Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moon June Spoon #6

We’re bidding June a fond adieu today—it certainly has been a topsy-turvy month, at least around these parts, & perhaps ruled very much by “th’inconstant moon.

So what better way to take our leave of June than with one last installment of Moon June Spoon—& we’ve got some really fine songs today—western swing, jazz, oldtime country & western & more.

Thanks to everyone for the very positive response to Moon June Spoon; I’ll be sure to concoct another song series before too long—maybe in August. For now, hope you enjoy these selections!

Shine On Harvest Moon: I love this sort of old song—this & “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” & “In the Moonlight” are the very songs that laid the Moon June Spoon foundation (as it were—an odd metapher, yes). It’s also worth noting that all three of these songs—& lots more
appear on the Fabulous Heftones album of the same name. In this case, Brian Hefferan handles the vocal—including the stage-setting verse which I believe a lot of folks haven’t heard. It’s a fun & rambunctious outing, as is the Leon Redbone version (& Mr Redbone includes the verse, too). For those who are interested in the Fabulous Heftones (& you really should be), you can hear their tunes—including this one—on their site here. You can also see them performing “Shine On Harvest Moon” in the video clip below. Although there’s a lot of background noise, it’s notable for at least two reasons: first, the Fabulous Heftones seem an embodiment of “playing” music—it’s fun! Second: check out the bass banjo (known as a Heftone). Now that’s a cool instrument! The Fabulous Heftones: Moon June Spoon (Heftone Records); Leon Redbone: Double Time (Warner Bros)

Silvery Moon & Golden Sands: This pleasant “earthly paradise” number by Johnny Hodges features some tasty exchanges between saxman Hodges & trumpeter Cootie Williams during an extended intro (which is kicked off by the Duke himself on the ivories). The vocal is handled by Mary McHugh. This would be a lovely tune for a moonlit June evening. Duke Ellington: The Duke’s Men: Small Groups, vol. 1 (Columbia Jazz Masterpieces)

Sugar Moon: Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys need no introduction, at least not to fans of old time country music. Mr Wills & colleagues’ version of western swing is just flat-out great; & Wills & the Playboys were in good form when they recorded this song, with the usual fine Tommy Duncan vocal & some excellent guitar work by Lester Barnard, Jr. But the writer of “Sugar Moon,” Cindy Walker, isn’t as well known as she should be. Ms Walker is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997), but given the amazing number of hits she turned out for some of Country’s biggest stars, she should be thought of as one of the premier 20th century popular songwriters. Consider just a handful of her highlights: “Blue Canadian Rockies”; “Cherokee Maiden”; “Dusty Skies”; “Miss Molly”; “Two Glasses, Joe”; “Warm Red Wine”; “You Don’t Know Me”; “Dream Baby”—& the list goes on. Wills & the Texas Playboy’s alone recorded 50 of Walker’s songs. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys: Take Me Back to Tulsa (Proper)

That Old Devil Moon: This may be a bit of heresy to some of my classic film friends out there, but I never could quite get Judy Garland’s popularity as an actress. As Dorothy, yes. In most of her other roles—even some really famous ones—not so much. However, Ms Garland sure could sing. She had amazing range, of course, but much more than that—she could really live inside a song. A lot of folks have covered “That Old Devil Moon” but, like many of her other famous numbers, this is a song Garland made her own. I have this on an old cassette but this song is pretty readily available—one choice would be Judy Garland: Very Best of Judy Garland: The Capitol Recordings 1955-1965 (EMI Imports). For the record, mine is: Judy “Live” (Golden Circle)—looks like a bootleg to me….

What a Little Moonlight Can Do: This is one of the songs I always think about when I think of Billie Holiday—the impeccable phrasing, the understated approach, the ability to take a melody outside itself or beyond itself—taking it to a new place while it always remains completely itself. Holiday has fantastic back-up on this recording: Charlie Shaver, trumpet; Oscar Peterson, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Ed Shaughnessy, drums. Billie Holiday: Jazz Masters 12 (Verve)

When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again: I really love this old country tune, & it’s one I perform myself, sometimes with guitar & other times with 5-string banjo. Needless to say, there are lots of versions out there—Elvis’ rockabilly version, tho not one of my favorites, is very well known, & Merle Haggard also has done a nice version of the tune. To my mind, it’s pretty hard to beat the original version of this song by Wiley Walker & Gene Sullivan, but the version by Cindy Walker in the vidclip below is really good—proving that Ms. Walker was a terrific singer in addition to being a great songwriter. Sadly, this recording doesn’t seem to be available commercially at this time. Walker’s recording of “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again” was a top 10 hit in 1944. Wiley Walker & Gene Sullivan: Columbia Country Classics, vol. 1 The Golden Age (Columbia)

