois where it has been raining more or less steadily since yesterday afternoon.  I can’t get out for my daily life affirming constitutional and our little dog who won’t go out when there is as much as a drop falling is miserable and moping.  Must be time for a vein opener.  Alone Again (Naturally) definitely fits that bill.

The sleeve for the 1972 British release of Alone Again (Naturally).
Irish singer/songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan—born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan—scored a huge international hit with Alone Again which was written when he was just 21 and recorded a year later in 1972.  The lilting ballad about a man jilted before his wedding and then describing the deaths of his parents was often presumed to be autobiographical.  But he was never engaged his father, who had abused his mother died when he was 11 years old, and his mother was still alive. O’Sullivan said “it was just one of the songs I was writing at the time.”  

It charted #1 in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada, and France as well as #2 in Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

O'Sullivan's odd appearance and image as the cloth capped Bisto Kid with the bad bowl haircut and funny assumed name were all his own creation to mask a deep shyness.
Neil Diamond who was one of the artists who covered Alone Again said that he couldn’t believe a 21-year-old wrote it.

Eavan Boland—National Poetry Month 2020

Beloved Irish poet Eavan Boland

Ireland is deeply mourning loss of Eavan Boland one of the greatest of her contemporary poets who died yesterday at the age of 75 at her Dublin home.  Her prolific body of work wrestled with often thorny issues of Irish identity and insisted on the recognition of the role of women including their domestic situations.  It became so central to the conversation about evolving modern Ireland that her poems are studied by are studied by Irish students who take the Leaving Certificate, the final exam of secondary students required for admission to a college or university.  Mary Robinson selected her to read a poem at her 1990 inauguration as the first woman President of Éire and Barack Obama quoted her at a White House St. Patrick’s Day reception. 
Eavan Frances Boland was born on September 24, 1944 in Dublin to career diplomat Frederick Boland and his wife noted painter Frances Kelly.  When she was six in 1950 her father was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom to the most important Irish diplomatic post at a time when relations between the country were tense over Ireland’s neutrality during World War II and continuing claims on Northern Ireland.  As a child in London she first experienced anti-Irish sentiment which strengthened her identification with her Irish heritage which she later described in her poem An Irish Childhood in England: 1951. 
Boland in academic robes with her friend and contemporary Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

At 14, she returned to Dublin to attend Holy Child School in Killiney and them Trinity College where she was a classmate of Mary Robinson and where she published a first pamphlet 23 Poems in 1962.  She earned her BA with First Class Honors in English Literature and Language from Trinity in 1966.
Since then she held numerous teaching positions and published poetry, prose criticism, and essays. Boland married the novelist Kevin Casey in 1969 and had two daughters. Her experiences as a wife and mother influenced her to write about the centrality of the ordinary, as well as providing a frame for more political and historical themes.
Boland on her wedding day with husband Kevin Casey and her father Fredrick Boland.

She taught at Trinity College, University College, Dublin, and Bowdoin College in Main, and was a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She was also writer in residence at Trinity and at the National Maternity Hospital.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, Boland taught at the School of Irish Studies in Dublin. From 1996 she was a tenured Professor of English at Stanford University and divided her time between Palo Alto, and her home in Dublin.
Boland’s first book of poetry was New Territory published in 1965 followed by The War Horse in 1975, In Her Own Image (1980) and Night Feed (1982), which established her reputation as a writer on the ordinary lives of women and on the difficulties faced by women poets in a male-dominated literary world.

                                    Boland reading in a pub.
She published dozens of collections most recently Eavan Boland: A Poet’s Dublin edited by Paula Meehan and Jody Allen Randolph and A Woman Without A Country both in 2014.
Boland’s many honors and awards on both sides of the Atlantic are too numerous to mention.  Her work best speaks for itself.
My friend and radical poet Jerry Pendergast selected this apt poem about the Irish famine and the typhoid epidemic that accompanied it to remember Boland.
In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Eavan Boland

This one cuts to the quick of shame and guilt.

Domestic Violence


It was winter, lunar, wet. At dusk
Pewter seedlings became moonlight orphans.
Pleased to meet you meat to please you
said the butcher's sign in the window in the village.

Everything changed the year that we got married.
And after that we moved out to the suburbs.
How young we were, how ignorant, how ready
to think the only history was our own.

And there was a couple who quarreled into the night,
Their voices high, sharp:
nothing is ever entirely
right in the lives of those who love each other.


In that season suddenly our island
Broke out its old sores for all to see.
We saw them too.
We stood there wondering how

the salt horizons and the Dublin hills,
the rivers, table mountains, Viking marshes
we thought we knew
had been made to shiver

into our ancient twelve by fifteen television
which gave them back as gray and grayer tears
and killings, killings, killings,
then moonlight-colored funerals:

nothing we said
not then, not later,
fathomed what it is
is wrong in the lives of those who hate each other.


And if the provenance of memory is
only that—remember, not atone—
and if I can be safe in
the weak spring light in that kitchen, then

why is there another kitchen, spring light
always darkening in it and
a woman whispering to a man
over and over what else could we have done?


We failed our moment or our moment failed us.
The times were grand in size and we were small.
Why do I write that
when I don't believe it?

We lived our lives, were happy, stayed as one.
Children were born and raised here
and are gone,
including ours.

As for that couple did we ever
find out who they were
and did we want to?
I think we know. I think we always knew.

Eavan Boland

How We Made New Art on Old Ground wan in Boland's collection Against Love Poems.

Finally one on the complex interactions of history, the natural world, love, and art.

How We Made New Art on Old Ground

A famous battle happened in this valley.   
                     You never understood the nature poem.   
Till now. Till this moment—if these statements   
                     seem separate, unrelated, follow this   

silence to its edge and you will hear   
                     the history of air: the crispness of a fern   
or the upward cut and turn around of   
                     a fieldfare or thrush written on it.   

The other history is silent: The estuary   
                     is over there. The issue was decided here:   
Two kings prepared to give no quarter.   
                     Then one king and one dead tradition.   

Now the humid dusk, the old wounds   
                     wait for language, for a different truth:   
When you see the silk of the willow   
                     and the wider edge of the river turn   

and grow dark and then darker, then   
                     you will know that the nature poem   
is not the action nor its end: it is   
                     this rust on the gate beside the trees, on

the cattle grid underneath our feet,   
                     on the steering wheel shaft: it is   
an aftermath, an overlay and even in   
                     its own modest way, an art of peace:

I try the word distance and it fills with   
                     sycamores, a summer's worth of pollen   
And as I write valley straw, metal   
                     blood, oaths, armour are unwritten.   

Silence spreads slowly from these words   
                     to those ilex trees half in, half out   
of shadows falling on the shallow ford   
                     of the south bank beside Yellow Island   

as twilight shows how this sweet corrosion   
                     begins to be complete: what we see   
is what the poem says:   
                     evening coming—cattle, cattle-shadows—

and when bushes and a change of weather   
                     about to change them all: what we see is how
the place and the torment of the place are   
                     for this moment free of one another.

Eavan Boland