Winter Moon: What a song to end on—this tune has an incredibly haunting melody, & although it’s not one of his best known pieces, I think it’s one of Hoagy Carmichael’s very finest compositions. It is a sad song—the emotion is almost desolate—but the rich harmonies & deceptively simple melody will transport you. The recording by Carmichael himself is superb, with a great back-up band called the Pacific Jazzmen (including Art Pepper on alto sax & Johnny Mandel as arranger & conductor); Hoagy’s voice was just stronger in the 50s than earlier in his career—more assured & more comfortable. I recommend this recording very highly. Hoagy Carmichael: Hoagy Sings Carmichael (Pacific Jazz)

submit to reddit

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dad’s Photos #11

We’re here to welcome Monday with a look at Dad’s Photos, this time a summer time trip in 1938 to Salem Lake in Derby, VT. I must say the more I look at my father’s old photos, the more I’m baffled by his working life & overall schedule, but he was a young fellow then—24 years old—& was pretty much footloose & fancy-free I suspect. At any rate, he & his friends Dick Bragg (whose history I know a bit about) & Al (whom I know nothing of) went on a fishing trip. There is no question that fishing was my father’s great passion. He was an all-around outdoor sportsman in his younger years—fisherman, hunter, skier, skater, hiker—but fishing was always first, & he kept at it until his very last years, even when his other outdoor activities were a distant memory.

Derby is a town on the Canadian border, in the northeast part of Vermont (sometimes referred to as the “Northeast Kingdom”—it’s the most undeveloped part of the state, & has areas that verge on wilderness (at least the last time I was in that part of the world, which admittedly is long ago now). I suspect the photo labeled “A Border Town” in Dad’s Photos #9 may well have been Derby or one of the nearby unincorporated villages. The “C.C.C.” abbreviation in the “Forest Shelter” caption below refers to “Civilian Conservation Corps.” This corps was established during the Depression to create work by building state parks & similar projects; my father worked with the C.C.C. in Townsend, VT. My opinion: it’s too damned bad that the “conservatives” can’t see how this type of workforce could do a whole lot of good nowadays—infrastructure anyone? I’ll tell you this: my father didn’t get anything even remotely approaching a sense of “entitlement” from his C.C.C. days, but it did keep him & other working class men going during some tough times, & in the process did good for the public at large.

But off the soapbox. Hope you enjoy these photos.

Bragg – “Proud” – 1938 Salem Lake

Al – Dew Camp 1938

Dick at Salem Lake 1938

A Little Drink?

Looks bad – no fish, huh?

Fishing Camp at Salem Lake July 1st 1938 [This is Al & Dick; photo above is Dick; I believe the first photo in the cabin is my father]

Dick – Two Swell Bass (smallmouth)

A Forest Shelter C.C.C. style

Me & a Nice Catch

Salem Lake – Derby, Vermont

submit to reddit

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sea

We all have times when some intangible part of us needs to be soothed—whether we call that the heart or the soul or the mind, etc. & we all need ways of being soothed; some like to cook, some like to exercise, some like to take quiet walks, some—like me—love to play guitar or some other instrument. These ways & others like them all seem pretty positive; of course, there are destructive ways that some of us have sought this heart’s ease, too—sadly, those ways don’t ever seem to work in the long run. That’s my experience at least.

There are also landscapes, I believe, that can bring this heart’s ease. For some, it’s the mountains in winter; for others, the open space of the rangeland. Some find joy & peace in the bustle of a city neighborhood—its markets, its shops, its streets & buildings; other find it in a farmhouse. For me, the most soul-nurturing landscapes have always involved water in general, & the ocean in particular. I’ve written about this before, so today rather than elaborate points I’ve made before, I’m posting a slideshow of photos Eberle & I took at the Oregon coast last fall. The background music is an untitled guitar piece I composed last summer. The word “composed” is used somewhat loosely here, because nothing was ever written down. This is just an improvisation on a chord progression that’s odd but actually quite simple.

Hope you find the music & images peaceful on this Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Moreover, the Moon—"

As June winds down, how about a “moon” poem for our resuscitated Weekly Poem series? This one is by a long-time favorite poet, Mina Loy.

No one knows the date of composition for “Moreover, the Moon—”; it is known that the poem wasn’t published in Mina Loy's lifetime. It certainly is immediately recognizable as a Loy poem—the short lines combining with a rather dense linguistic surface, the singular mix of abstract & sensual language. The poem certainly captures a certain “moon madness” in its fifteen lines.

Hope you enjoy it.

Moreover, the Moon—

Face of the skies
over our wonder.

truant of heaven
draw us under.

Silver, circular corpse
your decease
infects us with unendurable ease,

touching nerve-terminals
to thermal icicles

Coercive as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.

Mina Loy

Friday, June 26, 2009

Moon June Spoon #5A – Readers’ Choice

Thanks everyone for the positive response to Moon June Spoon! It makes me realize I’d waited a while to do one of these series—Songs 4 Foodies also was quite popular—so I’ll try to make sure the next song list series isn’t so long in coming.

When I started the series I mentioned that I was going to confine the lists to music I currently listen to. There was one song, however, that I debated including even tho I haven’t listened to it in ages. Interestingly, our very own SoCal Correspondent, Audrey Bilger, wrote me an email yesterday making a case for including that very song. So…..

Blue Moon: “But wait,” you say, “you did include that.” But no, I don’t mean the Rogers-Hart tune, which turned up in the very first Moon June Spoon installment; I mean Alex Chilton’s song “Blue Moon” from the Big Star album sometimes referred to as Big Star’s Third & sometimes referred to as Sister Lovers (& occasionally called Beale Street Green). Talk about a soundtrack to my life. I was completely obsessed with this album in the mid 80s, & particularly with such haunting tunes as “Blue Moon,” “Nightime” “Take Care” “Kangaroo” & “Holocaust.” These songs seeped into my poetry & into the way I saw the world. Please check out the video of “Blue Moon” below—
in my opinion the animation doesn’t fit the song, but just close your eyes & listen. This is a fantastic song from a truly great album, & one that I recommend highly. I have it on vinyl & also on a cassette—the two versions vary (there’s more material on the cassette, including Chilton singing “Nature Boy”). The “cassette” version is the one available on CD from Rykodisc. Big Star: Third/Sister Lovers (Rykodisc)

Audrey’s suggestion made me consider further that there have been other suggestions of Moon Songs—so here we have other readers’ choices, communicated either thru comments or email. I’ve included a couple of other videos, too.

Alleghany Moon – Patti Page (et al.)
Moon of Manakoora – Dorothy Lamour (et al.)
Moon Over Miami-The Platters (ditto)
When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain (Kate Smith)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)

Special thanks to Jacqueline T. Lynch, as well as Audrey, for making suggestions. I also remembered that I meant to link to a site suggested by Dominic Rivron—the link is here, & while this doesn’t have to do with music, it has a lot to do with the moon. Check out the atlas section!

What’s your favorite moon song? Don’t be shy!

submit to reddit

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Did the Laundry at Walden Pond?

Men can get carried away, this has been noted by women through the ages. And sometimes the men who get carried away have wives and daughters who are swept along with them, for better or for worse. Something of this nature happened when Louisa May Alcott’s father took the family to live in a utopian community in Worcester County Massachussettes in 1843. Self-sufficiency, life without money, veganism, and cold baths were part of the regime planned for the Fruitlands community, intended to bring its members into harmony with themselves and nature. However, this ideal community resulted instead in hardship, failure, and ignominy—as well as a story written about Fruitlands by Louisa years later, Transcendental Wild Oats.

Louisa was on the eve of he
r teenage years when her father moved the family to Fruitlands. When the family returned to civilization, Louisa’s anxiety about her father’s apparent inability to support the family led her to go out the work at the age of seventeen. She worked as a teacher, seamstress, governess and domestic help before finding that she could live by her pen. It was in fact her writing that would bring the family its first experience of financial stability. When she wrote about the Fruitlands chapter in her family history, it was at the age of forty-one, after her successful writing career had been safely launched. Her memories of the utopian community focused on elements of the ludicrous, the pompous, and the irresponsible—and she satirized it mercilessly.

Like Mary Shelley, Louisa was surrounded at a young age by people who saw themselves as great thinkers of their
times. And the eyes of youth can be more judgmental than people often suspect. Just as Mary Shelley wrote, in Frankenstein, a condemnation of elements of the Romanticism that surrounded her, Louisa rather thoroughly trounced aspects of Transcendentalism in Transcendental Wild Oats.

The title itself points at the masculinist slant of Transcendentalism as Louisa saw it elaborated by Thoreau and Emerson and other friends of her father’s. It is men, of course, not women, who are generally referred to as sowing wild oats. But, as Louisa points out, it is often women who suffer in the process, whether the wild oats are those of philanderers or of the philosophers of Fruitlands: “No teapot profaned that sacred stove, no gory steak cried aloud for vengeance from her chaste gridiron; and only a brave woman's taste, time, and temper were sacrificed on that domestic altar.”

A theme throu
ghout the piece is male blindness to the work that is involved in domestic life—one of the brethren insists on the importance of having beautiful eating vessels and bought a set of Britannia ware because it was bright and inexpensive. When Mrs. Lamb (Sister Hope) mentions that it’s hard to keep such metal shiny and asks if whiting will be allowed in the community, she is chided for focusing on such a frivolous detail.

The men in the community consistently undervalue the knowledge involved in everyday work (they give the best room up to their books and spend a great deal of time talking) and this is what causes their dream of community to fail. They want to work the land, but don’t know how to plant, they put in new trees and “honestly believe” that an autumn harvest will be theirs. One of the men did help the “overworked Sister Hope with her heavy washes, kneaded the endless succession of batches of bread, watched over the children, and did the many tasks left undone by the brethren, who were so busy discussing and defining great duties that they forgot to perform the small ones.”

Lamp oil, being animal-based, could not be used in the community, and so bayberry wax was procured for candle-making—but no one knew how to make candles. The men were happy to forget about candles and go to bed early, but in this instance the generally mild and loving Mrs. Lamb rebelled:

Evening was the only time she had to herself, and while the tired feet rested the skilful hands mended torn frocks and little stockings, or anxious heart forgot its burden in a book. So “mother's lamp” burned steadily, while the philosophers built a new heaven and earth by moonlight; and through all the metaphysical mists and philanthropic pyrotechnics of that period Sister Hope played her own little game of “throwing light,” and none but the moths were the worse for it.

In the metaphysical game unfortunately, as Louisa well knew, more than moths were at stake. Louisa indicates that a woman’s self-image can be destroyed in the course of a philosophizing journey. She tells the tale of Sister Hope’s mirror, one of the first casualties of the venture as the new pilgrims moved their belongings to Fruitlands:

“Truth lies at the bottom of a well, Sister Hope,” said Brother Timon…. “That's the reason we so seldom get at it, I suppose,” replied Mrs. Hope, making a vain clutch at the mirror, which a sudden jolt sent flying out of her hands. “We want no false reflections here,” said Timon, with a grim smile, as he crunched the fragments under foot in his onward march.”

A particular kind of
hypocrisy is outlined by Louisa in Transcendental Wild Oats. One goal of the community for instance is not to exploit animals in any way, for work, food, or clothing. When a new arrival to the community asked, “Are there any beasts of burden on the place?” Mrs. Lamb answered, with a face that told its own tale, “Only one woman!” In order to save the harvested crop from rain, Mrs. Lamb harnesses the children to clothes baskets to get the grain in when the men are off pontificating on the glories of a life governed only by the spirit’s whim.

Louisa’s commentary that Transcendentalist views seem to involve a blindness about domestic realities finds an echo in Thoreau’s celebrated community of one at Walden Pond. Although Thoreau waxed eloquent about the glories of self-sufficiency it should be noted that his definition of self-sufficiency apparently did not extend to the weekly wash: Thoreau had his laundry done by his mother during his experimental venture as man living at one with nature on Walden Pond.

© Eberle Umbach 2007-2009

Pictures from the top:
Louisa May Alcott
The Alcott Farmhouse at Fruitlands
Amos Bronson Alcott
A view of Fruitlands -
this image is published under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License by Wikimedia user Midnightdreary
An Oil Lamp
Henry David Thoreau

submit to reddit

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moon June Spoon 5

Here’s the penultimate installment of Moon June Spoon, one in which we take a moonlight stroll to the sounds of jazz guitar, a western swing band, acoustic blues & lots more, including two soundclips. Also—horror of horrors—there's a song out of alphabetical order; a "moon" song I love & couldn't leave off the list, tho I'd forgotten it earlier.

Hope you enjoy these.

Moonlight Serenade: The golden tones of the Glenn Miller Orchestra in peak form on this lovely instrumental—now that’s good stuff. This song developed from an earlier Glenn Miller number, “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep.” The Mitchell Parrish lyrics sung by Sinatra et al. actually came later. To my ear, the Miller Orchestra instrumental is the preferred version; I like the tempo & the overall feel better than the ballad version. Glenn Miller Orchestra: Golden Hits (The Masters);
Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

Moonlight in Oklahoma: This is an obscure old western swing number I have on an excellent compilation called Doughboys, Playboys & Cowboys. The tune bounces along at a pleasing tempo, & features honky tonk piano, with steel guitar whining atmospherically in the background. & what a band name—Smokey Wood & the Wood Chips: Doughboys, Playboys & Cowboys – The Golden Years of Western Swing (Proper)

Moonlight in Vermont: This beatiful & evocative song is a favorite, & one I’ve played around with myself in various settings, tho I’ve never been quite satisfied with any rendition I can concoct—the harmonies & bass movement in the song move it along in subtle ways that move the song thru a dazzlingly lyrical landscape. I love both the recorded versions I have—as a guitarist, I really go for Johnny Smith’s legato chord melody, but Lady Day’s version is fantastic too. Johnny Smith: Moonlight in Vermont (Roulette Jazz); Billie Holiday: Body & Soul (Verve)

Moon’s Going Down: The real blues—the Charlie Patton version is about as gritty as the acoustic blues gets—amazing guitar work by one of the early blues masters & a vocal that’s a gravel road thru a stark landscape. Rory Block’s version has a lot to recommend it, too—Block’s has a lot a guts & gusto in both her vocal & her guitar playing
& she can really drive that guitar! Charlie Patton: The Best of Charlie Patton (Yazoo); Rory Block: Best Blues & Originals (Rounder)

Oh, You Crazy Moon: Moonlight Sinatra is pretty heavy overall on the ballad side of the spectrum, with lots of Nelson Riddle’s strings & woodwinds. This, however, is a upbeat number with plenty of brass, literally & otherwise, about how the moon can sway lovers’ affections. A couple of other songs worth mentioning from Moonlight Sinatra (more in the moody ballad mode) are “Moonlight Mood” & “Reaching for the Moon.” Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

A Sailboat in the Moonlight: A Carmen Lombardo piece covered in 1937 by Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra, with the following line-up: Cootie Williams, trumpet; Barney Bigard, clarinet (really featured here); Johnny Hodges, alto & soprano saxes; Harry Carney, baritone sax; Duke Ellington, piano; Fred Guy, guitar; Buddy Clark, vocal. Duke Ellington: The Duke’s Men: Small Groups, vol. 1 (Columbia Jazz Masterpieces)

Grapefruit Moon: I’m simply re-posting what I wrote earlier about “Grapefruit Moon” in the Songs 4 Foodies series from last fall. There are a lot of sides to Tom Waits; one of them is bringing his Old Crow & Chesterfields growl to a beautiful melodic accompaniment; there are a number of examples, both from earlier & later in his career. “Grapefruit Moon” is from Waits’ first album, before his voice “changed,” & before the 3:00 a.m. poetry or crazed Americana or Klezmer-blues of his later incarnations. It’s a lovely lyric—piano playing against a backdrop of strings; & while “Grapefruit Moon” doesn’t match the poetry of later Waits’ lyrics, the title itself is a nifty image—not only visual, but literally “bittersweet.” Perhaps you have to be young to sing about this kind of heartache—Waits makes it sound real. Tom Waits: Closing Time (Asylum)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets - 6/23

Good morning all, & time for more of Marlowe's misadventures. After looking today’s sonnet over this morning, I'd have to say it may be the weakest entry in the sequence—the extended simile in the first quatrain gets a bit jumbled in its surreality & grammar, but yes, it is the coughdrop that’s gasping. An everyday occurrence in Marlowe’s life? Perhaps….

In case you haven’t been keeping track, this is the tenth sonnet in the sequence, which means there are seven more yet to come: one more in June (6/30), five in July & one in August. Other coming distractions here on Robert Frost’s Banjo: tomorrow: Moon June Spoon, while on Thursday Eberle asks the question, “Who Did the Laundry at Walden Pond?”

Hope you enjoy it.


A blue coughdrop lost in the depths of Marlowe’s
sport coat pocket like a spelunker run out of
luck amongst vampire bats & subterranean
phone numbers no one answers gives up the ghost

gasping We are such stuff as dreams are etc. &
sinks like a mollusk that’s lost it’s shell into the
godforsaken depths of a lachrymose pre-socratic
tidal pool tastes like a stale Carling Black Label

& it wasn’t so long ago either Jekyl Island GA
June 1988 Jane did the australian crawl in a
lukewarm ocean of interminable love or at least

sex with loads of good will behind it like
a water bed on castors with a burnt clutch lurching
like the subway Marlowe now stumbles into

© John Hayes 1996-2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vintage Postcards – Vermont #1

I’ve always loved postcards. Originally, they were connected with my Aunt Vera, my mother’s older sister, who lived in Oregon & was quite a traveler. She sent my sister & I postcards from her various stopovers throughout the American West.

But we also used to haunt antique stores with my grandmother (my mother’s mom) & there was a shop in Westminster, VT that had a number of old postcards for sale. As a result, I have a large collection of old postcards, & I thought I’d like to share some of these on Robert Frost’s Banjo. I’ll start off with postcards from the Bellows Falls, VT area—after all, that’s where I started out.

I'm off to Boise this morning, so
I won't be able to catch up with comments or visits until later on. In the meantime, hope you enjoy these! (click on image to enlarge of course)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Naomi!

A big Robert Frost’s Banjo birthday greeting to my big sister, Naomi Rosenberg! Naomi & her husband Morty make up the core of the eastern contigent along with my niece Jessie & nephew Ethan & of course, my mom. Naomi & Morty have lived & worked in the Boston area since their days at Boston University back in the 1960s, & I think of my sister as a New Englander at heart—perhaps as much as I’m a wanderer thru the country at heart.

My sister & I are different in vocation, too. She is a successful scientist & a college dean, while I’ve been a bit of the dreamer & artist (or perhaps add an “e” to the end of that?) Of course, Naomi was an accomplished pianist in her day & also still plays some classical guitar, so she & her kids (both adults now), who play violin & cello, et al. also have the music thing going, & she’s been an enthusiastic supporter of Eberle & my music projects, especially the silent film scores.

So, happy birthday, Naomi, & many happy returns from us out here in the Big Sky country!

Pic shows Naomi & I out here in Idaho several years back.

A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets - 6/21

Last week was one of those. Today starts a new one, & we'll be hoping for better things; & we get to start it out with Original Poetry Sunday. My offering today is one of the 1996 sonnets, written on this date thirteen years ago (as has been pointed out this is not "new original poetry Sunday," a good thing for me).

Please check out these other participants (based on previous weeks):

Amazing Voyages of the Turtle
Apogee Poet
Poetikat Invisible Keepsakes
Premium T.
Secret Poems from the Times Literary Supplement
Yes is Red

I'd also like to point you to an original poem posted last Sunday on the very interesting luthier site, WhiteSalmonGuitar. I'm sorry to have missed Craig's offering until later last week, & would like to give it a shout out here. The actual poem post is at this link, but do give a look over the site; the luthier craft is a fascinating topic, & Mr Wilson presents it in an engaging way.

& finally: I know others have given this a more timely boost, but in case you've missed it, please do yourself a favor & check out TotalFeckingEejit's post about his "hippo on a motorcycle" garden sculpture here. It's just the sort of garden art we love around these parts. & I've just noticed that Mr Eejit has posted a poem on Original Poetry Sunday, at least in lots of places in the world; please check that out here.

Enjoy - & I'll even be here to answer comments! Sorry to have been so incommunicado.

UPDATE: I found another poem that most certainly deserves a mention on a blog that frequently posts poetry, & which I invariably find intriguing & thought-provoking. That would be Dave King's Pics & Poems. Mr King's solstice poem (which he terms a "rough draft" & I term a darned good rough draft) is here.


A deuce of hearts misplaced in the arms of a
VT forsythia bush the other blossoms of course a
sort of raincoat yellow & the heart inside the coat’s
sort of sputtering like a buckwheat pancake on a

griddle in a Mojave truck stop in the middle of 100 miles of
yucca & borax & bleak fortune cookie sticking their
paper tongues out like so many 5¢ Chinatown
postcards Marlowe’s penning return address un-

known tho it could be the North Pole for that matter
someplace he couldn’t escape from like a snapshot mis-
placed long ago in a bungalow run aground long after the

Mendelssohn wedding recessional shed white yellow
blue pink scads of umblicial blossoms scattering ev-
eryplace as tho the mailbox had blown up at last

© John Hayes 1996-2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Few More Fold-Out Postcards - 6/20

Here's the next in line of the San Francisco 1996 "Postcard" sonnets. Hope you enjoy it!


The sunset just looks like radioactive chicken soup
iridescent & pissed-off & splashing across the flat-top
Victorians lurking Dear Diary like water glasses
in a diner whose whole herd of stainless butterknives

will slice fluorescent light into butter & harmonicas &
Marlowe’s jukebox breakfast on another tomorrow with its odor of
sex & Ivory soap floating across the Pacific amongst
almighty Holsteins chewing & lolling like trawlers

It all looked like a vinyl tablecloth spreading a classical
picnic in the ruins of the Parthenon where Maggie’s
sipping her 5th milky espresso & the moon by then

spilling its milk across the table
spilling its milk across Marlowe who’s feeling about as bucolic
as a hospital bed sleeping it off in Dolores Park

© John Hayes 1996-2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Weiser River Pillow Book #7

[Well here we are after all, thanks to Eberle's Weiser River Pillow Book series. If you're interested in past installments, simply click on the link right above the Blog Archive list. Hope you enjoy it!]


A family camping trip, two rubber rafts on a lake.
The worm suspended over the water between the rafts which are too full of people and dynamics, all the dynamics somehow focused on the worm which has been packed miles into this mountain lake, now suspended over the water, the focus of the question:
Who shall impale the worm?
If you are afraid of doing it, you will be asked to do it, you will become the center of horrible attention instead of the worm; until you are not afraid and then you will be ignored at the moment of impaling, which becomes a sacred privilege reserved for someone else. A brother, a father.

2001, my garden, the worms are in the earth where they belong and I have a reverence for them, as gardeners do. I know when the tiny young worms start to appear, and which beds have the most. I’m standing in the mint bed and one comes out of the soil, making visible that incredible connection between air and earth—I have put the bodies of guinea hens and cats into the earth, I can almost imagine my own there, going into the worms, the mobile intestines of the underworld.


arched high the way it is in June, the plants budding and blooming so fast and furious you realize things are really out of your hands. Everything suddenly alive. This is when you don’t want thundering hooves coming out of the sky, panic, your heartbeat shaking the earth, worms for miles around shaken numbly from the earth, lying there draped and drunkenly exposed.


Stretcher, wire, fencing pliers.

Staples, string, a thermos of cool water with mint and lemon balm and ginger in it.

Stout boots; leather gloves are good.

Our neighbors are fencing too and the day is very hot. We all watch each other with increasing wariness as the sun moves higher, and we stretch the wire tight, tighter.


We probably won’t see rain again until September.

In June, rose petals will fill the dusty ditch.

The sound of the sprinkler will make Pablo the parrot doze off dreamily, just as he would during a rainstorm.


Its heart-shaped leaves seen through the kitchen-sink window and a section of spiral staircase.

Its late-leafing and rather coarse abandon-- and then the perfection of its blossoms, the speckled funnel and whorled lips.

The strange, sweet-astringent smell you can smell from the pumphouse. Then the tree goes invisible until the dangling pods turn brown and catch your eye.


One morning, one field over, large bales of hay.

The beginnings of blackberries.

A sore throat.


Watching Pablo the parrot eat a cherry.

Leaning on the corral fence with the llamas nearby.

Watching the guinea hens plop themselves down in the shade of the plum trees.

Looking at the various plants growing in the pasture. Thinking about them.


Cleaning the pantry, the crawl space.

Scraping the last of the varnish off the wood floor.

Covering the old lime-green linoleum with new linoleum.


Built a wood shed.

Made a sculpture of an old culvert and hanging lamp.

Painted animal silhouettes in the corner of the living room.


The morning sun is golden-- a deep gold that makes things seem to glow from within—it is unlike the light at any other time of year. It makes the idea of death seem a betrayal—a trick by an adversary not acting honorably. The mesh of light and hammock, leaves and sky, looking as strong and single-minded as the idea of eternity.


They fly in from other places and assemble gear—brightly colored and made of high-tech fibers. They make going into the wilderness into an act of consumption. Choosing a mountain, a lake, as they would a car—for what it reflects about their idea of their own elusive identity.


The spent heads of the irises bearing the memory of spring.

Dry grassheads, that bloomed unnoticed, now making waves across fields in the wind.

Elderberry blossoms like foam carried on the upper reaches of thickets.



Rush skeletonweed.

Mexican Sprangletop.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

“Heaven…I’m in Heaven…”

Howdy, folks. I’m very sorry to be so inconsistent in posting over the last few days, & I’m also sorry to be pretty sketchy on visits to others’ blogs. Life, as they say, is happening at a somewhat alarming rate, & I’m going thru a bit (or maybe a bit more than a bit) of a creative trough right now. But onward & upward, right? I’m honestly not sure whether I’ll post tomorrow or not, but I do have posts for both Saturday & Sunday in the bank. Thanks for hanging with me.

I love to watch Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire films—they’re funny & they’re elegant & they feature great songs by the likes of Gershwin & Jerome Kern & Irving Berlin, as well as (for my money) Hollywood’s greatest dance couple, who also happen to be very appealing even when they’re not on the dance floor.

There’s always a gre
at debate about what made them such a dazzling couple—Katherine Hepburn’s famous observation that “He gives her class and she gives him sex” may be seen as a bit left-handed, but it is a starting point; of course Roger Ebert's rejoinder was "They both had class and sex was never the point." This corrects one flaw in Hepburn's quip, because Kate's assessment seems to leave out the very important fact that in addition to her great beauty, Ginger Rogers was a very talented actresses—her comic gifts certainly are on display in the Astaire-Rogers films, but she’s able to portray a wide range of emotions as those who’ve seen such films as Bachelor Mother, Vivacious Lady, Stage Door or Kitty Foyle can attest. I have read commentators who’ve conjectured that Roger’s acting gifts enabled her to be the dancer she was on screen; it’s true that she didn’t have Astaire’s training, but the famous quip about her doing everything he did “backwards & in high heels” has a lot of truth to it, too. Astaire said of Rogers: “Ginger was brilliantly effective. She made everything work for her. Actually she made things very fine for both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success.” & here’s great character actor Edward Everett Horton’s assessment: "Believe me, Ginger was great. She contributed her full fifty percent in making them such a great team. She could follow Fred as if one brain was thinking. She blended with his every step and mood immaculately. He was able to do dances on screen that would have been impossible to risk if he hadn't had a partner like Ginger - as skillful as she was attractive."

Astaire himself is always elegant—quick with a quip, & obviously a marvelous & graceful dancer. His rhythm & timing are impeccable. I also enjoy both Astaire’s & Rogers singing voices—I know there’s open debate on that subject, particularly about Astaire, but there is always a great presence & engagement in their singing. Listen to what some pretty major composers had to say about Astaire’s singing (per Wikipedia, & with footnotes):

Irving Berlin considered Astaire the equal of any male interpreter of his songs - "as good as Jolson, Crosby or Sinatra, not necessarily because of his voice, but for his conception of projecting a song." Jerome Kern considered him the supreme male interpreter of his songs and Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer also admired his unique treatment of their work.

So for your enjoyment, here’s the Alice in Wonder Band’s tribute to Fred & Ginger—our version of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” recorded at our last ever show, December 2004 at the Alpine Playhouse in McCall, ID. Line-up: Deadre Chase, vocal; Art Troutner, oboe; Bob George, clarinet; Eberle Umbach, concert bells; yours truly, baritone uke. Of course, “Cheek to Cheek” comes from what may be my favorite Astaire-Rogers film, Top Hat (tho my all-time favorite number in that film would be “Isn’t It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain”).

& as an added bonus, following that, check out Ginger & Fred performing this number!

Hope you enjoy, & thanks again everybody!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Moon, June, Spoon #4

No, I haven’t fallen down the well—feel a bit like it, but that’s another story for another time. So:

We’re back with more Moon June Spoon, & this time around there’s lots of Ol’ Blue Eyes (all from the Moonlight Sinatra album), as well as a couple of novel takes on well-known numbers—& more beside, including more videos than usual.

Hope you enjoy them.

Moon Love: Wow—It doesn’t get much more lush than this—Nelson Riddle Orchestra & Sinatra in peak form. I must admit that I don’t always go for the Riddle treatment—sometimes it seems a bit much (sorry!). But in the case of this serious tearjerker it really fits, & in front of all that orchestration Ol’ Blue Eyes sings it like he really means it.
Sinatra hits some notes in this one that are just so pure & so heartbreaking…. Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

Moon River: This beautiful Mancini tune is probably heard most often these days in “sweetened string” versions. But make no mistake—this tune, like Mancini’s music overall is the real deal, & even highly-diluated versions can’t take all the life out of it. The version I’m thinking of, tho, is anything but diluted—it’s neat in every sense of the word. Start out with Matt Brubeck’s lovely cello intro on the theme, then move into the finger-popping craziness of Ralph Carney, Joe Gore & Scott Amendola. Really great stuff, & any Oranj Symphonette (I believe there were only two albums) is highly recommended. Ornaj Symphonette: Oranj Symphonette Plays Mancini (Gramavision HiFi)

Moon Song: More of the full-on Nelson Riddle treatment. In this case it seems a little heavy-handed to me—sorry, Sinatra fanatics out there—I like Ol’ Blue Eyes, but I don’t give him an automatic pass. In some ways I like the lighter, more jazz-inflected Doris Day version in the video below. Not a big fan of Ms Day as an actress, but she could sing. Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

Moonglow: I adore this song & have played it myself on a few instruments—guitar, tenor uke & tenor guitar. I have three versions on CD, & they’re all fantastic— Lionel Hampton: Flying Home (Living Era): Hampton’s version is with the Benny Goodman Quarter, & besides creating a dreamy atmosphere for Goodman, Hampton takes a sweet extended break; Teddy Wilson, of course, on piano, & Gene Krupa, of course, on drums; Milt Jackson, Joe Pass, Ray Brown: The Big 3 [note: these guys have earned that title for sure] (Original Jazz Classics): Milt Jackson is, of course, another great vibes man, & the three-way interplay between him & Pass on guitar & Brown on bass isn’t to be missed; Mary Lou Williams: 1949-1951 (Chronological Classics): Last but very far from least, Mary Lou Williams duets with herself on organ & piano—fun! Also: check out Les Paul & Chet Atkins below; what guitar work….

Moonlight Bay: Wish I could find the Auldrige – Brozman- Grisman on YouTube; it’s “Moonlight Bay” set in some Hawaiian cove, & it’s truly lovely. For those of you who don’t know, all three of these guys are top-notch: Mike Auldridge, a reknowned Dobro player; Bob Brozman, Mr National guitar & also a super uke player (typically on a resophonic); & I assume most folks know of David “Dawg” Grisman, mandolin player-supreme. The Tone Poems albums are all built around fanastic musicians getting together & playing vintage instruments. Volume III involves “slide & resophonic instruments," in this case all Hawaiian-style steel guitars—a 1923 Regal Hawyfone, a 1925 Maiki Hawaiian (both of these were economy knock-offs of the top-of-the line Weissenborns) & a Weissenborn Kona Style 3. Please do check this out—but I think you’ll also enjoy the Premier Quartet from 1913 in the video/soundclip below. Mike Auldrige, Bob Brozman, David Grisman: Tone Poems III (Acoustic Disc)

Moonlight Becomes You: Sinatra was in one of his “primes” in the Nelson Riddle period, & he certainly uses his pipes & phrasing to give this lovely tune a great reading; & yes, I do think the arrangment on this one is great—including some nice guitar work pretty prominent in the mix. It’s interesting, as a for what it's worth note, that he started the song out with the bridge. But tho Sinatra’s version is really good, I’ve got to mention der Bingle’s version from the very funny Road to Morocco; check it out below (complete with a very lovely Dorothy Lamour). Frank Sinatra: Moonlight Sinatra (Reprise)

Moonlight Fiesta: A latin number written by long-time Ellington cohorts Irving Mills & Juan Tizol. The band recording this (the date was June 1937) went by the name of Barney Bigard & His Jazzopators, & besides Tizol on valve-trombone, Bigard on clarinet & Elllington on the 88s, it included Rex Stewart on cornet, Harry Carney on baritone sax, Billy Taylor on string bass, Sonny Greer on drums & Charlie Barnet on maracas. That last instrument should give you the idea. It’s a fun piece, if a bit of a novelty. Duke Ellington: The Duke’s Men: Small Groups, vol. 1 (Columbia Jazz Masterpieces)

submit to reddit

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dad’s Photos #10

The latest installment in the Dad’s Photos series is a bit of a grab bag—some old cars & some fishing & a covered bridge; the latter is one of the few photos my father didn’t caption, but I suspect all these photos were taken in Vermont & probably in the general Bellow Falls area.

I believe tomorrow is going to be a “mental hea
lth day” as we used to say in my days as a Monday-Friday commuter in the Bay Area—so I’ll wish everyone Happy Bloomsday in advance. See you on Wednesday with more Moon June Spoon, & in the meantime, hope you enjoy these photos!

Growing Old

I’d Still Like It – Bantam Roadster ‘38

My Austin-Looks Bad

More of the Sad News [I believe the boy in the car is one of the Bragg children; Dick Bragg was my father’s best friend—see next photo]

Al & Dick – mouth of the Saxtons River [that’s Dick Bragg in the front of the canoe; the Saxtons River runs into the Connecticut River just south of Bellows Falls, VT]

[covered bridge—no caption, but my guess is this is a bridge on the Saxtons River, possibly near North Westminster, VT]

submit to reddit